ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER, the novelist Henry James once said, “is not a woman, she is a locomotive - with a Pullman car attached.’’ James, who introduced her to John Singer Sargent, two of whose portraits of her hang in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, considered himself a friend. Imagine how Gardner’s detractors must have felt.
Gardner was that vivid a personality. It comes as no surprise that she and the actress Sarah Bernhardt were mutual admirers. As a New York society magazine described her in 1887, Gardner was “the brightest, breeziest woman in Boston.’’ She was “the idol of the men and the envy of the women.’’