HENRY JAMES• Henry James was born in 1843.• He moved between America andEurope for the first 20 years of hislife, before he settled permanently inEngland.• He is known for portraying theencounter of Americans with Europeand Europeans.• Among Jamess works are DaisyMiller, The Bostonians, What MaisieKnew, The Wings of the Dove, TheAmbassadors, The Turn of the Screw,Washington Square, and The PrincessCasamassima.• The Portrait of a Lady is published in1881.• James died in 1916.
These chapter summaries are adapted from thefollowing websites:• www.sparknotes.com• www.shmoop.com• www.cliffsnots.com
CHAPTER 1It’s tea time. We meet three gentlemen: Mr.Touchett, An old, kind, and smart Americanexpatriate; Lord Warburton, an Englisharistocrat; and Ralph, Mr. Touchett’s son. TheTouchetts are originally from America and havelived in England for 30 years. Ralph’s mother,Mrs. Touchett, is coming to visit from the Stateswith Ralph’s cousin, a young American lady. Shesends a very brief telegram, mentioning that thegirl is "quite independent."
“Under certain circumstances there are fewhours in life more agreeable than the hourdedicated to the ceremony known as afternoontea. There are circumstances in which, whetheryou partake of the tea or not—some people ofcourse never do,—the situation is in itselfdelightful. Those that I have in mind inbeginning to unfold this simple history offeredan admirable setting to an innocent pastime.The implements of the little feast had beendisposed upon the lawn of an old Englishcountry-house, in what I should call the perfectmiddle of a splendid summer afternoon.” (18)
CHAPTER 2Isabel Archer arrives at Gardencourt. Mrs Touchett goesstraight to her room. Ralph goes to meet his cousin, IsabelArcher. Isabel tells Ralph that he is to go to his mother’schambers at a quarter to seven. Mrs. Touchett has lockedherself in her room, as is her custom.Mr. Touchett, Ralph invites Isabel to come and meet MrTouchett. She discovers that his health has declined drastically.Isabel meets also Lord Warburton, a friend of theTouchetts. All three gentlemen are quite interested in her, indifferent ways.Ralph innocently comments that Mrs. Touchett has"adopted" Isabel. She seems offended by this statement andclarifies that her liberty is very important to her.Lord Warburton declares that Isabel is his idea of aninteresting woman.
CHAPTER 3Mrs. Touchett insists on things just as she likes them.For this reason, she keeps a house in Florence where sheresides, while Mr. Touchett stays in England at Gardencourt.Mrs. Touchett "discovered" Isabel at her deceasedgrandmother’s house in Albany, New York, where she spentmost of her childhood. She read a lot of books on her owninstead of going to school. We begin to see that Isabel is asindependent as her aunt, even as a child.The two ladies talk for about an hour, waiting forIsabel’s sister and brother-in-law, Lilian and Edmund, toreturn.Mrs. Touchett offers Isabel the chance to go to Florence.Isabel is excited by the idea, but cannot promise to doeverything Mrs. Touchett asks her to do.
NOTES Isabels life from her own perspective and throughthe perspectives of other characters. the idea of Europe and the idea of America Individualism and independence (represented byIsabel Archer vs. Social customs The chapter takes us by means of flashback to MrsTouchett’s visit of her nieces in Albany, New York.
CHAPTER 4Of the three Archer sisters, Lilian is thought to be thepractical one, Edith the beautiful one, and Isabel the"intellectual" one.Lilian is worried about her exceptional younger sister,who is something of a mystery to them.Mr. Archer, their father, was notorious for nothandling money well, often gambling and spendingfrivolously. Despite all of this, Isabel remembers her fatherfondly.Isabel thinks her life is wonderful; she has had everyprivilege and has never wanted for anything. She is almostdisappointed because she thinks that hardship would giveher life a little spice – at least, that’s what the books shereads all suggest.
Although a lot of men courted Edith, most menoverlook Isabel or feel intimidated by her intellectualreputation. However, we are told that she is quitebeautiful in her own, unique way.For about a year, Boston-based CasparGoodwood has been steadfastly wooing Isabel viapost. She finds him to be quite an impressive youngman, but doesn’t really know how she feels abouthim yet.Caspar travels from New York City to Albany tovisit Isabel. She is slow to meet him and, despite thefact that he looks resolved to action, their visit isuneventful. He leaves, somewhat defeated.
NOTES• Chapter 4 provides a deeper flashback intoIsabel’s childhood ,upbringing, and growingup in America.• The chapter through more light on Isabel’scharacter.
CHAPTER 5After attending both Harvard and Oxford (his father wantedhim to be both British and American), Ralph took a position at hisfather’s bank. At university, he was considered a very promisingyoung man. Ralph considered his father to be his best friend andadmired him very much.Sadly, Ralph fell ill while working at the bank, and never quiterecovered. As a result, he stopped working to take care of hishealth. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him, but he hasweak lungs.Ralph resigns himself to indifference in order to make his lifeseem less of a disappointment.Ralph is quite taken with his cousin Isabel and asks his motherwhere she plans to take her for her European tour.Mrs. Touchett plans to invite her to stay at Gardencourt forsome weeks, then plans to take Isabel to France to buy clothes,and then to Florence in the autumn.
Ralph sits and talks with Isabel for an hour,while his parents chat, and Lord Warburtonleaves to go home for dinner.Ralph and Isabel look at the paintings in thehouse. Ralph is impressed with Isabel’s naturaltaste for art.Isabel assumes that because Gardencourt is alarge, old, very historic house, there’s a familyghost. Ralph confesses that there is one and thathe has seen it, but Isabel can’t, because shehasn’t suffered enough yet. This conversation ishalf-joking, half-serious.
