The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Isabel, Ralph, Henrietta, and Mr. Bantling are in Rome. Isabel eagerly takes in the city’s history and culture, but is more reserved than usual. As she sits alone in the Roman Forum, Lord Warburton appears before her. Isabel is shocked, and he is similarly surprised at their meeting. The nobleman has been traveling in Asia and Europe, and is now in Rome for two weeks.
Europe seems strangely insular in the way that Isabel keeps running into old acquaintances such as Edward Rosier and now Lord Warburton. It is clear that Warburton has not planned to surprise Isabel; indeed he has likely been traveling in order to try to keep away from Isabel and the memory of her denying his proposal of marriage.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Isabel and Lord Warburton sit together. He states that he has written to her several times. When she exclaims that she has not received any of his correspondence, he admits that he burned each of the letters instead of sending them. Isabel realizes that Warburton’s character has not changed, and that he is still in love with her. She still refuses to marry him, desiring his friendship but trying not to encourage his romantic pursuits.
Isabel is such an enigmatic and desirable character that Lord Warburton has fallen into the same trap as Caspar Goodwood; he is still in love with Isabel despite her emphatic rejections of his affection.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
On Sunday, Isabel is touring St. Peter’s Basilica with Lord Warburton when they happen upon Gilbert Osmond, who has been watching the young woman for some time. When Isabel tells him that the rest of their party is inside, he states that he has not come to Rome to see them. Isabel introduces her two suitors to one another.
Gilbert Osmond is in command of the situation, first observing Isabel and Lord Warburton at his leisure, before making it clear he has come to Rome to see Isabel.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Ralph, Henrietta, and Mr. Bantling join the three of them. When Henrietta first met Gilbert Osmond, she had asked Isabel why all of her friends in Europe are so unlikeable. Henrietta had then exclaimed that Caspar Goodwood is so much better than the men in Europe.
Henrietta dislikes Gilbert Osmond upon meeting him, although the novel does not explain why. As usual, she is quick to share her opinion frankly with Isabel. Henrietta’s loathing for Osmond will only increase as the story progresses and Osmond begins to treat Isabel poorly.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
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Ralph and Lord Warburton move away from the group, with the aristocrat curious as to whether Isabel will accept a marriage proposal from Gilbert Osmond. Ralph encourages his friend to ensure that she will not by wooing her himself. When Ralph comments that unfortunately Isabel wants nothing from Lord Warburton or Ralph, the nobleman comments “Ah well, if she wont have you - !”
Warburton’s final comment to Ralph can be interpreted twofold: if Isabel does not desire her beloved cousin Ralph, then Warburton believes he has no chance, or, if Isabel will not be courted by Ralph, then Warburton should continue to try his luck without offending his friend.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon