I had a poll last month on this blog on who my readers’ favorite Austen hero was, besides Mr. Darcy. Mr. Knightly won a narrow victory with 31% of the vote. Captain Wentworth and Colonel Brandon tied for second with 27%. Edward Ferrars came in third with 9% and Henry Tilney came in 4th with 4%. Poor Edmund Bertram received zero votes.
As the hero of Emma, Mr. Knightley is a man in his prime in his thirties. As the owner of Donwell Abbey, he is a man used to being in charge, but makes good use of his authority by being kind to people in need. As a friend of Emma, he is not afraid to criticize her moral failings, especially if they hurt other people. His friendship soon turns to love and these two friends find happiness together in wedded bliss. He is the ultimate in understanding men, he agrees to live with his father-in-law to further Emma’s happiness. If that is not love, I don’t know what is!
Mr. Knightley has one of the great romantic lines an Austen novel, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. – You hear nothing but truth from me. – I have blamed you, lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. . . But you understand me. – Yes, you see, you understand my feelings – and will return them if you can.”
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means that 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 understand 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 ever 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 use justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among mean. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
I must go uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your part, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”
I love this! What is your personal favorite Austen hero (besides Mr. Darcy), and why? Please comment!