Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Ralph Touchett visits his mother in her rooms. She asks about his health and Mr. Touchettís health and says itís a good thing she didnít remain in England or she might have "given out." Ralph smiles to think of this happening to such a formidable woman. Ralph had been a small boy when his father had come to England as a subordinate partner of a banking house. He decided he would live in England "assimilated yet unconverted." He sent Ralph home to the U.S. to be educated, thinking he would one day take over at the bank. When Ralph finished at the university, he seemed too American, so Mr. Touchett sent him for three years to Oxford. "Oxford swallowed up Harvard, and Ralph became at last English enough." Ralph has an adventurous and ironic mind. He showed a great deal of promise in his college years. He never thought of leaving England since he loved his father so much he thought of him as a best friend. He admired his father and learned all about banking so as to further appreciate his fatherís knowledge. Even though Mr. Touchett had not been formally educated, he had a good mind and even though he never tried to enter the social stream in London, he had a perfect social standing.
When he left Oxford, Ralph spent two years traveling and then returned to work at his fatherís bank. However, he soon caught a very bad cold which damaged his lungs and was forced to stop working. At first he didnít care enough about himself to take care of his health. Soon, though, he began to like his life enough to cherish it. One autumn he had stayed too long in London and when he tried to leave as he usually did to escape the wet London winter, he was caught in a storm and was almost dead by the time he arrived at his destination. He is greatly saddened by his life of an invalid which he regards as reading a good book in a poor translation when one had aspired to be a language expert.
His acute perception of observing things makes him especially susceptible to Isabel Archer. He tries to ask his mother to give him the details of her plans for Isabel, but Mrs. Touchett insists that Isabel must decide on her own course and that Mrs. Touchett only plans to take her to France for clothes and then Venice. She tells him that she and Isabel get along quite well since they both speak their minds directly. Ralph tells his mother he thinks Isabel is very pretty, but that he is mainly struck by "her general air of being some one in particular." Mrs. Touchett tells him that she found Isabel sitting alone in a room reading a book more bored than she realized. She says that Isabelís sister, Lily spoke of Isabel as if she were a genius. Mrs. Touchett says sheís not yet sure in what subject Isabel is a genius. She says all Americans "regard Europe as a land of emigration, of rescue, a refuge for their superfluous population." She adds that the only problem was Isabelís insistence on paying her own way. She says Isabel thinks she is traveling at her own expense.
That evening after dinner, Mrs. and Mr. Touchett leave the table to retire early and Ralph and Isabel stay up to talk. She asks Ralph to show her his paintings. He suggests waiting until the next day, but she insists and he likes the pressure of her opposition. He notices that she is a good judge of paintings. He notices she has a passion for knowledge. He wants to know what she thinks of the people she has met so far and she tells him directly and simply. He tells her he is like his mother and she disagrees strongly, saying it is clear to her that he wants to be liked. She asks him to introduce her to the ghost of Gardencourt. He tells her only those who have suffered greatly can see the ghost. She wishes to see it anyway. They briefly discuss what it means to suffer and then she goes up to bed, leaving him alone in the empty drawing room.