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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 12

Isabel puts the letter in her pocket and offers her hand in greeting to Lord Warburton. It is clear he has come just to see her and she is sure it has to do with a romantic intent. She had always thought of men only in relation to their moral nature, never in relation to their standing in the world. Lord Warburton is a "personage" of such a nature that she has never encountered in her life before. She is aware that in thinking of rejecting him, she is giving up a great chance in life. As they walk in the garden, it occurs to her that a few weeks ago, she would have thought this situation "deeply romantic."

Lord Warburton tells her he has fallen in love with her and wants her to marry him. She tells him he hasn’t known her for very long. He protests that he knows her well enough. She asks him to give her some time to think about it. While he is talking, she is moved by his sincerity and sweetness of emotion. She tells him she likes him and that she likes his home. He tells her he wouldn’t want to marry anyone but her. She says she doesn’t know that she wants to marry anyone at all. She says she doesn’t think she would suit him. At one point, she feels as if he is offering her a very large and guilded cage. He tells her he is afraid of "that remarkable mind of [hers]." She surprises him by saying she too is afraid of it. Finally he leaves, but not before telling her that if she doesn’t like Lockleigh, they can live anywhere in the world.

After he is gone, she realizes she has no intention of marrying him, but only wants some time to think of how to convince him that the marriage wouldn’t be a good thing so he won’t suffer too much. She wonders if she is cold-hearted to refuse him so lightly, especially to refuse such a "magnificent chance." She decides that she must do "great things, she must do something greater" if she is to refuse him. She also thinks she likes him too much to marry him. She goes back to the house, feeling frightened of herself.


Notes

Within the space of one chapter, Isabel receives Lord Warburton’s proposal of marriage and vows to refuse it. As she does, she decides that she must do something even better for herself than marrying an English lord. Isabel seems to sense that she has something to do that goes beyond England. It is after all the first stop on her European tour. Her aunt has promised to take her to France and then on to Venice. The expectation is already set up in the novel that she will do just that. A marriage at this stage, even to such a good person as Lord Warburton, is not to be.

All the while that Isabel is being proposed to, she is thinking of the romantic resonance of her situation here. She has read enough novels to know that this is the most romantic scene novels usually aspire to. She realizes that while she was still n Albany, she would have thought this a perfect situation. Now that she has been in England only a short time, it moves her only in the sense that she genuinely likes Lord Warburton and is moved by his strong emotion for her. She seems to have changed significantly just as Henrietta Stackpole averred in the last chapter.

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