CHAPTER 6Isabel thinks quite highly of herself – actually, everyonethinks quite highly of her. She’s intelligent, creative, and, mostcertainly, in the words of Lord Warburton, an interestingwoman. Her pride is one of her distinguishing characteristics –though it can come off as arrogance sometimes, she is the firstto admit when she’s made a mistake. Her greatest desire is toperfect herself.Isabel’s best friend is Henrietta Stackpole, anotherindependent, intelligent, and apparently quite interesting youngwoman. Henrietta is some kind of intrepid girl-reporter.Isabel, like Henrietta, considers independence veryimportant, and thinks that women should be able to livewithout men. She vaguely wonders about marriage, but hasnever been in love.
Isabel reminds Mr. Touchett of the young Mrs.Touchett.Newly planted in English soil, Isabel is verycurious to know about the country and its people.She asks Mr. Touchett if England really is how it’sdepicted in books.Mr. Touchett says that anything he’s learnedhe’s learned by observation and participation, notfrom second-hand sources.Mr. Touchett says that English people are very"inconsistent," which pleases Isabel, since sheherself is unpredictable, too.
“It was one of her theories that IsabelArcher was very fortunate in beingindependent, and that she ought to make somevery enlightened use of that state. She nevercalled it the state of solitude, much less ofsingleness; she thought such descriptions weak. . .” (56)
“Of course, among her theories, this younglady was not without a collection of views onthe subject of marriage. The first on the listwas a conviction of the vulgarity of thinkingtoo much of it. From lapsing into eagerness onthis point she earnestly prayed she might bedelivered; she held that a woman ought to beable to live to herself, in the absence ofexceptional flimsiness, and that it wasperfectly possible to be happy without thesociety of a more or less coarse-mindedperson of another sex.” (57)
CHAPTER 7As interested as Isabel is in English society, she has seenvery little of it. Mrs. Touchett has few contacts in theneighborhood, and Mr. Touchett and Ralph are accustomed tokeeping to themselves. Lord Warburton is the lone exception.Mrs. Touchett doesn’t visit anyone in the neighborhoodherself, but she does love it when people visit.Isabel asks her aunt what her national identity is. Sheclaims that her point of view is distinctly American, but Mrs.Touchett’s is neither American nor English. Mrs. Touchettresponds that her point of view is personal and not assigned toa nation. Isabel sees the sense in this. Isabel aligns herself somuch as an American.Isabel doubts that Ralph really cares about anything, sincehe jokes so much and criticizes most things. Ralph says that hecares about her alone.
It turns out that he’s not completely jokingabout this. Ralph has worried ever since Mr.Touchett’s illness has gotten worse. He cannotbear the thought of living without his father.Ralph thinks Isabel is fascinating and enjoysspending time with her. Ralph is Isabel’s tourguide. They go by horse and boat through thelocal countryside.One day, upon their return, they find LordWarburton chatting with Mrs. Touchett in thegarden. Isabel had decided, upon first meetingLord Warburton, that she liked him.
Lord Warburton stays at Gardencourt for a couple ofdays, clearly lured in by Isabel’s company. One night, Ralph,Isabel, Lord Warburton and Mrs. Touchett are in the drawingroom. Mrs. Touchett gets up to retire for the night andexpects Isabel to follow her.Isabel says she would rather not, since she’s having suchfun with the guys. Mrs. Touchett says she’ll stay up too, if shemust. Isabel, confused, doesn’t get what her aunt means bythis. They have a little spat – Mrs. Touchett reminds Isabelthat she’s not in Albany anymore. Isabel gives in and saysshe’ll go to bed.Mrs. Touchett explains to Isabel that, in England, properladies are not supposed to stay up at night alone with men.This is news to Isabel, and she asks that her aunt always tellher of different social standards she might not know about.Mrs. Touchett asks Isabel if she only wants to knowabout the rules just so she can rebel against them. Isabelcoolly says that she would like to choose whether to obey ornot.
“She was intelligent and generous; it was afine free nature; but what was she going to dowith herself? This question was irregular, forwith most women one had no occasion to askit. Most women did with themselves nothingat all; they waited, attitudes more or lessgracefully passive, for a man to come that wayand furnish them with a destiny. Isabel’soriginality was that she gave one animpression of having intentions of her own.‘Whenever she executes them,’ said Ralph,‘may I be there to see!’” (65)
“‘Of course you’re vexed at my interfering with you,’ said Mrs.Touchett.Isabel considered. ‘I’m not vexed, but I’m surprised— and agood deal mystified. Wasn’t it proper I should remain in thedrawing-room?’‘Not in the least. Young girls here—in decent houses— don’t sitalone with the gentlemen late at night.’‘You were very right to tell me then,’ said Isabel. ‘I don’tunderstand it, but I’m very glad to know it.’‘I shall always tell you,’ her aunt answered, ‘whenever I see youtaking what seems to me too much liberty.’‘Pray do; but I don’t say I shall always think your remonstrancejust.’‘Very likely not. You’re too fond of your own ways.’‘Yes, I think I’m very fond of them. But I always want to knowthe things one shouldn’t do.’‘So as to do them?’ asked her aunt.‘So as to choose,’ said Isabel.” (69)
CHAPTER 8Lord Warburton invites Isabel over to his estate,Lockleigh. Mrs. Touchett and Ralph plan to go, too.Lord Warburton has two brothers and four sisters, twounmarried and two married.Ralph and Isabel discuss Lord Warburton. Ralphthinks Lord Warburton is miserable because, amidsthis luxuries, he doesn’t know what he should be. Mr.Touchett says that people like Lord Warburton, whosepolitics are rather radical, wait until he’s dead to starta revolution in England.Mr. Touchett lists all of Lord Warburton’s mostprestigious social roles and says that, even if therewere a revolution, no one would hurt Lord Warburtonbecause everyone’s too fond of him.
