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Daisy Miller opens in the Swiss town of Vevey (pronounced "veh-VAY"), on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The landscape includes two striking features; a mountain to the south called Dent du Midi ("tooth of the south"); and a small, rocky island in Lake Geneva.
Vevey is a resort town, and its lakefront is lined with hotels. There are so many Americans here in the summer that a visitor might mistake it for Newport, Rhode Island or Saratoga Springs, New York, which were both popular resorts for the wealthy in the late 19th century. The best of Vevey's hotels, the Trois Couronnes ("Three Crowns"), could be Newport's Ocean House or Saratoga's Congress Hall were it not for the German waiters, the views of a snowy mountaintop, or the Russian princesses in the garden.
It is in the lovely garden of this hotel, on a beautiful summer morning, that you meet Frederick Winterbourne. Sent to school in Geneva as a boy, Winterbourne stayed on to attend college, and has lived in Geneva ever since. The official reason for his continued residence is study, but the rumor is that he is very attached to an older woman.
NOTE: James refers to Geneva as the "little metropolis of Calvinism" because in the mid-16th century the French theologian Jean Calvin (1509-1564) set up a Protestant community there. Calvin's strict religious standards provided a clear alternative to the lax morality of the times, and they influenced even the social relationships of the citizens of Geneva. With this pious history, Geneva sits in marked contrast to Vevey, now under the influence of uninhibited American tourists. How do you think several years' residence in this "little metropolis of Calvinism" has affected the moral standards of Frederick Winterbourne?
Winterbourne has come to visit his aunt, who is at the Trois Couronnes. Because she's in bed with a headache when he arrives- she suffers headaches frequently- he's left to amuse himself. In the garden he's approached by a nine- or ten-year-old boy dressed in a Swiss costume, complete with alpenstock, a long staff used in mountain climbing. The boy stops in front of where Winterbourne is sitting with his coffee tray and asks if he may have the leftover sugar. Winterbourne offers him one piece. The boy takes three. When Winterbourne remarks that sugar is not good for the teeth, the boy answers that he has no teeth. Although he's at an age when children lose their baby teeth naturally, the boy blames his loss on Europe- its climate, its hotels, and its candy. Everything, he says, is better in America.
Walking along the path toward them is the boy's sister. You now glimpse Daisy Miller for the first time. She is wearing a white dress covered with ribbons and bows and- although women of that time almost always wore hats- she is bareheaded, carrying instead a large parasol to shield her from the sun. She is, Winterbourne thinks, "strikingly" pretty. Daisy stops near Winterbourne, but her attention is focused on her brother, Randolph, who is pole vaulting through the garden on his alpenstock, sending gravel flying in all directions.
Winterbourne wants to talk to this pretty American girl, but he doesn't. Among the upper classes in the late 19th century, it was considered bad manners for a young man to speak to a young, unmarried woman before they had been formally introduced by a third party, such as a relative or a friend of the family. Although social conventions were much stricter in James's day than in ours, Winterbourne's dilemma may be familiar to you even today. How do you strike up a conversation with someone without seeming too forward? How friendly can you be without seeming like you are trying to get "picked up"?
Perhaps because he and the young woman are staying in a relatively casual summer resort, Winterbourne takes more liberties than he would in Geneva. He tries to interrupt Daisy's conversation with her brother. But it's an awkward process. She seems to be ignoring all his pleasant questions about her travel plans. He wonders if his forward behavior has offended her.
But Daisy is neither embarrassed nor offended. Soon she is talking to him happily, giving him the chance to admire her. She's fresh, youthful, and beautiful, though perhaps lacking the kind of sophistication he's used to in European women.
Introductions are made- not with the formality Winterbourne is accustomed to, but haphazardly and noisily by the young boy, Randolph Miller. His sister is called Daisy, though her real name is Annie P. Miller. Daisy would like her brother to ask Winterbourne his name, but the boy is too busy bragging about the Miller family. Their father, he says, is "in a better place than Europe." Winterbourne fears that Randolph means Mr. Miller has died and gone to heaven, but in fact the "better place" Randolph is talking about is Schenectady, New York, where Mr. Miller runs a large and profitable business.
NOTE: James is drawing a funny and not very flattering portrait of an American family traveling in Europe. The image of Americans abroad as loud, overly patriotic, and unsophisticated is often noted by readers of Henry James. You might want to consider whether Americans abroad today resemble James's description.
Randolph leaves them, and Daisy chatters on as if she has known Winterbourne for a long time. Europe is just as she had expected, she says. Her only disappointment is in the lack of society- particularly after the whirlwind social life she led in New York. "I have always had," she explains, "a great deal of gentlemen's society."
Daisy is like no other young woman that Winterbourne has ever met. No young woman in Geneva would ever speak this way- in Geneva such a remark would be seen as evidence of social misconduct. Winterbourne wonders if he has lived in Geneva too long, if he no longer understands the "American tone." Is Daisy a pretty, charming, and sociable girl, or is she a scheming and dangerous young woman? Winterbourne suspects she is nothing more than an American flirt.
Daisy tells Winterbourne how her plans to see the Chateau de Chillon have been foiled by her mother's ill health and Randolph's not wanting to go. When she suggests that he stay with Randolph so she and her mother can visit the castle, Winterbourne replies that he would much rather go to the castle with her.
A young woman in Geneva would have leapt to her feet, blushing, at Winterbourne's suggestion, but Daisy does not appear offended. Worried, though, that he has gone too far, Winterbourne adds, "With your mother." But Daisy doesn't seem to notice either the outrageousness of his suggestion or the respect with which he attempts to repair the blunder.
NOTE: The Chateau de Chillon was built in medieval times on a rocky island in Lake Geneva. During the course of this story, it is referred to as "the Chateau," or "Chillon," or simply "the castle." It is well-known as the setting of the 1816 poem entitled "The Prisoner of Chillon" by the English poet, Lord Byron. The speaker in that dramatic monologue is a champion of human liberty named Franois de Bonivard.
As she tries to work out a plan, Daisy mentions that if her mother stays behind, then Eugenio will too. (Eugenio is the Miller family's courier, a servant engaged to make travel arrangements.) It dawns on Winterbourne that Daisy's plan is for the two of them to go, unchaperoned.
At that moment a tall, handsome man approaches, bows to Daisy, and announces lunch. It is Eugenio. The courier looks Winterbourne up and down. When Daisy informs Eugenio that she has made arrangements to visit the castle after all, he looks back at Winterbourne in a manner that Winterbourne finds most offensive. His look implies that Daisy is in the habit of "picking up" men, and that Winterbourne is one of her "pick ups." As a guarantee of respectability, Winterbourne offers to present a person who can tell Daisy all about him. He is referring to his aunt. Although he resents the courier's look of disapproval, Winterbourne's offer to present his aunt seems to acknowledge the impropriety of the excursion that he suggested.
Promising they will go to the castle someday, Daisy smiles and walks back to the inn with Eugenio. As he looks after her, Winterbourne thinks she has the figure of a princess.
NOTE: As you read this opening scene, observe how efficiently James has established some of the characters and themes of his story. You quickly see that Winterbourne is attracted to Daisy. But you also see that he's extremely aware of the social restrictions of the day. Daisy, on the other hand, seems unaware of any kind of restrictions at all. Winterbourne worries that he's offended her by talking to her without an introduction, but Daisy is not offended- she's simply distracted. She couldn't care less about the rules of polite conversation. You soon see that she is just as unconcerned about many other social rules- about traveling with a man unchaperoned, or about being unduly friendly with servants. Her manners strike Winterbourne as almost dangerous. In other ways, though, she reminds him of a princess. The puzzle of Daisy's character will occupy Winterbourne for the rest of the story.
Note, too, Daisy's comment to Winterbourne: that she would never have taken him for an American. The question of Winterbourne's character- whether he hasn't become more European than American- will be another continuing theme of the story.
Winterbourne goes to see his aunt, Mrs. Costello, as soon as her headache abates. He mentions the Miller family in hopes that she'll allow him to introduce Daisy to her as he promised. But Mrs. Costello has already noticed the Millers and she wants nothing to do with them. She cannot welcome such common people into the exclusive circles in which she travels. Daisy may be pretty and may dress in the best of taste, but Mrs. Costello is horrified by the fact that they treat their courier more like a friend or a gentleman than a servant.
Winterbourne admits to having been charmed by Daisy, and his aunt expresses her hope that they were "properly" introduced. At his admission that they "simply met" in the garden and talked, Mrs. Costello is aghast. He explains that he's offered to introduce her to Daisy to guarantee his respectability. His aunt snaps back, "And pray who is to guarantee hers?"
Winterbourne defends Daisy, saying that she may lack culture but she is very pretty and very nice. He confides his plans to take Daisy to the Chateau, and Mrs. Costello is outraged. She reminds Winterbourne that he has been away from the United States for a very long time, and warns him not to "meddle with little American girls who are uncultivated."
Winterbourne asks if her refusal to meet Daisy is final, and she asks, in turn, if it's true that Daisy is going alone with him to the Castle. When he answers that Daisy fully intends to go, she declines "the honour" of the acquaintance, saying that she is not too old to be shocked. Winterbourne makes one last stab at casting Daisy in a favorable light, and suggests that perhaps all American girls behave as Daisy does. Mrs. Costello knows better: her granddaughters in New York do not. The comparison is enlightening for Winterbourne. His cousins are notorious flirts. If Daisy is worse than they are, who knows what she might not do?
NOTE: This scene provides a good example of the interaction of the characters known as the central intelligence and the confidant in the works of Henry James. In Daisy Miller, Winterbourne is the central intelligence and Mrs. Costello is the confidant. As Winterbourne confides his feelings about Daisy to Mrs. Costello you hear firsthand what his thoughts are, rather than getting them secondhand from a narrator.
Winterbourne is torn. He is eager to see Daisy again, but he doesn't know how to explain his aunt's refusal to meet her. When he comes upon Daisy in the garden that evening, she tells him she's heard all about his aunt: Mrs. Costello is very comme il faut (proper), very exclusive, never eats at the table d'hote (the common table in the hotel dining room), and is plagued by headaches. Not realizing that she has stumbled onto a sensitive subject, Daisy rattles on, saying that she can't wait to meet the woman. When Winterbourne says that his aunt's headaches will prevent a meeting, Daisy is not put off. She reasons that his aunt can't possibly have a headache every day.
NOTE: A European influence on the American characters is evident in the language of this section. Along with the phrases, comme il faut and table d'hote, you'll also find the following: rouleaux, a small roll or coil; Tout bonnement! "Just like that!"; tete a tete, private conversation; oubliette, a dungeon with an opening only at the top. Such language is another indication of the cosmopolitan, sophisticated world that James's characters inhabit.
Winterbourne is in the position he has been dreading. Not knowing what else to say, he replies that his aunt claims she does have a headache every day. Finally, Daisy understands. With a little laugh, she asks why he didn't just come out and tell her that his aunt doesn't want to meet her. Daisy's voice sounds a little shaky, and Winterbourne is mortified. The last thing he wants is to hurt this lovely girl's feelings. Again, he pretends his aunt's health is to blame. He claims she meets no one.
