Portrait o a Lady: Chapters 10-12
Summary – Chapters Ten, Eleven and Twelve
The day after her visit to Lockleigh, Isabel receives a note from Miss Stackpole. She is in England and asks if it is possible to meet. She hints at wanting introductions to the nobility for the Interviewer and it is agreed that she may visit but the Touchetts do not want ‘showing up’. Ralph asks if he will love or hate her and Isabel tells him that Henrietta does not care a straw what men think of her.
After she arrives, she writes about Gardencourt and shows it to Isabel before sending it off. Isabel argues that she should not use this as material and says ‘my poor Henrietta’ ‘you’ve no sense of privacy’. Henrietta says with dignity that she does her an injustice as she has never written about herself.
She tells Isabel she has promised to write about the social side and asks if she knows another place she might describe. The next day Isabel tells her about Lockleigh and although she cannot take her there, Lord Warburton is going to visit.
Henrietta spends time with Ralph and questions him about his life of leisure even though Isabel has informed him of his bad health. She tells him that she does not know how he can reconcile not working with his conscience and he tells her that he does not have one. She says he should cultivate one for the next time he visits the United States. She also advises that he make himself useful in some way and accuses him of not being serious. A day or two later she tells him he should marry as it is everyone’s duty. He implies that he thinks she is proposing and accepts and she complains to Isabel. When she in turn tells Ralph, he argues that Henrietta is too personal and expects other people not to be.
Isabel says she persists in liking her as there is something of the people in her and Ralph claims she likes her for patriotic reasons. He says it is on these grounds that he objects to her. Isabel sighs and says she likes so many things and accepts it if it strikes her with certainty.
In Chapter Eleven, Mrs. Touchett and Henrietta clash and the former believes the latter has lived all her life in boarding houses. They also argue about the United States and servants and Henrietta sees Mrs. Touchett as being ‘treasonable’ in her appreciation of the upper classes.
When alone, Henrietta tells Isabel that Caspar Goodwood came out to England on the same steamer she traveled on and she spoke a good deal about her to him. Isabel turns a little pale and says she is sorry she did that. She asks if he asked Henrietta to speak to him and she is told, ‘not in so many words’, but she could see it in his eyes and his handshake. Isabel thanks her and turns away and Henrietta goes on to imply that he is coming to Gardencourt. Two days later, Isabel’s tension is dissipated when she receives a note from him asking if he may visit. As she folds the letter, she notices Lord Warburton standing before her.
She hides her ‘discomposure’ in Chapter Twelve and suggests they take a walk. She thinks there is an intention behind his visit and wants to elude it, but also discover it because of curiosity.
He tells her he has fallen in love with her in the first hour they met and she gently says, ‘how little you know me’ and gently moves her hand from his. He reasons that he will know her if she will be his wife, and she says that she is not sure that he will be disappointed if he gets to know her well. He tells her he is willing to risk it and says he will wait while she thinks it over. She says she does not think she suits him and is not sure that she wants to marry anyone.
He asks if she is hesitating because he is English, and she says she is afraid she cannot make him understand. She adds that she will think about his proposal and do it justice. He says he is afraid of that remarkable mind of hers and she exclaims that she is too. Alone, she wonders if she is ‘not a cold, hard, priggish person’ and frightens herself.
Analysis – Chapters Ten, Eleven and Twelve
In Chapter Ten, Henrietta Stackpole is introduced. She personifies the new woman of the early twentieth century who does not look at marriage as her goal in life. She is capable of taking care of herself and is financially independent.
Chapter Twelve is crucial in the way that it demonstrates Isabel’s reluctance to be tied to Lord Warburton and to the institution of marriage at this point. When he says he is afraid of her remarkable mind, and she says she is too, the readers are given an insight into why Isabel has been regarded as ‘original’ and exceptional from other women. She is afraid that she is cold, hard and priggish and her character is constructed as one that fails to be seduced by the romance in the novels she has clearly read.