illustration of Isabel Archer with a hand fan positioned between two silhouetted profiles

The Portrait of a Lady

by Henry James

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Chapters 26-30 Summary

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Last Updated April 18, 2023.

Osmond goes to visit Isabel at her aunt's villa on five additional occasions in the upcoming weeks. Mrs. Touchett becomes worried about Osmond's attraction to her niece and shares her concerns with Madame Merle, who denies any knowledge of it. Mrs. Touchett suspects that Osmond's interest in Isabel is primarily motivated by her wealth rather than genuine affection. Madame Merle assures Mrs. Touchett that she will investigate Osmond's true intentions towards Isabel.

Mrs. Touchett is puzzled as to why Isabel would reject two affluent men, an English lord and an American businessman, and be drawn to a middle-aged widower with limited financial resources. Ralph shares his mother's confusion but isn't too worried as he thinks Isabel will have plenty of other potential suitors. Isabel, unaware of her family's worries, continues to spend time with Gilbert Osmond. She appreciates his uniqueness and has developed an affection for his daughter Pansy, whom she sees as pure and innocent.

Mrs. Touchett continues to worry about her niece's fascination with Osmond. She has a low opinion of Osmond and his daughter, and an even lower opinion of Countess Gemini. We discover that the Countess was forced into marriage with an Italian nobleman who is described as a despicable character. The Countess herself is seen as a loud and self-centered person who disregards both truth and good taste. Isabel is willing to put up with Osmond's sister, despite her unpleasant demeanor.

Ralph extends an invitation to Isabel, Bob Bantling, and Henrietta to join him on a journey to Rome in May, which all three individuals agree to. Later on, when Osmond expresses his interest in the trip, Isabel extends an invitation for him to join them. Prior to departing for Rome, Osmond informs Madame Merle that he is making headway with Isabel but remains uncertain about whether he should continue pursuing a relationship with her.

Madame Merle suggests that Osmond can be difficult to understand at times. When asked why he wouldn't want to marry Isabel, Osmond explains that Isabel is too intelligent and has too many unconventional ideas. According to Osmond, these ideas would need to be given up if they were to have a successful future together.

Isabel, while sightseeing alone in Rome, runs into Lord Warburton who is on his way back to England from a trip to the Middle East and plans to stay in Rome for a few weeks. During their conversation, it becomes clear that Warburton still has feelings for Isabel. He admits to writing her letters but not sending them. Isabel expresses her desire to maintain a friendship with him, but only if he gives up his romantic intentions. Warburton reluctantly agrees to her request.

Isabel and her group visit St. Peter's on a Sunday. While she walks with Osmond, Warburton observes them and inquires about Gilbert Osmond. Ralph tells Warbuton that Osmond is an American residing in Florence but doesn't possess any noteworthy characteristics. Ralph and Warburton are aware that they both wish to influence Isabel, but they recognize that trying to dissuade her from getting involved with Osmond would be futile.

Isabel and her companions go to the opera one evening. Warburton sits alone in a different box watching Isabel and Osmond closely. Osmond observes the Englishman's keen interest in Isabel and wants to learn more about him. Henrietta makes some caustic remarks about Warburton's wealth and social standing in response. However, Isabel comes to Warburton's defense, stating that he was a "great radical" with "very progressive views." Based on Isabel's words, Osmond concludes that Warburton had developed romantic feelings for her. A few days later,...

(This entire section contains 900 words.)

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Warburton announces his intention to return to England.

Isabel had been in Rome for a while, but she decided to go to Florence in the spring to join her aunt on a trip to Bellagio. When Isabel informs Osmond of her plans, he expresses his concern that she might not return for a long time and might even embark on a world tour. Isabel feels offended and thinks Osmond is mocking her love of travel. Osmond denies this accusation and expresses his admiration for Isabel's passion for travel. He even admits that he himself would travel more if he could.

Osmond declares his love for Isabel, but acknowledges that he may not have much to offer her. Isabel is touched by his confession, but expresses her lack of knowledge about him. Although Osmond understands and respects Isabel's decision to leave, he promises to eagerly await her return. He plans to stay in Rome for a few more weeks and asks if Isabel would visit his daughter in Florence before leaving with her aunt.

Isabel, together with Ralph, goes back to Florence and makes arrangements for her upcoming journey with Mrs. Touchett. However, before she leaves, she has an argument with Madame Merle. Madame Merle wants to come along when Isabel goes to see Pansy, as she believes it wouldn't be appropriate for Isabel to visit Osmond's house alone. Isabel manages to convince Madame Merle not to accompany her, and she visits Pansy by herself.

Pansy remains delightful and endearing, talking enthusiastically about her father and Mother Catherine. Despite her affection for her father, she also has strong feelings for the nun. Pansy confides in Isabel that she always tries to make her father happy. Isabel says goodbye to Pansy, realizing that they may not meet again for a long time.

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