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Jane in January and You: Let’s Talk Heroes — 90 Comments

  1. Captain Wentworth he waits a long time to get his girl he is also a bit of a prat (just like Darcy) but love wins in the end second chances are worth the risk, IMO.

    The real heroes in all of Jane’s books are the women, they put up with a lot but get their man in the end ( well most of them Caroline misses out)

    • I totally agree- the women are the real heroes. But it’s fun to talk about the men, too.

      There’s a special place in my heart for Captain Wentworth. That letter alone is enough to recommend him. But he is bitter and resentful for a lot of the book and basically uses Louisa Musgrove, which drops him a few notches on my list.

  2. I have to say that I love Henry Tilney, he has a wonderful sense of humour. I also admire Captain Wentworth, although he acted foolish with Louisa, never stopped loving Anne.

  3. My favourite is Darcy, obviously because he’s Darcy!
    I’m not sure who my second would be as although I have read the other books and watched versions of them, I’m not as familiar with them. Yes thinking about it I suppose Henry Tilney is kind and with a sense of humour but no I would still have to pick Darcy.

  4. My favorite is Darcy, but my second favorite is Colonel Brandon, always. Unassuming, kind, thoughtful, well-spoken, honorable, loyal, faithful, well-mannered, handsome, and reasonably well-to-do. However, his character’s greatest asset is that his love means he only wishes for the happiness of his beloved, even if it is not with him. To me, that is the true meaning of love. Of course, in the end, his beloved Marianne does end up with him, but it was definitely in doubt for a while. I thought the late Alan Rickman was excellent in his portrayal of the Colonel in the 1995 Sense & Sensibility movie, and Emma Thompson’s screenplay was amazingly faithful to the book.

    • I totally hear ya. In fact, I was going to mention Brandon in the post but then decided not to in the interest of brevity. But I was thinking the same thing about him- how he loves fully and truly because all he cares about is the happiness of the other person. Honestly, my only issue with Brandon is that he’s a bit… boring. I hate to say it but it’s true. He just doesn’t have the charisma of a lot of Austen’s other characters.

  5. My favorite hero is Captain Wentsworth, because of his loyalty and his never-ending love for Anne. He is absolutely swoon-worthy, and I love a story about second chances.

    • I love Captain Wentworth as well (I mean, I wrote a Persuasion retelling because of him and his letter), but he’s kind of an idiot throughout the book and that’s what makes me hesitate with him. I do love their love story though.

  6. My name is Claudia and I am from Italy. I’m really enjoying Jane in January and today I’d like to profit by the opportunity to say that my favourite hero (apart from Darcy and not forgetting Capt. Wentworth) is Mr. Knightley.
    My latest re-reading of Emma has made me appreciate him more and more.
    He’s a true gentleman, a “knight”, isn’t he? Always thoughtful about other people, kindly and patient…almost invariably right in what he says or does, but never overbearing or haughty.
    He keeps his deep love and passion hidden under his quiet manners; I love it when he says to Emma:”‘If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more (…)'”.
    Thank you so much!💕
    Claudia

    • Interesting. There are definitely merits to Knightley, but if I were Emma (lol) I think I’d get mighty annoyed with him always telling me what to do. Not exactly what you want in a relationship. 😉 But I do love it when they get together in the end.

      • I have to defend Mr. Knightley. He doesn’t necessarily tells her what to do, but he reacts to her actions, since her father… Well, since her father is Mr. Woodhouse.
        I tried to answer differently, but I guess Mr. Darcy is my favorite, with Mr. Knightley in second. Probably Col. Brandon a close third.
        My favorite books changed with age, Persuasion being my favorite now, in my forties. But it’s mostly because of Anne. Captain Wentworth could look for a wife anywhere in Engajando, he didn’t need to do it right in front of Anne.

        • Someone had to help Emma along as she was totally clueless as to how she was messing up the lives of some that she tried to “aid.” Mr. Knightly did it with some quiet humor, yet gentle firmness.

  7. Captain Wentworth was always my second fave but I believe you have changed my mind to Henry Tilney. He made me laugh and was a steady soul.

  8. I think either Colonel Brandon because he is such a consistent and patient suitor or Mr. Bingley since he just seens like he would be a very agreeable spouse.

    • Yay! I’m glad someone said Bingley. I don’t think he gets the attention he deserves sometimes, and I hate it when he’s portrayed as an idiot. Bingley is kind and fun and happy… I’d take a guy who makes me laugh more than a mysterious broody guy any day.

      • Yes! Oh it drives me nuts when screenwriters/producers decide that when Jane Austen said Bingley was by no means deficient (to accentuate Darcy’s cleverness) she really meant that Bingley is wholly deficient and can be cast as a jovial buffoon. I want to smack Jonathan Powell and Joe Wright and send them to spend a year in the country with Mrs Norris, I really do.

  9. Captain Wentworth is my favourite. I first read persuasion when I was 18 and madly in (undeclared and unrequited) love with my friends older brother – the fact that Anne and Wentworth finally get together gave me hope!! If ever I am down or worried I read Persuasion and suddenly it is the summer of 1976 and I am 18 again ….

    • Persuasion, out of all of Austen’s books, gave me the most feels. I connected with it most. A lot of people have said Wentworth and I totally see why. I probably would have said him a few years ago. Just, in thinking about how I see all the characters and what their strengths/flaws are, Wentworth didn’t end up at the top of my list because of how he treats Anne through the middle of the book.

  10. I have loved Henry Tilney forever, so thank you for singing his praises. He’s fun, he’s flirty without being vain, he is affectionate with his sister in that jokey way big brothers have, he stands up to his dad when it counts. He’s not blind to the faults of others, but he’s not above knowing faults in himself. Plus, JJ Feild played him in the last movie, and who doesn’t love that guy? Edmund is too wishy-washy, Edward F doesn’t have much of a spine for most of the book, Knightley is kind of annoying in that “I know more than you” way, and Frederick Wentworth, while very swoon-worthy, doesn’t get as many fun, good lines as Tilney does. Henry Tilney for the win.

  11. This is hard. When we first read Austen’s heroes, we formed a faceless picture of the man. When the movies came out… we were finally given a face for our hero. Darcy has taken on many faces over the cinematic years… with Colin Firth being the most famous and iconic. I adore his Darcy and read P&P every year with him in mind.

    I love all of Austen’s men… they were strong and held true to their love of their women and their willingess to wait. I love each because:

    Wentworth waited until Anne grew up and grew into her confidence.
    Knightley waited as Emma grew up and realized she loved him.
    Brandon waited as Marianne outgrew her infatuation with the rake Willoughby.
    Edward grew up and realized his impulsive side with his secret engagement to Lucy Steele.
    Edmund struggled with his conscience and his infatuation with Mary Crawford before finally appreciating Fanny.
    Tilney accepted Catherine for who she was and didn’t ask anything of her but to be herself.

    I love these guys and each has a strength that makes us swoon. Knightly and Tilney run neck and neck in my bid for second place. Brandon and Wentworth follow closely behind them. Dang! No fair making us choose. Thanks for this post. It was fun reviewing why we like our Austen heroes.

    • Love this. They definitely each have their own swoon-worthy qualities. And I love how different each of them are, which is what makes this conversation so interesting, IMO. For me, it was fun to really think about if I knew these guys personally, with their different personalities, would Darcy actually be the one I’d choose? And obviously the answer is no.
      It’s also interesting how the movies gave the heroes a face which could sway an opinion. If I were to pick who I thought was the most attractive, my answer would be different. (Wentworth, AKA: Rupert Penry-Jones)

  12. Well, I agree with you. Henry Tilney is my favorite. I think part of why I like him so much is that I can imagine him as a man in today’s world as well as in the world of Northanger Abbey. He’s just kind of a normal guy you could have a great relationship with. He’s attractive, but not too handsome. He has great social skills; you won’t find him brooding in a corner and staring at you in silence. He’s funny, charming, self-deprecating, and kind with a keen sense of duty and honor. You know you could always count on him.

  13. I’m all for Wentworth. Strong, handsome, and human. A self made man who worked hard to get to where he was. A man who actually admitted his weaknesses and apologized for them! A partner. But, Tilney is my second favorite.