CHAPTER 9Lord Warburton’s unmarried sisters visitGardencourt. The two sisters invite Isabel to Lockleigh forlunch, and Isabel accepts. Isabel tells Ralph that she’dlike to be more like the two sisters, who are more "quietand reasonable and satisfied.“ Ralph hopes just theopposite.Isabel, Ralph, and Mrs. Touchett visit Lockleigh a fewdays later. Isabel talks with the two sisters about LordWarburton’s stance as a radical. Isabel seems dissatisfiedwith the image the Misses Molyneux paint of LordWarburton; she wants to hear that Lord Warburtonwould sacrifice his houses and comforts for the cause.
Lord Warburton walks with Isabel separately. He asks herto visit Lockleigh more often. Isabel says that sucharrangements are up to Mrs. Touchett. Lord Warburton thinksthis is a coy act – and that Isabel can act for herself.Lord Warburton says that Isabel charms him. He says it ina way that makes Isabel a little nervous, so she tells him thatshe won’t return to Lockleigh. Lord Warburton says that hewill visit her at Gardencourt next week.Isabel thinks of the books she’s read, which say thatEnglish people are the most romantic people. She is afraid ofWarburton’s romantic approaches towards her.Before they rejoin the group, Lord Warburton says that hewill visit Isabel next week. Isabel is surprised at his behavior.She’s flattered by it, but also feels nervous.
• Isabels developing relationship with LordWarburton• Warburton is an aristocratic lord who uses hispower to advocate anti- aristocratic politicalreform.• the theme of social class• Warburtons sisters: not even individual enoughto obtain first names in the novel; they are simplythe height of conformity and convention: calm,submissive, and thoughtless (the opposite of whatIsabel seems to want out of life).• the conflict Isabel experiences betweenindependence and social convention
CHAPTER 10Henrietta Stackpole writes Isabel from London to announceher arrival. Isabel arranges for her to visit Gardencourt.Ralph expresses his doubt in journalists, joking thatHenrietta will probably write about their lives at Gardencourt.Isabel insists that she would not. Isabel claims that Henrietta iscourageous and completely independent from men. Shesuggests that Henrietta write about Lord Warburton, who will bevisiting soon. Henrietta is intrigued and appalled by Ralph’s lackof occupation.Ralph shows Henrietta the family painting collection.Henrietta accuses Ralph of giving up his Americanness. Ralphsays that that’s not possible, since your country is born into you.Henrietta claims that marriage is a duty. Ralph accuses Henriettaof not fulfilling that duty also.Ralph confesses to Isabel that Henrietta disturbs him for thevery same reasons that Isabel loves her: she embodies the spiritof America.
CHAPTER 11Henrietta and Mrs. Touchett do not agree on anything.Henrietta dislikes the fact that Mrs. Touchett has denied herAmerican ties, and Mrs. Touchett finds Henrietta too vulgarand forward.Henrietta tells Isabel about an encounter she had withCaspar Goodwood. She tells Isabel that Caspar arrived inLondon with her, with the aim to see Isabel. Isabel is notvery excited to see Caspar, although it is unclear what heractual feelings about him are. Henrietta sees that Isabel’s stayat Gardencourt has changed her. Isabel hopes so, since shewants everything to influence her.Isabel receives a letter from Caspar. The letter expresseshis wish to see her, announces his coming arrival in England,and expresses the thought that he only wants to be where sheis.
CHAPTER 12Isabel has just finished reading Caspar Goodwoodsletter when Lord Warburton appears. As they strollthrough the grounds, Lord Warburton takes theopportunity to tell Isabel how much he cares for her. Hethen proposes to her. Isabel is rather stunned andmaintains that they do not know each other. LordWarburton points out that he knows himself very well andknows that Isabel is the only person he will ever care for.Isabel explains that she simply does not want to marryand that she certainly cannot accept his proposal now. Hesuggests that she consider it and write to him later. Shepromises to write very soon but warns him not to hope fora favorable answer. Isabel swiftly realizes that she doesnot want to marry him.
CHAPTER 13Isabel needs to talk to someone about the proposal,and she decides to confide in Mr. Touchett. Mr. Touchettalready knows about the proposal because Lord Warburtonwrote him a letter stating his intentions.Mr. Touchett figures Isabel is waiting to see if a betterman comes along, but Isabel insists that she does not knowher exact reasons of her refusal except that she doesnt wishto marry anyone at the present moment.We learn more about Caspar Goodwood: He studied atHarvard College, where he was known as a star gymnast andmember of the crew team. The son of a cotton-mill owner,Caspar has a skill for mechanics and patented a new cotton-spinning technique. All in all, he’s a successful andenterprising young businessman.
Isabel considers the cons of Goodwood: He alwaysdresses in the same way, his jaw is too square, and his posturetoo stiff. Oh, yeah — and she doesn’t think she’s in love withhim.Isabel mentally compares Caspar Goodwood with LordWarburton and feels that she cannot commit herself to eitherof them. She writes Lord Warburton a letter thanking him, butrejecting his proposal. She decides not to write to CasparGoodwood in order to discourage him.Henrietta Stackpole asks Ralph for help. Henrietta isdetermined to match Isabel with Caspar Goodwood. Sheinsists that Isabel marry an American man and believes thatCaspar is, as they say, the Right One.Henrietta asks Ralph to invite Caspar to Gardencourt.Reluctantly, Ralph does; fortunately, Caspar replies that he isbusy. Henrietta suggests that she and Isabel visit London inorder to see more of English society. Isabel, always wanting toexperience more, agrees. Ralph also decides to join the party.
