I was supposed to send this in to a Fully Booked contest, but I forgot. The Little Prince won, which hurts a bit because of…reasons and boys and boy-reasons.
But I still have this letter. And I hope you guys might like to hear a bit about why I love Henry Tilney.
My dearest, Henry,
Everyone chooses Darcy. Everyone swoons over brooding, stately, and passionate. And why shouldn’t they? Who doesn’t want to be the woman who unlocks that heart, that teaches that serious face to smile?
I don’t. I never did, Henry, not since you.
When I first picked up Northanger Abbey, as a teenager in high school discovering Austen post-Pride and Prejudice required reading, I knew I was a goner. I was–still am, though perhaps I might be a bit of Emma Woodhouse too–Catherine: nervous, a little socially-shy, looking for a friendly face, if not a friend. And there you were, laughing and smiling and cracking jokes and making silly comments, willing to make yourself look like a half-wit if only to put a girl at ease.
From the first dance in the pump room, I knew you were special. No, you have neither the austere, irresistible arrogance of Darcy nor the constancy and charming good-sense of Knightley (another favorite), but how many men really do? No, instead you were everything a girl needs in a literary hero: kind, charming, and real. You are far from ideal–you were hurt when Catherine seemed to ditch you for that prat Thorpe, and snubbed poor Miss Morland the next time you saw her–but that’s part of why you are so charming. You act like a real person would be expected to act, and thus, is it not too far-fetched to believe that a real Henry Tilney might exist?
Perhaps it is. The truth, after all, was never meant to be as strange as fiction. But Henry, I hope it isn’t. I hope there is someone willing to be patient with me when my imagination runs away. I hope there is someone willing to laugh instead of scold when I’m being ridiculous. Not that I would mind the scoldings, Henry, really! Because when you do tell Catherine she’s being foolish, your words are gentle. You are, first and foremost, a friend teaching a friend.
I think that’s something the world has lost in the mad shuffle for finding love, Henry. Too often we look for brooding passion or the grand gesture, but yours and Catherine’s story, as dramatic as the ending is, had a workaday beginning: a boy meets a girl, doesn’t like her (at first), but through conversation and shared interests and, above all, friendship…feelings take root and grow. Real feelings, founded on a real knowledge of the person, instead of an Udolpho (or, in modern terms, Fifty Shades) fantasy.
Henry, more than anything, you are an amazing friend. You’d be someone I’d trust to have in my corner, and I’d be so honored to be in yours. Good sense, intelligent conversation, friendship, and a few fun flights of fancy…what more might anyone ask for? What more might anyone need?
Thank you for being an unconventional hero in the way that Catherine is supposedly an unconventional heroine. Thank you for that workaday love, that friendship set on fire. Darcy, for all his wealth and pomp and splendor, could never hold a candle to your laugh.
A Roaming Tsinay