I’m a hopeless romantic. I can’t help it. I always have been, and it’s too late to try to find a cure for this mind-altering condition. Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and Elizabeth Gaskell are to blame for setting my standards so high when it comes to love and courtship. The men I dreamed of were never pro athletes or reality show break-outs. They were men who, sadly, never lived at all outside of the pages that they have called home for centuries. Like so many fans of classic literature, for me, it’s always been Mr. Darcy, Mr. Thornton, and Mr. Rochester (above all, Mr. Rochester).
The words of literature’s greatest writers have inspired so many, and set so many men up for failure against unfair, Great Expectations. To honor the authors who continue to inspire writers, readers, lovers, and dreamers, here is my list of the greatest literary quotes on love (sample size one, population me).
Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion. And when you go to Ireland, with all that distance between us, I am afraid that this cord will be snapped, and I shall bleed inwardly.
-Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Well, He had known what love was-a sharp pang, a fierce experience, in the midst of whose flames he was struggling! but, through that furnace he would fight his way out into the serenity of middle age, all the richer and more human for having known this great passion.
― Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
Who could refrain who had a heart to love and in that heart, courage to make love known
-William Shakespeare, Macbeth
I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.
― Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
No matter how long I live, I shall live longer than you will love me
― Alexandre Dumas fils, La Dame aux Camélias
I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Her affection for him was now the breath and life of Tess’s being; it enveloped her as a photosphere, irradiated her into forgetfulness of her past sorrows, keeping back the gloomy spectres that would persist in their attempts to touch her.
― Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Now, I’m not going to deny that I was aware of your beauty. But the point is, this has nothing to do with your beauty. As I got to know you, I began to realise that beauty was the least of your qualities. I became fascinated by your goodness. I was drawn in by it. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. And it was only when I began to feel actual, physical pain every time you left the room that it finally dawned on me: I was in love, for the first time in my life. I knew it was hopeless, but that didn’t matter to me. And it’s not that I want to have you. All I want is to deserve you. Tell me what to do. Show me how to behave. I’ll do anything you say.
― Pierre-Ambroise Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons dangereuses
‘I love the life you’ve always made so sweet for me and I’d regret it if I had to die.’
‘Do you mean to say that if I left you—‘
‘I’d die, yes.’
‘Then you love me?’
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo