The Jane Austen Book List

Need a date in time for Valentine’s Day?  Rebecca Long finds the best suitors between the lines

As I sit at my computer listening to that Fergal Sharkey…ahem…classic ‘A Good Heart,’ it strikes me that he makes a fair point. A good heart is hard to find these days. We’d better get a move on ladies – it’s less than a month to Valentine’s Day.

But that’s enough of Fergal. As And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead takes over the playlist I smile with gratitude. But Mr Sharkey’s got me thinking. Just where can one go to find a good heart these days? If you happen to be a lady with romantic sensibilities you go to the same place like-minded young creatures have been going for centuries: to a Jane Austen novel of course.

Strong silent types in abundance, dashing Captains, gentle Colonels, handsome curates – yes they do exist…in Ms Austen’s universe anyway – and of course the filthy rich, there really is someone for everyone’s taste between the pages of Jane Austen’s various novels. They’re classics for a reason ,you know.

So if this cold month finds your love life in tatters and your soul in the depths of despair, take heart, ladies: there’s always an amiable, infinitely estimable man available if you just pick up a book. Here’s a random, perfectly subjective Top Ten for you to mull over…. 

  1. Mr Knightley: At no. 1 the gracious Mr Knightley is perhaps a controversial choice but he seems to suit Emma down to the ground. He’s her white knight….eh and her father figure. He’s also Josh from Clueless. Need I say more?
  2. Mr Darcy: What is there to be said about Mr Darcy that hasn’t already been said? No, ladies, that was a rhetorical question. Unfortunately for the literary types out there it seems to have come down to a choice between Matthew McFayden and Colin Firth. The rest of us are fairly happy about that methinks.
  3. Captain Wentworth: Recently played rather dashingly by Rupert Penry Jones in a new adaptation, Captain Wentworth takes the silent brooding thing to the limit. The uniform does work for him though.
  4. Colonel Brandon: The Colonel is living proof (well ok literary proof) that the prospect of love for the over 30’s isn’t a fantasy. And he does manage to carry Kate Winslet about 3 miles through a storm, even if that doesn’t actually happen in the book.
  5. Mr Bingly: Who doesn’t love Mr Bingly? Proof that if a man doesn’t talk to you and acts like a bit of a jerk it’s not that he’s just not that into you as a forthcoming movie so aptly claims – it’s just that his sister’s a bitch. 
  6. Captain Benwick: While not perhaps the best known of Austen’s heartthrobs, the good Captain is everything you could wish for in a man: sweet, shy, sensitive and with a genuine love of poetry…ahem.
  7. Mr Tilney: One of those handsome curates I mentioned before, Mr Tilney is really rather a dish…when he isn’t being a sarcastic jerk that is.
  8. Mr Bennett: One has to have something for the older ladies in these Top Ten things you know. And he does put up with Mrs Bennett after all.
  9. Mr Ferris: He may suffer from a decided lack of a backbone and his brother is probably more of a laugh, but who could fail to fall in love with a man whose hair is so…floppy? 
  10. Mr Churchill: Handsome, sincere and downright cute, Mr Churchill manages to find love despite Emma’s misguided machinations. We’re happy for him, right? 

And for those of us poor unfortunates who can only love a bad boy and are destined to tarnish our good names and become complete social pariahs there are only two Austen men for us…  

  1. Mr Willoughby: Dashing, handsome, romantic, well endowed–I mean rich–and overall a marvellously amiable specimen of excellent manners and good breeding; one wonders whether Mr Willoughby isn’t really a good guy in disguise.
  2. Captain Wickham: Another of those charming young captains Ms Austen seems so fond of, Wickham is more of a conventional bad boy. He tells fibs about Darcy, leads Elizabeth on mercilessly and runs off with her younger sister Kitty. Does everyone a favour if you ask me. 

So there you have them, the handsome heroes and the even handsomer villains. There’s nothing else to say really…unless of course Mr Collins is your thing. Each to her own I suppose.