The Liar (short story)

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The Liar is a short story by Henry James first appearing in The Century Magazine in May-June 1888, and in book form the following year (Macmillan and Co., London).

In the story, an artist meets a woman he has loved in his youth, and discovers he still has strong feelings for her. The woman is beautiful both physically and spiritually, but the young artist soon discovers that she is married. Her husband, Colonel Capadose, at first impresses the artist as a handsome, adventurous and intriguing person, but he almost immediately discovers that Capadose is a man addicted to deceiving. His lies are innocent and harmless fantasies, but the artist still feels horror that the woman he has valued so much is married to such a character. The artist wonders whether she even knows who her husband really is, and if she does, does she overlook Capadose's flaws, or did she come to accept them?

Plot summary[edit]

Culmination of the plot occurs when the artist begins painting a portrait of the Liar, attempting to reflect on the canvas the latter's deceitful personality. The portrait turns out a shocking surprise to many of the story's characters, and causes a violent confrontation between lies and reality...


  • Tales of Henry James: The Texts of the Tales, the Author on His Craft, Criticism sous la direction de Christof Wegelin et Henry Wonham (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003)
  • The Tales of Henry James par Edward Wagenknecht (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1984) ISBN 0-8044-2957-X