The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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Mrs. Touchett Character Analysis

Ralph’s mother and Isabel Archer’s aunt, Mrs. Touchett is an American expatriate who discovers Isabel in America and invites her to stay at Gardencourt (the Touchett family estate) in England. Mrs. Touchett is a very pragmatic individual and also somewhat unconventional, living in Italy separate from her husband Mr. Touchett and son Ralph for most of the year. Despite her blunt and unorthodox manner, she is very dear to Isabel, and they enjoy traveling through parts of Europe together. Mrs. Touchett detests English life, preferring to reside in Italy and travel regularly back to America.

Mrs. Touchett Quotes in The Portrait of a Lady

The The Portrait of a Lady quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Touchett or refer to Mrs. Touchett. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford edition of The Portrait of a Lady published in 2009.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Oh no; she has not adopted me. I’m not a candidate for adoption.”

“I beg a thousand pardons,” Ralph murmured. “I meant—I meant—“ he hardly knew what he meant.

“You meant she has taken me up. Yes; she likes to take people up. She has been very kind to me; but,” she added with a certain visible eagerness of desire to be explicit, “I’m very fond of my liberty.”

Related Characters: Isabel Archer (speaker), Ralph Touchett (speaker), Mrs. Touchett
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

“I’m not in my first youth—I can do whatever I choose—I belong quite to the independent class. I’ve neither father nor mother; I’m poor and of a serious disposition; I’m not pretty. I therefore am not bound to be timid and conventional; indeed I can’t afford such luxuries. Besides, I try to judge things for myself; to judge wrong, I think, is more honourable to not to judge at all. I don’t wish to be a mere sheep in the flock; I wish to choose my own fate and know something of human affairs beyond what other people think it compatible with propriety to tell me.”

Related Characters: Isabel Archer (speaker), Caspar Goodwood, Mrs. Touchett, Mr. Touchett
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54 Quotes

“She made a convenience of me.”

“Ah,” cried Mrs. Touchett, “so she did of me! She does of every one.”

Related Characters: Isabel Archer (speaker), Mrs. Touchett (speaker), Gilbert Osmond, Madame Merle
Page Number: 564
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mrs. Touchett Character Timeline in The Portrait of a Lady

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Touchett appears in The Portrait of a Lady. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
The three gentlemen discuss the details surrounding Ralph’s cousin Isabel’s surprising visit. Mrs. Touchett , who has spent the winter living in the United States, discovered the girl in... (full context)
Chapter 2
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Isabel informs Ralph that his mother , Mrs. Touchett, has retired immediately to her rooms upon arrival, and would like Ralph... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
The novel flashes back to Mrs. Touchett and Isabel’s meeting one another in America. Mrs. Touchett is a pragmatic and self-serving woman... (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Mrs. Touchett finds Isabel at the young woman’s grandmother’s house in Albany, New York. Isabel is reading... (full context)
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The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Mrs. Touchett explains that she had a falling out with Isabel’s father because of the unconventional manner... (full context)
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The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Mrs. Touchett suggests that Mr. Archer’s home is unimpressive and will be pulled down to create shopping... (full context)
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The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Isabel and Mrs. Touchett talk for an hour longer, with Isabel mentioning that she would one day like to... (full context)
Chapter 4
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
...the three, and Isabel is known for being highly intelligent. When Isabel tells Lilian about Mrs. Touchett ’s unexpected visit, Lilian hopes that their aunt will invite Isabel to visit Europe. She... (full context)
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The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
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While thinking about the possibility of Mrs. Touchett inviting Isabel to England, Caspar Goodwood arrives at the house. He is a Boston cotton-mill... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Returning to the present, Ralph eagerly goes to meet his mother , Mrs. Touchett, at 7 P.M. as instructed. Mrs. Touchett is in many ways the... (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Ralph discusses his cousin Isabel with Mrs. Touchett , who admires her niece—particularly her independence—but also recognizes that Isabel is naïve to most... (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
...reveals to Ralph that she enjoyed meeting Mr. Touchett and Lord Warburton. She also likes Mrs. Touchett , particularly because her aunt does not expect anyone to like her somewhat prickly personality.... (full context)
Chapter 7
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
...Isabel learns nothing from British people themselves, as Gardencourt is a quiet estate due to Mrs. Touchett ’s isolating tendencies, and Mr. Touchett and Ralph’s ill health. (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
...to stay at Gardencourt for two nights. Greatly enjoying his company, Isabel is shocked when Mrs. Touchett forbids her from sitting alone with Warburton and Ralph after dinner. Mrs. Touchett explains that... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Lord Warburton has taken a liking to Isabel and requests that Mrs. Touchett bring her niece to visit his castle, called Lockleigh. Having spent more time with the... (full context)
Chapter 11
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
...get along better with Henrietta, but she tends to treat even his compliments with hostility. Mrs. Touchett also suspects that the journalist dislikes her. Certainly, Mrs. Touchett holds no liking for Henrietta,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
...that Isabel is going to travel to London and will then be visiting Paris with Mrs. Touchett . (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Isabel withdraws to her rooms, where her aunt stops by before dinner. Mrs. Touchett reveals that her husband has told her about Isabel’s rejection of Lord Warburton’s marriage proposal.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Mrs. Touchett comes to agree that her niece was correct in refusing Lord Warburton’s marriage proposal if... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Shortly after, Ralph visits Isabel with some unhappy news. Mrs. Touchett has sent a telegram that states Mr. Touchett’s health has taken a turn for the... (full context)
Chapter 18
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
...French, but upon introducing herself is revealed to be an American expatriate and friend of Mrs. Touchett ’s named Madame Merle. About forty years old, Merle lives in Florence and appears to... (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
...time. He still thinks that she is “the cleverest woman [he] knows,” and knows that his mother also thinks unusually highly of Merle. Ralph states that “the husband of Madame Merle would... (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
...he is proud of his son’s bright personality. He advises that Ralph must look after his mother once Mr. Touchett passes away and also find a worthy life interest. He also assures... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Isabel finds herself quite lonely after Madame Merle’s departure from Gardencourt, seeing Mrs. Touchett and Ralph only at meals. Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel that the timing of her invitation... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
...London house in Winchester Square. She sees a notice that the house is for sale. Mrs. Touchett greets her matter-of-factly despite the recent loss of Mr. Touchett. She tells her friend that... (full context)
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Mrs. Touchett also reveals that Ralph has been left a generous inheritance, although not as much as... (full context)
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When Madame Merle enquires about Ralph’s reaction to Isabel’s newfound fortune, Mrs. Touchett explains that her poorly son left England for warmer climates before the will was even... (full context)
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...that wealth is a great blessing that will allow her “to be able to do.” Mrs. Touchett advises that Isabel must now learn how to take care of her wealth. (full context)
