By Kristen Jones
It seems in recent years that Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has run away with the hearts of readers—and viewers—of the literary classic, “Pride and Prejudice.” But there is an underdog in this competition of swoon-worthiest male leads within Austen’s body of work. And it’s not Darcy’s sidekick, the charmingly befuddled Mr. Bingley.
It’s “Emma’s” Mr. Knightley.
As her neighbor and wise big-brother figure, Mr. Knightley has always been present in Emma Woodhouse’s charmed life. He’s the type of guy who pops in to check on her elderly father (swoon) and to engage Emma in a battle of wits (double swoon). Yes, he’s rich. Yes, he’s handsome, much like most of Austen’s typical love interests. But he’s so much more than that.
He’s that really nice guy who’s kind of hot when he’s angry.
Knightley actually looked red with surprize and displeasure, as he stood up, in tall indignation.
When Emma has destroyed the happiness of Mr. Knightley’s kind farmer friend by talking the woman he loves out of marrying him, Mr. Knightley is rightfully pissed. But he’s tall and “red with surprize and displeasure” and that’s kind of hot. Plus, let’s be real, he’s got kind farmer friends, which was basically unheard of for a man in his position, so come on.
He’s good with babies.
…he was soon led on…to take the child out of her arms with all the unceremoniousness of perfect amity.
Emma is holding her niece, and Mr. Knightley has stopped by for the first time since their previous disagreement. Without a word, he gently takes the sleeping child from her arms, a move that turns me into a pile of 18th century mush. He’s comfortable with her family and obviously good with kids—something that bodes well for their future together. The traditional part of my heart beats wildly thinking about their beautiful, aristocratic babies.
He’s really, really ridiculously good-looking.
…so young as he looked!—He could not have appeared to a greater advantage perhaps any where, than where he had placed himself. His tall, firm, upright figure, among the bulky forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men, was such as Emma felt must draw every body’s eyes; and excepting her own partner, there was not one among the whole row of young men who could be compared with him.
OK, I know I said he’s more than handsome, but let’s not discount how attracted Emma is to this boy next door. Physical chemistry is important after all. Tall! Firm! Upright! Hmm… She’s watching him from across a crowded room, and she just. can’t. help. herself.
Emma can make him smile—even when he doesn’t want to.
Whenever she caught his eye, she forced him to smile, but in general he was looking grave.
These two are too much. They’re dancing with different partners at a neighborhood soiree and making eyes at each other anyway. You can cut the genteel sexual tension with a knife. He’s not really having the best time—just dance with her already, Knightley!—but he sees Emma and can’t help but grin. Dying.
He’ll be honest with you.
‘Whom are you going to dance with?’ asked Mr. Knightley.
She hesitated a moment, and then replied, ‘With you, if you will ask me.’
‘Will you?’ said he, offering his hand.
‘Indeed I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.’
‘Brother and sister! no, indeed.’
Worried about being the little sister to the guy you’re crushing on? Don’t worry—Mr. Knightley doesn’t see you that way. And he’ll straight up tell you, just as he’s asking for a dance.
He proposes really well.
…the expression of his eyes overpower[s] her.
Have you ever been overpowered by someone’s eyes? Emma Woodhouse has. The guy that she’s known her entire life is finally professing his love to her—and asking for her hand in marriage. (Spoiler alert: she says yes.)
We would, too, Emma. We would too.
Kristen is a ninth-generation Texan with a taste for great margaritas and even better books. She manages her family’s Christmas tree farm (yes, really!) and writes about anything that strikes her fancy—namely, love and its many, frustrating intricacies. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an English & American Studies degree, which means she knows way too much about Ernest Hemingway and the Puritans. She’ll start writing a novel soon—just as soon as she finishes this cup of coffee. Promise.