A wise woman once said, "Beware of fainting fits, beware of swoons." And although this woman was indescribably wise, she also created some of the most romantic love stories of modern literature. Today marks Jane Austen's 238 birthday, and to celebrate, we've taken a long hard look at all the leading men of her literature, and ranked each man from the best (most smoldering, sweet, and smartest) to worst (boring, unattractive, and downright evil). Behold, your guide to Austen's finest creations:
14. John Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility
13. George Wickham, Pride and Prejudice
12. Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park
Henry Crawford first arrives at Mansfield Park with his sister Mary from London. The pair have an "exotic" air about them, plenty of money, and the ability to become bored easily. Because of this, Henry decides he will make Fanny Price fall in love with him — you know, just for kicks and giggles. Eventually, his affections become somewhat real, but when he proposes to Fanny, she says no, and for good reason. Later in the story, Henry elopes with a married woman, destroying any chances with poor Fanny Price.
11. John Thorpe, Northanger Abbey
John Thorpe doesn't know the meaning of good manners. He is constantly swearing, blubbering, and a huge liar. Basically, he's set up from the beginning to be completely insufferable. While John attempts to woo Catherine, his bad habits and over confidence quickly turn against him.
10. Mr. William Collins, Pride and Prejudice
My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.
9. William Walter Elliot, Persuasion
Another cousin suitor, Elliot is a cold opportunist who is only looking out for his own inheritance. Cousin to Anne, Elliot tries to date, er, court, his cousin until she finds out the truth about his character, and his only real worry: That a woman named Mrs. Clay might marry his meal-ticket, Mr. Elliot, and have a baby boy, knocking him off the top of the list for Mr. Elliot's money.
8. Frank Churchill, Emma
In Clueless, the 1995 modern retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, Frank Churchill goes by the name of Christian, and the ultimate reason he and Cher (Emma) can't be together, is because he is a "cake boy". But in the original novel, Emma, who seems to be able to find a match for everyone but herself, decides Churchill is irresponsible, a liar, and ultimately unsuited to her, despite being oh-so attractive.
7. Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility
Colonel Brandon is one of the thoroughbreds, one of the good guys with good intentions (and ironically, was played by Snape in the 1995 adaptation). But he's also a 35-year-old chap (old man status in Jane Austen days), and very quiet, grave, and even cold at first meeting. Brandon is attracted to Marianne, but she finds him too old, and because of his age, assumes that he is incapable of loving. This theory is eventually debunked, and the pair end up happily married.
6. Edward Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility
5. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
4. Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey
Oh Henry, Henry, Henry. He is one of the most caring and articulate men in Austen's novels. Although sometimes a bit cheeky with those less read than he, Tilney truly cares about his family and those he loves. He captivates our story's protagonist, Catherine, with his worldly views, opinions on books, and cleverness. He is also forgiving, and gives Catherine the benefit of the doubt when she assumes the worst of his family's past. All around, he is an exceptional romantic hero.
3. John Knightley, EmmaJohn Knightley and Emma Woodhouse are pretty much BFFs throughout the novel. They never quite consider each other romantic interests, but offer one another (usually unsolicited) advice on romance. In Clueless, Mr. Knightley is Josh, Cher's ex-step brother. He's the one's who has been there all along, and ends up being the perfect match. We love Knightley because he is Emma's equal, he isn't afraid to challenge her and she isn't afraid to dish it back. We have no doubt that they lived happily ever after.
2. Captain Fredrick Wentworth, Persuasion
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.