Daisy's mother appears at the end of the garden, and when she doesn't approach the pair, Winterbourne offers to leave. Always sensitive to the social niceties, he worries that his presence might be upsetting Mrs. Miller. Daisy urges him to remain. Mrs. Miller says nothing in response to Daisy's introduction of Winterbourne, nor does she look at Winterbourne as Daisy chatters about the troubles Randolph has caused on the trip.
Daisy mentions her plans to visit the Castle. When Mrs. Miller says nothing in response, Winterbourne assumes that she is very displeased. It's a natural reaction. Consider the disapproval just shown by his aunt on the same subject- and Mrs. Costello doesn't even have a mother's interest in protecting Daisy's reputation.
Daisy wanders a few steps ahead of them, and Winterbourne and Mrs. Miller have a tricky conversation. You know all along what Winterbourne is thinking. He hasn't given up his hope of going, unchaperoned, with Daisy to Chillon. First he tries to discover how strongly Mrs. Miller opposes the trip, and then he tries to impress her with his respectful behavior. Mrs. Miller is a "simple. easily- managed person", he thinks, and he expects that politeness will temper her reaction against the outing.
But Mrs. Miller seems too listless to care about Daisy's outing at all. She knows that she doesn't want to go to Chillon. The trip is too strenuous, and in any case she wants to see only the most important castles in Europe. Chillon is not as important as those she saw in England, or the ones ahead in Italy. (Here James is poking fun at American tourists, who only want to see sights other tourists have told them are important.) If Daisy wants to see the castle, she'll have to go unchaperoned with Winterbourne. Winterbourne is utterly amazed. A mother in Geneva would never think of allowing her daughter to go off for the day with a young man.
NOTE: Modern readers sometimes have difficulty understanding the strict social codes that governed behavior in Daisy's day, and Henry James doesn't always spell them out. But you can learn a great deal from passages such as this one in which Winterbourne compares the behavior of Daisy and her mother to what he would expect in Geneva.
Winterbourne's thoughts are interrupted when Daisy asks if he would take her out in a boat. He thinks she must be teasing, but he offers to row her to Chillon by the light of the stars. Mrs. Miller is shocked- not by the idea of a boat ride alone with a young man, but by the idea of a boat ride at eleven o'clock at night. Eugenio appears and urges Daisy to heed her mother. Winterbourne wishes she wouldn't listen to advice from a servant- another example of the way he shares the European awareness of class differences more than the American ignorance of them. When Eugenio finally yields to her wish, Daisy decides she doesn't want to go after all. She was hoping, she says, for more of a fuss- that was all she wanted. Offering her hand to Winterbourne, she says "Good night. I hope you are disappointed, or disgusted, or something!" Winterbourne is completely mystified.
When he and Daisy meet for their excursion to Chillon a few days later, Winterbourne hopes they've begun a romantic adventure. But he looks in vain for this same sense of romance in Daisy. Still, she is beautiful and if her nonstop talk is mostly shallow, he finds it charmingly so.
Daisy, on her part, seems to find Winterbourne almost as mysterious as he finds her. To her, he looks grim- yet he tells her he's never been happier in his life. "You're a queer mixture," she says to him. The manners he minds are those of the Europeans.
Winterbourne tips the guide so that they can proceed through the tour at their own pace. The guide misinterprets the generosity as a sign that the couple would like to be alone, so Winterbourne is left to tell Daisy what he knows about the castle. Daisy is far less interested in old castles than she is in Winterbourne. After hearing the story of Bonivard, "The Prisoner of Chillon," Daisy wishes Winterbourne would travel with her family and tutor Randolph. When he explains that commitments require his return to Geneva the next day, she becomes visibly upset.
Daisy, it turns out, has heard the rumor about Winterbourne's "mysterious charmer" in Geneva. Unable to contain her jealousy, she berates him for his relationship with the woman. "Does she never allow you more than three days at a time?... Doesn't she give you a vacation in the summer?" Winterbourne is amazed by Daisy's treatment of the subject. She seems "an extraordinary mixture of innocence and crudity."
Earlier in their trip, Winterbourne had wished that Daisy would seem more emotionally involved with him. Here he gets his wish. She offers to stop her attack if he will promise to visit her in Rome during the winter, Winterbourne has already planned to visit his aunt, who has taken an apartment there for the winter, and when he says he will come to Rome, Daisy drops the subject. Their ride back to Vevey is a quiet one.
When Winterbourne tells his aunt that he spent the afternoon with Daisy at Chillon, Mrs. Costello asks if she went with him "all alone." When he replies, "All alone," her worst fears are confirmed. She takes out a bottle of smelling salts and exclaims, "And that is the young person you wanted me to know!"
NOTE: Daisy is becoming more and more mysterious to Winterbourne. He doesn't know what to expect from her. First she claims to want to go on a boatride, then says she only wanted to create a fuss. Daisy's comments about being accustomed to men's society in America make her sound romantically experienced, but on the trip to Chillon she doesn't act romantically toward him, However, she is dearly upset when he tells hers he's leaving to return to Geneva.
What do you think of Daisy at this point? Is she a flirt? If so, is she a calculating and dangerous flirt, or merely an innocent one? How sound are Winterbourne's judgments of her?
In the second half of Daisy Miller, Mrs. Costello takes up residence in Rome for the winter and writes to Winterbourne to suggest a visit. She mentions that Daisy, who spends much of her time with "third rate Italians," is the subject of a great deal of gossip.
NOTE: In her letter, Mrs. Costello requests a copy of Paule Mere, a novel by Victor Cherbuliez, published in Geneva in 1865. Daisy Miller bears a number of similarities to this work. A young woman's name serves as the title of each book. Both stories begin in a Swiss hotel and end in Italy, and deal with the prejudices of European society. Both heroines are spirited and independent and are slandered because of unchaperoned outings with a man. But Paule is not as "natural" a young woman as Daisy, and her story is a very sentimental one, whereas Daisy's reflects greater subtleties and complexities. James reviewed Paule Mere for The Nation when it appeared in 1865 and it seems likely that the novel, at least in part, suggested the events of Daisy Miller.