CHAPTER 14Lord Warburton and the older Miss Molyneux come toGardencourt for lunch. Henrietta Stackpole asks LordWarburton a bunch of questions about the Englisharistocracy, and Lord Warburton replies politely.Lord Warburton questions Isabel about her refusal. Shetries to explain that in marrying him, she would beattempting to escape from her fate. She feels that shewould be gaining so much that she would then have noopportunity to confront her real destiny. For some reason,she fears that she cannot find happiness by avoiding theperils of life, and in marrying Lord Warburton, she would betrying to do that.
CHAPTER 15Mrs. Touchett would have liked Isabel to accept LordWarburton’s marriage proposal. Ralph accompanies Isabel andHenrietta to London.In London, left alone with Isabel, Ralph tells her that hehas been informed of Lord Warburtons proposal. Ralphquestions Isabel about her intentions and is fascinated withthe idea of what Isabel could do with her life now that she hasshown the independence to refuse such a magnificentproposal. Isabel justifies her refusal by saying that she lovesthe unexpected in life, and a marriage with Lord Warburtonwould have been too determined and definitely marked out inadvance. She further explains that she wants to have moreexperience before resigning herself to marriage.Ralph devotes a lot of thought to Isabel; she’s still afascinating mystery to him.
CHAPTER 16Alone in her room, Isabel receives CasparGoodwoods card and she consents to see him.She is greatly surprised and somewhatdisappointed. Goodwood reasserts his love forIsabel and expresses his fear that she will end upmarrying some European. She tells him that shehas already had that opportunity, and at present,she wants nothing but her own liberty andfreedom. She refuses to make any definitecommitments.
CHAPTER 17Isabel is also proud that she has demonstrated thething she has wanted all along: freedom. She thinksthat her refusal of Casper is a visible sign of hercommitment to her independence. When Henriettareturns, Isabel tells her that she was wrong to arrangethe meeting with Caspar. Henrietta says that Isabel isacting ridiculous by allowing her romantic notions ofEurope to make her forget her practical Americanvalues—she says that if Isabel marries one of herEuropean acquaintances, Henrietta will cease to beher friend.Henrietta decides to stay in London in order toget word from Mr. Bantling and Lady Pensil.
Ralph arrives with the news that Mr. Touchett’shealth has declined. He goes to fetch a renowneddoctor. Isabel insists on going with Ralph, and checksout of the hotel.Henrietta gives her regrets to Ralph, with theassumption that this will be her last time seeing Mr.Touchett. She tells Ralph that Caspar Goodwoodcame to see Isabel last night. Ralph is saddened bythe thought that Isabel would have lied to him aboutexpecting a visitor. When Henrietta tells Ralph thatIsabel rejected Caspar again, he is relieved thatIsabel didn’t deceive him.Henrietta decides to talk with Caspar andencourage him not to give up on Isabel.
CHAPTER 18Ralph and Isabel return to Gardencourt. Isabel hears music playingand to her surprise, she finds a lovely stranger playing Schubert on thepiano. The stranger is Madame Merle, Mrs. Touchett’s good friend. Sheis an American who met Mrs. Touchett in Florence. When Isabel laterquestions Ralph about Madame Merle, he tells her that she is thecleverest woman he has ever known. "She does everything beautifully.Shes complete."Mr. Touchett’s health declines rapidly. He wants Ralph to marryIsabel. Ralph admits that he thinks very fondly of Isabel, but is not inlove with her. Ralph instead asks his father to split his inheritancemoney in two and give one half to Isabel. He wishes to give Isabelfreedom from worrying about money. He knows she has a bigimagination and wants to enable her to do whatever she’d like, withoutdepending on a man.Mr. Touchett worries that this would give her too much freedom,and that fortune hunters would pursue her. Ralph says he’s not tooworried about that happening. Mr. Touchett consents to Ralph’s wishes.
CHAPTER 19Isabel grows quite close to Madame Merle, whoseems to be almost perfect to her—she is graceful,talented, and interesting. Madame Merle mostlyasks Isabel about her life. She enjoys listening toIsabel’s thoughts, and finds the girl altogetherdelightful.Madame Merle promises Isabel that she willsomeday tell about her life, but she has friends,especially an American named Gilbert Osmond,whom she wants Isabel to know.Isabel hears of her uncles death.
CHAPTER 20Some weeks later in London, Madame Merlepays Mrs. Touchett a visit and learns that Mr.Touchett left Isabel a fortune. She thinksimmediately what a clever girl Isabel must be forgetting this wealth left to her.Soon thereafter, Isabel journeys to Paris withher aunt. There she meets Edward Rosier, whomshe had known as a child. She also sees Henriettaagain. Henrietta tells her that Mr. Touchett madea mistake in leaving Isabel so much money.Henrietta is afraid that it might ruin Isabel.
CHAPTER 21Mrs. Touchett goes to San Remo, Italy to visit herson. Isabel decides to go with her.Isabel asks Ralph whether he knew about theinheritance that Mr. Touchett left for her. Isabel doesnot seem to know what to do with herself, now thatshe is wealthy. Ralph recommends that Isabel think lessand just enjoy her life with the new means she hasreceived. Isabel agrees with Ralph’s advice.Isabel confesses that she’s afraid of the freedom alarge amount of money can bring. Ralph says that it isonly a problem for the weak, and Isabel is mostcertainly not weak. After talking with Ralph, Isabelfeels better and more comfortable with her newwealthy persona.
