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Literature’s Most Desirable Heroes

Monday, August 6, 2012

I got this idea from a blog post on Mental Floss. These are my picks. Feel free to post yours in the comments!

10. Dr. Peter Blood, Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini

. . . there entered now into his presence a spruce and modish gentleman, dressed with care and sombre richness in black and silver, his swarthy, clear-cut face scrupulously shaven, his long black hair in ringlets that fell to a collar of fine point. In his right hand the gentleman carried a broad black hat with a scarlet ostrich-plume, in his left hand an ebony cane. His stockings were of silk, a bunch of ribbons masked his garters, and the black rosettes on his shoes were finely edged with gold.

For a moment M. de Rivarol did not recognize him. For Blood looked younger by ten years than yesterday. But the vivid blue eyes under their level black brows were not to be forgotten, and they proclaimed him for the man announced even before he had spoken.

9. James Percy, The Inheritance, Louisa May Alcott

When the first greetings were over, Amy looked again at the face that had smiled so kindly on her as he took her hand.

It was calm and pale, as Arthur had said, with dark hair parted on a high, white brow, beneath which shone a pair of clear, soft eyes. He was tall and finely formed, with a certain stately grace that well became him. A quiet smile lit up his face and, as the soft light of the evening sun shone on it, Amy thought a beautiful and noble soul must lie within.

8. Joe Blomfield, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Winifred Watson

Joe was looking down at her: a big man, not a young man, possibly the early fifties. No sign of middle-aged spread. What might be called a well-preserved figure. A man looked better with a well-covered body in the fifties. He was immaculate in evening clothes: shirt-front gleaming, flower in the button hole. Massive head, powerful jaw, humorous eyes, no-fooling-me mouth, hair greying a little, bluff manner, genial, red face.

His gaze lighted on Miss Pettigrew’s face with surprise. Then his lips parted, his eyes lit, his face expanded, with a surprised, warm, friendly smile.

7. Carl Linstrum, O Pioneers!, Willa Cather

Carl had changed, Alexandra felt, much less than one might have expected. He had not become a trim, self-satisfied city man. There was still something homely and wayward and definitely personal about him. Even his clothes, his Norfolk coat and his very high collars, were a little unconventional. He seemed to shrink into himself as he used to do; to hold himself away from things, as if he were afraid of being hurt. In short, he was more self-conscious than a man of thirty-five is expected to be. He looked older than his years and not very strong. His black hair, which still hung in a triangle over his pale forehead, was thin at the crown, and there were fine, relentless lines about his eyes. His back, with its high, sharp shoulders, looked like the back of an over-worked German professor off on his holiday. His face was intelligent, sensitive, unhappy.

6. Dick Dewy, Under the Greenwood Tree, Thomas Hardy

Dick Dewy faced about and continued his tune in an under-whistle, implying that the business of his mouth could not be checked at a moment’s notice by the placid emotion of friendship.

Having come more into the open he could now be seen rising against the sky, his profile appearing on the light background like the portrait of a gentleman in black cardboard. It assumed the form of a low-crowned hat, an ordinary-shaped nose, an ordinary chin, an ordinary neck, and ordinary shoulders. What he consisted of further down was invisible from lack of sky low enough to picture him on.

5. Mortimer Lightwood, Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens

Reflects a certain ‘Mortimer’, another of Veneering’s oldest friends; who never was in the house before, and appears not to want to come again, who sits disconsolate on Mrs Veneering’s left, and who was inveigled by Lady Tippins (a friend of his boyhood) to come to these people’s and talk, and who won’t talk. . . .

Mortimer raises his drooping eyelids, and slightly opens his mouth. But a faint smile, expressive of ‘What’s the use!’ passes over his face, and he drops his eyelids and shuts his mouth. . . .

There is that in the indolent Mortimer, which seems to hint that if good society might on any account allow itself to be impressible, he, one of good society, might have the weakness to be impressed by what he here relates. It is hidden with great pains, but it is in him.

4. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

3. Allan Woodcourt, Bleak House, Charles Dickens

I have omitted to mention in its place that there was someone else at the family dinner party. It was not a lady. It was a gentleman. It was a gentleman of a dark complexion—a young surgeon. He was rather reserved, but I thought him very sensible and agreeable. At least, Ada asked me if I did not, and I said yes. . . .

I believe—at least I know—that he was not rich. All his widowed mother could spare had been spent in qualifying him for his profession. It was not lucrative to a young practitioner, with very little influence in London; and although he was, night and day, at the service of numbers of poor people and did wonders of gentleness and skill for them, he gained very little by it in money. He was seven years older than I. Not that I need mention it, for it hardly seems to belong to anything.

I think—I mean, he told us—that he had been in practice three or four years and that if he could have hoped to contend through three or four more, he would not have made the voyage on which he was bound. But he had no fortune or private means, and so he was going away. He had been to see us several times altogether. We thought it a pity he should go away. Because he was distinguished in his art among those who knew it best, and some of the greatest men belonging to it had a high opinion of him.

2. John Thornton, North & South, Elizabeth Gaskell

Now, in Mr. Thornton’s face the straight brows fell low over the clear, deep-set earnest eyes, which, without being unpleasantly sharp, seemed intent enough to penetrate into the very heart and core of what he was looking at. The lines in the face were few but firm, as if they were carved in marble, and lay principally about the lips, which were slightly compressed over a set of teeth so faultless and beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes, changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of a man ready to do and dare everything, to the keen honest enjoyment of the moment, which is seldom shown so fearlessly and instantaneously except by children. Margaret liked this smile; it was the first thing she had admired in this new friend of her father’s; and the opposition of character, shown in all these details of appearance she had just been noticing, seemed to explain the attraction they evidently felt towards each other.

1. Captain Frederick Wentworth, Persuasion, Jane Austen

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. 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? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

3 Comments
  1. Monday, August 6, 2012 1:03 am

    Ooh, fun idea! Here are mine: Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy Sayers), Sir Percy Blakeney (Baroness Orczy), Lord Miles Vorkosigan (Lois McMaster Bujold), Hugh Beringer (Ellis Peters), Eugenides (Megan Whalen Turner), Val Con (Lee & Miller), Sylvester, Duke of Salford (Heyer). I also like Seanan McGuire’s Tybalt, and there’s nothing wrong with your standard-issue Carla Kelly hero and your standard-issue Essie Summers hero. Oh, and Cazaril (also Bujold).

  2. debraemarvin permalink
    Monday, August 6, 2012 6:27 am

    I love this idea and your list, Kaye. I am obviously not as well-read as Jessica so I will add Gilbert of Tenant of Wildfell Hall for his steadfastness and patience.

  3. Monday, August 6, 2012 8:36 am

    Great choices! I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes Mortimer Lightwood! I agree with Jessica about Sir Percy Blakeney and Hugh Berigner. Rudolf Rassendyll (Anthony Hope) and Colonel Brandon would be on my list, too.

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