Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought I’d look at the love-interests of the heroines of the “Queen of Regency Romance Novels” herself, Jane Austen. How do they add up on my own literary romance spectrum 5 to 1 (5 being my least favorite, 1 being my most favorite)?
Let’s take a look!
5. Mr. Knightley from Emma
“Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another.”
While I understand that he didn’t realize his feelings for his best friend Emma until it was almost too late (we get this in a lot of modern-day Hallmark Movie spin-offs), he seems like he drags his feet when it comes to the whole commitment of marriage. However, I do admire his blunt comments he makes to her in his attempts to humble her snobbish nature—Emma is probably one of my least-favorite Jane Austen heroines due to this fact and her sometimes overreaching self-assurance. So, I suppose my main flaw with Knightley is that he is actually attracted to this kind of person. Shame.
4. Colonel Brandon & Edward Ferrars from Sense & Sensibility
“When the romantic refinements of a young mind are obliged to give way, how frequently are they succeeded by such opinions as are but too common and too dangerous!”Colonel Brandon, Chapter 11
“He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart.”About Edward Ferrars, Chapter 3
I kind of feel bad for lumping these two awesome characters together, but I think that each one offers something unique to the mix. Ferrars is ranked a bit lower than Brandon, I’m afraid. Ferrars pays court to Eleanor in a meek yet humble way, while still feeling bound to prior commitments (a.k.a. the person he has secretly been engaged to). While this may seem adulterous and unfair to both women, I feel rather bad for the poor sap who seems like he is just trying to do right to both of them, while being stuck in the conflict of whether or not he should take his own feelings into account. Brandon on the other hand is the moral beast of the novel; his patience and long-suffering while being kept in the friend-zone finally pays off when Marianne comes to her senses about her relationship with the rakish man-hoe Willoughby. While Brandon may seem like a re-bound at first, we can see how Marianne has matured in her feelings and recognizes the emotional maturity of Brandon. I believe that their relationship is one that could rival Elizabeth and Darcy’s.
3. Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice
“This is the second time she has turned me down, and with an apparent attempt to affront me. How does she manage to disappoint and intrigue simultaneously?”Noe Villarreal, Mr. Darcy falls in love
Speaking of Mr. Darcy, I know…Mr. Darcy isn’t ranked at #1?? While I admire the kindness he eventually shows to Elizabeth, he is such a jerk at the beginning. His brooding nature is enough to make any girl swoon, yet the determined and feisty Elizabeth can see right through him, which is probably a big (if not main) influence on what finally changes his tune. I’m sure that he was a kind fellow before meeting Elizabeth as well, but I would have liked to see more of his niceness rather than his prejudice jabs. However, I guess without these actions, we would have only one half of the classic tale…right?
2. Captain Wentworth from Persuasion
“I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago.“
This guy broods, but I think he has a valid claim for why he does so to poor Anne. Since he was slighted in the past and has no reason to think that Anne has changed her nature of being so easily persuaded by others, I think that he has a right to not give her the time of day. However, the fact that we still see his love for her through the pained expressions and dialogue he gives us, it’s any wonder that Captain Wentworth is certainly a complex soul.
1. Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey
“Come, shall I make you understand each other, or leave you to puzzle out an explanation as you can? No – I will be noble. I will prove myself a man, no less by the generosity of my soul than the clearness of my head.”
Now on to the light-hearted love-interest who is kind to our heroine from the get-go. He may not tell Catherine everything about his family life from the start (I mean, who would do that after only going on a couple of dates?), but when it is brought up, he does not try to hide anything he feels should not be hidden. While his sarcastic personality may not reek with the drama that Darcy and Wentworth emanate (which I think is smart on Austen’s part, since Northanger Abbey is supposed to be a funny stab at gothic fiction—one of the most dramatic genres of all), his character is never pretentious and he is always honest with Catherine about his intentions. This rarity in manhood claims our heroine’s heart, which I’ll admit that I myself admire in any love-interest, fictional or otherwise.
“… I’ve loved you as a man loves a woman. As a hero loves a heroine. As I have never loved anyone.“
You may have noticed that Mansfield Park‘s Edmund Bertram is absent from this list.
Given that this is the one Jane Austen book that I never got around to reading, I found it unfair to include him in this ranking. So far, my only judgment about him is the fact that he is our main character Fanny’s cousin, which kind of leads me to have a preconceived prejudice about him as a love-interest (even though marrying your cousin was perfectly normal in the era, it still gives me the willies). However, maybe after I actually read the novel, this judgment will change.