  14. Well…..eliminating Darcy, I do like Captain Wentworth but my next favorite is Knightly. He is patient with Mr. Woodhouse and he is definitely knighted for that! He is patient with Emma – another knighthood. He even consents to move into Emma’s home so that she can continue to care for her father. What a saint and all for the woman he adores. Yes, Knightly is a true leading man for me.

    • His patience definitely earns him some points, but like I said above, I don’t think I could get over someone who is constantly telling me how wrong I am. Lol. That’s more of a brotherly trait, than a boyfriend.

  15. Melanie,

    This is such a sweet, provocative post to wake up to, thank you! The responses are a delight!

    I am a Darcy ‘girl,’ there’s no denying (in great part for how much I love Elizabeth), but lately I’ve been craving a Colonel Brandon, yes, a Knightley, a grown-up, through and through. Safety. Steadfastness.

    Excepting Edward, all the men discussed here hold their appeal…

    Today I give my heart to Brandon.

    • So you dislike Edward Ferrars the most? Interesting. I think my least fave would be Edmund. Brandon is probably one of the best men in the bunch. The way he loves Marianne enough to want her to be happy, even if it’s with a guy like Willoughby. My only issue with him is he’s just a bit too sedate, a bit too serious. (Now I sound like Marianne.)

  16. I’m a diehard Colonel Brandon girl- the way he cares for Marianne and truly desires her happiness is just so sweet. A close second would be George Knightly, but I confess that may be because Jonny Lee Miller is a favorite. 😉

    • Did you like Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram? I don’t care for that adaptation myself and I also think I prefer Jeremy Northam as Knightley, although I love the Romola Garai version better in general.

  17. Darcy is my favorite. Yes he starts off totally pompous and arrogant but a strong woman who is not afraid to put you in your place changes him and he does become a better man because of Elizabeth.

    My second favorite is Captain Wentworth. He loved the same woman for a long time. He was foolish a short time with Louisa but never truly stopped loving Anne. Plus, a man in uniform….. do I need to say more?

  18. I must add my voice in favour of Captain Wentworth!
    Yes,he made mistakes and flirted with a near disastrous union.

    However,he has known what it’s like to love another wholeheartedly,to suffer severe disappointment and finally after much angst and soul searching,he,once again,humbly places himself in Cupid’s way, acknowledging his love for the same fair lady and takes the ultimate gamble that Anne feels the same,has always felt so and wishes to waste no further time to be with him. Sigh!
    Second chance romance always grabs me and yes,Captain Wentworth is my hero! 😊

    • You ladies are all persuading me back to Captain Wentworth (did you see what I did there, lol). The interesting thing is, I’m basing this on if I knew these gentlemen personally… so then would I be Anne, and therefore never have fallen out of love with Wentworth? Or would I be me, choosing who I like best out of all these different men I know, and therefore knowing I’m really not the right woman for him.
      Okay okay, my imagination is really running away with me now. 😀

  19. This is easy for me. Darcy has always been third. Mr. Knightly is my first choice. He is Emma’s friend, and he tries to help her become a better person as he falls in love with her. He is willing to take on her burdens in the name of love. Plus he grows strawberries. Emma needs work, Mr. Knightly wins my prize. Second for me is Col. Brandon. My only quibble with him is that he should have chosen Elinor. But his spirit, his loyalty, his sense of right and wrong really endear him to me. And of course the flannel waistcoat. 😉

  20. I do love Darcy (that dark and brooding Byronic hero always gets to me!), and I admire Wentworth and Tilney and especially Brandon (probably my own personal choice if I were to choose among Austen’s heroes), but I have a soft spot for an often-overlooked hero, one who would never see himself in the role of hero in the first place.

    Despite his youthful (and obviously thoughtless) engagement to Lucy Steele, I love the character of Edward Ferrars. His mistake (besides becoming secretly engaged to Lucy)is that he falls for a woman of quality even though he isn’t free to do so. But I can’t blame him for recognizing Elinor’s stellar qualities: her practicality, her quiet strength, her care for her family, her ability to put herself in others’ positions with understanding and compassion. And later, I’m sure he can’t help but admire Elinor’s forbearance with the awful and grasping Lucy Steele.

