Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 17

By Henry James

Chapter 17

  • Isabel trembles in the aftermath of turning down Bachelor #2.
  • Although she is shaken, Isabel is also proud that she has demonstrated the thing she has wanted all along: freedom. She feels as though she has proved something to herself and to Caspar.
  • Henrietta returns, and Isabel is understandably short with her. She says that she cannot trust her old friend anymore.
  • Henrietta is distraught to find out that Isabel has rejected Mr. Goodwood again. She really just doesn’t want Isabel to marry a European.
  • Henrietta asks Isabel where she’s going in life, and Isabel says that she’s happy not knowing.
  • Isabel wants both Henrietta and Caspar Goodwood to leave her alone; in response, Henrietta warns her not to isolate herself too much.
  • Henrietta decides to stay in London in order to get word from Mr. Bantling and Lady Pensil. She delights in the thought of rubbing elbows with royalty and writing a critically-acclaimed article about it.
  • Ralph arrives with the news that Mr. Touchett’s health has declined. Ralph goes to fetch a renowned doctor, Sir Matthew Hope. Isabel insists on going with Ralph, and checks out of the hotel.
  • Henrietta gives her regrets to Ralph, with the assumption that this will be her last time seeing Mr. Touchett. Not one to ruin her plans, she’s still going to visit Lady Pensil.
  • Henrietta tells Ralph that Caspar Goodwood came to see Isabel last night.
  • Ralph is saddened by the thought that Isabel would have lied to him about expecting a visitor.
  • Henrietta tells Ralph that Isabel rejected Caspar again, and Ralph is relieved that Isabel didn’t deceive him.
  • Henrietta decides to talk with Caspar and encourage him not to give up on Isabel.