Austen’s books are filled with swoon-worthy male leads, but we aren’t going to limit ourselves to these romantic heroes! Her rakes definitely deserve a place on this list as well. Let it be said right off the bat: this is absolutely a biased ranking. Some of it might even be considered controversial. But I’ve got to say it: some of the leading men just don’t compare to the rakes. I’m sorry, but it’s true. So I’m not letting the conclusions of these books get in my way! Also, let me state the obvious and warn that there are spoilers ahead for the works of Jane Austen.
10. Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility)
We hate to do it—but we’ve gotta pull the age card here. I know it was a different time with different expectations and life expectancies… but he was a 35-year old man pursuing a 16-year old girl. Not to mention, his main reason for falling in love was that she reminded him of his dead true love. You’re a nice guy, Colonel Brandon, but we just can’t condone it.
9. John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility)
Willoughby is basically the epitome of a man led by his emotions. He falls in love hard, and really throws caution to the wind. That is—until he sees another offer with more money. Even though his emotions were definitely real, it doesn’t mean a lot when actions don’t back them.
8. Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey)
He’s witty, kind, and honorable. Though we didn’t really get a lot of time with him, he makes a wonderful first impression and he makes sure that he rights his wrongs. We can appreciate that. Nice, but not particularly memorable.
7. Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility)
I mean… he’s fine. He’s stuck in an engagement to a woman he doesn’t love. We can give him props for staying loyal to her and being a gentleman, but ultimately he was pretty unimpressive. He never took things into his hands, he just got lucky!
6. Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park)
Henry is the kind of guy you’d expect to find in a trashy historical romance—in the best way. He starts pursuing Fanny simply because he loves a challenge, but ends up falling in love with her! Love that trope. He’s persistent in winning her affections, but ultimately, isn’t able to stay loyal.
5. Mr. Knightley (Emma)
Knightley is a very esteemed gentleman, and he lets that go to his head just a little bit. While he has good intentions, he can come off as bossy or snobby sometimes—especially when he starts criticizing Emma, the novel’s heroine. But ultimately, he’s a good and thoughtful man who wants to help others.
4. Frank Churchill (Emma)
In his book, Frank fulfilled the necessary role of a romantic distraction who turns out to be less proper than he should be. However, Frank’s only fault was being secretly engaged! He was charming and fun to be around, and an excellent friend to Emma (besides leading her on a tad, but no harm no foul! Right?) No one can deny that he remained devoted to Jane Fairfax, and only suffers the occasional urge to stir the pot.
3. Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
Jane Austen’s golden boy. The one everyone knows and loves—dear Fitzwilliam. A man who listens to the criticism he receives from Elizabeth and then actually responds to it. The way he is willing to improve himself for the woman he loves, and the way he devotes himself to making her happy. Major swoon.
2. Captain Wentworth (Persuasion)
Captain Wentworth should get the award for length of devotion. After being rejected by the woman he loved eight years ago, he still cannot deny his feelings for her. Despite his own wishes, he still loves her. He also gets major points for practically writing poetry in his confession of love to her.
1. Mr. Bingley (Pride and Prejudice)
I present to you: the sweetest human to ever walk the fictional earth. We love Mr. Bingley, and we love that he gets his happily-ever-after with Jane, because they both deserve it. It was practically love at first sight, only ever endangered by his selfish friends and family taking advantage of his sweet humility.
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