    But Edward wasn’t looking for love when he came across Elinor; the poor lady was in mourning, after all, and I think he sought to comfort someone who had experienced the same loss he had, and he must also have needed frequent breaks from his horrid sister. What had been a friendship among family soon became so much more for both of them, surprising them both. Edward meant to tell Elinor about his prior commitment so that she wouldn’t leave Norland with the wrong idea, but he was interrupted (in the movie–I think so in the book as well).

    I also appreciate his desire to enter the clergy which was not the usual path at all for the elder son and heir; Edward resents the aspirations pushed upon him by his mother and sister who try to run his life for him…which may also explain his ridiculous engagement to Lucy Steele. By marrying beneath him, he would no longer be able to take his place in society and could leave that role to his vapid younger brother who obviously relished society life.

    As much as I adore Emma Thompson’s film, Hugh Grant left me rather cold in his portrayal of Edward Ferrars. But the more recent 2007-ish Sense & Sensibility with the ever-delightful Dan Stevens as Edward shows much more of his personality and depth, especially his anguish in loving Elinor without hope and also seeing her struggle in their impoverished state, a direct result of his own sister’s machinations. The added scene when he is chopping wood in the rain for the Dashwoods is simply heartbreaking! But Edward remains a gentleman of his word when it comes to Lucy Steele despite facing a lifetime without the true love and happiness he would have realized as husband to the far superior Elinor. I admire that.

    And I also admire his attitude when he is disowned by his mother for refusing to break his engagement to Lucy. The irony of his brother running off with the same young woman (I can’t call Lucy Steele a “lady” by any stretch of the imagination!!) yet retaining all that his elder brother lost does not faze Edward; he is only thrilled to be free to offer his love and his life to Elinor…and now can indeed enter his chosen profession, thanks to the generosity of Colonel Brandon.

    So yes, Edward Ferrars is a favorite. I want to admire Edmund Bertram far more than I do, but his falling for Mary Crawford and then going against his own conscience in several matters because of her poor influence lowers him in my esteem, especially as I admire Fanny so much.

    What a fun and enlightening discussion!! I will have to re-read Northanger since Henry Tilney didn’t make a deep impression on me when I read it previously.

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

    • I love all this about Edward! I’ve never disliked him as I know some readers do, but he’s never stood out in quite this way, so thank you for this! I’ll definitely look at Edward a lot differently now. One of my favourite Austen movie moments, is when he finally tells Elinor he’s free and she totally breaks down- it’s priceless in both movies. And like you, I love Dan Stevens as Edward.
      Very well put!

  21. Darcy’s my favorite, probably because his transformation happens during the book. My second favorite, and who I’ve always really liked, is Mr. Knightley. Like Darcy, he has good principles and acts from them, but he’s mature enough to not care so much what others think and is not self-absorbed. While he does boss Emma quite a bit in the book, once she has learned the important lessons, he quits. When she is not blatantly wrong, he speaks to her more like an equal. And remember, Emma’s father indulges her shamelessly, her governess was way too easy on her, she’s first in consequence in her neighborhood, who else but an old (and considerably older) friend is going to help her learn and grow? I can actually totally see her falling for him, despite his corrections, simply because at heart she is honest and good enough to know that someone who would always try to help her become the best she can be is someone who she can rely on and who will always love her, no matter her mistakes. I’ve always thought that Darcy will mature into a Knightley-esque man, although possibly a bit more standoffish and particular about behavior.

    • That’s an interesting thought- to see Darcy maturing into a Knightley. I think one of the things that redeems Emma is the fact that she falls for Knightley. She doesn’t really love Frank Churchill, who is flighty and insensitive, or the ghastly Mr. Elton. She falls in love with the man who’s trying to help her become the best version of herself, instead of resenting him or even just being annoyed by him for all he says and does. They make a great match in that way.

