Jane Austen is a woman of many talents: she can deliver a biting social commentary, she can reduce anyone to fits of giggles, and my god, the woman can write a good romance. But some of the most romantic Jane Austen moments happen when things are going unsaid. Sure, the proposals are swoon-worthy — but even more delicious are those stolen glances, subtle flirtations... and all that sexual tension.
In Regency England, wannabe lovers couldn't just come out and tell each other they fancied each other. They couldn't send each other sexy texts with winky faces. They couldn't steal kisses behind the bike sheds or even hold hands walking down a moonlit street. I mean, they couldn't even write each other letters. Until a couple were engaged, their courtship could pretty much only consist of strategically filled-out dance cards.
And that's what makes Jane Austen's romantic novels just so enticing. Without the eggplant emoji to spell everything out, lovers had to read into every blush or sigh or cough. Jane Austen manages to infuse some serious romantic tension even into scenes in which basically nothing happens. Here are seven of the most romantically charged moments Jane Austen has ever written.
1. Wentworth helping Anne into the carriage
Forget Pride and Prejudice: without a doubt, Persuasion is the most romantic Jane Austen novel. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth were in love eight long years before the book started, but her snobby family persuaded her to turn down his proposal, leaving them both broken-hearted. Anne has mourned him ever since, but when he finally comes back to town, he'll barely look at her. Until...
Captain Wentworth, without saying a word, turned to her, and quietly obliged her to be assisted into the carriage. Yes, he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to give her rest.
2. Tilney and Catherine's first dance
Tilney and Catherine click from their very first meeting; their witty conversation leaves Catherine breathlessly waiting to catch another glimpse of her mysterious new friend. (It's basically the exact storyline of Taylor Swift's 'Enchanted', jussayin'.)
3. When Emma asks Knightley to ask her to dance
Earlier at this same ball, Mr. Knightley rescued dateless Harriet Smith from the social embarrassment of having nobody to dance with — and once Emma realized what a gentleman he is, she just couldn't take her eyes off him. Later, she suggests he might like to ask her to dance, too:
"Whom are you going to dance with?" asked Mr. Knightley.
She hesitated a moment, and then replied, "With you, if you will ask me."
"Will you?" said he, offering his hand.
"Indeed I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."
"Brother and sister! no, indeed."
Nudge nudge, wink wink.
4. Darcy watching Elizabeth walk around the room
In an age before sending nudes, women had to resort to walking slowly around the room to try to show off their sexy figures. The moment Elizabeth stands up to "take a turn about the room," Mr. Darcy subconsciously closes his book to watch her. The two of them flirt while he admires her — and it's hot.
5. Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill sneak a kiss?
Wait, there's never any actual kissing in Jane Austen — is there? Well, last year, an Austen expert from University College London called John Mullan suggested that there's a kiss scene in Emma that nobody noticed. As far as the reader is concerned, all that happens is Emma walks into a room to find Frank Churchill studiously fixing a pair of glasses while Jane Fairfax stands awkwardly staring at a piano. Which, when you think about it, is a little odd. That's why Mullan thinks these two lovebirds have just broken off from a kiss.
6. Willoughby rescuing Marianne in the rain
I know, I know, Willoughby doesn't turn out to be a nice guy in the end. But that doesn't make it any less sexy when he appears on a stormy hill to swoop up the injured Marianne into his arms.
Marianne had at first the advantage, but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground... A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in the fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services, and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.
You can hardly blame the girl for getting so hung up on him, can you?
7. Wentworth writes Anne a letter
This has got to be the most romantically charged moment in any novel ever. While Anne debates the nature of love with her friend Captain Harville, the dreamy Captain Wentworth is writing a letter nearby. When he drops his pen just as Anne declares that women never give up on their loves, she thinks he might have been eavesdropping — but nothing can prepare us for the moment he bursts agitatedly back into the room, hands her the letter with an urgent look in his eyes, and hurries out.
Of course, the letter itself is too romantic for words — but the heat in those preceding moments is palpable. Especially when you know that all the time he was sitting so close to Anne, he was writing these gorgeous words:
"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, inF. W."
Um, how weak are your knees right now?
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