CHAPTER 22Six months after Mr. Touchett’s death, GilbertOsmond, and his fifteen-year-old daughter Pansy aresitting in Mr. Osmond’s house, near Florence, Italy.Pansy has just returned from a convent school.Madame Merle tells him about a beautifultwenty-three-year-old girl named Isabel Archer, whohas inherited half the Touchett fortune. She wantshim to marry her. Gilbert says that he has no interestin marrying. Merle insists, reminding him that he hasno money of his own, and Isabels fortune couldprovide a dowry for Pansy. As she watches Pansyplaying outside, Merle notes that the girl does not likeher.
CHAPTER 23Madame Merle returns to Mrs. Touchett’s homein Florence.Madame Merle recommends Osmond to Isabelonce more, telling her of his impressive traits.Osmond pays a visit and invites Isabel to visithim at home and meet his daughter. During thevisit, Isabel keeps silent; she is impressed withOsmonds refined manner, and he seems to catchher imagination. Isabel talks to Ralph aboutOsmond; Ralph says that he is indeed very refinedbut seems to have no other qualities. But hereminds her that she should judge people forherself.
CHAPTER 24Merle takes Isabel to visit Gilbert Osmonds house.Looking at the imposing villa from the outside, Isabel hasthe impression that once you were inside, it would bevery difficult to get out.Osmond says that he has sacrificed everything but hisdevotion to art and good taste—Isabel is again impressedwith his refinement and his obvious taste. He tells herthat, though he has lived a life of renunciation, he willsoon need to find a source of income, because he mustprovide for his daughter.
CHAPTER 25The Countess Gemini tells Madame Merle thatshe does not agree with her scheme tomanipulate Isabel into marrying her brother andthat it is not fair to trick a remarkable womansuch as Isabel. The Countess comments that she isfrightened for Isabels future.
CHAPTER 26Over the next weeks, Gilbert Osmond begins to visit MrsTouchett’s house so often that Mrs. Touchett realizes that hemust be interested in Isabel. Merle pretends not to have noticedbut promises to try to find out by asking Osmond. CountessGemini believes that her brother will make a terrible husband.She says that there is nothing special in him, yet he’s full ofhimself.Mrs. Touchett and Ralph discuss Osmond’s intentions withIsabel. Ralph is still convinced that Isabel will have lots of suitorsin her life, and she will not accept any of them.Mrs. Touchett hopes Isabel has the good sense not to fall forOsmond, who is very clearly socially inferior to Lord Warburton.Mrs. Touchett figures that if Isabel does want to marryOsmond, then no one could do anything about it, not evenRalph.
To Countess Gemini’s annoyance, she learnsthat Isabel is very rich. She thinks it a pity thatsuch a fine person should be sacrificed simply forher money, and worries about what her brotherwill do to the girl.Mr. Bantling will take Henrietta to Rome, andRalph volunteers to go with Isabel.Osmond expresses his wish to go with themto Rome. Isabel encourages the idea.
CHAPTER 27Isabel greatly enjoys touring Rome with her friends. Afterthey have been there for some time, Isabel is shocked toencounter Lord Warburton on the street. He has been travelingin the east and is now on his way back to England. He tellsIsabel that he has been unable to forget her and that he haseven written her a number of letters which he has not sent.Isabel is happy to see Warburton, though she fears it will beinconvenient for him to be in Rome. And she is right: one day,as she and Lord Warburton are touring Saint Peters, when shesuddenly comes face-to-face with Gilbert Osmond, who saysthat he has come to Rome because of Isabel. Isabel worries thatWarburton will have heard about Osmond. Warburton walksaway with Ralph, and the men speculate about whether Isabelis in love with Gilbert Osmond. Ralph assures Warburton thatIsabel is looking for something entirely different.
CHAPTER 28When Lord Warburton learns that Ralph and Isabel are at thetheatre, he follows them there. It hurts him to see Isabel and GilbertOsmond seated next to one another. The next day, Warburton tellsIsabel that he is leaving Rome, because he is unable to stand beingnear Isabel in these circumstances.Two days later, Isabel meets Warburton again at an art gallery.She is there with her friends, including Osmond. Lord Warburtontells Isabel that he is not only leaving the museum, but leavingRome as well. For a moment, Isabel wants to stop him, but thenwishes him a good journey. Isabel is alone after Lord Warburtonleaves, accompanied by art objects. Osmond creeps up behind her,and is glad to find her alone.Osmond rejoices in Isabel’s behavior toward Lord Warburton,because he knows that Warburton is a man superior to himself. IfIsabel is strong enough to turn down Lord Warburton, then Osmondfigures that she is the woman for him. He wants to add her to hiscollection of beautiful and precious things.
CHAPTER 29Isabel’s aunt is taking her for a visit to another partof Italy. Isabel accepts and bids Osmond good-bye.Osmond tells her that he finds himself in love with her.Isabel is not offended by his declaration, even thoughhe tries to explain that he has nothing to offer herexcept his love. He asks her to come back, for he hasmany more things to say to her. Since he is staying inRome, he requests Isabel to visit his daughter. Isabel isglad to promise that. Isabel has been fantasizing aboutbeing in love with Osmond, but now that he hasconfessed his love, she feels strangely oppressed. Shefeels as though there is a space inside her that she isunable to cross, but that if she could cross it, she couldreturn Gilberts love.
CHAPTER 30Back at Florence, Isabel tells MadameMerle of her promise to visit Pansy. WhenIsabel meets Pansy again, she finds the younglady to be very quaint and charming. Theydiscuss Osmond, and Pansy tells how she livesjust to please her father. Isabel agrees withher that it is very important to obey andplease him.
CHAPTER 31Isabel and Madame Merle tour Greece,Turkey, and Egypt. Returning from this trip,Isabel stays three weeks with Madame Merleand sees Gilbert Osmond every day. She thengoes to her aunts house for a visit, after a yearof separation.
