Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top Six Literary Couples

Photo Credit
Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to Valentines' Week. :) Whether or not you celebrate this most romantic of holidays, I thought it would be fun, in honor of the occasion, to highlight several romances, divided between today and Friday. (I won't forget, I promise.)

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. ;)

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Love this post:)!

    Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner from Pride and Prejudice come to mind as one of my favorite married literary couples. They hold that place because they were friendly, hospitable, not intimidated by wealth or position, willing to overlook human imperfections,willing to play the mediator, and through it all, keeping a sense of humor. They seemed to understand the times well, and even though they weren't the most famous or wealthy, they were pretty important.

    Another couple I really liked were Mr. and Mrs. Stanton from Laddie. They were also portrayed as exemplary in every way. I liked how she shared that she had basically grown up uneducated, but because of her husband reading aloud to the family, she became knowledgeable and grew in wisdom through that simple activity.

    A third couple would be Edwin Way Teale and his wife, Nellie. He was a naturalist and traveled all around the United States documenting the four seasons in nature. She was his companion and assistant during those travels. They had gone through much together--having lost their only child, a son, who fought in WW2.

    What a great question--it will definitely spark further thought!

    1. Oh, great couples! I find that Austen, Dickens, and Gene Stratton-Porter provided the majority of my list of people married before the book begins. They did a great job portraying love and faithfulness, and creating really endearing characters. :)

  2. Dear Lady B,
    Happy, happy, happy Valentines Day!!! <3 <3 <3
    I loved the literary couples you picked! Especially Joe and Mrs. Gargary. (Dear old fellow.) And Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney. I think Mr. and Mrs. Gardener in Pride and Prejudice would be a good couple, too. :D
    Excellent post!
    Love, Sister

    P.S. To bad Nehushta in Pearl Maiden wasn't married! ;) Maybe it's good she wasn't! ;) :D

    1. And Happy, happy Valentines' Day to you too, Junior B! ;)

      Nehushta would have made a most interesting married woman. :) I like Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner too!

      Love and cuddles,

  3. Hi Lady Bibliophile :)

    Other couples:

    1) Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre
    2) Miguel Strogoff and Nadia ("Miguel Strogoff by Julio Verne)

    I love that books!!

    I like very much your blog, I can write only a little english but I can to read and understand. (My original language is spanish)

    1. Hi Claudia! It was a real pleasure to have you stop by. :) I have enjoyed the stories of both couples you mentioned. Mr Rochester and Jane make a great couple. :)
      Wow! I can't believe that you've read "Miguel Strogoff"; I find that it's one of his lesser known works. I think I've read it once, and really enjoyed it. You might enjoy "Mathias Sandorf", which Verne wrote as well. :)

      Thanks for reading! I hope you continue to enjoy it.

      ~Lady B.

  4. Dear Lady B,
    Neat post! That was fun. :) Oh dear, Joe and Mrs. Gargery...Mr. & Mrs. Bennet...most entertaining!
    One married couple who came to my mind was Sandy and Mary M'Kethe from the Crown & Coventant Series; I loved them.
    Looking forward to Friday, to see the sequel post!

    P.S. I finished Hinds Feet on High Places a couple days ago!...and I loved it! I enjoyed your review of it, though I decided to wait until after I was done to read the part about Hannah Hurnard's life/beliefs - just so I could enjoy it fully. ;) I haven't gotten a chance a chance to go back to it yet, but I'll probably do that tomorrow. :)

    1. Great couple! Sandy and Mary M'Kethe, how could I forget them? :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed Hinds' Feet; I must say, Hurnard's beliefs threw me for a loop when I discovered them, but at least she was still biblically sound when she wrote Hinds' Feet. :)

      I'm looking forward to Friday's post too. ;) I've written it down so I don't go off on a rabbit trail like I did last Tuesday. :)


  5. Oh, what a fun, fun post!

    My favourite literary marrieds would certainly include:
    Sir Richard and Lady Mary Hannay from The Three Hostages, in which Mary Hannay follows her man to London in order to look for the hostages, and he doesn’t find out until he stumbles across her in a seedy nightclub, “raddled like a geisha”, dancing with a young friend of his…and comes immediately to the correct conclusion, that she is there on a little detective work. Buchan wrote such delightfully single-minded married couples. I’m also fond of the Roylances.

    Mr and Mrs Bagnet from Bleak House would certainly make the list!

    From Jane Austen, Admiral and Mrs Croft are difficult to beat, but Mr and Mrs Gardiner are also great—a little sanity in the middle of Pride and Prejudice.

    Innocent Smith and his red-headed wife from GK Chesterton’s Manalive are one of the most original married couples you’ll ever meet—they are constantly re-enacting their courtship, and continually elope with each other under the most romantic circumstances!

    I do wish more people would write about married couples having adventures. I think that modern authors do this a bit more, in fact! ND Wilson usually has a strong married couple in his books. In the 100 Cupboards series, you have Henrys Uncle Frank and Aunt Dot, who turn out to know far more about the mysterious fantasy lands in the attic than Henry himself does.

    There’s a sci-fi author whom I greatly and rather guiltily enjoy reading who loves writing strong married couples, like the super-super scientist and his wife/sidekick who at one point, while navigating their super-super-spaceship through the centre of the Sun, upload copies of themselves to the ship’s computer in order to finish an argument they didn’t have time to finish personally, while they worked on the impending solar crisis!

    I must add as a Calvinist that, if Hurnard turned out later on to be not a Christian at all, then how biblically sound could she have been when writing Hinds' Feet? 1 John 2:19.

  6. "Until he stumbles across her in a seedy nightclub, “raddled like a geisha”, dancing with a young friend of his…and comes immediately to the correct conclusion, that she is there on a little detective work." YES! Loved the fact that Hannay was a good fellow about it; I haven't read that story in years. Buchan wrote good romance with them, something that I'm taking pointers from. I get so sick of trilogies where the couple falls in love in the first book, fights all through the second, and repeats the cycle with the next generation in the third, so it's nice to be reminded of couples who were congenial.

    Guilty pleasures, eh? I have one that I've been toying with posting for a while, but I'll have to see. :)

    Good point on Hurnard. However, she wrote the book before she had fallen into error. There were many fellow missionaries with Paul that labored to preach the gospel, and then later fell away, but that didn't falsify the gospel itself. Paul spoke of messengers who were preaching the gospel from false motives, and in essence, said that the most important thing was that the gospel was preached, whether or not the messenger was genuine.(Phil 1:18) I don't know if Hurnard was completely sound when writing Hind's Feet, but much of it checks out with Scripture, on my first read. Perhaps when I go through it again I'll find more. :)


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