This week on Books by Banister I'll be celebrating that most romantic of holidays, Valentine's Day! So, visit me each day for a different hearts-and-flowers-themed post. As books have been a lifelong love of mine, I'm going to kick off this party with a catalog of my Top Five Fictional Crushes of the Classic Lit Variety. And prepare yourself for a shock, my friends, because there is not a Darcy, Rochester, or Heathcliff to be seen on this list. Of course, Austen will still be represented here, but I dare to think outside the box when it comes to her heroes. Read on to see which period dreamboats made the cut, and don't forget to come back tomorrow to find out who made my Fictional Crushes in Contemporary Lit list.
Theodore "Laurie" Laurence/Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (The Boy-Next-Door) I fell head over heels for sweet, generous, delightful Laurie the first time I read this wonderful book. He was the brother the March sisters never had. He participated in all their games, encouraged their dreams, provided support when they needed it, and was devoted to them, especially Jo whom he clearly cared for as more than just a friend. I will never forgive that silly woman for turning down his marriage proposal! Of course, her loss was Amy's gain. I've seen many versions of Little Women on the big and small screens, but I think Christian Bale was the actor who best captured the essence of the character. Since seeing his portrayal of Laurie in the 1994 film, he will always be Laurie to me.
"I've loved you ever since I've known you, Jo, couldn't help it, you've been so good to me. I've tried to show it, but you wouldn't let me; no I'm going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can't go on so any longer."
"Oh, yes, you've been faithful to me because Ashley wouldn't have you. But, hell, I wouldn't have grudged him your body. I know how little bodies mean-especially women's bodies. But I do grudge him your heart and your dear, hard, unscrupulous, stubborn mind. He doesn't want your mind, the fool, and I don't want your body. I can buy women cheap. But I do want your mind and your heart, and I'll never have them, any more than you'll ever have Ashley's mind. And that's why I'm sorry for you."
P.S. I actually saw the cinematic George (Julian Sands) in a movie theater lobby in downtown Atlanta a few years after A Room with a View was released. I'm happy to report that he looked every bit as divine in person as he did on the big screen.
“This desire to govern a woman -- it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together.... But I do love you surely in a better way then he does." He thought. "Yes -- really in a better way. I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms.”
Henry Tilney/Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (The Fun-Loving Flirt) Brooding men are all well and good (see the aforementioned Darcy, Rochester, and Heathcliff), but I think a girl would have a better chance at a happy ever after with a guy like good-natured Henry. No, he doesn't have money (Second sons really got screwed back in the day, didn't they?) and he's got a family that would give one pause (His father is a rigid jerk who only cares about cold, hard cash, and his older brother is a bounder.), but what Henry does have is charm, a sense of humor, and a wonderfully positive attitude. He seems to really enjoy life and people and he's just a pleasure to be around. I love how he playfully teases Catherine throughout the book. And in the end, he proves to have real character, too, as he chooses to be with Catherine, although that means being disowned by his father.
“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again." Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. "I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."
"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings -- plain black shoes -- appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."
"Indeed I shall say no such thing."
"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"
"If you please."
"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him -- seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say."
The Earl of Rule/The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer (The Jaded Aristocrat) - I've read 20+ Georgette Heyer novels and I've adored many of her heroes, but Rule is the one I always think of with a delicious shiver. He's in his 30s and has been around the block more than once when he's proposed to by Horatia, a 17 year-old girl from an impoverished, but well-respected, family. She amuses him, so he agrees and thus, their unusual union begins. Horry lets being titled and wealthy go straight to her head and proceeds to get into all sorts of scrapes, the worst of them being a flirtation with an old enemy of Rule's, Lord Lethbridge. I challenge any female to read the scene where a jealous Rule takes Lethbridge's place at a masked soirée so that he can play a tension-fraught game of cards with his clueless wife all for a lock of her hair and not feel like they need to call for their smelling salts! It's hot stuff as is Rule's eventual dual with the dastardly Lethbridge. One of my favorite actors, Richard Armitage, is the narrator of the audiobook version of The Convenient Marriage, and he is the perfect embodiment of Rule both in looks and voice.
Across the wide stretch of hall the Earl's eyes met and beheld hers. "Horry," he said pleasantly, "you know how much I dislike exertion. Don't put me to the trouble of fetching you."
The chin came down a little, and the smouldering eyes showed a certain speculative interest. "C-carry me, do you m-mean? I wonder if you would?"
The gravity of Rule's expression was dispelled by a slight look of amusement. "And I wonder whether you really think that I would not?"
And there you have it, my Top Five Classic Lit Crushes. I hope you'll tell me who yours are in the comments section below. I will be happy to join you in drooling over any male in a frock coat! Please visit Books by Banister again tomorrow when I'll reveal my list of Top Five Hotties in Contemporary Lit.