Monday, January 18, 2010

Classic Crushes

Note: This post is a little spoilery.

Girls all around the world are unfaithful to their partners on a daily basis. We fall in and out of love weekly and are generous with our affections. But we are also fickle and even forgetful. I rarely think of Henry from The Time Traveler's Wife any more, or Michael from Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches trilogy, but I crushed heartily on them for a time. We can transfer our affections from one of the heroine's love interests to the other from one book in a series to the next. How many Team Peeta girls became Team Gale after that kiss? What's the bet that Team David girls become Team Tamani after reading Spells by Aprilynne Pike? (For the record I'm totally Team Tamani. It's the Jareth effect.)

Classic literature abounds with crush-worthy heroes. What better way to while away an English class than in blissful contemplation of Atticus Finch or stormy Heathcliff? (This doesn't work quite so well for Macbeth or Camus' Mersault or Hardy's Angel Clare, unfortunately. Unless you like your men tragic, murderous and/or despicable.)

I adored Odysseus in high school. Ten years away at the Trojan war (where he performs quite brilliantly, by the way), it takes him another ten years to find his way back to his beloved Ithaca and to his wife Penelope. Pissing off Poseidon was rather rash considering, as the sea god points out, Ithaca is an island and he must cross the sea to reach it. But with the use of his sparkling wit and at the sacrifice of his entire crew, he makes it home and gloriously kills--with the bow that only he can string--all that sully his dear wife by daring to court her. The Odyssey is a fantastic read, better than The Iliad, in my opinion. It's time I read both again.

Odysseus and Penelope

I'm rather fond of Mr Darcy, and lord knows he has legions of adoring fans, but who can go past Captain Wentworth and his beautiful letter? After having been persuaded (hence the title, Persuasion) that Wentworth isn't a proper match, Anne rejects his proposal and spends the next eight years as a spinster. But he returns from the Napoleon Wars a rich man, still in love with her as ever and pens possibly the most beautiful love letter of all time:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. 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. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.

The letter, of course, does the trick.

Two Captain Wentworths from dramatisations

My personal favourite is Edward Fairfax Rochester, he of the mad wife, bigamous intentions, dark past, but is redeemed by his love for Jane Eyre:

To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil when I find out they have neither souls nor hearts — when they open to me a perspective of flatness, triviality, and perhaps imbecility, coarseness, and ill-temper: but to the clear eye and eloquent tongue, to the soul made of fire, and the character that bends but does not break — at once supple and stable, tractable and consistent — I am ever tender and true. (Mr Rochester to Jane.)

The story is passionate, Gothic and tumultuous. Some of the most beautiful love scenes lie therein, and the most sparkling conversations.

Two Edward Rochesters from dramatisations

Who are your favourite literary crushes?


  1. AHH The Odyssey! *shoots self in face*

    You, friend, would not find Odysseus quite so dashing had you been made to write three midterm papers on the man!

    I'm more of a Darcy girl myself, though Lestat does hold a special place in my heart (albeit, a place usually reserved for Mick Jagger and the like, but I digress).

    Great post, btw.

  2. I'm definitely in love with Rochester on the classics front. On the modern front...Francher in "Captivity" by Zenna Henderson. I'm a sucker for these complex, brooding types. :sighs: That goes for encountering in TV and comics too. :double sighs: But totally Rochester. I LOVE that book.

  3. Wentworth! Rochester!

    My two favorite leading men!! Wonderful picks and wonderful post.

  4. Dannie--If I had to write three essays on any man I'd probably be turned off him for life! Lestat, oh Lestat. He's got a special place in my heart too ;)

    Megs--Rochester rules. I don't know Francher, but I'll look out for that book.

    Michelle--*swoon* And thank you :)

  5. I still love Mr. Darcy but now that I've read Captain Wentworth's letter.... I can see why my friend is more inclined towards the Captain. He sounds like suuuuuuch a sweetheart. And Mr. Rochester! Holy crap, I luffs him. I could reread that novel over and over...

