Does your girlfriend swoon over the mention of Mr Darcy? Or does your crush argue that Heathcliff is the ultimate passionate lover despite his savagery? Do you sometimes wonder what it would feel like to be an elegant Victorian gentleman with impeccable manners and sophisticated charm? All you need to do is immerse yourself in historical romance novels brimming with the quintessential grandeur and gentility of the Victorian era. Sometimes romantic, uptight at other times, and many a time, downright obsessed with the woman they loved, these Victorian heroes were a delectable breed. Love like these extraordinary gentlemen and see for yourself why women obsess over them.
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
You have to read this quintessential Victorian melodramatic masterpiece to find out why women love Mr. Rochester as much as they do, even though he locked his crazy wife in the attic.
Rochester is the ultimate Byronic brooding hero with wealth, class, manners and his pick of the best women in the country. Yet, he chose Jane Eyre, the plain and poor governess, because she was his intellectual equal. He was infatuated with her from the first moment and through a lifetime of turmoil, still loved her vehemently, mainly for her strength of character, her resolve to do the right thing and her free-thinking soul. In his own words–
“To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil when I find out they have neither souls nor hearts – when they open to me a perspective of flatness, triviality, and imbecility, coarseness, and ill-temper: but to the clear eye and eloquent tongue, to the soul made of fire, and the character that bends but does not break – at once supple and stable, tractable and consistent – I am ever tender and true.”
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you dismissed this beautiful novel conveniently classifying it as chick-lit, you should reconsider. The deftly written comedy of manners is one of Austen’s finest works. Elizabeth Bennet is undoubtedly everyone’s favorite literary heroine with her quick wit, sassy temper and wicked sense of humor. The show-stealer though is the debonair Mr. Darcy. So full of pride and irreverence, he is the sort of man women wish to unravel.
Even though he comes across as pompous, conceited and overbearing at first, and is really truly hated by the heroine, there’s a true unraveling that takes place when he emerges as the one who would help out in a crisis without seeking any praise, adore a woman for her intellect and not have her conform, and of course, love and admire her ardently. Who does anything ardently anymore?
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
3. Persuasion by Jane Austen
The last finished work of Austen, Persuasion is also one of her more mature works dealing with feelings of love, anger, guilt and regret, all the while questioning what according to Captain Fredrick Wentworth the ultimate virtue in a woman is. While initially, he believes that firmness of character is what he desires in a woman, as one who isn’t firm in character cannot be reliable. He does, however, come to change his opinion towards the end of the book, agreeing that flexibility of opinion is a virtue in its own right.
Captain Wentworth manages to hold your sympathy right from the beginning when Anne, the young heroine breaks off an engagement with him because her friend Lady Russel convinces her that it isn’t a good match. He stays bitter with Anne, who he once loved, for years until he comes to finally forgive her and they are united again.
“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?”
Name one woman who wouldn’t melt at that?
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Okay, so Heathcliff is no gentleman. He is probably the most violent, brutal and unforgiving character in Victorian literature. Why women love him has been a hotly debated topic for generations now. What it all comes down is that despite his misgivings and his fanatical, unrelenting, obsessive love for Catherine is his redemption. He was tortured and tormented as a child and that ‘wrong-begets-wrong’ seems to make everyone forgive his cruelties later in life. When Catherine says –
“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
That’s when you know this love story is not for mortals. This is beyond literary criticism, logical perception and modern comprehension.
“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you – haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe -I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”
When Heathcliff begs, cries and implores a dead lover to haunt him, well, you can’t help but love him.
So these are our favourite heroes from some of the historical romance books we love the most. Reading these books will let you savour a bit of the old-world charm, absorb human emotions that seem too ethereal for the modern lifestyle and let love take precedence over everything. Most of all, you will be able to learn from the real gentlemen, what it means to be one.
Nicola Reynor is a passionate blogger who loves to blog about fashion, beauty, travel, health, fitness, wedding and lifestyle trends. When in leisure time, she prefers to spend time in traveling with friends and family.