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The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Mrs. Touchett intends to follow her original plans to spend some of winter in Paris. She and... (full context)
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
...Paris, Isabel also reconnects with Henrietta Stackpole. The two spend so much time together that Mrs. Touchett suspects Henrietta’s opinions and attitudes are rubbing off too much on Isabel. (full context)
 Chapter 21
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Mrs. Touchett had pre-organized her exact dates in Paris. She advises Isabel that her niece is now... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Mrs. Touchett invites Madame Merle to stay in Florence. Merle makes sure to tell Isabel she has... (full context)
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Gilbert Osmond visits at Mrs. Touchett ’s Florence home. Isabel barely takes part in group conversation. She does not want to... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Gilbert Osmond has visited Mrs. Touchett ’s Florence home five times in just two weeks, which is a great many times... (full context)
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Mrs. Touchett also recognizes Osmond’s interest in Isabel. She wonders if his attentions would remain once he... (full context)
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The Countess Gemini also visits Isabel at Mrs. Touchett ’s home. Mrs. Touchett is annoyed by her appearance, as there are rumors that the... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Mrs. Touchett writes to Isabel to suggest that they travel to Bellagio in Lombardy. Before Isabel departs,... (full context)
Chapter 31
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The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Although Isabel is currently sitting beside a window at Mrs. Touchett ’s house, waiting for someone, the narrator flashes back to some of the events of... (full context)
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...upon her each day over a three week period. In April, Isabel goes back to Mrs. Touchett ’s house in Florence. She hopes to meet Ralph there upon his expected return from... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...her weeping. She means to share the news of her engagement to Gilbert Osmond with Mrs. Touchett , although she expects that there will be a scene when she does. Isabel had... (full context)
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Isabel is surprised to find out that Mrs. Touchett already has some inkling of the engagement. In fact, Mrs. Touchett has realized that Madame... (full context)
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Mrs. Touchett cannot understand why Isabel wants to marry Gilbert Osmond when he has no conventional marital... (full context)
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...mention his cousin’s engagement, despite Isabel knowing that he has heard of it. In fact, his mother had shared the shocking news with him immediately. Ralph is “humiliated” by his poor judgment... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...after returning from a meeting with Osmond, Isabel chances upon Ralph in the garden of his mother ’s home. He appears to be sleeping; Isabel finds the scene to be a visual... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...a more traditionally suitable husband. Isabel also tells herself that she does not care about Mrs. Touchett and Ralph’s strong objections to her engagement. In fact, she decides that she is even... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...on her wedding, a quiet and simple affair at a small American chapel with Ralph, his mother , Pansy, and the Countess Gemini in attendance. Madame Merle sent her apologies, unable to... (full context)
Chapter 40
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...family and friends’ previous warnings about getting involved with Osmond. She has particularly reflected on Mrs. Touchett ’s accusation that Madame Merle orchestrated the union between Osmond and Isabel. Isabel thinks that... (full context)
Chapter 49
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...to do with me?” Merle replies dramatically, “Everything!” Covering her face, Isabel finally realizes that Mrs. Touchett was right in guessing that Madame Merle had wholly orchestrated Isabel’s marriage to Osmond. (full context)
Chapter 51
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...house, she feels that her hospitality in Rome is vulnerable. A week after this episode, Mrs. Touchett sends Isabel a telegram to let her know that Ralph is nearing his death and... (full context)
Chapter 54
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Isabel arrives at Gardencourt, where the servants instruct her to wait for Mrs. Touchett in the gallery. She spends her time in the gallery considering whether she would have... (full context)
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Mrs. Touchett greets Isabel in the gallery. Isabel’s aunt has visibly aged but is as sharp as... (full context)
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Mrs. Touchett also informs Isabel that Lord Warburton is back at Lockleigh, and furthermore engaged to be... (full context)
Chapter 55
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...to visit Ralph in his room, pausing significantly before she opens his door. She finds Mrs. Touchett at his bedside alongside a doctor and two nurses; everyone is very grave, and there... (full context)
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...gather at a small church to pay their respects to Ralph. The funeral party includes Mrs. Touchett , Isabel, Henrietta Stackpole, Mr. Bantling, and Caspar Goodwood, with Isabel feeling distracted by the... (full context)
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...permanently and her obligation to return to Osmond and Pansy in Rome. During this time, Mrs. Touchett informs Isabel that Ralph has left her nothing in his will. The older woman is,... (full context)
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...notices Lord Warburton is sitting in Gardencourt’s library. She presumes he is there to visit Mrs. Touchett and escapes his company by walking in the garden. However, Mrs. Touchett later leads him... (full context)
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With Mrs. Touchett hovering nearby, Lord Warburton explains that he no idea that Isabel was still at Gardencourt.... (full context)
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After Lord Warburton takes his leave of the women, Mrs. Touchett retreats inside, and Isabel takes a seat in the garden. She recollects that she sat... (full context)