CHAPTER 32Isabel has not told anyone about herengagement to Gilbert Osmond except CasparGoodwood and Madame Merle. As soon as CasparGoodwood hears that Isabel is engaged, he comesstraight to Florence to see her. Isabel receives him inher aunts house. He tells her frankly that he isdisappointed and is selfish enough to wish heranything except marriage to another man. Isabelknows that her friends do not like Mr. Osmond, butshe says that she doesnt marry to please herfriends.
CHAPTER 33-34Isabel goes to tell Mrs. Touchett about her engagement.Mrs. Touchett is shocked, realizing that Merle has tricked her,having convinced her not to interfere in Isabel and Gilbertsromance by promising to end it herself. Mrs. Touchettcomplains that there is no reason to marry Osmond; he hasneither name nor fortune.Some days later Ralph arrives. He does not speak of thematter for some time. He then tells her that he fears that sheis going to be put into a cage and he reminds her that sheused to love her liberty and that it is not the type of marriagehe thought she would make. He is disappointed that she hassettled for something so low. Furthermore, he cant get overthe feeling that Osmond is "small . . . narrow, selfish. Ralphalso confesses to Isabel that he loves her, but he says he hasno hope of ever acting on his love or having it returned.
CHAPTER 35Isabel doesn’t tell Osmond that her family and friends think sopoorly of him. She doesn’t care what everyone else thinks, and isglad that she is marrying someone only to please herself. Her lovefor Osmond has somehow separated her from everyone else shecares about. Osmond tells Isabel that he figures her relationsdon’t approve of him because of the class difference. He has nomoney, and, therefore, that must be why they don’t like him.Osmond tells her that she shouldn’t worry that he’s marrying herfor the money. Osmond and Isabel plan to stay in Italy, since that iswhere their entire relationship has taken place.When Osmond tells his daughter the good news, Pansycongratulates Isabel. Pansy says that she is glad about theengagement for her father’s sake. She will be glad to have Isabelfor a model, as well.Countess Gemini offers to tell Isabel all about her husband,and asks Pansy to leave the room. Isabel insists that she stay,saying that she only wants to hear what Pansy would be allowed tohear.
CHAPTER 36Three years pass. A young man named EdwardRosier, who was friendly with Isabel and MadameMerle in Paris, calls on Madame Merle in Rome. Heasks her for help him to marry Pansy; he and Pansylove one another, but he suspects that Pansys fatherwill oppose their marriage. He wants to speak toIsabel about it, but Madame Merle warns him thatIsabel has no standing in her marriage—she is barelytreated as part of the family. Instead, she and Gilbertdisagree about everything and seem to despise oneanother. She also reveals that Isabel gave birth to ason two years ago, but he died when he was only sixmonths old.
CHAPTER 37Rosier goes to greet Osmond, who is standing by thefireplace. Osmond is insufferably rude to him. Rosier speaks toIsabel, implying to her that he is interested in Pansy. Rosier goesnear Pansy. Once people have left the room, the two talk alone.He tells Pansy that he likes her, and asks if she likes him inreturn. Pansy admits that she does.Madame Merle talks with Osmond. Osmond clearly doesnot approve of him, and tells Madame Merle to make it clearthat Rosier should forget about Pansy.Rosier appeals to Isabel, but Isabel tells him that Osmondcares too much for money to let him marry Pansy. Rosier makesa rude comment, saying that it is obvious that Osmond cares alot for money. Isabel is offended and walks off. Rosierapproaches her again and apologizes. Isabel says that shecannot help him.
CHAPTER 38Rosier tries to convince Osmond that his daughter loveshim as much as he loves her, but Osmond doesn’t care. Hecoldly states that Pansy will feel whatever Osmond wants herto feel.Osmond presents Isabel with a visiting friend: LordWarburton. Lord Warburton tells Isabel that he accompaniedRalph to Rome and that Ralph’s health is much worse, and hehopes she’ll come to visit him soon. Isabel is prepared to leaveimmediately, but Lord Warburton tells her that the nextmorning will be fine.Lately, Ralph’s health has been declining rapidly. He hadbeen staying alone at Gardencourt, but it wasn’t good for him.Mrs. Touchett is in America, and, as is her way, won’t letanything ruin her trip, not even her son’s illness.Isabel is relieved that Lord Warburton does not make anymention of their unsuccessful romantic past.
Lord Warburton asks if Isabel is happy, and shereplies that she is very happy. Isabel suggests that she ismore accommodating now, and that she will acceptother people’s ideas and proposals. Isabel offers tointroduce Lord Warburton to people, but he says thatthe only person who captures his fancy is Pansy.Pansy says that she will not disobey her father’swishes; however, she loves Rosier as much as she lovesher father. Rosier worries that her father will changePansy’s mind, but Pansy claims that will never happen.She will ask Isabel for help.Rosier worries that Isabel won’t do anything becauseshe is afraid of Osmond. Pansy states that Isabel is notafraid of anything.
CHAPTER 39Isabel has distanced herself from all her oldfriends, including Henrietta, whom Osmonddespises, and Mrs. Touchett, whose friendshipwith Madame Merle has been destroyed byMerles deceitful role in helping Osmond winIsabel.Warburton tells Ralph about his intention tomarry Pansy. Maybe, he only wants to marryPansy to make himself a part of Isabels life.
CHAPTER 40Isabel discovers Merle’s role in arranging hermarriage to Osmond and also that Merle’srelation with Osmond is more intimate than sheformerly thought.Madame Merle also mentions that Isabelcould use her influence over Lord Warburton tobenefit Pansy. Isabel is surprised to find thatMadame Merle knows of Lord Warburton’sproposal to her. Mrs. Touchett had told her.Madame Merle and Isabel both agree that LordWarburton would be a smarter match for Pansythan Rosier.
