You might be forgiven for thinking that we Anti-Room ladies are obsessed with childish crushes. We’ve talked about the shameful crush (nothing, absolutely nothing, will beat my friend J’s childhood love for Paul Daniels). We’ve talked about role-dependent crushes (hello, Don Draper!).
And now, my friends, we’re going to talk about one of the most mysterious crushes of all – the literary fictional character crush. This is a crush on a man or woman we have never seen, apart from in our own fevered imagination. There are the obvious ones for those who fancy boys – Darcy and Mr Rochester, although I have to admit that those arrogant, obnoxious blokes never did anything for me. Although it’s not like my literary crushes are anything to boast about, as you can see below. Nor do they resemble, in any way, the men I have actually gone out with (and indeed married) in real life, who have been cute boys in bands who made me laugh. But in fiction, it’s apparently another story. Very mysterious…*
Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I’m re-reading A Tale of Two Cities at the moment, and remembering one of my greatest teenage fictional crushes, Sydney Carton. For those unfamiliar with the (excellent) novel, it’s set around the time of the French Revolution in both London and Paris (the, um, two cities of the title), and Mr Carton is a debauched, drunken, moody, tortured lawyer who is also incredibly noble when it really counts. He is, in fact the ultimate Tormented Boy (tm Sassy magazine circa 1993). I was 14 the last time I read this book, and fell madly in love with Carton and his habit of standing around moodily, despised by all, who are ignorant of the true nobility of his nature. Needless to say, I wept buckets at the “It is a far, far better thing that I do now…” bit. To my immense surprise (and despite the fact that, unlike when I was 14 and had never even kissed a boy, I now know that tormented surly drunken boys are usually not secretly noble and are actually just arseholes), he is having the same effect on me now that he did nearly 20 years ago. Stay away from that boring Lucie Manette, Sydney! She’s not worth it! Sigh.
Sebastian from Lorna Hill’s Sadler’s Wells books.
I know I was not alone in my 13-year-old love for Sebastian, the eccentric, charismatic and witty musical genius who befriends and later falls in love with future prima ballerina Veronica. Mere words can’t describe how much I adored these books when I was 12 or 13, but although I still find them extremely entertaining now, Sebastian himself is, alas, a bit of a smug, arrogant arse. I can remember why I worshiped him once but now, nstead of loving him, I find him a little bit irritating.Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
Lord Peter Wimsey.
Oh, Lord Peter, hero of Dorothy L. Sayers’s wonderful crime novels, how I still love you. There are so many appealing things about you. Your silly, dandy-ish appearance and manner that conceals your razor-sharp brain. Your recovery from shellshock after your valiant service in the trenches. The way that you triumphantly solve crimes but are traumatised by the fact that you are sending a criminal to the gallows (you don’t get Poirot giving a toss about that, do you?). And of couse, the fact that you marry a sassy feminist novelist and, we are told quite clearly, are very good in bed. Alas, in your two major screen incarnations you were played by the profoundly unsexy and frankly irritating Ian Carmichael and the less irritating but still not exactly foxy Edward Petherbridge (Harriet Walter, on the other hand, made the most perfect Harriet Vane imaginable). Nothing can top the version of you in your fans’ imaginations – it’s not surprising that you were voted one of the top three most attractive fictional heroes by Radio 4 listeners. Oddly enough, however, my favourite Sayers book, Gaudy Night, barely features Lord Peter at all, but it is all about Harriet, who totally rocks.
So ladies and gentlemen, what about you? What fictional fantasies float your collective boat?
*I must admit to having a soft spot for Henry Tilney in the wonderful Northanger Abbey, who is indeed funny and charming and, much as I love her, the only Jane Austen hero I’ve ever found attractive.