Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 13

By Henry James

Chapter 13

  • Isabel needs to talk to someone about the proposal, and she decides to confide in Mr. Touchett.
  • Mr. Touchett already knows about the proposal because Lord Warburton wrote him a letter stating his intentions.
  • Mr. Touchett figures Isabel is waiting to see if a better man comes along, but Isabel insists that she is not set on marrying yet.
  • We learn more about Caspar Goodwood: He studied at Harvard College, where he was known as a star gymnast and member of the crew team. The son of a cotton-mill owner, Caspar has a skill for mechanics and patented a new cotton-spinning technique. All in all, he’s a successful and enterprising young businessman.
  • Isabel considers the pros of Caspar Goodwood, but she ultimately can’t get over the cons: He always dresses in the same way, his jaw is too square, and his posture too stiff. Oh, yeah — and she doesn’t think she’s in love with him.
  • Isabel mentally compares Caspar Goodwood with Lord Warburton, appreciates the difference between them, and feels that she cannot commit herself to either of them.
  • She writes Lord Warburton a letter thanking him, but rejecting his proposal. She decides not to write to Caspar Goodwood in order to discourage him.
  • Henrietta Stackpole asks Ralph for help. Henrietta is determined to match Isabel with Caspar Goodwood. She insists that Isabel marry an American man and believes that Caspar is, as they say, the Right One.
  • Henrietta asks Ralph to invite Caspar to Gardencourt. Reluctantly, Ralph does; fortunately, Caspar replies that he is busy.
  • Henrietta suggests that she and Isabel visit London in order to see more of English society. Isabel, always wanting to experience more, agrees. Ralph also decides to join the party.