Mr. Darcy as Prince Charming? Not Exactly

There’s this notion floating around that Fitzwilliam Darcy is a fantasy, a real Prince Charming. I find that interesting.

Like many a woman, I love Mr. Darcy dearly. He is one of my all-time favorite fictional guys, and I don’t blame Lizzy for falling for him. He’s intelligent, honorable, loyal and has a sense of humor, even if he often hides it. And he loves Elizabeth Bennet with every ounce of his being.

But much of Mr. Darcy’s appeal for me lies largely in the fact that he is not a fantasy. Yes, he’s tall, handsome and worth a fortune, but that is not why Lizzy falls in love with him. In demeanor, personality and social skills (or more accurately, lack of social skills), he’s a very real guy with plenty of flaws. You just know that Jane Austen knew more than a couple of men like that. We all know guys like that: good, loyal men who bottle up their emotions and who couldn’t make small talk if their lives depended on it.

Mr. Darcy is aloof, arrogant and exceptionally rude the first time Elizabeth meets him. He represses his emotions to the point that Lizzy is shocked to hear that he is in love with her. His idea of a marriage proposal is to belittle his would-be fiancee’s family, explain just how low he’s stooping in marrying her, and then act surprised that she feels insulted by his honesty. Way to go, Darcy.

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Pride Gone with the Wind

The budget was tight (there was  a war on, after all) and legend has it that many of the costumes were borrowed from the previous year’s “Gone with the Wind.” The studio favored Clark Gable for the male lead, and Vivien Leigh was in the running, at least briefly, to play Elizabeth Bennet, though Greer Garson got the role.

Yes, it’s Longbourn meets Tara, better known as the 1940 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” Fortunately, Rhett Butler does not re-materialize as Mr. Darcy—the role went to Laurence Olivier—though Vivien “Miz Scarlett!” Leigh might well have made quite a feisty and lively Lizzy.

Somehow I had escaped seeing the 1940 movie of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel until recently. My first inclination was to laugh at the costumes. At any moment, I expected Lizzy Bennet to tear down the draperies to make a dress. My second inclination was to cringe at what MGM had done to Austen’s marvelous love story. While they kept much of her dialogue, they threw out some of the best lines, and dulled her sharp, sometimes caustic wit with a typically syrupy Hollywood story.

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How Rich Is Mr. Darcy?

Just how wealthy is Mr. Darcy?

He was earning £10,000 in, let’s say, 1811-1812, the time when Pride and Prejudice is set. The relative worth of yesterday’s money to today’s currency varies greatly depending on how you measure it, but if you use average earnings (that is, how much he made compared with average incomes of his time), a gent earning £10,000 in 1830, the farthest back the index goes, would be earning nearly £8 million (about $11 million U.S.) annually.

But there was a much wider gap between rich and poor and not much of a middle class back then, so retail price index (that is, the purchasing power of his income) is probably a better indicator. By that standard, Mr. Darcy would be earning about £534,000 pounds ($790,000 U.S.) annually (according to Measuring Worth). Well, probably less than that at the moment, with the world’s economy in dire straits.
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‘Lost in Austen’ DVD Finally Arrives

Lost in Austen's Mr. Darcy, portrayed by Eliot Cowan

Lost in Austen’s Mr. Darcy, portrayed by Elliot Cowan

A couple of weeks ago, “Lost in Austen” finally came out on DVD in the United States. Those of us who delight in this marvelously twisted take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice couldn’t be happier.

This sharply written four-part series, which originally aired on British TV, then on the Oxygen channel (and PBS) here, revolves around what happens when a modern woman, Amanda Price (excellently portrayed by Jemima Rooper), finds herself transported into fictional Georgian England, right into the heart of Jane Austen’s most famous novel. As Amanda tries to negotiate the intricacies of early 19th century dancing, dining and etiquette, Lizzy Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, is living it up in 21st century London and shows no signs of wanting to come back.

Like many women, Amanda loves Pride and Prejudice for its timeless love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Then she meets the famous Fitzwilliam Darcy, who bitterly disappoints her by being a “relentlessly unpleasant,” overly arrogant aristocrat. Ah, but we knew that, didn’t we? Elliot Cowan excels as Darcy. He’s proud and overbearing, then contrite, and finally passionate. And he looks really, really good in a wet shirt. (Yes, “Lost in Austen” pays tribute to that famous jump-in-the-lake scene in the 1995 version of P&P, which cemented Colin Firth’s reputation as the Mr. Darcy for all time.)

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