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The Five Most Romantic Proposals In Classic Literature


What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than a look at the most romantic proposals in classic literature? The New York Public Library created this list of our five favorite romantic gestures featuring the likes of Jane Austen and Henry James. But more importantly, we want to know which literary expressions of love would you choose?
Pride and Prejudice
Portrait of a Lady
Washington Square
Anna Karenina
  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen—Mr. Darcy declares his love to Elizabeth
    "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.''
  2.  Portrait of a Lady by Henry James— Isabel Archer & Gilbert Osmond
    "I'm not afraid; I should fold my arms and admire you. I'm speaking very seriously." He leaned forward, a hand on each knee; for some moments he bent his eyes on the floor. "What I wish to say to you," he went on at last, looking up, "is that I find I'm in love with you."
  3. Washington Square by Henry James—Morris Townsend and Catherine Sloper
    "What Morris had told Catherine at last was simply that he loved her, or rather adored her. Virtually, he had made known as much already-- his visits had been a series of eloquent intimations of it. But now he had affirmed it in lover's vows, and, as a memorable sign of it, he had passed his arm round the girl's waist and taken a kiss. This happy certitude had come sooner than Catherine expected, and she had regarded it, very naturally, as a priceless treasure. It may even be doubted whether she had ever definitely expected to possess it; she had not been waiting for it, and she had never said to herself that at a given moment it must come. As I have tried to explain, she was not eager and exacting; she took what was given her from day to day; and if the delightful custom of her lover's visits, which yielded her a happiness in which confidence and timidity were strangely blended, had suddenly come to an end, she would not only not have spoken of herself as one of the forsaken, but she would not have thought of herself as one of the disappointed. After Morris had kissed her, the last time he was with her, as a ripe assurance of his devotion, she begged him to go away, to leave her alone, to let her think. Morris went away, taking another kiss first. But Catherine's meditations had lacked a certain coherence. She felt his kisses on her lips and on her cheeks for a long time afterwards; the sensation was rather an obstacle than an aid to reflexion. She would have liked to see her situation all clearly before her, to make up her mind what she should do if, as she feared, her father should tell her that he disapproved of Morris Townsend. But all that she could see with any vividness was that it was terribly strange that anyone should disapprove of him; that there must in that case be some mistake, some mystery, which in a little while would be set at rest. She put off deciding and choosing; before the vision of a conflict with her father she dropped her eyes and sat motionless, holding her breath and waiting. It made her heart beat, it was intensely painful. When Morris kissed her and said these things--that also made her heart beat; but this was worse, and it frightened her. Nevertheless, to-day, when the young man spoke of settling something, taking a line, she felt that it was the truth, and she answered very simply and without hesitating."
  4. Emma by Jane Austen, George Knightly & Emma Woodhouse
    "And now, let me talk to you of something else. I have another person's interest at present so much at heart, that I cannot think any longer about Frank Churchill. Ever since I left you this morning, Emma, my mind has been hard at work on one subject.

    The subject followed; it was in plain, unaffected, gentleman-like English, such as Mr. Knightley used even to the woman he was in love with, how to be able to ask her to marry him, without attacking the happiness of her father. Emma's answer was ready at the first word." 
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy—Konstantin Dmitrich Levin & Kitty Shcherbatskaya
    "He glanced at her; she blushed, and ceased speaking.

    'I told you I did not know whether I should be here long...that it depended on you...'

    She dropped her head lower and lower, not knowing herself what answer she should make to what was coming.

    'That it depended on you,' he repeated. 'I meant to say...I meant to say...I came for be my wife!' he brought out, not knowing what he was saying; but feeling that the most terrible thing was said, he stopped short and looked at her...

    She was breathing heavily, not looking at him. She was feeling ecstasy. Her soul was flooded with happiness. She had never anticipated that the utterance of love would produce such a powerful effect on her. But it lasted only an instant. She remembered Vronsky. She lifted her clear, truthful eyes, and seeing his desperate face, she answered hastily:

    'That cannot be...forgive me.'"


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Russian Literature

This sense of reality these great Russian authors had, I know it's said and we usually want to imagine life with the best outcomes in mind, and all the other exerpts are beautiful and all, but the only one I can see happening is this one by Tolstoi. I might be pessimist though, the more you learn in this wolrd, the harder it gets to keep in your mind this is "the best of the worlds". That said on a valentine's day, I must say I'm not even said or anything like that. Great post, kudos!

Romantic Proposals

Don't forget Dorothea and Ladislaw in Middlemarch (well, not perhaps a proposal, but certainly a thrilling love scene) ...At last he turned, still resting against the chair, and stretching his hand automatically towards his hat, said with a sort of exasperation, 'Good-bye'. 'Oh, I cannot bear it - my heart will break,' said Dorothea, starting from her seat, the flood of her young passion bearing down all the obstruction which had kept her silent - the great tears rising and falling in an instant...

Romantic Proposals

I would put the (re-)proposal of Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot higher on the list than that of Mr. Knightley to Emma Wodehouse. His letter to her, in response to the conversation he overhears between her and a friend on the subject of lost love, is both eloquent and emotional, as heartfelt an expression of love, rue and hope as anything written.

I agree - the long-awaited

I agree - the long-awaited union of Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot is the most romantic in literature!

My boyfriend proposed to me

My boyfriend proposed to me at New York Public Library this weekend - I think that's pretty romantic! :)

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