CHAPTER 41Lord Warburton calls on the Osmondhousehold often to visit with Isabel and Pansy.Isabel wants to please Osmond, marryingPansy to Warburton. Osmond is certain thatIsabel will side with Pansy marrying Rosier. Thecouple obviously has an antagonisticrelationship. Osmond commands Isabel to useher influence on Lord Warburton to get him topropose to Pansy.
CHAPTER 42Isabel reviews her life. She wonders if Lord Warburton is in factinterested in Pansy because he still has love for her. This thoughtleads her to re-examine her marriage with Osmond. Osmond hasgradually gained total control of Isabel, who was once so proud andindependent. She tried to conform to his wishes until she realizedthat he wanted her to change her completely. He wanted her tobecome a slave to him and to act as he wanted her to. Yet, she knewthat she was a distinct individual and had to abide by her ownnature. This caused her husband to hate her. Her real offence washer having a mind of her own.Isabel and Osmond have barely been speaking to one another.Isabel knows that Osmond is upset and jealous about Ralph’s stay inRome.Isabel has not told Ralph how miserable her life is. She thinksthat it is better for him to think that he was wrong all along. Shecan’t dismiss the idea that Osmond and Merele were conspiringagainst her.
CHAPTER 43Isabel accompanies Pansy to a ball, where they once againencounter both Rosier and Lord Warburton. Isabel can tell thatRosier really does love Pansy, and that staying away from hertortures him. Osmond has ordered Pansy to avoid him. LordWarburton asks Isabel about Rosier, never having beenintroduced to him. He clearly sympathizes with the young man,although Isabel calls him his rival. Isabel lets it slip that Pansydoes care for Rosier, and Lord Warburton is surprised to hearthat Pansy would do something without her father’s approval.When asked if he’s really in love with Pansy, Warburtonsimply replies that he’s forty-two – presumably too old now totruly fall in love. Isabel leaves the room and tells Rosier that sheis willing to help him. Isabel reminds Lord Warburton to sendhis letter to Osmond. They all prepare to go home from the ball.
CHAPTER 44Henrietta visits the Countess Gemini inFlorence and tells her that she is worried thatIsabel is unhappy and that she is going to Rome.The Countess is also going to Rome to visit herbrother and surprises Henrietta by telling herthat Lord Warburton is also in Rome andapparently still in love with Isabel. Henrietta thengoes to speak to Caspar Goodwood, whom sheencourages to come to Rome as well, for Isabelssake.
CHAPTER 45Isabel goes to visit Ralph, knowing well that Osmond doesn’tapprove of it. Isabel asks Ralph about Lord Warburton, and Ralph admitsthat he is very much in love… but with Isabel, not Pansy. Isabel lamentsthat Ralph is not helping her, which is the one instance in which shesuggests that she actually needs help. Ralph confesses that he hopes LordWarburton doesn’t go for Pansy, since that would make his and Isabel’srelationship very difficult. Ralph wants to hear Isabel confess how horribleher life has been as Mrs. Osmond, but she still hides her misery.Isabel talks with Pansy that night, in order to hear Pansy’s thoughtsfrom her own mouth. Finally, we see that Pansy has her own thoughtsand feelings. Pansy confesses that she loves Rosier and will remain loyalto him. She would rather be alone than married to anyone else. However,Isabel is persistent in carrying out Osmond’s wishes, emphasizing to Pansythat she must not disobey her father. Pansy says that she’d rather not bewith anyone, if not Rosier.
CHAPTER 46Lord Warburton has not called or written, and Osmondholds Isabel responsible. Osmond assumes that Isabel has ahand in Warburton’s sudden absence, and demands that shecorrect it. At this moment, Lord Warburton arrives at theOsmonds’ and announces his departure for England. He invitesthe Osmonds to visit him and stay at Lockleigh. Osmond andIsabel both realize that Lord Warburton is no longer pursuingPansy. Osmond leaves the two friends alone.Lord Warburton expresses his wish for Isabel to visit himin England. Pansy comes to bid adieu to Lord Warburton, andshe is close to tears. Pansy seems glad to be rid of LordWarburton.Osmond accuses Isabel of having played a game againsthim. He thinks that Isabel has worked to turn Lord Warburtonaway from Pansy. Osmond says that there is still hope thatthey might still take Lord Warburton up on his offer to visitEngland.
CHAPTERS 47-48Isabel finally confesses to Henrietta thatshe is unhappy. Isabel claims that she cannotleave Osmond because it would damage herpride. She made the choice to marry him sodeliberately and publicly, it would beembarrassing to confess its failure.
CHAPTERS 49-51When Madame Merle confronts Isabel about her rolein Lord Warburtons departure from Rome, Isabel isshocked by Merles interference—she sounds as thoughshe is speaking as Osmonds representative, and notmerely as an acquaintance of the family. Propriety woulddictate that the entire incident is none of Madame Merlesbusiness, but Merle questions Isabel about it as thoughshe, and not Isabel, was Osmonds wife. Isabel feels againthat Madame Merle plays a powerful role in her life.Mrs. Touchett writes Isabel that Ralph is near deathand asks Isabel to come at once. When Isabel tells Osmondthis news, he forbids her to leave Rome.