When Winterbourne arrives in Rome, Mrs. Costello gives him more details about Daisy. Not only does the girl go around with her foreign friends unchaperoned, she has "picked up" half a dozen of the regular Roman fortune hunters and takes them with her to other people's homes.
NOTE: Fortune hunters are people who hope to gain wealth by marrying into money. In the nineteenth century, Americans traveling in Europe were among their favorite prey, because Americans were thought to be wealthy but unsophisticated. Often the fortune hunters would pretend to be members of European nobility, thus claiming they could bring a title of nobility- even if no money- to the marriage. Some Americans, however, reversed the chase: they wanted to marry European nobility nearly as much as European fortune hunters wanted to marry American millionaires. Newspaper society pages frequently featured the exploits of title-seeking American heiresses.
Once again, Winterbourne finds himself in the position of defending the Millers. He says they are "very ignorant- very innocent only. Depend on it they are not bad." Mrs. Costello, who seems to make no distinction between manners and morals, maintains that the Millers are "vulgar," and "bad enough to dislike."
Winterbourne had imagined Daisy pining away, awaiting his arrival. He decides not to visit her right away, and goes instead to see Mrs. Walker, an American friend from Geneva, who is staying on the Via Gregoriana.
NOTE: The second half of Daisy Miller is set in Rome and is filled with references to Roman landmarks. The Via Gregoriana is a fashionable street near the Spanish Steps. The Pincio, also called the Pincian Hill, affords a good view of the city and is the site of the large public Pincian Gardens. Villa Borghese is a large, seventeenth-century palace, surrounded by a park.
Moments after his arrival at Mrs. Walker's, a servant announces "Madame Mila," ("Madame Miller" pronounced in a heavy Italian accent). It's Daisy, her mother, and her brother. James continues to use Randolph Miller in particular to make fun of American tourists in general. Randolph is just as loud, rude, and greedy as he was in Switzerland, and just as sure that nothing in Europe can possibly be as good as what the Millers own in Schenectady. "We've got a bigger place than this," he says now. "It's all gold on the walls."
At the sound of Winterbourne's voice, Daisy turns in surprise. He reminds her of his promise to come to Rome, but Daisy only complains about his not having been to see her. He is reminded of something he once heard about pretty American women: that they are "at once the most exacting in the world and the least endowed with a sense of indebtedness." That is, they demand many favors of men but never thank men for them. Do you think that's an apt description of Daisy?
Daisy accepts an invitation to an upcoming party at Mrs. Walker's house and wonders if she might bring Mr. Giovanelli, "an intimate friend." Mrs. Walker glances at Winterbourne- a sign, perhaps, that in their social circles young ladies do not make friends with unknown Italians, much less create suspicion by calling their friendship "intimate." Still, Mrs. Walker says she would be happy to have Mr. Giovanelli at her party.
Mrs. Miller prepares to leave, and Daisy urges her to go home alone. Daisy plans to walk to the Pincio. Mrs. Walker advises against walking through the throngs of carriages and pedestrians; Mrs. Miller worries that Daisy might catch the Roman fever. Daisy assures them that she will be quite safe, for she will be meeting a friend. Mrs. Walker asks bluntly if "the friend" is Mr. Giovanelli. Winterbourne listens keenly for the answer. "Mr Giovanelli," Daisy answers, "the beautiful Giovanelli."
Daisy asks Winterbourne to walk with her, and he winds up in the unenviable position of escorting her to meet another man. Daisy attracts a great deal of admiration from the passing crowd. Her experience of Rome, she says, has been unlike her experience of the rest of Europe. She loves the society, the people, and all the activity. Her family, she says, plans to stay all winter "if we don't die of the fever."
NOTE: This scene offers a good example of foreshadowing, a technique James uses often. Here, the subject of Roman fever comes up. First Daisy's mother warns her that Giovanelli cannot protect her from the fever; then Daisy predicts a long stay in Rome if she doesn't die of the fever first. The talk of Roman fever foreshadows crucial events later in the story.
At the gate of the Pincian Gardens, Daisy looks around for Giovanelli. A short distance away stands a little man with "a handsome face, an artfully poised hat, a glass in one eye and a nosegay in his buttonhole." Winterbourne announces that he won't leave Daisy alone with this character, but Daisy answers that she has never "allowed a gentleman to dictate" to her. Giovanelli spots the pair, hurries over, and bows. After introducing the two men, Daisy strolls with one on each arm.
Giovanelli has no doubt expected an intimate rendezvous, not a threesome. As they walk, he talks polite nonsense to Daisy. Winterbourne is struck by "that profundity of Italian cleverness which enables people to appear more gracious in proportion as they are more acutely disappointed." He curses Giovanelli's good looks. Certain that Giovanelli is not a gentleman, Winterbourne wonders for a moment what Giovanelli might really be: a third-rate artist? a music master? Winterbourne is annoyed that Daisy cannot tell the difference between a real gentleman- like Winterbourne- and an imitation. A "nice girl" should be able to tell the difference. But is Daisy a nice girl? Would a nice girl behave in such a way? She seems to want to flaunt her rendezvous with this Italian low-life by meeting him here, in broad daylight in the busiest section of Rome.
Daisy is not a well-behaved young lady, Winterbourne tells himself. Therefore, he must dismiss the possibility of establishing a serious, socially acceptable involvement with her. All he can hope for is a "lawless passion"- a cheap, tawdry romance. Yet at the same time she doesn't seem immoral. Though she's meeting her supposed lover, she apparently doesn't mind Winterbourne's being along. If she did, Winterbourne would have a reason to like her a little less. If he liked her a little less, he might not wonder so much about her. Instead she remains as puzzling as ever, "an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence."