  22. Darcy will always be first for me. His willingness to overcome some of his faults to be worthy of a woman like Elizabeth gives him top honors. As for my next choice, it would probably be Colonel Brandon with Captain Wentworth as a close third. Colonel Brandon, however, would not think of hurting the one he loves by causing jealousy. He would do anything to see Marianne happy. Captain Wentworth, though he did act hurtful by flirting with Louisa, did realize how cruel he was being. He knew that no other would replace his Anne. I will give honorable mentions to Henry Tilney and Charles Bingley. However, I do believe I need a man (and I have my own Mr. Darcy) who has depth of character, is well read, and is passionate.

  23. My favorite is Darcy and my hubby both reminds me of him and is an actual Darcy decendant. But as for my second choice…that is a tie between Knightly and Brandon. Knightly acts upon his high principles and Brandon loves deeply and truly.

  24. This is a very interesting question – I thought a lot about which JA heroes are the most admirable, but I did not consider which of them would I like to be in a relationship with. As personalities go (and based on their actions within their novels) I think Mr. Knightley is the one who is drawn as almost faultless. His actions are always proper, kind, considerate, honourable. He doesn’t fall for the wrong girl, he judges other characters astutely, he makes a significant concession for his father-in-law, for Emma’s peace of mind. But I’m a very different personality from Emma and I know I would not like to be with an older man more perfect than me who would be always right to scold me, however kindly he does it. I admire Darcy for being able to improve the aspects of his character Elizabeth showed him as wanting, to step back and not make Elizabeth beholden to him when he saves Lydia, and for being a honorable and caring man; I also admire his dry sense of humor. I like the character of Colonel Brandon, but I couldn’t warm to him as a person, or imagine myself in a relationship with him. Perhaps it’s because he prefers the Marianne type of girl (passionate, romantic, emotional; also, he’s attracted to the “lady in distress” aspect, I feel) which is very far from my own. As a matter of fact, my husband is closest to the type of Edward Ferrars, although he did not make such serious mistakes earl in his youth. Just as I would not want to be the one corrected by a superior man (Knightley/Emma), I don’t wantto be the moral compass ans source of moral strength for my husband, which is the Fanny/Edmund dynamics. I can’t admire Edmund for his moral weakness. I see Elinor and Edward as equals: they both understand each other and support the morally right decision eahc other is making, when they prepare to forsake each other. Wentworth is a very romantic herpo, but his resentment troubles me, and his irresponsible courting of Louisa Musgrove (did he want to prove himself that he was truly over Anne, or did he want her to see it and suffer? Both are reprehensible. I don’t want a man resent me for years if I make mistakes.

    • Oh, I love all this, and it’s what I was going for here- trying to imagine myself in an actual relationship with these heroes and who would I actually pick. On the flip side, I’ve done those “What Jane Austen heroine are You?” quizzes and I always end up getting Fanny… and yet Edmund is my least favourite hero, go figure.

  25. Mr Darcy as the first by a mile for being a hero and then Colonel Brandon followed by Captain Wentworth.
    For characters that are not young men but still loyal and in love I go for Admiral Croft and Mr Gardiner and possibly Mr Weston although not much is heard about him.

    • Those three are great picks, and not often thought of, probably because they aren’t fleshed out as much as characters. I always loved the Gardiners and the Croft’s as models for a great relationship.

  26. I am also a Wentworth person. Honorable, but imperfect. If he had just thrown himself back at Anne the first time he re-met her in Persuasion, the book would have just been, meh. The realization of his continued devotion make the story special.

    • Oh yes, the book would have been bland and lacking a true story arc, but as a relationship in real life it might have been preferable 🙂

  27. After you-know-you, it has to be Frederick Wentworth for me, too. Who wouldn’t fall for a man in uniform? Yes, he treats Anne badly during the middle of the book but is shocked when he realises that everyone thi ks he’s fallen for Louisa Musgrove. I think that brings it home to him that there’s only one woman for him – hus ever-loyal Anne. He even apologises for his behaviour in that oh-so-swoonworthy letter. And there’s another reason to love him – he writes a darned amazing love letter!

      • (No worries about the typos, that happens to me on my phone too!) I agree with you about the man in uniform, and his letter. His letter is the best letter in the history of all letters (and I think I already said that in a comment above, but it’s true).

  28. My favorite is Darcy and second is Knightey. So interesting to read everyone’s choices. Love this website. Thank you for making so fun!

