Friday, 17 October 2014

Love, according to your favourite classic heroes

Mr Darcy. Mr Thornton. Mr Rochester. I could think of a lot other "misters" that come from classic period pieces and have turned into the ultimate literature heroes. They are the original leading men, who have made women around the world fall in love with them decades before films were invented and the Hollywood leading man was introduced.

And as we know, they still make a lot of us swoon and wish we could go back in time just to find one of the original English gentlemen, standing at the end of the ball room, tall and proud…unsuspecting of the fact that he is about to be smitten by our grace, and will have no other choice but to admit to his feelings in a reserved, yet charming way, as he asks us to marry him…


Without these literary characters we wouldn’t have enjoyed Colin Firth’s or Matthew MacFadyen’s wonderful performances as Mr Darcy. Or even worse…without Elizabeth Gaskell’s beautiful North and South, we would never have witnessed the perfection that is Richard Armitage in the skin of a 19th century mill owner.

So, without further ado, let’s look at what made those men so inhumanly perfect. This is not a post describing their ideal features (although I would not mind reflecting on that some time, too). Instead, here is a look at some of the loveliest lines from classic period literature – thoughts from men, so hopelessly in love, they turn into the definition of a romantic hero.

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell. Mr Thornton:

“He could not forget the touch of her arms around his neck, impatiently felt as it had been at the time; but now the recollection of her clinging defence of him, seemed to thrill him through and through,—to melt away every resolution, all power of self-control, as if it were wax before a fire.”

“One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love. But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.”

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Mr Darcy:

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë. Heathcliff

“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you--haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe--I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my 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.”

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. Levin:

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”  

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë. Mr Rochester:

“I have little left in myself -- I must have you. The world may laugh -- may call me absurd, selfish -- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.”

“You — you strange — you almost unearthly thing! — I love as my own flesh. You — poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are — I entreat to accept me as a husband.”

The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. Newland Archer:

“Each time you happen to me all over again.”

“He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty.”

Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy. Angel

“How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was nothing ethereal about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation. And it was in her mouth that this culminated. Eyes almost as deep and speaking he had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen nothing to equal on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire in him that little upward lift in the middle of her red top lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had never before seen a woman’s lips and teeth which forced upon his mind with such persistent iteration the old Elizabethan simile of roses filled with snow.
Perfect, he, as a lover, might have called them off-hand. But no — they were not perfect. And it was the touch of the imperfect upon the would-be perfect that gave the sweetness, because it was that which gave the humanity.”

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