He may be prone to moodiness and lacking in good looks but Mr Rochester, the Byronic hero of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre, has been named the most romantic literary character in history.

Rochester, the novel’s lead male character, who employs the orphaned Jane as a governess for his young ward, came top in the Mills & Boon poll, followed by Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Rochester, whose appearance is described as being “more remarkable for character than beauty”, proposes to Jane despite her lower social rank but their relationship ends when she discovers he is already married at their wedding ceremony.

The pair are reunited at the end of the novel following the death of Rochester’s wife and after Jane has acquired both family and fortune.

Andrew McCarthy, director of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, said: “I’m really glad it was a Bronte character who won as opposed to an Austen character. I always find Austen’s characters quite irritating and I think those created by the Brontes, like Mr Rochester and Heathcliff, are more romantic as they are very literary and steeped in Byron.”

A tutor named Constantin Hager, whom Charlotte fell in love with while studying in Brussels in 1842, may have provided her with the inspiration for Mr Rochester, he said.

Mr McCarthy added: “You can’t help but think there’s something of Mr Hager in Rochester but as with any of the Brontes’ Byronic heroes they are more literary constructs and are based on previous literary characters they had read about as much as any real-life characters they had encountered.”

When Jane returns to Rochester at the end of the novel she finds he has lost his sight in a fire caused by his mentally-ill wife.

The museum currently has a pair of glasses and a medicine book on display, which belonged to Charlotte’s father, Patrick Bronte, who she accompanied to Manchester where he underwent cataract surgery without anaesthetic.

Mr McCarthy said: “I sometimes wonder whether there’s a bit of Patrick Bronte in Rochester. It could be that something she experienced with her father went into the book as well.”

e-mail: hannah.baker @telegraphandargus.co.uk