When I ranked Shakespeare characters based on their dateability, I tried to play it off like it was no big deal. "It wasn't like dating literary characters was something I thought a lot about," I told people. "I'm like the Han Solo of book blogging: I just did it for the money. Of course it wasn't something I'm, like, super-into. That would be weird, and I am Totally Normal." I would then try to talk about Totally Normal People things, like the weather or Kim Kardashian so as to not arouse their suspicion.
But, readers, I have a confession to make: I am Totally Not Normal, and I think about dating literary characters all the time. Valentine's Day is coming up, and even though I have a lovely real life boyfriend, I still found myself thinking, "But what man from Victorian literature would I most like to snuggle up to?" Don't even tell me that you've never thought the same thing.
So I've done it again: I've put a lot of thought into getting romantic with fictional people so that you don't have to do it yourself. In this case, I've picked my favorite Victorian hunks and ranked them from Scrub to Stud (this is a very scientific scale). Whether you have someone with whom spend Valentine's Day or not, this list can warm your heart and remind you that true love exists... at least, it does in Victorian literature.
Side note: unfairly, I've only included men on this list, and hope to one day make this up to my ladies who like Victorian ladies. For the record, though, the winner for me will always be Emma.
11. Arthur Huntingdon, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Emotionally abusive? Check. Adulterous? Check. Alcoholic? Check. I’m actually letting this one beat out Sir Francis for most depraved, and that’s saying something since Sir Francis straight up killed a guy. Reading the terrible things that Arthur says to Helen is enough to make your stomach turn. Don’t worry, though, this dude gets his but good.
10. Sir Francis, East Lynne
Imagine the most terrible, conceited, no-good guy you’ve ever dated. Now imagine that he seduced you away from home, knocked you up, and then abandoned you. Oh, and he also killed a guy. Sir Francis is the lowest of the low, and no amount of good looks is worth putting up with this cad. (Although he is apparently pretty hot. Just remember: he would never call you again.)
9. Romney Leigh, Aurora Leigh
I know Romney Leigh is supposed to be Aurora’s great love and a man who sees the error of his ways, but UGH. I’m still stuck on the terrible Romney who tells her that women can’t be true artists. I personally find Aurora really annoying, but I don’t think she deserves someone has misogynistic as that. Maybe you buy his change of heart, but I’m still going to take a pass on this one.
8. Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights
Everyone likes a man from the wrong side of the tracks (or the moors, whatever). He might not have been involved in the most functional relationships, and he's admittedly rough around the edges, but there's still something attractive about Heathcliff's passion. Warning, though, he's not one I would turn to for a "happily ever after."
7. George Talboys, Lady Audley's Secret
Nice guy, but he probably should have known better than to mess with his wife. Sure, Lady Audley’s a little cray, but the man had to do SOMETHING to deserve getting pushed down a well. He did kind of run off to Australia, abandoning his wife and child in England. He may have had noble intentions, but that’s still kind of a dick move. Maybe not murder-worthy, but still.
6. Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre
I’m conflicted, because I know women lose their minds over Mr. Rochester. But come on buddy, at what point were you going to confess to hiding your crazy ex-wife in your attic? That’s really not a conversation that should happen on the honeymoon. I don’t care if he is this big romantic hero, I need more honesty in my relationships than that. And that’s why I never date a guy without looking in his attic first.
5. Mr. Bingley, Sense and Sensibility
He may not have the raw, insulting sex appeal of Mr. Darcy, but Bingley is still a pretty solid choice (especially if you're into guys who are actually nice to you and don't feel the need to mention your social inferiority.) I personally find him a wee bit boring, but I get why Jane likes him. He's something of a safe choice, but that's not always a bad thing!
4. Mr. Carlyle, East Lynn
I totally get why everyone in East Lynn is all about Mr. Carlyle. It’s like he’s never met a lady he doesn’t want to help (but in a good way, not a he-man god-complex kind of way). He’s a loyal husband to both Isabel (even though she doesn’t really deserve it) and to Barbara, and he helps an innocent man clear his name. He’s just an all-around upstanding citizen, the kind your mother would absolutely want you to bring home.
5. Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility
Willoughby is fun or whatever as a boy, but Colonel Brandon is a Man. Apparently Marianne didn't realize that he was like a fine wine: he gets better and better with age. He's wealthy, compassionate, and he isn't fickle with his affections like SOME people. (This entire opinion may or may not be colored by the fact that Alan Rickman, aka the sexiest voice alive, plays him in the movie.)
2. Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
Unlike with Rochester, I completely understand the obsession with Mr. Darcy. He’s a sex symbol for emotionally stunted people everywhere. Personally, I would love a guy to propose to me while pointing out all of my character flaws. He may not really know how to interact with women (or anyone, for that matter), but there’s something about his awkwardness and lack of tact that really appeals to me.
1. George Knightley, Emma
I like a man who isn’t afraid of an opinionated woman. George is one of the few people willing to criticize Emma, and everyone needs someone who can keep them anchored. Plus, he’s funny and caring and Paul Rudd played a version of him in Clueless. So basically he’s perfect.