At the end of the day, there’s one genre that I always come back to and that is romance. No matter how many intense psychological, action-packed thrillers I read, to me, nothing is quite as engrossing as the drama of love. A consumer of both classical novels and more modern literature, I’ll be focusing on leading literary men from the olden times today. Fear not, a post with some up-to-date more recent literary ‘lads’ (as we’d call them nowadays) will follow in due course.
Swoon and sigh at the sauve and chivalrous sirs on this list and feel free to share your own favourite literary loves!
“You must know… surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I’d scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”
The leading man on this list and the leading man in my heart, Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr Darcy is the dream.
I am slightly biased because of my love for Colin Firth and that infamous wet shirt scene, but it’s Darcy’s enigmatic dark and brooding persona that has captured the hearts of Austen fans everywhere – including yours truly!
He is the epitome of the ideal romantic character with his gentleman-like behaviour and his willingness to go against the social pressures and tradition.
“Pierre was the most dear, kind, intelligent, merry and magnanimous of eccentrics, absentminded and warm-hearted, a Russian squire of the old stamp. His purse was always empty, because it was open to everyone.”
Hear me out! Though weak-willed and easily browbeaten by others, Pierre, who is very much the anti-hero of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, is actually quite captivating.
Perhaps it was Paul Dano’s portrayal of the embarrassingly awkward illegitimate son of a wealthy Count that I fell in love with. However, the character himself is endearing with his overenthusiastic attitude towards politics and his good nature in going off to war and saving the lives of a French officer and a little girl.
Everyone loves an underdog and Pierre is certainly that. He does go on to win the heart of Natasha Rostova after all.
An outsider to the Russian upper classes, Pierre’s emotional directness makes him increasingly likeable when compared with the artificiality of fakes like the Kuragins. The attendees at Anna Pavlovna’s parties may think of Pierre as uncouth and awkward, but his generosity towards his friends and his intelligence has earned himself a place in my heart at least.
“My bride is here, because my equal is here, and my likeness.”
Here’s to you, Mr Rochester.
Another dark and broody character, Rochester of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre ticks all the boxes of old school romance. Torn between a harrowing sense of responsibility to look after his crazy wife he locked in the attic (Those who haven’t yet read Jane Eyre, it’s not as terrible as it sounds!), custody of a young French girl who isn’t even his biological child, having to uphold his name and Thornfield Hall, and an increasing love for his employee Jane, one can safely say that Rochester’s got a lot on his plate.
His unconventional looks paired with his air of mystery and constant attempts to do the right thing, even though it risks his life, makes it hard for the reader to not fall in love with this tortured soul.
“If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years, as I could in a day.”
Heathcliff could teach the youth a thing or two about what it means to be emo, as he was the definition before the word had ever even existed.
Vengeful, tormented and passionate, his loyalty to Catherine is paramount and that certainly is admirable.
Much like a few others on list, Heathcliff is the embodiment of the literary Byronic hero. Mad, bad and dangerous – an illicit yet alluring and exciting combination.
I think Shmoop put it best when they summed him up as “lonerish and [a] little demonic… but he’s definitely hawt”.
“I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.”
Both envied and desired, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby is considered the quintessential American icon.
A self-made man living in the United States during the Jazz Age, Gatsby hopes that his new found wealth and power will win the heart of Daisy.
His neat dress sense paired with his alluring charm and excellent hosting skills make Jay the life of every party there is.
“Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.”
I’m guessing this is going to be quite a controversial choice for the list, but never was a story of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo.
You’d have be hiding under a rock not to know about the romance between Romeo and Juliet. It’s one of the best known love stories of all time which is exactly why I’m including Romeo here.
Handsome, intelligent and sensitive, all this Montague cares about is love. And though he is impulsive and arguably immature, there’s something quite likeable in his idealism and passion.
I went to watch Kenneth Branagh’s production of the famous Shakespeare play at the Garrick in August. Big applause to Lily James and Freddie Fox, who was the last-minute Romeo replacement for Richard Madden, for doing such a brilliant job in making me really want to root for the young and besotted pair despite the fact we all know how it ends.
Although, I do love to complain about how rash and silly Romeo and Juliet are as characters and how Friar Lawrence shouldn’t have given the damn letter to Friar John, who ends up getting delayed due to people thinking he has the plague and sticking him in quarantine, there was something quite magical about seeing it live. Shakespeare’s play captures the essence of being youthful and in love and tragic love is almost always associated with Romeo and his Juliet.
“He was Antinous, wild. You would have said, seeing the thoughtful reflection of his eye, that he had already, in some preceding existence, been through the revolutionary apocalypse. He knew its tradition like an eyewitness. He knew every little detail of that great thing. A pontifical and warrior nature, strange in a youth. He was officiating and militant; from the immediate point of view, a soldier of democracy; above the movement of the time, a priest of the ideal.”
Who needs Marius when you have the charismatic and passionate Enjolras? Just the mere mention of him is enough to get me to want to quit everything I’m doing and fight for France!
A man after my own heart, Enjolras is firm in his belief for democracy and equality that even the most cynical of those participating in the revolution describe him as “a greek god”. I feel the same, cynical dudes.
Ever the admirable hero, he ends up as a martyr for the cause and we all weep. His conviction and fierce attitude will never be forgotten by me. Vive la France!
I could be here for days listing all my favourite literary crushes, but I figured I’d limit myself to seven otherwise this post would be length of War and Peace. Alas, do not fret, I will be sharing more ‘Literary Loves’ soon.
In the meantime, why not share some of your favourite dashing male characters from literature via the comments below or you can tweet them to me @samanthakilford.