The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"It’s a merit to be strong."
"Only, if you don't suffer they call you hard," Isabel remarked.
They passed out of the smaller drawing-room, into which they had returned from the gallery, and paused in the hall, at the foot of the staircase. Here Ralph presented his companion with her bedroom candle, which he had taken from a niche. "Never mind what they call you. When you do suffer they call you an idiot. The great point's to be as happy as possible." (5.20)
Isabel seems to be speaking from experience here – after all, her father just died (perhaps she didn’t outwardly suffer enough and was called hard herself?). Ralph attempts to comfort her by speaking a basic human truth – sometimes you just can’t win.
Isabel listened with extreme respect to this admonition, but she said after a minute: "I must tell you that what I shall think about is some way of letting you know that what you ask is impossible--letting you know it without making you miserable."
"There's no way to do that, Miss Archer. I won't say that if you refuse me you'll kill me; I shall not die of it. But I shall do worse; I shall live to no purpose." (12.17)
To Lord Warburton, the worst kind of suffering is that of a life with no purpose – and, right now, he sees his sole purpose as marrying Isabel.
The peril for you is that you live too much in the world of your own dreams. You're not enough in contact with reality--with the toiling, striving, suffering, I may even say sinning, world that surrounds you. You're too fastidious; you've too many graceful illusions. Your newly-acquired thousands will shut you up more and more to the society of a few selfish and heartless people who will be interested in keeping them up. (20.19)
Henrietta advises Isabel to embrace harsh reality, instead of living in the artificial, imaginary world of the wealthy.