Jane Austen wrote six super-romantic novels filled with swoonworthy guys, and yet somehow Mr. Darcy gets all the credit for being the best Jane Austen hero. Yes, he's supposed to be mega good-looking, and yes, the hatred-to-love trope is pretty irresistible — but come on, is he really the best of the bunch? I'm here to ruffle some feathers, and say that Mr. Darcy isn't my favorite of Jane Austen's leading men. And no, nor is the gruffly sensitive Mr. Knightley, nor the soulful and passionate Captain Wentworth. (Though I wouldn't say no to any of them, if we're being honest here.) It's not the shy and gentle Edward Ferrars, or the deeply caring Colonel Brandon, or the kind and brotherly Edmund Bertram.
Nope, I think that the best Jane Austen hero is the woefully underrated Mr. Henry Tilney. Catherine Morland may have adored him, but Austen fans don't seem to have taken to him with quite the same ardor — even though he's clearly the wittiest, funniest, and downright nicest of the lot. But I'm about to change all that, with seven reasons why it should be Mr. Tilney on that poster pinned up above your bed, instead of Mr. Darcy.
It's official: the best Jane Austen hero is Mr. Tilney — and here's why.
1He's Good-Looking — But Not Too Good-Looking
When we first meet Mr. Tilney, he's described as "rather tall" with "a pleasing countenance" — which is Jane Austen's way of saying that he's pretty hot. But he's not so hot that it burns your eyes to look directly at him; Austen goes on to say that:
2He's The Funniest Of Jane Austen's Heroes
Sense of humor is very important in any great love story, and Mr. Tilney is without a doubt the funniest of Jane Austen's leading men. From the moment Catherine meets him at a dance, he has her giggling with his hilarious guesses about what Catherine will write in her diary that evening, and his mock-serious commentary on the social etiquette of dancing.
3He's Very Sarcastic
Jane Austen practically invented sarcasm, she's that good at it — and Henry Tilney is her most sarcastic character of all. He makes fun of society in the same way that Austen does, so any Austenite is bound to adore him.
Catherine Morland gets severely carried away and ends up straight-up accusing Mr. Tilney's dad of murder. That's not an ideal way for your girlfriend to meet your parents — but Mr. Tilney totally understands (and loves!) Catherine's dramatic tendencies, and forgives her for the misunderstanding.
He may say:
but the next morning, he's so attentive to Catherine that everything is soon forgiven and forgotten.
5He's A Good Brother
Mr. Tilney spends a lot of time hanging out with his shy younger sister, and helps her make good friends with Catherine. Eleanor says it herself:
And as we all know, good brothers equal great husbands.
6He's Quite Feminist
OK, so Henry Tilney does make some rather misogynistic jokes which I definitely don't love, but sadly, the bar for male feminists was pretty low in Austen's time. So when Tilney says things like this, I can't help but grin:
7He Loves Books
The best thing about Mr. Tilney is how much he enjoys reading. In Austen's day, novels were generally dismissed as frivolous women's hobbies, and so Tilney's feminist side shows itself again when he sticks up for reading all genres with this iconic statement: