“Portrait of a Lady”

“Deep in her soul – deeper than any appetite for renunciation – was the sense that life would be her business for a long time to come. And at moments there was something inspiring, almost enlivening, in the conviction. It was a proof of strength – it was a proof she should come day be happy again. It couldn’t be she was to life only to suffer; she was still young, after all, and a great many things might happen to her yet. To life only to suffer – to feel the injury of life repeated and enlarged – it seemed to her that she was too valuable, too capable, for that. She wondered if it were vain and stupid to think so well of herself. When had it even been a guarantee to be valuable? Wasn’t all history full of the destruction of precious things? Wasn’t it much more probable that if one were fine one would suffer? it involved perhaps an admission that one had a certain grossness; but Isabel recognised, as it passed before her eyes, the quick shadow of a long future. She should never escape; she should last to the end. Then they middle years wrapped her about again and the grey curtain of her indifference closed her in.”

–Henry James


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