An open, horse-drawn carriage leaves the mainstream of traffic and pulls up beside them. It's Mrs. Walker. She waves Winterbourne over to her. She is flushed and excited. "That girl must not do this sort of thing," she says of Daisy's unchaperoned walk with the two men. "Fifty people have noticed her." Mrs. Walker is afraid that Daisy's reputation will be ruined, that she will be cast out of society.
She suggests that they get Daisy into the carriage, drive around so people can see that she is "not running absolutely wild," and then take her home. Winterbourne predicts failure, but he catches up with Daisy and leads her to the carriage.
The understated but emotion-charged scene that follows is typical of the best of James. In it you see a dramatic confrontation between two very different sets of manners and values- Mrs. Walker's formal and European, and Daisy's carefree and American. Mrs. Walker suggests that Daisy get in the carriage, but Daisy replies that she prefers walking- especially in the company of two gentlemen. Mrs. Walker explains that in Rome it is not the custom for a young woman to walk unchaperoned. Daisy replies that it should be. "And then you know," she adds with a laugh, "I am more than five years old." Mrs. Walker finds Daisy's response maddening. "You are old enough" she announces, "to be more reasonable. You are old enough, Miss Miller, to be talked about."
Daisy asks what she means, and Mrs. Walker offers to tell her if she gets into the carriage. With a look at each of her escorts, Daisy says she doesn't think she wants to know.
NOTE: Some readers have used this passage to point out a possibly less positive aspect of Daisy's innocence. If knowledge is unpleasant, she doesn't want to have it. What do you think of this attitude? Are Mrs. Walker's rules the kind it's better not to know? Or is Daisy being dangerously immature by ignoring the social reality they represent?
Giovanelli straightens his gloves, laughs, and bows. He is clearly uncomfortable. Winterbourne wishes Mrs. Walker would just drive away, but she doesn't give up. "Should you prefer being thought a very reckless girl?" She asks Daisy. Daisy blushes, and turns to Winterbourne. He tells her he thinks she should get into the carriage.
Daisy has never heard anything so stiff in her life. She announces that if walking around with a gentleman is considered improper, then she will just have to be improper, for she doesn't plan to give it up. Mrs. Walker is stunned and hurt. Winterbourne joins her and remarks frankly that she was not "clever" and has only succeeded in alienating Daisy. Mrs. Walker thinks it's for the best. If Daisy is determined to "compromise herself," she herself would like to know so she can "act accordingly." Daisy has gone too far, doing "everything that is not done here. Flirting with any man she could pick up; sitting in corners with mysterious Italians; dancing all night with the same partners; receiving visits at eleven o'clock at night." Winterbourne tells Mrs. Walker that they have probably lived in Geneva too long. He means that they are no longer Americans in spirit.
Mrs. Walker offers to stop the carriage if Winterbourne wants to catch up with Daisy. With a toss of her head, she indicates a gentleman and a lady looking out over a view of the Villa Borghese palace and its large park. It's Daisy and Giovanelli. Winterbourne gets out. Daisy and Giovanelli do not notice him- they are completely absorbed in each other. Winterbourne watches as Giovanelli sits down on the broad ledge of the parapet, takes Daisy's parasol out of her hands, and opens it.
Daisy moves closer to Giovanelli, who holds the parasol and lets it rest on her shoulder, shielding both their heads from a bright shaft of sunlight and from Winterbourne's view.
Daisy and Giovanelli seem determined to justify Mrs. Walker's bad opinion of them. Though James doesn't give you Winterbourne's thoughts here, he doesn't need to. You know they're not favorable to Daisy because Winterbourne chooses not to walk toward the couple but goes toward the house of his aunt, Mrs. Costello- who, like Mrs. Walker, is a guardian of the social rules Daisy prefers to ignore.
For days, Winterbourne tries in vain to see Daisy at her hotel. Finally, the day of Mrs. Walker's party arrives, and although Winterbourne and Mrs. Walker did not part at the Pincian Gardens on the best of terms, he goes in hope of seeing Daisy there.
When Daisy's mother arrives, Winterbourne overhears her say that she has come unescorted because Daisy and Giovanelli can't tear themselves away from the piano. Mrs. Walker is incensed. She suspects this is Daisy's revenge for her meddling at the Pincio, and she decides the time has come to carry out her threat to "act accordingly." She confides her plan to Winterbourne: "When she comes I shall not speak to her."
NOTE: In this section of Daisy Miller, you find many more examples of James's rich vocabulary. The French and Italian phrases are as follows: Elle s'affiche, "She is making a scene"; tete a tete, "private conversation"; cavaliere avvocato, gentleman lawyer; marchese, marquis; qui se passe ses fantaises, "who behaves according to her whims"; and du meilleur monde, "of the best society."
The English words or expressions that may be unfamiliar to you are as follows: barber's block, a wooden model of a head used for fitting wigs; chopping logic, arguing points of minute distinction; cicerone, a guide for sightseers; circus, an arena used for athletic contests and other spectacles; and miasma, a heavy atmosphere.
Daisy finally arrives with Giovanelli. Everyone at the party stops and stares as she rustles forward to greet Mrs. Walker, claiming she is late because Giovanelli had to practice some songs before coming. Looking around the room, she asks, "Is there any one I know?" Mrs. Walker can't resist this opportunity to make a snide remark, and answers, "I think everyone knows you!" She means that Daisy's behavior in the last few weeks has been so outrageous, that the entire American community has heard of her- but they haven't heard good things. Giovanelli seems to fit his role of handsome Italian fortune hunter perfectly. Although she has claimed to admire his singing, Daisy talks while he is performing- a clue, perhaps, that she isn't as infatuated with him as everyone thinks she is. She approaches Winterbourne at first as if nothing had happened between them, then remarks, "I hope you enjoyed your drive with Mrs. Walker."