The Countess Gimmini urges Isabel to defy Osmond andleave Rome. But Isabel is haunted by the memory of herwedding vows, which she does not wish to break. TheCountess tells Isabel that Osmond has lied to her: hisfirst wife did not die during childbirth, because she wasnever pregnant. Pansys mother is Madame Merle.Madame Merle and Osmond have been lovers for years;Osmonds first wife died around the time Pansy wasborn, so they simply claimed that she had died inchildbirth and put Pansy in a convent. Merle chose Isabelto marry Osmond both because Pansy needed amother—she dislikes Merle, her real mother—andbecause Isabel has money for Pansys dowry. Isabelrealizes that this explains why Merle was so upset whenshe thought Isabel had encouraged Warburton not tomarry Pansy.
CHAPTERS 52-55Caspar Goodwood arrives in order to attendRalphs funeral. Isabel wonders whether she can bringherself to go back to Rome. She tries not to thinkabout the problem. Isabel meets Lord Warburton; shecongratulates him on his marriage. Suddenly, CasparGoodwood approaches her. He says that Ralph hasasked him to help her, and he urges her not to returnto Rome, but instead to leave with him. He feels thatshe loves him very much.The next day, Goodwood finds Henrietta and asksher where Isabel has gone. Henrietta says that Isabelhas returned to her husband in Rome. Goodwood isstunned; Henrietta takes him by the arm and leadshim away.
PLOT• Isabel Archer is a young woman who lives in Albany,New York with her father and two sister, after thedeath of her mother. Her father allows her to educateherself, which encourages her independence. Shegets the reputation of being an independent andintellectual woman, which intimidates men.• She refuses Caspar Goodwood, an Americanbusinessman because she feels that to marry himwould be to sacrifice her freedom.• Shortly after Isabels father dies, she receives a visitfrom her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, an American who livesin Florence, Italy. Mrs. Touchett offers to take Isabelon a trip to Europe, and Isabel eagerly agrees.
• Isabel arrives in England with her aunt. MrsTouchett’s husband is a rich banker. Isabel makes astrong impression on everyone at Mr. Touchettscounty manor of Gardencourt: her cousin Ralph,slowly dying of a lung disorder, becomes deeplyinterested in her, and the Touchetts aristocraticneighbor Lord Warburton falls in love with her.• Warburton proposes, but Isabel refuses himbecause she believes that marriage would damageher independence.• Isabels friend Henrietta Stackpole, an Americanjournalist, believes that Europe is changing Isabel.Henrietta arranges for Caspar Goodwood to meetIsabel in London. She still rejects him.
• Mr. Touchetts health declines, and Ralph convinceshim to leave half his wealth to Isabel so that shewill never have to marry for money. Mr. Touchettagrees before he dies.• Madame Merle, Mrs. Touchetts friend, isinterested in Isabel, and the two women becomeclose friends.• Isabel travels to Florence with Mrs. Touchett andMadame Merle; Merle introduces Isabel to GilbertOsmond, a man of no social standing or wealth, butwhom Merle describes as one of the finestgentlemen in Europe, wholly devoted to art.• Merle arranges Isabel’s marriage to Osmond so thathe will have access to her money. Osmond ispleased to marry Isabel, mostly because of hermoney.
• Everyone of Isabels relatives and friendsdisapproves of Osmond, especially Ralph, but Isabelchooses to marry him anyway.• Three years into their marriage, Isabel and Osmondhave come to despise one another; they live withPansy, his daughter, in Rome, where Osmond treatsIsabel as barely a member of the family: to him, sheis a social hostess and a source of wealth, and he isannoyed by her independence and her insistence onhaving her own opinions. Isabel suffers fromOsmonds arrogance, his selfishness, and his desireto crush her individuality, but she does not considerleaving him. Isabel is committed to her social duty,and when she married Osmond, she did so with theintention of transforming herself into a good wife.
• A young American art collector who lives in Paris,Edward Rosier, comes to Rome and falls in love withPansy; Pansy returns his feelings. But Osmond isdetermined that Pansy should marry a nobleman, andhe says that Rosier is neither rich nor highbornenough.• Lord Warburton arrives and shows interest in Pansy.Warburton is still in love with Isabel and wants tomarry Pansy only to get closer to her.• But Osmond wants to see Pansy married toWarburton. Isabel is torn between her desire to fulfillher duty to her husband and help him arrange thematch between Warburton and Pansy, and her herconscience, which tells her to discourage Warburton,while helping Pansy to marry Rosier.
• When Warburton knows about Rosier, headmits that he is not in love with Pansy anddecides to leave Rome.• Osmond is furious with Isabel, convinced thatshe is plotting against him. Madame Merle isalso furious with her, confronting her withshocking impropriety and demanding to knowwhat she did to Warburton.• Isabel realizes that there is somethingmysterious about Madame Merles relationshipwith her husband; now, she suddenly realizesthat Merle is his lover.
• Isabel receives word that Ralph is dying. She wantsto travel to England to be with him, but Osmondforbids it. Now Isabel must struggle to decidewhether to obey his command and remain true toher marriage vows or to disregard him and hurry toher cousins bedside.• Osmonds sister, the Countess Gemini, tells her thatMerle is Pansys mother. Osmonds wife died atabout the same time, so Merle and Osmond spreadthe story that she died in childbirth. Pansy wasplaced in a convent to be raised, and she does notknow that Merle is her real mother.• Isabel is shocked and disgusted by her husbands,so she decides to follow her heart and travel toEngland.
• After Ralphs death, Isabel struggles to decidewhether to return to her husband or not. Shepromised Pansy that she would return to Rome, andher commitment to social propriety impels her to goback and honor her marriage. But her independentspirit urges her to flee from Osmond and findhappiness elsewhere. Caspar Goodwood appears atthe funeral, and afterwards, he asks Isabel to runaway with him and forget about her husband. Thenext day, unable to find her, Goodwood asksHenrietta where she has gone. Henrietta quietlytells him that Isabel has returned to Rome, unableto break away from her marriage to GilbertOsmond.