No-one writes F***boys like Jane Austen

Jane Austen is often spoken about in the same breath as romance, 'gentlemen' and the supposedly enviable manners and etiquette of the society in which she lived. But when you read the books, there's actually nothing very enviable in the way most of the men act. A lot like nowadays really - or so you would think if, like me, you've been watching a lot of Love Island recently...

For every Mr. Darcy (who is also very far from the perfect man) there's a Wickham, for every lovely Mr. Tilney, there's an equally charming and much snake-ier Tilney endeavouring to break some girl's heart while his nice brother turns a blind eye. Jane Austen writes bad boys so well, because you can always understand why the girls fall for them, even if you can see they're bad news (or can you? Henry Crawford's still got a lot of fans on his team.) Our generation might lament that there are no gentlemen any more, but Jane Austen taught me that your common garden f***boy is not a new phenomenon. And she clearly knew one or two (I'm willing to bet that Tom Lefroy was more of a Willoughby than a Darcy, myself.) Here's a run down of her best villains, and just what makes them so  ̶a̶t̶t̶r̶a̶c̶t̶i̶v̶e̶  contemptible.

(Spoilers ahead!)

John Willoughby
(Sense and Sensibility)

"But he told you that he loved you?"
"Yes - no - never - absolutely. It was every day implied but never professedly declared. Sometimes I thought it had been - but it never was." 

Charm offensive: Gets on with your family, seems to share your interests, good bants. 
Memorable f***boy moment: Writing Marianne that cold, cold letter. Also seducing a fifteen year old and leaving her high and dry.

Willoughby is the absolute worst of the lot, in my opinion. Yes, we all feel a bit sorry for him when he's standing on that hill at the end of the film, watching 'the one who got away' marry another - but he brought it all on himself. He literally got a teenager pregnant, dumped his dream woman so his rich relatives wouldn't cut him off, and then tried to make out like it was all in Marianne's head. Oh, and later he blamed the new wife and bad-mouthed her to Elinor. But he still looked better in the rain than Colonel Brandon.

Frank Churchill

"- He has used everybody ill - and they are all delighted to forgive him. He is a fortunate man indeed!"

Charm offensive: Good flirting game, great at presents, he brings the party.
Memorable f***boy moment: His behaviour at Box hill, and to Jane in general.

Frank gets off so lightly. He treats Jane so badly when she loves him so much. He's seemingly her only hope of happiness (God forbid she should have to get a job) and yet he still tortures her needlessly - all that flirting with Emma is so unnecessary. Plus he could have hurt Emma too. Oh, and he neglects his poor dad. But, he's so charming, and it is kind of romantic when he buys the piano - if also totally stupid and thoughtless.

Mr. Elliot

She had been used before to feel that he could not be always quite sincere, but now she saw insincerity in everything.

Charm offensive: Acting all smooth and sensible, getting in with your friends and family.
Memorable f***boy moment: Seducing Mrs Clay while courting Anne - to make doubly sure he got the money.

Mr Elliot is the only one of Austen's bad boys who is actually not at all attractive. The reserved, cool, calculating thing is in a very different style to Wickham and Willoughby's lively charm - but you can still kind of see why Anne is almost swayed. He's clever and appears sensible and pleasant and just a decent human being. Shame he's actually such a creep. When I first read Persuasion I thought he was just going to turn out to be a nice guy who needed letting down gently, but his level of scheming is on another level. There's something more threatening about him than the others too - you get the feeling that if he had got the girl he really would have made her very unhappy.

George Wickham
(Pride and Prejudice)

"He simpers and smirks, and makes love to us all." 

Charm offensive: Good craic, makes you feel special, slags off the people you hate.
Memorable f***boy moment: Still trying the same old lines with Elizabeth after the Lydia fiasco. Bad-mouthing his ex (Georgianna) to his new girl, seducing a fifteen year old and attempting to leave her high and dry.

Is it bad that I still love Wickham? He is just so shameless. So he tried to run off with lovely, shy Georgiana for her money. He tried to do the same to Miss King and he had no regrets whatsoever about almost ruining Lydia's life. He slanders Darcy all over town, manipulates everyone he meets, he's a gambler, a womanizer, cheats people out of money, and when the truth comes out you can see just how thin his charming veneer was. But... yeah there's no excuse for still liking him. I do love the bit where he comes back to Longbourne though.

Frederick Tilney
(Northanger Abbey)

"Then you do not suppose he ever really cared about her?" 
"I am persuaded that he never did."
"And only made believe to do so for mischief's sake?"
Henry Bowed his assent. 

Charm offensive: Regimentals, mystery and shamless-ness.
Memorable f***boy moment: Going after the engaged Isabella - then dropping her the minute she breaks it off with her fiancee.

Frederick Tilney is your standard regency rake, and seemingly the only one of his father's children to have inherited that unpleasant streak. His siblings' attitudes towards him seem to be an eye-roll and a "you know what he's like" but he really is a piece of work. Isabella doesn't take much chasing, and maybe he hurts her pride and her reputation rather than her heart - but still. 

Henry Crawford
(Mansfield Park)

"I never was so long in company with a girl in my life - trying to entertain her - and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looks so grave on me! I must try to get the better of this. Her looks say 'I will not like you, I am determined not to like you'  and I say, she shall."

