The Portrait of a Lady | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady | Chapters 46–47 | Summary



Chapter 46

Lord Warburton has ceased to visit the Osmond home, and Gilbert Osmond and Isabel Archer discuss his absence. Osmond accuses her of "working against" him to ruin his plans for Pansy Osmond and Lord Warburton. Unexpectedly, Lord Warburton arrives for a visit. He announces his plans to return to England (although Ralph Touchett will stay in Rome), and Lord Warburton invites the family to visit him at Lockleigh. He says goodbye to Pansy. Osmond believes Isabel prevented Pansy's marriage and is skillfully scheming to humiliate him.

Chapter 47

Isabel learns of Caspar Goodwood's presence in Rome from Henrietta Stackpole. She thinks of Caspar as the one person she has hurt, and she wishes to make amends somehow. Isabel admits her unhappiness to Henrietta who doesn't understand why Isabel doesn't leave Osmond. Isabel says she won't "publish [her] mistake." She would "much rather die." Osmond dislikes all of Isabel's friends and disparages them to her. Henrietta tells Isabel that Mr. Bantling visited her in America and plans to meet her in Paris in the spring.

Caspar visits Isabel, and she can see no other object to his visit than just what he says it is, to see her. She invites him to her Thursday evening gatherings, which he attends. Isabel asks him to visit her cousin Ralph. Henrietta also visits Ralph, and the two become friends. Isabel hopes Caspar will take Ralph back to Gardencourt. Madame Merle returns to Rome, as does Edward Rosier.


Chapter 46 shows readers Gilbert Osmond's suspicions of Isabel. He believes his wife to be capable of just the types of schemes and manipulations of which he himself is guilty. He thinks she has purposefully prevented Lord Warburton from proposing to Pansy Osmond, agreeing to ask Lord Warburton about the letter only to buy herself some time to manipulate the situation. The real motivation behind her actions, according to Osmond, is her desire to humiliate him. Readers are left to decide for themselves if Osmond is paranoid or if Isabel has learned from the best and is gaining the courage to resist him.

Caspar Goodwood comes to Rome with one goal, to see Isabel. He knows there are rumors that she is unhappy, but he does nothing to indicate he has heard them. He doesn't embarrass her by asking outright. Instead, he simply visits her. He makes no demands or accusation or entreaties. In the intervening years, he has remained single. That, along with his self-possession and restraint, as well as the long journey he has undertaken to be in Rome, indicate that he is just as in love with Isabel as ever.

In Chapter 47 Isabel finally confesses to someone her misery and its source, but she maintains it is her own fault. Henrietta Stackpole, the only person with whom she need not wear a mask, her best friend, is not surprised by the news. Isabel says her husband dislikes her, and she is very unhappy. Although Henrietta sees no reason why Isabel should stay in an unhappy marriage, Isabel insists that she freely chose her husband, and she would rather die than let everyone know she made a terrible mistake.

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