In the scene that follows, James masterfully demonstrates how misunderstandings are building between Winterbourne and Daisy. If you've ever misunderstood- or been misunderstood by- someone you like, you'll probably appreciate James's skill here. Appearance and reality are at odds, in part because neither of them knows when the other is speaking truthfully.
Winterbourne tells Daisy that he preferred walking with her to riding with Mrs. Walker. Daisy criticizes Mrs. Walker's expecting her "to get into the carriage and drop poor Mr. Giovanelli; and under the pretext that it was proper. People have different ideas!" That, of course, could be the theme of this scene and of Daisy Miller as a whole: the different ideas people have about right and wrong. That Daisy might have her own ideas of what is proper is something that Mrs. Walker (and even Winterbourne) can't really understand, just as Daisy can't understand their rules about the way a young lady should behave.
Winterbourne won't side with Daisy. He declares that her "habits" are those of a flirt. Daisy replies, "Of course they are," adding that all nice girls are flirts. When she wonders if Winterbourne considers her a nice girl, he responds with more conviction than you might expect: "You're a very nice girl, but I wish you would flirt with me, and me only."
In Winterbourne's candid remark, you hear one reason for his shifting impression of Daisy's behavior. While he was the object of her attention, Winterbourne was willing to be flexible, to be almost "American" in his approach to decorum. But as Daisy focuses her attention on another man, Winterbourne becomes increasingly intolerant of her free-spirited ways.
Winterbourne begs Daisy to stop flirting with Giovanelli, and he explains that flirting is an American custom that doesn't exist in Europe. She may be flirting, he says, but Mr. Giovanelli is not. When Daisy claims that she and Giovanelli are "very intimate friends," Winterbourne thinks she means they've gone beyond the flirting stage, and says, "Ah! if you are in love with each other it is another affair."
Daisy appears deeply offended by his remark. (That may indicate to you that Winterbourne's judgment isn't as correct as he believes.) Winterbourne thinks that American flirts are "the queerest creatures in the world." Giovanelli finishes at the piano and asks Daisy to join him for tea. Saying she prefers weak tea to Winterbourne's advice, Daisy walks off with Giovanelli and spends the rest of the evening with him.
When Daisy approaches to say good night, Mrs. Walker has a chance to show her disapproval. Without a word, she turns her back on Daisy, leaving the girl to exit with whatever grace she can muster. Daisy turns pale and looks at her mother, but Mrs. Miller is unaware of the snub. It doesn't escape the notice of Winterbourne, however, who sees that Daisy is too shocked and puzzled to be indignant. "That was very cruel," he says to Mrs. Walker, who replies, "She never enters my drawing room again."
Winterbourne goes frequently to see Daisy at her hotel, but the Millers are rarely in. When they are, Giovanelli is always present. Daisy is forever teasing him and flirting with him, but seems neither embarrassed nor annoyed by an interruption. She seems as happy to chatter with two men as with one, and her conversation is "the same odd mixture of audacity and puerility." But Winterbourne has come to expect the unexpected from Daisy, and he is beginning to feel as if she has no more surprises for him. Increasingly, his curiosity about her is becoming more intellectual than romantic, and he has decided that she is a puzzle easily solved.
At St. Peter's one afternoon, Winterbourne notices the pair and points them out to Mrs. Costello. Mrs. Costello asks if Daisy's "intrigue with that little barber's block" is what has been upsetting him. Winterbourne is surprised to hear how preoccupied he has appeared. He wonders aloud if an affair conducted so publicly could be called an intrigue, but Mrs. Costello argues that many people say Daisy is "quite carried away" by Giovanelli. Daisy probably thinks he is the most elegant man she has ever seen. Mrs. Costello even suspects that Eugenio arranged the meeting, and that he stands to receive a large commission if Giovanelli and Daisy ever marry. Winterbourne disagrees. Daisy wouldn't think of marrying Giovanelli, he says, nor does the Italian think of marrying her. Mrs. Costello assures him that Daisy thinks of nothing, and she says he shouldn't be surprised to hear that Daisy is engaged.
Winterbourne now finds himself in the unlikely position of defending Giovanelli. He confides to his aunt what he has learned in making inquiries. Giovanelli is a respectable cavaliere avvocato, a gentleman lawyer with no money, no title, and only his handsome face to offer. Daisy, on the other hand, comes from a family with a great deal of money. "There is a substantial Mr. Miller in that mysterious land of dollars," Winterbourne says of Daisy's father in America. Giovanelli must wish he were a count or a marquis, although he himself doubts that the Millers are yet even sophisticated enough to think of trying to snare a titled European.
A number of Americans greet Mrs. Costello on their way through the church, and most of them have a comment about Daisy's behavior. Winterbourne is not happy with what he hears. It upsets him to have the "pretty and undefended and natural" young woman described as "vulgar."
NOTE: Along with the characters in Daisy Miller, you enjoy a sightseer's tour of Rome. St. Peter's Church, where Winterbourne and Mrs. Costello see Daisy and Giovanelli, is part of the Vatican and is the largest Christian church in the world. The action now moves to the Corso, an avenue in central Rome where the eighteenth-century mansion called the Doria Palace is located. Known for its fine painting gallery, the Palace houses the portrait of Pope Innocent X by the Spanish painter, Velasquez (1599-1660), mentioned by the friend who reports seeing Daisy and Giovanelli.