    But you know who I love the best? Even more than Mr. Darcy? Mr. Thornton from North & South. Have you ever watched the BBC adaption? Or read the book? I swear, once I saw the movie, I was like, "Darcy, WHO?" ;)

  6. I definitely love all three of them, Darcy, Wentworth and Rochester. And also other Austen heroes like Edmund Bertram make me swoon. :)

  7. I'm so fickle that I tend to forget my literary crushes within a month after crushing; so it's hard for me to think of any now. I loved Max from Roswell, but that was from the TV show, as I've never actually read the books. And of course, like everyone, Mr. Darcy. Although I think I would hate him in real life.
    I can't think of anyone right now. . .

  8. Would have sucked to be one of Penelope's suitors, huh? You haven't done anything yet other than try to mack on some pretty lady, and the husband comes home and kills you? Bogus.

    I think Odysseus had anger issues. :)

  9. Oh, Mr. Darcy--so very clever and witty and debonair. But I'm more drawn to the Heathcliffs in literature, I think. Is it the bad boy that pulls me in? Perhaps. But the unadulerated passion seems just as much of a draw. It helps that it's fiction. Bad boys are such trouble in real life--and make the worst husbands.

    Lovely post, my dear. I've thought on this issue countless times. But I should add that I tend to crush on my own MC's just as much, if not more often, than other literary heroes--mainly because I paint them into the kind of men I want to fall in love with, I suppose. But it sure does make it hard to set a manuscript aside.

  10. I will never switch to team Gale...bleech!

    My literary crush has long been Giles from Sherri Tepper's Beauty.

  11. I'm adding the the chorus of SWOOOOOOON. Those literary gents are timeless for a reason.

  12. If only they were real and not just breathing inbetween the pages of a book.

  13. Pirate Penguin--I have never read it! If he makes you forget about Darcy, I'm intrigued.

    Simon--They were very rude and greedy suitors. They were bleeding Ithaca dry for ten (ten?) years while they sat around waiting for Penelope to make a decision, growing fat from land that belonged to Odysseus. And man-handling his servant girls and other things. Wholesale murder was probably a teensy bit extreme, but a man in Ancient Greece has his pride, no? (And I can't help thinking that if I was Penelope I'd say something like, "You killed them all? For me? Darling! Too sweet. Come here.")

    Carolina--YES. I'm totally in love with my MC.

    Lenore--Oh, I remember Giles! That was such a sad story, and so odd...

    a la vanille--*sigh* Therein lies our problem.

  14. LOL. You guys are hilarious. Although I have to say I had the same reaction as pirate penguin did to viewing North & South. Thought Richard Armitage blew Colin Firth out of the water. i still love Darcy. Yes, I do. But...Mr. Thornton. *SWOON*

  15. Angie--I am intrigued! Shall check my vid shop and libraries for copies of this DVD that has turned so many heads.

  16. Wentworth and Mr. Darcy is almost impossible to forget! That being said I'm a little like brizmus, I tend to forget my crushes after a short while.

    Great post =D

  17. For me, it would have to be Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. Always had a crush on him, and even more so after watching the movies...swoon. And these days, my heart also belongs to Jamie Fraser from the Outlander books. Hubba hubba ;)

  18. Rhiannon, you could watch North & South on Youtube. It's AMAZING, trust me. :)

  19. Being a straight male, my crushes are on women. I also have to admit that I have never managed to wade through the great English novels (other than Tess of the D'Urbevilles) despite many attempts. However I am quite prepared to acknowledge their place in the English cannon and have enjoyed them in good film/TV versions. I loved Cassandra in "I capture the castle" and Elizabeth in "Pride and Prejudice". More recently, I find Katniss in the Hunger Games very attractive - I seem to like my heroines to be self possessed, intelligent and not prepared to be seduced into just being a wife or lover!

    Unfortunately, I haven't come across many such women in literature (possibly as my tastes run mostly to SF which is quite short on such women). However, from history I must confess to a fascination with Cleopatra the Great, Elanor of Aquitaine and Elizabeth 1.

  20. RobH - not only do you like your women self-possessed, they're absolute man eaters!

    I do not understand the fascination with Mr Darcy, although I do profess to hold a candle for Capt Wentworth, I find him so much more 'manly'. And Lestat is beautiful and flamboyant - I'm continuing the vampire crush with Bill (True Blood) x <3

  21. Every time I read Persuasion (and the times have been many), I reread Capt. Wentworth's letter over a few times. There are a number of parts that I read repeatedly in that book, in fact.