Greatest Love Stories Of All Time

Emily Brontë hits the heights in poll to find greatest love story
Martin Wainwright
Friday August 10, 2007
The Guardian

The passionate romance that proved that ardour can survive Britain’s grimmest landscape and weather has beaten countless steamy successors in a poll of the greatest love stories of all time.

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, recounting the doomed affair between sweet Cathy Earnshaw and the brutal outsider Heathcliff, has seen off Shakespeare, Gone With the Wind and everything by Barbara Cartland in a survey which shows the lasting power of classic works.

Almost all the entries in the top 20 choices of 2,000 readers are major works of English literature, with Jane Austen pipping Shakespeare as runner-up and Emily’s sister Charlotte coming in fourth with Jane Eyre.”It’s really heartening to see how these stories, written so long ago, retain the power to captivate 21st century audiences,” said Richard Kingsbury, channel head of UKTV Drama, which commissioned the study.

“We find that romantic drama is a very powerful kind of escapism for our viewers, and well-made costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have an extra dimension to them. Viewers get caught up in the beauty and language of the period.”

The survey, marking the launch of a “summer of love” season of romantic drama on the channel, found that most readers wanted a decent slice of jealousy, sex and – for men – violence to add to the essential recipe of two people falling for one another. Within book covers, although not necessarily in real life, women readers overwhelmingly wanted a handsome man such as Darcy in Pride and Prejudice to sweep them off their feet.

Brooding was valued and arrogance also had its place, accounting in part for Heathcliff’s appeal.

Tears, missed heartbeats and almost-fatal misunderstandings also helped plots to win top ranking, although happy endings – summed up by Jane Eyre’s “Reader, I married him” – were considered essential. Forty per cent of women read romantic novels to feel better, 15% for nostalgic reasons and 10% to compensate for their own less highly-coloured love lives.

The top 20

1 Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë, 1847
2 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen, 1813
3 Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare, 1597
4 Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë, 1847
5 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell, 1936
6 The English Patient Michael Ondaatje, 1992
7 Rebecca Daphne du Maurier, 1938
8 Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak, 1957
9 Lady Chatterley’s Lover DH Lawrence, 1928
10 Far from The Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy, 1874
11 = My Fair Lady Alan Jay Lerner, 1956
The African Queen CS Forester, 1935
13 The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
14 Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen, 1811
15 = The Way We Were Arthur Laurents, 1972
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy, 1865
17 Frenchman’s Creek Daphne du Maurier, 1942
18 Persuasion Jane Austen, 1818
19 Take a Girl Like You Kingsley Amis, 1960
20 Daniel Deronda George Eliot, 1876

I can’t believe nothing more contemporary mainstream popular made the list! How about Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, or The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, just to name some off my head?


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