© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady


by Henry James

Mrs. Touchett Timeline and Summary

  • Mrs. Touchett sends hilariously unclear telegrams to her husband and son in England from America, saying that she’ll bring a mysterious niece over from New York.
  • Mrs. Touchett arrives at Gardencourt, and immediately locks herself in her room before greeting anyone.
  • Flashback: Mrs. Touchett unexpectedly called upon Isabel in her Albany home. Aunt and niece instantly took a liking to each other.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Ralph that she has no ulterior motives with Isabel; the girl can do whatever she likes. Mrs. Touchett intends to get her some better clothes in Paris, then show her the sights of Europe – she’ll even get to chose some of their travel destinations.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel that she should retire for the night when her aunt does – in England, it is improper for a girl to stay up at night alone with men. Isabel asks her aunt to let her know when something is expected of her, so that she may choose whether or not to do it.
  • Mrs. Touchett goes with Ralph and Isabel to Lockleigh.
  • Mrs. Touchett meets Henrietta and immediately declares her to be obnoxious. They quarrel vehemently over American and European differences.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel that she knows about Lord Warburton proposing. She wonders why Isabel didn’t tell her about it herself. She thinks marrying an Englishman is a good idea because they have their uses.
  • Mrs. Touchett’s friend, Madame Merle, comes to stay at Gardencourt while Mr. Touchett is ill.
  • Mr. Touchett dies. She doesn’t deal with auctioning off the remaining items, and instead brings Isabel with her on a round of travels.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Madame Merle about the vast inheritance her husband left for Isabel. Mrs. Touchett is offended when Madame Merle involuntarily suggests that Isabel planned for this to happen.
  • Mrs. Touchett introduces Isabel to some friends, including Edward Rosier, an old acquaintance.
  • She goes to San Remo, Italy to visit Ralph.
  • Mrs. Touchett has Isabel stay with her in her Florentine home, Palazzo Crescentini. Madame Merle also stays there.
  • She discusses Isabel’s marriage prospects with Ralph. She hopes fervently that Isabel does not fall for Osmond, since he is so much Lord Warburton’s inferior.
  • Mrs. Touchett asks Madame Merle whether Osmond is courting Isabel. Madame Merle, ever the actress, pretends that nothing is going on. Mrs. Touchett agrees not to talk with Osmond or Isabel about it, and trustingly (too trustingly) leaves it in the hands of her smooth-talking friend.
  • Mrs. Touchett rather hypocritically keeps the Countess Gemini away from her house, despite Madame Merle’s arguments in the favor of that outlandish lady.
  • Mrs. Touchett invites Isabel to return to Florence with her via Bellaggio.
  • Mrs. Touchett knows about Isabel’s engagement before her niece even says a word. She disapproves completely.
  • Mrs. Touchett considers Madame Merle deceitful because of the role she played in setting up Isabel and Osmond.
  • Mrs. Touchett returns to America just as Ralph becomes most sick – she won’t have her plans inconvenienced by anything.
  • Mrs. Touchett loses contact with Isabel over the years. Her relationship with Madame Merle also hasn’t been the same.
  • Mrs. Touchett telegrams for Isabel to return to Gardencourt; Ralph is dying.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel that Lord Warburton has visited Ralph and is engaged to marry another member of the aristocracy.
  • Ralph dies. We see Mrs. Touchett truly moved for the first time ever. Isabel attempts to console her.
  • Soon enough, Mrs. Touchett is recovered enough to complain about the odd bequests Ralph left in his will, including his decision to donate his books to Henrietta.