Today we'll be looking at literature's Top Six Couples. I gave myself the stipulation that to be included in this list, they must be married before the book begins. Believe me, though I have a plethora of favorite love stories, finding couples already married was quite a stretch.
Oh, and if you're in the mood for some extra Valentine cheer, check out last year's series "Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?" (Parts 1, 2, and 3) and my review of It's (Not That) Complicated, by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin.
6.Duncan and Sarah. (Freckles, by Gene Stratton-Porter)
A hard-working Scottish couple who give Freckles room and board and family while he fights his fight with the Limberlost. Even though life is hard, they think the world of each other.
Duncan's arms closed convulsively around his wife. With a big, brown hand he lovingly stroked her rough sorrel hair.
"Sarah, you're a guid woman!" he said. "You're a michty guid woman! Ye hae a way o' speakin' out at times that's like the inspired prophets of the Lord. If that had been put to me, now, I'd 'a' felt all I kent how to and been keen enough to say the richt thing; but I'd 'a' stuttered and stammered and got naething out that would ha' done onybody a mite o' good. But ye, Sarah!...I wouldna trade ye an' my share o' the Limberlost with ony king ye could mention."
He relaxed his clasp, and setting a heavy hand on each shoulder, he looked straight into her eyes.
"Ye're prime, Sarah! Juist prime!" he said.
Sarah Duncan stood alone in the middle of her two-room log-cabin and lifted a bony, claw-like pair of hands, reddened by frequent immersion in hot water, cracked and chafed by exposure to cold, black-lined by constant battle with swamp-loam, calloused with burns, and stared at them wonderingly.
"Pretty lookin' things ye are!" she whispered. "But ye hae juist been kissed. And by such a man! Fine as God ever made at His verra best. Duncan wouldna trade wi' a king! Na! Nor I wadna trade with a queen wi' a palace, an' velvet gowns, an' diamonds big as hazel-nuts, an' a hundred visitors a day into the bargain."
5. Admiral and Mrs. Croft (Persuasion, by Jane Austen)
They have been around the world together on board ship, and are a fine example of life-long friendship.
"What glorious weather for the Admiral and my sister! They meant to take a long drive this morning; perhaps we may hail them from some of these hills. They talked of coming into this side of the country. I wonder whereabouts they will upset today. Oh! it does not happen very often, I assure you; but my sister makes nothing of it; she would as lieve be tossed out as not."
"Ah! you make the most of it, I know," cried Louisa; "but if it were really so, I should do just the same in her place. If I loved a man as she loves the Admiral, I would always be with him, nothing should ever separate us, and I would rather be overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else."
4. Sir and Lady Dedlock (Bleak House, by Charles Dickens)
The most fashionable couple in British society; but I doubt that Sir Leicester is fully aware of the test his love will undergo.
Sir Leicester is twenty years, full measure, older than my Lady. He will never see sixty-five again, nor perhaps sixty-six, nor yet sixty-seven. He has a twist of the gout now and then, and walks a little stiffly. He is of a worthy presence, with his light grey hair and whiskers, his fine shirt-frill, his pure white waistcoat, and his blue coat with bright buttons always buttoned. He is ceremonious, stately, most polite on every occasion to my Lady, and holds her personal attractions in the highest estimation. His gallantry to my Lady, which has never changed since he courted her, is the one little touch of romantic fancy in him.
Indeed, he married her for love. A whisper still goes about, that she had not even family; howbeit, Sir Leicester had so much family that perhaps he had enough, and could dispense with any more. But she had beauty, pride, ambition, insolent resolve, and sense enough to portion out a legion of fine ladies. Wealth and station, added to these, soon floated her upward and for years, now, my Lady Dedlock has been at the centre of the fashionable intelligence, and at the top of the fashionable tree.
3. Joe Gargery and Pip's sister (Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens)
A humble blacksmith and a woman 'given to government'.
"Whatever family opinions, or whatever the word's opinions, on that subject may be, Pip, your sister is," Joe tapped the top bar of the poker after every word following, "a--fine--figure--of--a--woman!"
I could think of nothing better to say than "I am glad you think so, Joe."
"So am I," returned Joe, catching me up. "I am glad I think so, Pip. A little redness, or a little matter of Bone, here or there, what does it signify to Me?"
I sagaciously observed that if it didn't signify to him, to whom did it signify?
[...] Joe stopped me. "Stop a bit. I know what you're going to say, Pip; stay a bit! I don't deny that she do throw us back-falls, and that she do drop down upon us heavy. At such times as when your sister is on the Ram-page, Pip," Joe sank his voice to a whisper and glanced at the door, "candour compels fur to admit that she is a Buster...And last of all, Pip--and this I want to say very serious to you, old chap--I see so much in my poor mother, of a woman drudging and slaving and breaking her honest hart and never getting no peace in her mortal days, that I'm dead afeerd of going wrong in the way of not doing what's right by a woman and I'd fur rather of the two go wrong the t'other way, and be a little ill-conwenienced myself. I wish it was only me that got put out, Pip; I wish there warn't no Tickler for you, old chap; I wish I could take it all on myself but this is the up-and-down-and-straight on it, Pip, and I hope you'll overlook shortcomings."
2. Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy)
It was nearly a year ago now that Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., one of the richest men in England, leader of all the fashions, and intimate friend of the Prince of Wales, had astonished fashionable society in London and Bath by bringing home, from one of his journeys abroad, a beautiful, fascinating, clever, French wife. He, the sleepiest, dullest, most British Britisher that had ever set a pretty woman yawning, had secured a brilliant matrimonial prize for which, as all chroniclers aver, there had been many competitors.
....Clever men, distinguished men, and even men of exalted station formed a perpetual and brilliant court round the fascinating young actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she glided through republican, revolutionary, bloodthirsty Paris like a shining comet with a trail behind her of all that was most distinguished, most interesting, in intellectual Europe.
Then the climax came. Some smiled indulgently and called it an artistic eccentricity, others looked upon it as a wise provision, in view of the many events which were crowding thick and fast in Paris just then, but to all, the real motive of that climax remained a puzzle and a mystery. Anyway, Marguerite St. Just married Sir Percy Blakeney one fine day, just like that, without any warning to her friends, without a soiree de contrat or diner de fiancailles or other appurtenances of a fashionable French wedding.
And by far the number one literary couple to provide witticisms for countless family dinner conversations:
1. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
"But it is," returned she; "for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it."
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
"Do you not want to know who has taken it?" cried his wife impatiently.
"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."
This was invitation enough.
"Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week."
"What is his name?"
"Is he married or single?"
"Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"
And thus we have my top six literary couples. Honorable mention also go to Mr. and Mrs. Plornish in Little Dorrit, and Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet from Bleak House ("Discipline must be maintained!"). Who are your favorite literary couples? I'd love to hear of them! (Remember, they have to be married before the book begins. ;)