The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 15 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XV


      The party reached London arid stayed at Praties Hotel near Piccadilly. Mr. Bantling, who has a gossipy approach to life, is introduced to the ladies by Ralph. Isabel is ready to see the local color, but Henrietta is unhappy after a few days of sightseeing. She wants to meet the “leading minds of present” instead of all the sights of past. Henrietta and Mr. Bantling like each other’s company.

      One evening Ralph quizzes Isabel on her reasons for refusing Warburton. He wants to know this for he shall have the thrill of seeing what a young lady does when she won’t marry Warburton. Isabel tells her that she wants to see for herself rather than drain the cup of experience. Ralph accuses her, “you want to see, but not to feel”.

Critical Analysis

      Writing has nothing to do with scenery. Henrietta believes and she is unable to capture a sense of place, almost indispensable in James. She wants to live only in the present. This does hazard her satisfaction amidst the sights and treasures of ‘past’.

      We find Isabel a creature of caprices and of a mercurial temper. Touchett's astonishment at Isabel’s decision is significant. Henrietta, despite adding comic touches, achieves a warm intimacy with Bantling who promises to take her to the Bedford shire estate of his sister Lady Pensil.

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