Charm offensive: Making an effort to find out what makes you tick, not being put off by your embarrassing family, persistence.
Memorable f***boy moment: When he's so close to getting the girl he wants - then blows it for the easy option.

Ah Henry Crawford. The love interest with so much potential, and the one we all make the most excuses for. Yes, it all started as a game, but he fell in love with little Miss Price and doesn't that show some good in him? Isn't it nice how he is non-judgemental of her poor family in Portsmouth and how he's prepared to marry her when he could have had any wealthy heiress he set his mind to? But actually, he acts more scandalously than any of the other antagonists. Running away with a respectable, newly married woman!! And for what? Because he was tired of the chase? Because he was flattered by Maria's attentions even now she was married? Who knows. All we know was that he was prepared to ruin Maria's life and throw away his (perceived) chance with Fanny Price for, presumably, some meaningless sex. Men, eh?

Who's your favourite Jane Austen villain? 


  1. I have to say I completely disagree that Frank Churchill is an f-boy/villain. He's a jerk, yes, but compared to the true villains who seduce underage girls or probably have (Crawford), he's a saint.

    Also, Captain Tilney doesn't seduce Isabella in the book, the movie is far dirtier than the novel. He's barely in the book, and he's just flirting and she's money hunting, they were both awful. That is why Henry doesn't think much of it, he can see the reality of Isabella while Catherine can't.

    Willoughby, Wickham, W. Elliot, and Crawford are the true villains. Willoughby seems to be the most human, less narcissistic one, he did care for Marianne in his selfish way, he didn't abondon the first girl in the way the (biased) Brandon told. The latter three are irredeemable in my opinion.

    Elliot was mainly after money, I don't think he was a danger to young women, he was just rather soullessly mercenary. Wickham was a threat only to stupid or self-deceived women.

    Crawford is just dangerous overall. Because he's the type that fools smart women, I'd call him the true regency rake which is probably why he has a fan club. However, if I'd fall for a rake, I take one from my preferred Heyer novels, lol.

    1. Haha i really need to read some more Georgette Heyer! Going to disagree about Willoghby - he did seduce that kid and not care that she got pregnant which was like the end of the world then and would be pretty shocking now anyway - don't fall for his nonsense! lol. I guess you're right about Frank though, relatively he's not that bad - but i'm not his biggest fan. Tilney didn't sleep with Isabella in the book, no, and she wasn't personally hurt by it - but i bet a lot of girls were - Henry definitely gives the impression he's a serial offender! I don't really blame Henry though, not really anything he can do about it lol

    2. Oh, I think what Willoughby did was awful, criminal even, now anyway, I just thought he showed more glimmerings of guilt or at least some admittance of wrong-doing, at least with Marianne than did Wickham. After all, Lydia's family could and did buy Wickham off (unlike in Eliza's case), he'd left her high and dry and wouldn't have cared a bit, no address, no nothing. Nor do I think he was capable of any feeling close to love, unlike Willoughby. I think Willoughby was bad, while Wickham and the others closer to psycho/sociopathic/narcissistic, those without capacity for conscience. And Willoughy felt some punishment for his actions while Wickham did not, so that could bias me a bit.

      I don't want to think Henry Tilney would've stood by in silence had his brother done anything worse. I just think in this case he felt the situation was tit for tat.

    3. Yeah, maybe - I'd like to think Mr. Tilney would've intervened! Did Willoughby feel bad though? I never felt like he felt bad for Eliza, or even sorry for the way he treated Marianne. Just sorry for himself and blaming other people for his mistakes. Agreed Wickham's more of a sociopath haha, and Willoughby probably tells himself he's a good person - I'm just not buying it!

  2. This is fantastic! I have not read any Austen, but I am well acquainted with F-boys. I had great time reading this.

    1. Thanks! I had fun writing it to be honest!

  3. Love this post! I took an instant dislike to Henry Crawford, both Crawford siblings, actually, lol, and hoped Fanny wouldn't fall for him and his charms, lol.

    1. Thank you! I quite like Mary...but I'm still always glad when Edmund comes to his senses.

  4. I absolutely love this post! It's been a while since I laughed this much. All very good points and you are 100%. Jane Austin must have known a fair few f**kboys to write them as well as she did!

    1. Thanks! Great to know it made you laugh :D I definitely think she knew a few

  5. I love this post so much. I agree with you on everything expect likely Wickham but I do got to admit he has no shame about anything. He would laugh off anything he has done to the the people he has done it too. Mr. Elliot I liked in the beginning until I learned his game and was he is evil and cruel and really good. He almost had me.

    1. I know what you mean about Mr Elliot - i didn't like him but wasn't expecting him to be so bad! Thanks!

  6. I sometimes think that Henry was modeled a bit after her favorite brother of the same name.

    1. Ooh maybe - the relationship between Henry and Eleanor feels very real, i could believe that!

  7. I'll confess that the only Austen I've read is Pride & Prejudice. But reading this, I can definitely see your points about the type men Austen writes!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. There's always a bad boy aswell as a hero haha - she's definitely got the measure of them i think!


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