This has been running through my head some little while, and finally the 'love that dare not speak its name' must be brought into daylight.
It's the er... crush on literary characters. Everyone's had them. I don't know a single female who's never had a crush on some of the populist ones : Mr Darcy, for example. Everyone has them. But... we never speak of them. Or if we do, it's with an uneasy nod to actors rather than the characters. Because whilst lusting after actors is permissible (they're real, tangible people, after all) it often meets with strange looks if one casually mentions the fact you prefer the book Mr Darcy to say, Colin Firth. Or the awful posturing of Matthew Macfayden in the film with Keira Knightley.
So! Here's a list of some of the weird, wonderful crushes that book-obsessed little girls can have, in no particlular order:
Brian de Bois-Gilbert, Ivanhoe:In the thinking, reasoning nineteen-year old self I posess now, I would rather chew off my own foot than ever develop a passion for a lying, treacherous, kidnapping, and generally bad, BAD man of a Knight Templar merely because the hero was boring as ditchwater, but my wide eyed eleven-year old self didn't think so. I mean, he was smouldering. Even when betraying Richard the Lionheart and carrying off fair maidens across his saddle.... I mean, wow. Seriously wow at the time. Plus he had a "tragic" reason for being a pillaging heartless murderer. It took my small pretty little fairytale images of knights and made them into medieval smouldering bad boys. Sir Walter Scott always wrote amazingly good villains and then gives us the most insipid heroes to feel sympathy for. If anyone can track down the TV series on DVD (which I have on VHS) it's well worth your while for lovely Crusade goodness. Alas, the DVD version is Region One, so I'd have to order it from America.
Brian de Bois-Gilbert probably started off my predilection for dark smouldering Byronic heroes, because I moved on to...
Mr Rochester, Jane Eyre:
Yes, I know - this is technically populist. But I've not yet seen a television adaptation that lived up to Mr Rochester yet. Toby Stephens was pretty close (and the 2006 version had a convincing solution to the problem of the gypsy woman disguise! Anyone who's seen the 1983 BBC version will know what I mean - it takes more than Timothy Dalton cackling in a shawl, that's for sure).
And none of the films have got it right. Ever. So as yet, the perfect Mr Rochester stays inside my head. I never quite got into Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, though. Sure, he's tragic, but hold the mindless brutality, please. I like a thinking hero.
Er...The Monster, Frankenstein:
Based purely on an Angela Barrett illustration for a children's book on Mary Shelley, Through The Tempests Dark and Wild (Angela Barrett is my illustrator's God. Seriously. A long while ago when I was a wobbly six-year old she illustrated a children's version of Marie de France - and there's a pale, fair-haired maiden on the front who just coincidentally faintly resembles Mirrum...) But here it is! The Monster, in all its wild, lonely glory, meeting it's true, sympathetic creator on a lightning-riven mountainside. The fics that would stream from this single image! The poetry! The drama! the poignancy of it all! It's not Birs Karloff hamming it up for the 1930s - it's a genuinely moving image, and far truer to the book's description than any adaptation yet.
Stephen Maturin, The Patrick O Brien series.
My dad read a Patrick O Brien every summer when we went on holiday during my childhood until the books ran out. I wish I had his stamina - I tried, truly I did. But good old Jack Aubrey and belaying and avasting the mainmast staysails often got the better of me as a child. But, in between skipping confusedly to the front page to stare at the ship diagram on the front page, and trying to decipher what on earth the foc'sle was, I delighted in reading the coherent passages about Stephen Maturin. Paul Bettany wasn't quite how I imagined him, but the strength of the role - and the film , although Russell Crowe isn't quite my Jack Aubrey - persuaded me to try them again.
I'm still all at sea (pardon the pun). Perhaps one day a flash of illumination will descend and I'll be able to talk salt sea-dogisms with the best of them. One day...
Mr Tilney, Northanger Abbey:
The nicest Regency gentleman I ever met in fiction! Becuase, let's face it - whilst like every swooning fan I had hopes to be an Elizabeth Bennett - I can't get rid of the nagging suspicion Mr Darcy would let out a contemptuous snort and walk away upon sight of me. I have the ghost of a thought I'm a Mary Bennett earnestly bent over the tweinty-first century equivalent of Fordyce's Sermons. Edward Ferrars? Too weak-minded. Colonel Brandon? Not likely to fall for my girlish naivete. Although Captain Wentworth could be added to my collection of nautical gentlemen. And I always detested Fanny in Mansfield Park. She's too simpering. But Mr Tilney - he's kind, has a pleasant sense of humour - enjoys teasing Catherine Moreland for her ghoulish fascination in a mocking but gentle way, delightfully level-headed when it comes to it, and an all-round pleasant gentleman who comes to the aid of embarassed females in Bath assembly rooms. Wet shirts and Darcy be damned - Tilney's the man for me.