I’m currently immersed in Jane Austen’s Emma as I try to finish my current WIP, a 1970s adaptation of our beloved authoress’s fourth published novel. It’s daunting work, as the original contains intricacies of dialogue, characterization and plot that are simply genius, all done with a subtlety that’s hard to approximate. (I don’t think anyone can exactly emulate it.)
As I lingered over Emma, I gained a huge appreciation for Mr. Knightley, to the point I’m now book-boyfriend crushing on him. Mr. Darcy may be more famous—brooding, infuriating, teasing hunk of man that he is—and Wentworth writes the best letters (ever, in the history of the English language) but George Knightley has the corner on gentlemanly behavior, in my humble opinion. And he’s got this amazing house.
So, with that glowing recommendation I give you:
The 5 Best Things about Mr. Knightley
1. He tells it like it is.
Whether he’s talking about Frank Churchill (“Hum! Just the trifling, silly fellow I took him for.”), Mr. Elton (“…you would have chosen for him better than he has chosen for himself.”) or even his Emma (“Nonsensical girl!”) , he doesn’t pull any punches. Yet he’s not loud or belligerent about it. You can trust a man who’s that honest. You can really appreciate a man who’s that discreet.
2. He’s an excellent dancer.
But you’d never know it from his own mouth. He’s excellent at a lot of things, but he’s modest and confident enough to let his actions do the talking, unlike other gentlemen we know (cough, cough Frank Churchill.)
3. He genuinely cares about people.
From giving the last of his favorite apples to Miss Bates, to talking up Robert Martin to Harriet Smith, to visiting with hypochondriacal Mr. Woodhouse and socially isolated Emma, he’s just plain kind to others. Two hundred years have gone by, and that kindness has
never gone out of style.
4. He can shut up Mrs. Elton.
Consider this example:
“Oh, leave all that to me; only give me a carte blanche. I am Lady Patroness, you know. It is my party. I will bring friends with me.”
“I hope you will bring Elton, ” said he; “but I will not trouble you to give any other invitations.”
“Oh, now you are looking very sly; but consider—you need not be afraid of delegating power to me. I am no young lady on her preferment. Married women, you know, may be safely authorised. It is my party. Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests.”
“No, ” he calmly replied, “there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is —”
“Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.
“No—Mrs. Knightley; and till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.”
5. He loves Emma, warts and all.
He calls her “his dearest, most beloved” but accepts that she, like all of us, is a work-in-progress. His eyes are wide open, but that doesn’t diminish his regard for her. He believes in the possibility of her best self, forgives when she screws up and loves on.
What say you? Are you a Knightley fan? Does he have other endearing qualities I’ve forgotten? If he doesn’t burn your butter, why not?