Who is the Most Romantic [Male] Character in Literature?

I came across the article whose link and full text appear below back in October with the full intent to blog about it once I launched a blog. This article raises deliciously loaded questions and the answers and arguments are limitless. I’ll post my own thoughts about this list at the bottom of the article text.

article link: http://shelf-life.ew.com/2009/10/19/whos-the-most-romantic-character-in-literature/

Who’s the most romantic character in literature?
by Tina Jordan
Categories: Fiction, Publishing Biz, Romance Novels
So, in a recent British Poll on the most romantic literary character of all time (men, that is; they dealt with women in an earlier poll), top honors went to Rochester, the brooding hunk at the heart of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Though I’m a huge fan of Jane Eyre — I reread my well-thumbed copy at least once a year — I’m not enamored of Rochester, who, let’s face it, wasn’t very nice to poor Jane. (For those who you who haven’t read the book, or who read it so long ago it’s a distant blur, let’s just say Rochester was alternately cold, imperious, and withholding, and he proposed to Jane — and was going through with the wedding — without disclosing that he was already married to a madwoman he kept imprisoned in the attic). But am I possibility in the minority here? British best-selling novelist Penny Vincenzi wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “From that very first meeting [age 13, when she read the book for the first time], when Rochester’s horse slipped on the ice, and he was unseated, and I was confronted by his dark, unsmiling presence, his ‘stern features, and heavy brow… his considerable breadth of chest,’ I was completely in his thrall.”
So here’s the British poll in full:

1. Edward Rochester of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
2. Richard Sharpe of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series.
3. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
4. Heathcliff of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
5. Rhett Butler of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind
6. Mark Darcy, of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary
7. Captain Corelli of Louis de Berniere’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
8. Henry DeTamble of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife
9. Gabriel Oak of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd
10. Rupert Campbell Black of Jilly Cooper’s The Rutshire Chronicles

Several thoughts here. Maybe it’s because I’m a Southern, but Rhett Butler — the dashing Charleston-born blockade runner who lusted after Scarlett O’Hara — is tops with me. (I took umbrage at Vincenzi when she said Butler lacked Rochester’s “complexity.” Excuse me — lacked complexity?) And what’s with No. 2, Richard Sharpe? Didn’t every single woman he romanced die in childbirth? (It’s been awhile since I read the books, so I could be wrong.) And who in their right mind could truly love the unutterable snob Fitzwilliam Darcy? (Oh. Wait. This is a British survey.)

I’m still mulling over my final list, but I think both Max de Winter from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Benedick from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing belong on it. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series. George Emerson from E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View.

When I canvassed my friends, I got some surprising answers. “Definitely, it’s Garp,” said one. “I go for the tortured, suicidal, depressed Westchester types. Or maybe I just sorta get him confused with John Irving.” “Are you kidding? It’s Father Ralph de Bricassart,” said another, mentioning the swoon-worthy priest of Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds. My colleagues had a lot to say on the subject too. Marc Bernardin nominated ”Gollum. His love for the Ring, for his Precious, knows no bounds, sends him on a quest across his known world, brings him into conflict with those who would do him great harm, and finally seals his fate.” Jeff Labrecque said, “He’s not dashing, but I always had a soft spot for Sydney Carton [from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities].” Alynda Wheat was partial to Richard Carstone from Bleak House (”a man who’ll marry you when you’ve been altered by illness — lovely”), to all the Austen men, and to William Dobbin from Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. A fellow staffer who wished to remain anonymous mentioned both Logan Bruno from The Babysitters Club books and Rob Gordon from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

Who’s on your list?


And now for Bellicose Blackcat’s Thoughts:

My first thought was utter outrage at the ommision of Persuasion’s Captain Frederick Wentworth-why on earth is he missing! That last letter to Anne was worthy of a place on this list alone. I am surprised that Mr. Rochester is at the top of the list, I prefer Heathcliff myself but I am shocked that Mr. Darcy did not take top honors. I am unfamiliar with some of the more contemporary males on this list but I see some other glaring omissions. For one- Gilbert Blythe of the Anne of Green Gables series-is there anyone more noble, more pining, more loveable and good than he? Almanzo Wilder of the Little House series who drove miles every Friday, blizzard or sunshine to pick up Laura and bring her home to her family while they were courting! Yes I know he is based on a living person but in my opinion he still counts. I am a little put off by Tina Jordan’s colleague’s suggestion of Logan Bruno from The Babysitter’s Club series-egads that would mean Todd Wilkins of Sweet Valley High would be a sure contender. Also missing from the list: I would like to add Dr. Woodcourt from Bleak House as well second the mention as Sydney Carton. I’d also like to add Edward Glapthorn/Gorst/Dupont/Tansor from A Meaning of Night/The Glass of Time by Michael Cox(more on him later) and Gilbert Markham from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.  I am sure there are many more worthy romantic males that I am omitting but I believe that is my personal list.

Do you agree with the list? Or my list? Who would you add?

Also if you find the prior poll Tina Jordan mentions early in her article that deals with romantic females-PLEASE leave it in a Comment, Twitter me, or Email me! I’ve  been searching for it for three months without avail!


3 thoughts on “Who is the Most Romantic [Male] Character in Literature?

  1. Jakki says:

    Great topic! I am in complete agreement regarding Rhett Butler and Gilbert Blythe. Two extremely different character types too. One representing the dark and brooding and the other patience, unconditional love and strong values.

  2. MXF says:

    Personally I’ve always preferred Emma’s Knightley to P&P’s Darcy. But really…Richard Carstone? He was obsessed with money and ended up widowing his wife and orphaning his son. That is not my definition of romantic.

  3. I erroneously mixed up Richard Carstone and Dr. Woodcourt! I don’t think some of the males on the list would really qualify as romantic given their violent and abusive tendencies.

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