Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 40

By Henry James

Chapter 40

  • Madame Merle hasn’t been around Rome much; she’s made herself scarce.
  • Madame Merle comes to visit in the winter.
  • The dynamic between Madame Merle and Isabel has shifted. Isabel is now more aware of Ralph’s complaint about Madame Merle, which was that she exaggerates too much.
  • For the past three years, Isabel has pondered Mrs. Touchett’s accusation of Madame Merle’s part in her marriage to Osmond.
  • Isabel was surprised to find that Osmond is not that fond of Madame Merle, despite the lady’s devotion to him.
  • Isabel almost blames Madame Merle for getting her in her present situation, but she reminds herself that she must live with the consequences of her own actions.
  • Isabel has been spending a lot of time with Pansy. She is aware of how dependent, "pure and weak" Pansy is.
  • One day, after one of Isabel and Pansy’s walks together, they return and find Madame Merle and Osmond together. Something about the eerie way they’re just looking at each other disturbs Isabel.
  • Madame Merle claims to want Isabel’s help with Rosier. She also sneaks in a mention of Lord Warburton’s interest in Pansy.
  • Madame Merle also mentions that Isabel could use her influence over Lord Warburton to benefit Pansy.
  • Isabel is surprised to find that Madame Merle knows of Lord Warburton’s proposal to her. Mrs. Touchett had told her.
  • Madame Merle and Isabel both agree that Lord Warburton would be a smarter match for Pansy than Rosier. Madame Merle says she will be happy to end the discussion with him.
  • Madame Merle gives Isabel an unexpectedly warm embrace for agreeing to help Pansy with Lord Warburton.