The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
This failure to rise to immediate joy was indeed but brief; the girl presently made up her mind that to be rich was a virtue because it was to be able to do, and that to do could only be sweet. It was the graceful contrary of the stupid side of weakness – especially the feminine variety. To be weak was, for a delicate young person, rather graceful, but, after all, as Isabel said to herself, there was a larger grace than that. (20.12)
Wealth boggles Isabel’s mind. At first, she’s too upset about her uncle’s death and confused by the bequest to really be able to cope with it; after a while, though, she decides to be the best possible rich person she can be, and to use the money to be strong and active.
"Now that you're a young woman of fortune you must know how to play the part – I mean to play it well," she said to Isabel once for all; and she added that the girl's first duty was to have everything handsome. "You don't know how to take care of your things, but you must learn," she went on; this was Isabel's second duty. Isabel submitted, but for the present her imagination was not kindled; she longed for opportunities, but these were not the opportunities she meant. (20.12)
Mrs. Touchett, who’s more familiar with the world than her young niece, knows that Isabel’s fortune places certain new social expectations upon her.
"If Mr. Touchett had consulted me about leaving you the money," she frankly asserted, "I'd have said to him 'Never!' "
"I see," Isabel had answered. "You think it will prove a curse in disguise. Perhaps it will."
"Leave it to some one you care less for – that's what I should have said."
"To yourself for instance?" Isabel suggested jocosely. And then, "Do you really believe it will ruin me?" she asked in quite another tone.
"I hope it won't ruin you; but it will certainly confirm your dangerous tendencies." (20.19)
Henrietta is appalled by Mr. Touchett’s bequest, and is worried about what it will do to her friend’s character. The "dangerous tendencies" are the same issues we see in Isabel throughout the novel – her removal from the real world, and her belief in her own ways and views of life.