The Portrait of a Lady
How we cite our quotes:
"I've said what I had on my mind--and I've said it because I love you!"
Isabel turned pale: was he too on that tiresome list? She had a sudden wish to strike him off. "Ah then, you're not disinterested!"
"I love you, but I love without hope," said Ralph quickly, forcing a smile and feeling that in that last declaration he had expressed more than he intended. (34.15-16)
Isabel is just sick and tired of hearing about how everyone just loves her so much; this may not be the typical response, but it’s a legitimate one. After all, as far as we can tell, the bulk of her time in Europe has been taken up by potential suitors, when all she wants to do is get out there and see the world. Ralph, however, loves Isabel in a different fashion from Lord Warburton and Caspar Goodwood, and his love, perhaps because of its hopelessness, shouldn’t make her worry.
[Osmond] was immensely pleased with his young lady; Madame Merle had made him a present of incalculable value. What could be a finer thing to live with than a high spirit attuned to softness? For would not the softness be all for one’s self, and the strenuousness for society, which admired the air of superiority? What could be a happier gift in a companion than a quick fanciful mind which saved one repetitions and reflected one’s thought on a polished, elegant surface? (35.2)
Love, to Osmond, is essentially a self-serving operation; he longs for a companion who can reflect his own glory and charm back at him, and is happy to have found such a delight in Isabel. So not healthy. Seriously.
"What is it you did for me?" she cried, her now extreme agitation half smothered by her attitude. She had lost all her shame, all wish to hide things. Now he must know; she wished him to know, for it brought them supremely together, and he was beyond the reach of pain. "You did something once – you know it. O Ralph, you've been everything! What have I done for you--what can I do to-day? I would die if you could live. But I don't wish you to live; I would die myself, not to lose you." Her voice was as broken as his own and full of tears and anguish.
"You won't lose me – you'll keep me. Keep me in your heart; I shall be nearer to you than I’ve ever been. Dear Isabel, life is better; for in life there's love. Death is good – but there's no love." (54.12)
By Ralph’s side at his deathbed, Isabel finally realizes just how much he loves her – and how she loves him. She exonerates him of any guilt over the inheritance, for she sees how much he tried to do for her. Ralph’s plea, for her to keep living and loving, is one that we fervently hope she’ll listen to…