The Portrait of a Lady Chapters 46-50 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 46-50 Summary and Analysis

Osmond is concerned about Warburton’s true intentions toward his daughter. The Englishman has yet to write the letter he mentioned to Isabel, and now Osmond is worrying that Warburton will never keep his promise. Osmond bitterly accuses his wife of interfering in the matter, a charge she quickly denies. As they are discussing the matter, Warburton suddenly arrives, finding Osmond and Isabel in the midst of their heated discussion. Warburton tells them he has come to say farewell; he must return to England to attend to an important government matter. It quickly becomes apparent that Warburton has no intention of proposing to Pansy. He does invite the Osmonds to England, however, telling them he thinks Pansy would be a great success there.

After Warburton departs, Osmond says he thinks Isabel has been conspiring against him in order to humiliate him. He believes she is responsible for Warburton’s sudden departure. But Isabel defends herself, claiming that Pansy and Warburton never loved each other. Privately, Isabel is happy about this turn of events, but she is saddened to see how different and “strange” Osmond has become.

After Warburton has left for England, Henrietta and Caspar arrive in Rome. Henrietta immediately sees that Isabel is unhappy. Isabel finally admits to her friend that, yes, she is indeed quite “wretched.” Henrietta wonders why she doesn’t just leave her husband, a notion Isabel refuses to consider. Isabel is also concerned about meeting Caspar again; she is afraid he is still in love with her and unhappy, but when she sees him, he appears to be in good spirits and even gets along with Osmond. Meanwhile, Henrietta begins visiting Ralph, who is now seriously ill and may be dying, and the two become fast friends.

Madame Merle, Countess Gemini, and Ned Rosier all arrive back in Rome at the same time. Madame Merle is immediately concerned about Lord Warburton and Pansy and wonders why the Englishman has left Rome.

In February, Ralph decides to return to England. Henrietta insists that Ralph “must have a woman’s care” on his journey and announces she will go with him. Caspar has promised Isabel that he will also accompany Ralph back to Gardencourt. Isabel is anxious for everyone to leave; she worries that all her friends are observing her and her unhappy marriage. Isabel tells Ralph she may return to visit him in England, even though Osmond would disapprove.

Caspar visits the Osmonds at one of their regular Thursday night gatherings. He has a pleasant chat with Osmond, telling him he is going back to England with Ralph because he has “nothing else to do.” Osmond advises him to marry; if he did, he would find that his time is always occupied. He says he and Isabel have delightful, stimulating conversations and, since getting married, Osmond claims he has never been bored. Caspar, however, doesn’t believe Osmond, and when he gets a chance, he speaks to Isabel alone. He says he will go with Ralph to England only because Isabel has asked him to do so. Caspar tells Isabel that he realizes he still loves her, now more than ever. He also knows how unhappy she is in her marriage. But Isabel does not encourage him, and she asks him not to speak of the subject again or he will only spoil his visit.

When Madame Merle learns that Pansy and Warburton are not getting married, she tells Isabel that she is very disappointed. She also reveals that she has been discussing the issue with Osmond, privately. Isabel is crushed when she hears this; she is very hurt that Osmond and Madame Merle would conspire behind her back. Madame Merle asks her if Lord Warburton chose not to marry Pansy to please himself, or to please Isabel. Isabel refuses to answer, angrily asking Madame Merle, “What have you to do with me?” When Madame Merle replies, “Everything,” Isabel realizes with horror that her aunt had been right all along: Madame Merle had manipulated her into marrying Gilbert Osmond.

Later, Madame Merle...

(The entire section is 1,426 words.)