Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 3

By Henry James

Chapter 3

  • Mrs. Touchett is a rather eccentric lady, and insists on things just as she likes them. For this reason, she keeps a house in Florence where she resides, while Mr. Touchett stays in England at Gardencourt.
  • Now that we’ve met our heroine, we get her back-story. Mrs. Touchett "discovered" Isabel at her deceased grandmother’s house in Albany, New York, where she spent most of her childhood. The house is next to a school, which a younger Isabel elected not to attend. She read a lot of books on her own instead. We begin to see that Isabel is as independent as her aunt, even as a child.
  • Isabel is sitting in the "office," a kind of quiet, informal room, when Mrs. Touchett unexpectedly arrives. She recognizes her as "crazy Aunt Lydia," whom she’d heard of from her late father.
  • Mrs. Touchett intrigues Isabel, and Isabel interests Mrs. Touchett as well.
  • The two ladies talk for about an hour, waiting for Isabel’s sister and brother-in-law, Lilian and Edmund, to return.
  • Mrs. Touchett offers Isabel the chance to go to Florence. Isabel is excited by the idea, but cannot promise to do everything Mrs. Touchett asks her to do.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel to ask Lilian to meet her at her hotel.