Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 36

By Henry James

Chapter 36

  • It is the autumn of 1876, some three years later.
  • Edward Rosier (remember him?) calls upon Madame Merle in Rome to ask her for a favor.
  • Rosier is in love with Pansy, and asks for Madame Merle’s influence in recommending him to Mr. and Mrs. Osmond.
  • Rosier loves Pansy for her perfection. He is a collector of art as well, but we don’t get the same creepy voyeur feeling from him that we get from Osmond.
  • Mr. Rosier admires Madame Merle’s own collection of beautiful objects.
  • For some reason, the guileless Rosier thinks that Madame Merle likes him. She makes him doubt it, since she puts on a charming exterior for everyone.
  • Madame Merle jokes that she will help him in exchange for some of his elegant pieces from the era of Louis Quatorze. Rosier, who isn’t exactly quick on the uptake, figures that she might be serious, but he’s undaunted – he would give her all of his art collection in order to marry Pansy.
  • Madame Merle agrees to help Rosier, although she insists that he not ask Isabel for help at all. Rosier thinks that this weird, and wonders if he has come to the right person for help.
  • Rosier says that he makes forty thousand francs a year, and it’s okay if Pansy has no dowry to give. Madame Merle suggests that Isabel, now known exclusively as Mrs. Osmond, has a good deal of money, but that she may keep it for her own children, if she has them. Apparently, Isabel did have a son a couple of years ago, but he died as an infant.
  • Madame Merle admits that she knows Pansy loves Rosier.
  • Rosier leaves, thinking about how splendid Isabel is.
  • Rosier visits the Palazzo Roccanera, the beautiful but menacing fortress-like castle that Isabel, Osmond, and Pansy live in.
  • Ned thinks of how dungeon-like the place looks. Isabel had told him that they picked it for its "local colour," but he romantically thinks that it resembles a prison, in which young girls were kept from their true loves.
  • Isabel had also told Ned that all of the fine art pieces in the house were selected by Osmond, and that she had no say in it whatsoever.
  • Osmond had bought most of the pieces before he met Isabel; to Rosier, this means that an art collector can be successful even without a lot of money.