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The final scenes with Miss Tina, however, although crucial with regard to the Aspern papers, never again achieve the dramatic intensity of the previous acts withjuliana still in the lead. The question of main parts, as well as those relating to the 'law of topweight and sternweight' 14 and the 'law of epic single strand', 15 begin to pose problems for our interpretation. The former of these laws recognises two different hierarchies, with the 'topweight' attaching to the person of highest rank who would be found in the first place, say, at a dinner-table or in a sequence of repeated events (the eldest son, for example).

Besides not rising to a large free view- the large free view- of anything, positive action is not a female strength. Activity is a male prerogative, while the passive typifies the female, so that it is only in character that the fruitful idea 'drops' from Mrs Prest's" lips, is '[thrown] off ... with singular serenity' (p. 3) which practically implies how unaware she must be of its importance, having chanced upon it rather than actively discovered it. The reader with hindsight might further suspect that the tribute to Mrs Prest is also an elaborate ploy on the narrator's part to unload responsibility on to her in anticipation of a 'final reckoning': it was she, after all, who sowed the seed of his undoing.

The peculiarity of the literary material she owns derives from the fact that it pertains to life rather than to art and concerns Aspern as man and lover rather than the poetic voice of his poems. The experience oflife, of personal life, is inevitably what the poet draws on in order to nourish his art; but the measure is limited since the flowers cannot take root in that element alone. Even though the Aspern papers are now in an environment of sea, namely in the possession of people who value them for purely personal reasons, that water which once vitalised them can no longer be seen.

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