The Portrait of a Lady Chapters 26-30 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 26-30 Summary and Analysis

Over the next few weeks, Osmond visits Isabel at her aunt’s villa five more times. Disturbed by Osmond’s interest in her niece, Mrs. Touchett voices her concern to Madame Merle, who claims to know nothing about it. Mrs. Touchett, however, believes Osmond is more interested in her niece’s money than he is in Isabel herself. Madame Merle tells Mrs. Touchett she will try to find out if Osmond is honestly expressing his feelings for Isabel. Mrs. Touchett can’t understand how Isabel could turn down both an English lord and a wealthy American businessman, yet seem so fascinated by a “middle-aged widower” of limited means. Ralph agrees with his mother, but he doesn’t think Osmond is much of a threat; he believes Isabel will have many other suitors before she settles on one to marry. Meanwhile, Isabel continues to see Gilbert Osmond, unaware of her family’s concern. She enjoys Osmond’s originality, and she loves Pansy, his sweet, “innocent” daughter.

Mrs. Touchett goes on fretting about her niece’s interest in Osmond; she does not think highly of the man, or his daughter, and she thinks even less of Countess Gemini. We learn that the Countess had been married off, by her mother, to an Italian nobleman who is described as a “low-lived brute.” The Countess herself is considered to be a shrill, egotistical violator of both “truth and taste.” Isabel is willing to tolerate Osmond’s sister, despite the woman’s unpleasant personality.

In May, Ralph invites Isabel, Bob Bantling, and Henrietta to accompany him on a trip to Rome. All three accept Ralph’s invitation, and after Osmond expresses interest in the trip, Isabel invites him to come along. Before he leaves for Rome, Osmond tells Madame Merle he is making progress with Isabel, but he is still unsure about pursuing the relationship. Madame Merle remarks that Osmond is, at times, “quite unfathomable.” Why wouldn’t he want to marry Isabel? Osmond replies that Isabel is too clever and full of too many “bad” ideas. Osmond believes these notions of Isabel’s “must be sacrificed” if they are to have any future together.

The party journeys to Rome, and one day, while touring the city by herself, Isabel happens to meet Lord Warburton. He has been traveling in the Middle East and plans to stop in Rome for several weeks on his way back to England. As he talks to her, it is obvious that Warburton is still in love with Isabel. He confesses that he wrote Isabel several letters but then decided not to mail them. Isabel tells him that she would like to remain friends with him, but only if he abandons his romantic interest in her. Warburton reluctantly agrees.

On Sunday, Isabel’s group tours St. Peter’s. As Isabel strolls ahead with Osmond, Warburton watches them and asks Ralph about Gilbert Osmond. Ralph tells him that Osmond is an American living in Florence, but other than that he is “nothing at all.” Although they would both like to influence Isabel, Ralph and Warburton understand that it is pointless to try to discourage her from becoming involved with Osmond.

One evening, Isabel’s group attends the opera. Warburton sits alone in a separate box, keeping an eye on Isabel and Osmond. Osmond notices the special attention the Englishman pays Isabel, and he wants to know more about him. In response, Henrietta makes some sarcastic comments about Warburton’s wealth and position. Isabel defends him, though, claiming that he is a “great radical” with “very advanced opinions.” From her remarks, Osmond concludes that Warburton has a romantic interest in Isabel. A few days later, Warburton announces he is returning to England.

After a lengthy stay in Rome, Isabel decides in the spring to return to Florence to join her aunt for a trip to Bellagio. Osmond tells her he fears she will not return for a long time and believes she will probably begin a trip around the world. Isabel wonders if Osmond thinks she is frivolous and accuses him of...

(The entire section is 1,365 words.)