One afternoon, Winterbourne meets a friend who has just come from the Doria Palace, where he saw "that pretty American girl" in a secluded nook with a "little Italian with a bouquet in his button-hole." The friend remembers Winterbourne describing Daisy as being of the best society, but what he has just seen makes him wonder. Figuring that Mrs. Miller must be alone, Winterbourne jumps into a cab and goes to see her. His mission is to give Daisy's mother a hint of the bad reputation her daughter is acquiring.
Mrs. Miller explains that Daisy is, as usual, out with Mr. Giovanelli. She assures Winterbourne that Giovanelli is "a real gentleman," and says she keeps asking Daisy if she is engaged. Daisy always denies it, but Giovanelli has promised to tell Mrs. Miller any "news" if Daisy doesn't.
Winterbourne doesn't believe his ears. Mrs. Miller doesn't seem to care if Daisy is accepted by society- Giovanelli's society is high enough for her. Nor does she seem to mind the idea of Daisy's marrying Giovanelli, though by everyone else's standards he is below her station in life. With such a mother, thinks Winterbourne, Daisy doesn't have a chance.
Daisy is never in when Winterbourne calls, and he no longer sees her at parties, for she is no longer invited. The Americans in Rome are eager to disown Daisy as a disgrace to their country. Winterbourne wonders how she feels about being snubbed. It upsets him to think that she may not have noticed. At times he curses her childishness, her provincialism, her lack of reason and want of cultivation. At others, he thinks she must know perfectly well what image she projects. He wonders if her defiance is an aspect of her innocence, or if she is simply a reckless person. He is tired of picky arguments about her. He is annoyed at himself for not knowing for sure if her wild behavior is personal or characteristic of her nationality. And he is upset that he has missed his chance for romance with her.
Winterbourne runs into Daisy one day in the Palace of the Caesars, strolling through the ruin of marble and monuments. Rome has never looked lovelier, he thinks, nor Daisy prettier. Even Giovanelli looks brilliant. When Daisy remarks on his always being alone, Winterbourne regrets that he is not as fortunate as Giovanelli.
Giovanelli has always been extremely polite to Winterbourne, listening attentively to his remarks and laughing at his jokes. He has never acted like a jealous boyfriend, nor has he seemed deluded by hopes of marriage and money. Now, he leaves Daisy and Winterbourne in order to pick an almond sprig and arrange it in his button-hole.
Daisy doesn't believe Winterbourne when he tells her people think she sees too much of Giovanelli. But he predicts that people will have a disagreeable way of showing that they do care. Daisy wonders how he can allow people to be so unkind to her, and Winterbourne assures her that he does speak up in her defense. Then he adds, "I say that your mother tells me that she believes you are engaged."
Giovanelli starts back to where they are standing. Daisy answers quickly that she is engaged. "You don't believe it!" she says. At first, Winterbourne says nothing, then answers, "Yes, I believe it!" "Oh, no, you don't," says Daisy, to which she adds, "Well, then- I am not!"
At this point you might excuse Winterbourne for being baffled by Daisy. Is she deliberately being difficult? Or is she still simply a high-spirited, sometimes thoughtless girl?
NOTE: James continues to use Rome as an evocative setting for his tale. The Caelian and the Palatine hills are two of the seven hills on which Rome was founded. The Palatine is also the site of a large park where many monuments are located. The Arch of Constantine commemorates Constantine the Great's defeat of a rival for his position of emperor of Rome in A.D. 312. The Forum is what remains of the center of ancient Rome; it served as the marketplace as well as the place where public assemblies were held and judicial business conducted. The Colosseum- one of ancient Rome's most famous ruins- is a very large amphitheater, that was used for public entertainment. It was in the circus, or arena, of the Colosseum that the Christian martyrs were thrown to the lions.
On his way home from a dinner party a week later, Winterbourne is lured by the prospect of the Colosseum in the moonlight. His instinct is correct. A deep shadow covers one half of the arena; dim moonlight illuminates the other half. The place has never looked more impressive, and Winterbourne is reminded of lines from Lord Byron's poem, "Manfred," which describe the ruin under similar conditions:
I stood within the Coliseum's walls,
Winterbourne knows he shouldn't stay in the Colosseum for long. However poetic its atmosphere may be, the darkened ruin is also thought to be a breeding ground for the "Roman fever," as Romans call malaria. He walks quickly to the middle of the amphitheater to have one look at the entire place. As he nears the great cross in its center, he discerns two other visitors: a woman and a man. The two have seen him walking toward them, but have not recognized him. They joke about the threat he might pose. The woman's voice says that he looks at them the way a lion or a tiger might have looked at the Christian martyrs. Her companion hopes the man is not hungry. The voices are those of Daisy and Giovanelli.
NOTE: Daisy's remarks here refer to the early Christians who were martyred before Christianity became an accepted religion in early Rome. These Christians were often thrown to wild animals before an eager crowd in the Colosseum. Daisy's remark is unconsciously prophetic. Like the Christian martyrs, she will be sacrificed for her beliefs by what one reader has called "the predatory public"- the Americans in Rome who attack her for not following their strict social rules.
Winterbourne is filled with horror. Under no circumstances should Daisy be out at midnight in the Colosseum with a man. But his horror quickly changes to relief. This indiscretion on her part is the last straw for Winterbourne, and it is as if light is suddenly shed on the question of her behavior. The riddle that she has been to him all along is suddenly easily solved. She has revealed herself as not deserving of his respect. He can't believe he has wasted so much time puzzling over her.
Since arriving in Rome, Winterbourne has tended to think of Daisy less and less in terms of his feelings for her and more and more in terms of the intellectual problems posed by her behavior. Instead of trying to develop his friendship with Daisy, he has become obsessed with trying to figure her out. Now, in this sharply etched scene, his head finally triumphs over his heart, and he feels confident in his ability to judge by appearances.
