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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady


by Henry James

Madame Merle Timeline and Summary

  • Madame Merle stays at Mrs. Touchett’s and plays the piano, charming Isabel.
  • Madame Merle asks Isabel select stories about her life and they become close friends.
  • The older woman leaves to visit other friends before Mr. Touchett dies – she’s a very, very popular woman.
  • After Mr. Touchett’s death, Madame Merle reveals her nasty side; we hear her inner monologue regarding her supposed friend, Mrs. Touchett, and it’s not so nice.
  • Madame Merle visits Osmond and the newly returned Pansy in Florence. She tells Osmond about Isabel Archer.
  • With Isabel in mind, Madame Merle visits Mrs. Touchett’s house, Palazzo Crescentini, in Florence.
  • Madame Merle introduces Osmond to Isabel.
  • Madame Merle walks with Countess Gemini outside of Osmond’s home in Florence.
  • Madame Merle thinks that Isabel is falling in love with Osmond.
  • Madame Merle plays dumb when Mrs. Touchett brings up Osmond’s interest in Isabel. Madame Merle convinces Mrs. Touchett not to say a word to Isabel or Osmond, claiming that she’ll take care of it.
  • Madame Merle travels with Isabel to Turkey, Egypt, and Greece.
  • During the first couple years of Isabel and Osmond’s marriage, Madame Merle stays out of the way.
  • Madame Merle knows about Rosier’s love for Pansy, but doesn’t approve of him for her daughter. Still, she offers to "help" him – for whatever reason, he, like everyone else, trusts her.
  • Madame Merle convinces Rosier to only call on Thursdays at the Osmond residence, and not to do anything rash.
  • Madame Merle visits the Osmonds. She’s thrilled by the prospect of Pansy and Lord Warburton’s marriage, and thanks Isabel tenderly for making it possible.
  • Madame Merle goes to Naples and Rome.
  • When Pansy’s relationship with Lord Warburton ends abruptly, Madame Merle confronts Isabel and menacingly declares that she has everything to do with Isabel’s life with Osmond.
  • Madame Merle accuses Osmond of breaking her soul. She still has feelings for him, which he has taken advantage of.
  • Madame Merle visits Pansy in the convent and runs into Isabel there. She attempts to talk to Isabel – it’s clear to both women that everything is out in the open now. Madame Merle admits that she is probably unhappier than Isabel, and resigns herself to exile in America.