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 46-50 Summary

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Last Updated April 19, 2023.

Osmond is worried about Warburton's real motives regarding his daughter, and he is concerned that Warburton won't follow through on his promise to write a letter to Isabel. Osmond accuses his wife of meddling in the situation, but she denies the accusation.

While Osmond and Isabel are having a heated discussion, Warburton arrives unexpectedly and informs them that he has to leave for England to attend to an urgent government matter. He mentions that he came to bid farewell and suggests that they visit England, expressing confidence that Pansy would thrive there. Despite his friendly invitation, it becomes clear that Warburton has no plans to propose to Pansy.

Following Warburton's departure, Osmond accuses Isabel of plotting against him to embarrass him, suggesting that she was responsible for Warburton's abrupt exit. However, Isabel defends herself, asserting that Pansy and Warburton never had any affection for each other. Isabel is content with this outcome, but she is disheartened by Osmond's transformation into someone who is noticeably distant and unfamiliar to her.

Upon Warburton's departure to England, Henrietta and Caspar arrive in Rome, and Isabel's unhappiness is immediately apparent to Henrietta. Isabel eventually confides in her friend that she is feeling miserable. Henrietta questions why Isabel does not leave her husband, but Isabel rejects the idea outright. Isabel is also worried about meeting Caspar again, fearing that he is still in love with her and unhappy. However, upon seeing him, Isabel is relieved to find that Caspar seems to be in good spirits and even gets along well with Osmond. Meanwhile, Henrietta starts to visit Ralph, who is seriously ill and possibly on his deathbed, and the two develop a close friendship.

Upon their arrival in Rome, Madame Merle, Countess Gemini, and Ned Rosier all come together. Madame Merle shows immediate concern about Lord Warburton and Pansy, questioning why the Englishman had departed from Rome.

In February, Ralph makes a decision to go back to England. Henrietta insists that Ralph needs a woman's company during his journey and declares that she will travel with him. Caspar has given a commitment to Isabel that he will also go with Ralph to Gardencourt. Isabel is concerned about her friends observing her unhappy marriage so she is eager for everyone to leave. Isabel tells Ralph that she might visit him in England despite Osmond's disapproval.

Caspar attends one of the Osmonds' weekly Thursday night gatherings and has a pleasant conversation with Osmond. During their chat, Caspar mentions that he is returning to England with Ralph as he doesn't have any other plans. Osmond advises Caspar to consider getting married, as he believes it would keep him occupied. Osmond shares that since he got married to Isabel, they have engaging conversations and he has never been bored.

Caspar doubts Osmond's credibility and takes the opportunity to have a private conversation with Isabel. He informs her that the only reason he agrees to accompany Ralph to England is because she requested it. Caspar admits to Isabel that his love for her still persists and has even intensified. He is also aware of her unhappiness in her current marriage. However, Isabel does not respond positively to his confession and asks him to refrain from bringing up the matter again to avoid spoiling their visit.

Isabel is informed by Madame Merle that Pansy and Warburton are not going to marry, which causes Madame Merle to express her disappointment. In addition, Madame Merle confesses to Isabel that she has been discussing this matter with Osmond in private. Isabel feels devastated hearing this news as she feels betrayed by Osmond and Madame...

(This entire section contains 902 words.)

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Merle.

Madame Merle inquires whether Lord Warburton decided not to marry Pansy to satisfy his own desires or to please Isabel. Isabel declines to respond and becomes furious, asking Madame Merle why she is involved in her affairs. Madame Merle replies with "Everything," and Isabel realizes with alarm that her aunt had been correct all along: Madame Merle had orchestrated her marriage to Gilbert Osmond.

Afterwards, Madame Merle has a private conversation with Osmond. She regrets her part in the union between Isabel and Osmond and realizes that her deceitful actions have only caused misery. She advises Osmond not to harm Isabel, but he considers her ideas to be foolish and departs hastily, declining to listen any further.

While Osmond is in a meeting with Madame Merle, Isabel is sightseeing the ancient Roman ruins with Countess Gemini and Pansy. By chance, they encounter Ned Rosier at the Colosseum, who informs Isabel that he has sold his valuable collection of miniature art for £50,000, hoping to use the money to win Osmond's approval. However, Isabel realizes that her husband will still refuse to accept Ned and forbid Pansy from marrying him, as Osmond is determined to find an aristocratic match for her. Isabel quickly takes Pansy away to their carriage before she can talk to Ned. Meanwhile, Countess Gemini stays behind to get to know the charming young man.

Days later, Pansy tells Isabel that Osmond intends to send her back to the convent. He thinks it's necessary for her to be isolated and have a time of seclusion from the outside world. Isabel is aware that she won't be able to convince Osmond otherwise. However, Countess Gemini, who is supporting Ned, opposes the idea of sending Pansy away. Despite her efforts, Osmond remains firm in his decision while politely rejecting the Countess's suggestions.

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