Austen at Large: Oh Henry! What a good Valentine

Henry Tilney Valentine 

Henry Tilney would be a wonderful Valentine I believe. Not to endorse the completely commercialized holiday but I do want to take this chance to talk about one of my favorite men in Jane Austen’s works. Henry Tilney is delightful from the first time we meet him in Northanger Abbey. He is a dutiful bother which I think says more about his character than almost anything else. He is a reader and an intelligent man. Henry also has a wonderful sense of humor and though he seems to be picking on Catherine and teasing her I think it very believable and endearing. Henry Tilney is the type of young man that many girls want to meet. He is handsome, clever, loyal and funny, an all around great nice guy!

Many girls in my class have been swooning over Mr. Tilney and one of his best qualities seems to be his attentions to his sister. Now by today’s standards he might be considered to be a little meterosexual but Mrs. Allen is very taken in by his knowledge of muslin. He is very attentive to his sister and we can suspect that he is Elanor’s only support in her difficult family. My mother always say that, “you can tell how a man will treat his wife by how he treats his mother“. Since the Tilneys mother has died some years ago, we can now look at how he treats his sister. He is a dutiful, and entertaining brother by all accounts. He goes walking with Eleanor almost every morning, thus showing his commitment. I am sure a young man in Bath can find other things to do for many mornings but he wants and does go walking with his sister.

One of the most appealing things to me about Mr. Tilney is that he is a reader and not ashamed of it! Mr. Tilney can hold conversations about countless books and even novels! I think that Henry Tilney defending novels is one of the cutest parts of the novel. Henry says,

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days – my hair standing on end the whole time.””Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me.”

I can just Henry reading it aloud, with pure enjoyment. He would not take it to seriously or write it off as silly nonsense. He is thoughtful yet not didactic. Henry shows good judgment in is praise of novels (since he is a character in one!).

One aspect of Henry’s personality which I find to be charming, yet that others have criticized, is his sense of humor and his teasing of Catherine. Ok, so admit I am not exactly the type of girl who likes to be teased, but Catherine doesn’t always know when he is being serious and when he is joking and yet she is still enamored with him. If Catherine doesn’t mind the teasing, which she doesn’t in the end because she ends up marrying him, then I don’t either! He is also jealous of Catherine talking to Mr. Thorpe and I would not have pegged Mr. Tilney to be the jealous type but he is when Catherine’s attention is divided from him. Henry’s sense of humor shows his good nature, mild manners and that he is still young at heart.

Henry Tilney as ElvisWhen my friend and I were discussing Mr. Tilney we ended up concluding that Henry Tilney is one of those male leads that can make you giggly. He has a twinkle in his eye and a sense of fun which makes him so endearing to youth. We can see why Catherine likes him. He is also steadfast which I think Austen required in her true heroes. Though Mr. Tilney does do a lot of teasing and we can’t always tell what he is thinking, I think he would be a wonderful Valentine.

Till next time! We have begun reading Pride and Prejudice in class and I can’t wait to talk about it!

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.

6 thoughts on “Austen at Large: Oh Henry! What a good Valentine

  1. I have “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” on a tee. My sister had it screen-printed for me on Christmas, and I have to say it is my dropdown favorite quotes.

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  2. Henry Tilney is not just my favourite Austen hero, he’s my favourite fictional hero. Whenever anyone starts gushing about Edward Cullen, I ask them if they’ve read NA. Now there’s a wonderful man. And he doesn’t sparkle.

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  3. lol – just found this through an image search for tilney, and wanted to say thanks for a good laugh –
    great review of his character :) he has always been one of my fave austin men, and after the tradition of naming our soft toys after them in our sharehouse I recently named my new dugong after henry http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=29242213 . I know this post is from feb, but thanks anyway for reminding me how great he is. I might have to pull out NA and have another read :)

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  4. Great rewiew! And thanks for talking about him :) People always talk about Darcy, and when I say that I actually prefer Henry Tilney they look at me with a horrified expression xD But I couldn’t help falling in love with him since the first time he appeared in the novel. Such a funny and intelligent man <3

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