  29. I’m a Capt Wentworth girl too! I, of course, would love Darcy’s house and money and library, but dear Frederick has loved and lost. He’s seen the world, he’s led men into battle. He’s smart enough to see Anne’s intelligence and common sense. And he is willing to try again at love! Besides, who wouldn’t want Sophie Croft as a sister-in-law? She’s fabulous!

    • One of the things I love about Wentworth is what you said- he sees Anne’s intelligence and common sense. I’m not sure why Anne is always portrayed as sort of plain (I know she’s lost her bloom, but still), but I’ve always loved that Wentworth still loves her even though she’s not the flashy, flirty, gorgeous type.

  30. My all time favourite hero is Captain Wentworth for pretty much the same reasons as DeDe above plus the idea alluded to at the end of the 1995 film where Anne, the Kellynch dogsbody, is setting out to see the world or at least a decent part of it. And, of course, when I watch “Master And Commander” I can think, “Oh, my, so this is what Wentworth was doing when he was separated from Anne!” 🙂

  31. I have to go with Col. Brandon. He has a steadiness about him which I admire but he is brave enough to challenge a man to a duel. He took his responsibilities seriously and loved Marianne even when she was behaving like a spoiled teenager.

    • Colonel Brandon definitely deserves his props. I wonder WHY he loved Marianne though? Someone commented above that he seems to like his damsels in distress, and if that’s the case, then he wouldn’t be the man for me.

  32. I was never into Northanger Abbey until the 2009 adaptation came out. J.J. Feilds is really perfect as Tilney, and yes, he does seem like the perfect boyfriend/husband/hero, doesn’t he? Such a charmer, but with sincerity! I think my (non-Darcy) favorite, though, is Wentworth. I can understand why some of you love Rupert Penry-Jones, but my Janeite heart was given long ago to Ciaran Hind’s portrayal. He’s strong, brooding, honorable, and altogether swoony!

    • For me, it was the Rupert Penry-Jones version that really melted my heart. I already loved Persuasion, but finally there was a completely gorgeous Austen hero! But everyone has their own tastes, and I think most would pick Colin Firth as their ultimate movie hero.

  33. Mt favorite is Captain Wentworth because he is constant and faithful. He is less dark than Darcy and more conversational.
    But what you said about Mr Tilney makes me wonder. Yes I’d prefer a man who’s funny and kind to everyone. He is already (quite) perfect and needs no help from his wife to improve. What refrains me from being over enthusiastic about him is that he hasn’t the physical appearance which would attract me. I know I’m a naughty girl. I’m waiting for a future tv adaptation featuring a stunning Tilney! 😉😉

    • Lol, I hear ya! I actually think JJ Feild is pretty cute, although not as swoon-worthy appearance-wise as Wentworth in the 2007 adaptation. He takes the cake for me. Maybe one day we’ll get a really handsome Tilney, although I don’t think he’s characterized that way in the book (if I remember right).

  34. Besides Darcy, I love Captain Frederick Wentworth. Unlike the other leading men who inherit their family wealth, he start at the bottom and rise to the top with his perseverance and hard work. Yes, he is resentful towards his first love for not choosing him over her family and insensitive towards her when he flirts with the Musgrove girls but this is his only flaw (besides being overly confident in his career prospects). And besides who doesn’t swoon at his letter when he bares it all out to Anne.

  35. When I was younger Capt Wentworth was my favorite hero. Now that I’m older, I prefer Col Brandon. Funny how time changes your favorite novels.

    • Yes! The more you read them too, can change your perspective. Movie adaptations too, or reading other people’s thoughts can open your eyes to the qualities of a different hero. Everyone’s comments have been interesting in that way.

  36. I too am a HUGE Darcy fan! But I do like me some Colonel Fitzwilliam! 🙂 I just think he would be so fun, but since he is a military man, he is going to be fiercely protective of those who are his.

    • I think you’re the second who has mentioned Colonel Fitzwilliam. I think he’s probably a great guy, unfortunately he’s just not that well developed in the original. That’s what makes JAFF so awesome. One of the reasons, anyway!

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