5 Jane Austen Leading Men Who Are Actually Seriously Toxic

by Aoife Hanna
Alex Bailey/Working Title/Kobal/Shutterstock

"Miss Sophie Pettiworth took a turn around the courtyard as Lord Gareth Bumbleton stared hungrily at her from afar, but didn't care to greet her." No, that is not a Jane Austen quote, I just made that up. However, this is the general gist of acceptable male behaviour in Austen novels. In contemporary literature that would read "Soph was at a gaff party and Gaz would not stop eyeballing her but looked at her like she was effing cray when she said hi." There is an actual rake load of toxic male Jane Austen characters in those beautifully written and iconic tomes, so finding them isn't all that difficult.

Toxicity is nothing new but my god did our girl romanticise these ass hats, but she also pointed them out pretty clearly. Back in more innocent (as if) times, messing with someone's head and driving them nuts was seen as hell romantic and positively swoon—worthy. Yeah, toxic masculinity was low key celebrated in these books, which is pretty grim.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, we can definitely identify the culprits now and know exactly how to deal with them in own lives. OK maybe not exactly how, but hopefully looking at these bags of you—know—what will help you weed out the toxic ones in your own life. Enjoy.


Mr Darcy - 'Pride and Prejudice'

Oh Darcy! Yes, you are hot and mysterious, we get it. The brooding, somber, serious male who goes into a pond and comes out a loving and open individual, all changed because he is in lurve. Whole lot of nope!

In Pride And Prejudice, Darcy made Lizzie feel like crap and then turned it around as if it was all in her head and she just wasn't being aware enough. Imagine some guy your mate was crushing on consistently chose to insult her, refused to communicate and had like, zero social awareness. Nor does he care to be polite to her or her friends. Not to mention all the creepy following her around.

Oh cool so like a bagillion red flags pointing to toxic behaviour that is on a one way ticket to hell and chaos.



John Willoughby - 'Sense and Sensibility'

Willoughby, in Sense And Sensibility is your classic, "I'm gonna be somebody big some day" type of guy, with some pretty hectically over inflated views of self importance. All this because he is set to inherit his aunt's money.

What. A. D bag.

After doing a bit of a heroic move on Marianne Dashwood, which makes her fall for him, he drops her like a hot potato after he seduces and leaves pregnant Eliza Williams, who is Colonel Brandon's ward. After being disinherited, he then chooses to go in search of a rich wife, choosing money over love.

This guy is misogyny personified, using women to get ahead with zero regard for anything but his own success and power.


Edmund Bertram - 'Mansfield Park'

Edmund slithers (yes I said slithers) into Austen's pages in Mansfield Park. He is literal trash.

Basically, he spends the entire book pining after Mary Crawford and only seemingly shows any love for Fanny, who he has been keeping at the side, after he realises Mary is definitely a no go.

Benching is a disease of our time, and looks like it was back then too. Fanny is not your consolation prize, Ed.

Get in the bin!


George Wickham - 'Pride and Prejudice'

George Wickham is the villain in Pride And Prejudice and oh, what a grade A chump he is.

He is the exact kind of charming manipulator that everyone has met. Dare I say sociopath? The kind of guy you totally crush on until you realise he is actually the worst kind of narcissist.

Not to mention, he tells umpteen lies and also, runs away with Lizzie's younger sister. Not cool.


Frank Churchill - 'Emma'

Frank appears in Emma and is really just a sucky human being on many levels.

So he basically flirted up a storm with Emma, despite already being engaged to Jane Fairfax. He also totally lies to everyone about their romance because she is socially lower than him. What a butthead.

How he manages to persuade Jane to stay engaged to him despite him treating her terribly while simultaneously telling her he loves her — gaslighting is real — is beyond me.


Reading old classics like Austen's novels makes it clear that toxic masculinity is nothing new. What is new however is that now, women are not willing to take it anymore and thankfully, neither are many men.