Winterbourne can see Daisy and Giovanelli only dimly. It doesn't occur to him that he is quite visible to them. Afraid of what he might say, he turns away from the couple. As he does, Daisy's voice reaches him again. She exclaims that the man is Winterbourne and that he has snubbed her. Winterbourne may have dismissed Daisy as undeserving of respect, but he has his pride. He won't allow Daisy to portray him as the one whose behavior is less than exemplary, and he turns back toward the couple.
Winterbourne still has concern for his former friend's health. She's a delicate young girl, and her moral corruption, he feels, is not reason enough for her to risk death by fever by remaining in the Colosseum. In a gruff voice, he asks how long she has been there. "All the evening," Daisy replies, adding that she has never seen anything so pretty. Winterbourne suggests that she will not think Roman fever is very pretty, and explains that staying out late in the damp air of the Colosseum is how people catch it. He turns on Giovanelli, who, as a native of Rome, should know better. Giovanelli claims to have advised against the outing, but he says that Daisy would not be put off.
NOTE: Some readers have cited this scene as one that shows the reckless side of Daisy's character. Just as she prefers to ignore European warnings about her social conduct, she prefers to ignore warnings about dangers to her health. James may be saying that while some European beliefs are rigid and restrictive, others deserve to be followed; and that while American innocence and independence are admirable, they can be destructive when they mix with ignorance and stubbornness.
Winterbourne advises Daisy to go home as fast as she can. Giovanelli rushes off to get their carriage.
Now comes the climactic scene of Daisy Miller. Once again you see the gap between appearance and reality, between what Daisy believes and what Winterbourne believes. As she chatters about the beauty of the Colosseum, Daisy doesn't seem embarrassed in the least. She doesn't realize that to Winterbourne her presence there with Giovanelli is final proof that she is unworthy of his respect or love.
Gradually, though, his silence tells her that something is bothering him. When she asks him why he isn't saying anything, he just laughs. Giovanelli has the carriage ready, but Daisy stops in the darkness of one of the arches and looks at Winterbourne. "Did you believe I was engaged the other day?" she asks. Winterbourne, still laughing, answers that it doesn't matter what he believed the other day. When Daisy asks what he believes now, Winterbourne says that it makes very little difference to him whether she is engaged or not. In effect, he's saying that she is beneath his notice.
Daisy is shocked. She has ignored the slights of other members of society, but she can't ignore Winterbourne's. Does this indicate to you that her feelings for him are deeper than he believes? James doesn't tell you her thoughts, but you see that Winterbourne has upset her enough to make her even more reckless than usual. When Winterbourne warns her to take medicine against the fever, she answers in a strange tone of voice, "I don't care whether I have Roman fever or not!"
Somehow, word of Daisy's moonlit visit to the Colosseum leaks out and shortly is common knowledge among members of the American circle. Hotel servants, a few days later, spread the rumor that "the little American flirt" is seriously ill, and Winterbourne goes to Daisy's hotel to find out more. Mrs. Miller cannot see him- she is spending all her time at Daisy's side. It is plain that Daisy is dangerously ill.
While at the hotel one day to ask for news, Winterbourne sees Mrs. Miller. Daisy, delirious much of the time, gave her a message for Winterbourne. She was never engaged to Giovanelli. Three times she repeated her instruction, "Mind you tell Mr. Winterbourne," and wanted her to ask if he remembered going to the castle in Switzerland. Mrs. Miller can't imagine why Daisy would want her to send such a message. She is only happy to learn that Daisy was never engaged to Giovanelli, who has not shown his face since Daisy fell sick.
The news that Daisy was never engaged matters very little. A week later she dies of the fever. Giovanelli is among the mourners at her grave. He is very pale, and there is no flower in his buttonhole. Winterbourne has the feeling that Giovanelli wants to say something to him. Finally Giovanelli says, "She was the most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable. And she was the most innocent."
Winterbourne is stunned by Giovanelli's words. He repeats those that surprise him most, "And the most innocent?" he asks. "The most innocent," Giovanelli affirms. Suddenly, Winterbourne realizes that despite all the weeks of observing Daisy and judging her character, he was entirely wrong about her. He feels angry, but he turns his anger against Giovanelli. "Why the devil did you take her to that fatal place?" he asks. Giovanelli answers simply that he wasn't afraid for himself and that, typically headstrong, Daisy wanted to go. He would have had no future with Daisy, he says; she never would have married him. For a while he had hoped she might, but he gave up that hope long ago.
Winterbourne leaves Rome right after Daisy's funeral, but he thinks of her often. The following summer he returns to Vevey to visit his aunt. His injustice to Daisy has weighed on his conscience. Mrs. Costello wonders in what way his injustice affected Daisy. Winterbourne says, "She sent me a message before her death which I didn't understand at the time. But I have understood it since. She would have appreciated one's esteem." That is, by telling him that she was never engaged to Giovanelli, Daisy was trying to tell him that she was in fact the nice girl she said she was. Mrs. Costello asks if this is "a modest way of saying" that Daisy would have returned his affection for her. After a minute Winterbourne says, "You were right in that remark that you made last summer. I was booked to make a mistake. I have lived too long in foreign parts."
In spite of his revelation, Winterbourne returns to live in Geneva. There are still conflicting reports about why he has chosen that city. Some say he is "studying hard," others claim he is "much interested in a very clever foreign lady."
Winterbourne was mistaken in his judgment of Daisy, and he admits it. He failed her, and he knows why. He is an American transplanted into foreign soil, and left there too long. But his self-knowledge does not change him. He returns to the life he led before he met- and misjudged- Daisy Miller.
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© Copyright 1986 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.