As a proud feminist, it sometimes worries me that the bloke at the top of my literary ‘free pass’ list would be Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy – the grumpy young man who falls in love with the feisty Elizabeth in Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride & Prejudice. Surly and snappy, even on a good day, you’d be looking at a lifetime of passive aggressive battles over how to properly stack the dishwasher. His Tinder profile would say ‘aloof and disagreeable’, but I’d hardly be the only one swiping right if this legendary love interest was looking for a lady.
Hovering between misunderstood and just plain arrogant, there’d be no flowers and candle lit dinners with Austen’s most adored leading man. Sure, he’s wealthy, but you’d need the money to pay for therapy when he didn’t text you back for 3 weeks because he was too busy being enigmatic. And yet – there’s just something about Darcy!
Of course it’s not necessarily Darcy himself who gets us middle aged mums all hot and bothered – it’s his various screen incarnations that have placed him firmly at the top of literature’s most eligible bachelor list.
Colin Firth, for example, has made a career of uttering little but saying everything with a meaningful, lingering close up. The mid ‘90s mini series version of Darcy put Firth on the map, and brought Jane Austen’s world crashing back into popular culture. TV P & P included a wet t-shirt contest the New York Times called “one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history” (Google it. You won’t regret it.).
The production sent membership of the various Jane Austen Societies through the roof and made reissued editions the must-read book club titles of the year. It also spawned Bridget Jones’ Diary – a ‘chick lit’ reboot of Austen’s original. In the film version Firth plays (wait for it) Mr Darcy.
10 years later, women everywhere had to fan themselves and put aside their needlepoint to come to terms with the thought of a new Darcy for a major 2005 film version. Matthew Macfadyen bravely stepped into Colin Firth’s shirt shoes, with Keira Knightly by his side. It was an adequate but less iconic turn; I personally wasn’t a fan. But once again it brought this remarkably timeless romance back into the limelight. (I should note that Macfadyen would later give an outstanding performance in Ripper Street and win back my heart despite my initial reservations. How very Austen-esque of him.)
200 years of Austen
And so we find ourselves on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and Mr Darcy is STILL front and centre of the celebrations. Take a look at this tabloid treat, for example, in which Austen bio author Wal Walker posits that lovely Jane once had a bodice ripping dalliance with a surgeon named D’Arcy Wentworth. Wentworth ended up down under on the Second Fleet (the cad), and Austen named her hero in his honour (allegedly).
But with Wentworth then in his 20s and Austen around 14, the president of the Australian Jane Austen Society is quick to preserve Jane’s purity. “She was the daughter of a parson. Getting a wedding ring on the finger came first,” she states. This new biography could be bringing exciting revelations to light about a woman known more for her literature than her life – or it could be a shameless Aussie opportunity to claim Darcy for our own, like Crowded House and Crowe before him. Either way, it’s just one of many tributes, exhibitions, reprints and celebrations we’ll see around the world in 2017 – and I welcome them all!
This impressive woman wrote 7 internationally loved novels, along with plentiful poems and short stories. She died at the tragically young age of 41 – on 18th July 1817 – possibly of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I was privileged to view some of Austen’s first edition publications and handwritten manuscripts when I worked at the British Library. Since 1817, P & P – along with Austen’s other titles – have been republished countless times. Check out this article for some lush P & P cover art down the years. And go here for a gorgeous children’s book version about Darcy the duck!
Buy beautiful Austen-esque treats at BookGeek
Now – are you ready to join the celebration of a literary life?
I’m working with BookGeek to help bring a little Darcy into your days. Visit the website to view a stunning collection of jewellery, stationery and more with a Jane Austen vibe.
During July, get 25% off any item in the Jane Austen collection by using the code JA25.
And don’t be all moody and introverted – drop back here are tell me what you bought!
Click here and use the code at checkout…
Note, this is not a sponsored post – I’m just jumping on the Austen 200 bandwagon. Plus, I’m quite likely to do some shopping, cos I really need more bookish STUFF in my life!