In asking which was the real Mr. Darcy, I’m not talking about the thousands of Mr. Darcy’s in JAFF. Nor am I talking about the many men who have played Mr. Darcy in television and movies. I’m talking about the unknown Mr. Darcy from First Impressions (1797) versus the Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (1813).
Of course, the former, whom I’ll call Darcy 1.0, is totally unknown. It’s too bad Jane Austen’s original manuscript doesn’t exist. The latter, Darcy 2.0, is subject to more analysis than would fit in fifty blog posts. I just read the Wikipedia article on him, which I hope someone goes in and changes, because on the date I’m writing this (5/1/2017), in the section called “Analysis” there is a lot of talk about a heroine with a last name of “Bennett,” which makes me suspect whoever wrote it was not an expert.
Most of us have seen the Mr. Darcy posited recently (in the New York Times, among other places). I’m not going to touch on other features, but I will look at the hairstyle.
This image of Mr. Darcy goes well with Darcy 1.0. After all, contemporaries of him include William Pitt the Younger[i] shown below.
We also have Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson[ii] below.
These famous contemporaries of Darcy 1.0 are consistent with the Mr. Darcy picture presented. If First Impressions had been finalized and published in 1797, the above images would be consistent with how the gentlemen in the story would look.
As we all know, that was not to be. First Impressions was revised into Pride and Prejudice, and published in 1813. Men’s fashions had altered greatly in the intervening years. Looking at some people of the time of Darcy 2.0 we get:
Beau Brummell[iv], who was very famous and very fashionable. Actually, he was famous for being fashionable.
Spencer Percival, the British Prime Minister in 1812[v].
And of course, we cannot forget George IV, while he was the Prince Regent[vi].
Jane Austen was an intelligent woman who certainly changed some of her ideas between her early twenties and late thirties. It would not be surprising to think that her idea of male attractiveness also changed. Even if it didn’t, she was clever enough to describe Darcy as follows:
“Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.”
Trust Jane Austen to mention his income, but not the color of his hair or eyes.
Anyone who has read the cancelled chapter of Persuasion[vii] knows Jane Austen rewrote and improved her works. It would not be surprising to find that she changed her idea of what Darcy looked like. The Darcy I’ve come to admire is Darcy 2.0. I think I am very justified in thinking of Darcy as looking more like some of the actors who portrayed him than the white-haired man in blue, and am quite content to keep thinking of him that way.
[i] By William_Pitt_the_Younger_2.jpg: Gainsborough Dupontderivative work: BartBassist – William_Pitt_the_Younger_2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16137586
[ii] By Lemuel Francis Abbott – National Maritime Museum website:Embedding web page: http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/nelson/viewRepro.cfm?reproID=BHC2889Image: http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/images/560/BHC/28/BHC2889.jpgFull catalogue record: http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/nelson/viewObject.cfm?ID=BHC2889The painting was published as early as 1898 in: Sladen, Douglas (1898). “The Nelson Centenary”. The Magazine of Art 22: p. 530. London, Paris, New York & Melbourne: Cassell and Company. Retrieved on 2010-01-15., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2833419
[iii] Wellington painted in 1812-1814
By Francisco Goya – National Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12084920
[iv] By Robert Dighton – Color version scanned from Priestley’s The Prince of Pleasure by H. Churchyard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=205387
[v] By George Francis Joseph – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8016645
[vi] By Thomas Lawrence – Scanned from the book The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson, ISBN 1855142287., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6639774