Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 20

By Henry James

Chapter 20

  • Some weeks later, Madame Merle goes to Winchester Square, only to find that its house is up for sale.
  • The narrator lets us in on some unkind thoughts Madame Merle has about Mrs. Touchett. We begin to wonder what Madame Merle thinks of everyone else behind their backs.
  • Mrs. Touchett leaves the auction of her husband’s estate to someone else, and goes to Paris with Isabel.
  • Ralph has gone to the Riviera to look after his health. Mr. Touchett left him a fortune, naturally, and also the ownership of Gardencourt.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Madame Merle that Mr. Touchett left Isabel a gigantic sum (it turns out to be closer to seventy thousand pounds). Madame Merle is instantly impressed by Isabel’s hand in this, and assumes cynically that she had something to do with it.
  • Mrs. Touchett insists that Isabel dress the part of a wealthy lady, and generally learn how to be a woman of means.
  • Mrs. Touchett and Isabel stay in Paris for the winter. Mrs. Touchett introduces Isabel to some of her acquaintances there.
  • Isabel meets Mrs. Touchett’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Luce. She also encounters Edward Rosier, who was a family friend of Isabel’s when they were small children – she even had a little crush on him years ago.
  • Henrietta disapproves of the fortune that Isabel inherited. She worries that Isabel will live in a world removed from reality.
  • Henrietta says that Isabel needs to learn how to "displease" others and be okay with it.
  • Meanwhile, much to Isabel’s surprise and amusement, Henrietta and Mr. Bantling remain traveling buddies.