Book 1, Chapters 1-2 Summary

Amerigo is an Italian prince who has found in London the idea of Rome that Rome itself has lost. He is marrying Maggie Verver, the daughter of an American millionaire. Adam Verver travels all over the world, looking for items to add to the collection in a museum he is supplying. Maggie tells the Prince that, like pirates, the Ververs have treasure hidden in many different places; they carry only a few choice pieces around with them. The Prince himself is a museum piece, she says, intended to be taken back to Adam Verver’s native home called “American City.” The Prince asks Maggie if she suspects him at all of being a hypocrite, meaning that he is marrying her for her money. She dismisses the thought.

The prince’s family is coming from Italy to attend the wedding. The family is descended from a “wicked pope,” which gives it a dash of evil as well as romance. Maggie’s family consists only of her father. She does not intend to invite mere acquaintances to her wedding. The Prince reflects that Mrs. Fanny Assingham, whom he had met in Rome, is responsible for his marriage to Maggie. She had liked him at once and then proceeded to make a project of him, stating that she had someone in mind who would be perfect for him. He decides that he needs to visit her, and he wonders if she has been recompensed for bringing him and Maggie together.

The prince goes to thank Mrs. Assingham for her role in bringing about his marriage to Maggie Verver. Mrs. Assingham credits the prince more than he feels he is worth. He begs her to allow him to maintain their friendship, as he is still in need of her guidance as he enters the treacherous seas of marriage. The prince compares his moral sense to that of Mrs. Assingham: hers is like an elevator in one of Mr. Verver’s office buildings while his is more like a broken, ancient staircase missing several steps. Mrs. Assingham offers her husband, Bob, to the prince as an escort to meet the prince’s family when they arrive in London. She also mentions that Charlotte Stant, a close friend of Maggie’s from America, is also coming for the wedding.

The prince hides his surprise. Mrs. Assingham is blunt about the need for him to criticize Charlotte, but the prince feels troubled that Mrs. Assingham feels the need to be judgmental about Maggie’s friend. She promises, however, to look after her, saying that she does not feel troubled about her anymore.