26 thoughts on “The Historically Accurate Mr. Darcy

  1. Pride and Prejudice was originally written under the title ‘First Impressions’. Love And Friendship was based on Austen’s novel Lady Susan

  2. Alexander Hamilton portraits show me someone from about that same time period, who wouod be considered a hottie-with-a-difference-from-the-usual-aristocrat, both then and now.

  3. yes, this. By 1795 hair powder was well out of fashion. The French Revolution, the move to classicism and increasing taxes on hair powder pretty much killed it.
    Inbreeding, really? Not so much in England. Even if you stuck to the aristocracy, there were a lot of them to choose from, enough to avoid inbreeding. While there were only 25 dukes, there were hundreds of earls and viscounts, and they all had families. Some were related, true, but the system was set up so that new blood could be injected. And in Darcy’s social sphere, the gentry, they were even more diverse. So I don’t know where the inbreeding comment comes from. That was for repeated marriages between members of the same family, like the monarchs of Spain, and even then it took a few hundred years of marrying sisters, cousins, aunts, for it to kill them.

    1. I seriously think that the historians involved in this just half-assed the “study” based on the broadest, most easily disputable factoids they could come up with over several glasses of wine.

      And I like Amanda Vickery as an historian! Feeling deeply betrayed by the laziness showed here.

      1. The inbreeding thing got me, too. Ok, so one royal house got super weird results, and a bunch were cousins following Victoria and predisposed to hemophilia—that does not mean everyone was inbred. I almost wondered, when I read it, whether they’d seen some of those 18th century portraits where the faces all look similar and just… assumed it was genetics rather than limited artistic skill? Makes about as much sense…

  4. What nonsense! A well nourished gentleman like Darcy could easily be over six feet and what is this inbreeding idiocy. Darcy is clearly a thoroughly eye catching young man, hence the gneral disappointment when his personality fails to match his prepossessing appearance.

  5. When I read that article, in addition to the powdered wig complaint, I took umbrage with their assertion that because the novel was started in 1796, we should assume that’s when it took place. But Jane put the novel away, then revised it (possibly quite heavily) in 1811, and I’m one of those who argues that the action is set in 1811.

    Not least because of the November 26 thing. There is precisely one complete date in the book: the Netherfield ball occurs Tuesday, November 26. Do you know when there was a Tuesday, November 26? 1811, when Jane rewrote the book. Do you know when there wasn’t a Tuesday, November 26? 1796.

    1. Actually, the Norton Edition includes an appendix with the calendar Austen used in creating the timelines of the novel, and it does indeed take place in the late 1790s.

    1. Copley is wearing a powdered wig over his own long hair in this painting dated 1780-84. His portraits of John Hancock and Dr Joseph Warren show the same look–young men with long hair who occasionally still wore wigs befitting their stations in life. He also painted an elegant gentleman of the old school in a sumptuous banyan with a turban on his shaven head. And Paul Revere–part of the patriot circle but a prosperous silversmith, not a gentleman–with long, unpowdered hair in a queue.

      Copley lived in a time of change, stylistically as well as politically. The portraits reflect provincial Boston just before the Revolution. He painted himself just after removing to London. When the picture was displayed in Houston, his very faint 5 o’clock shadow was mentioned in the description. Quite unusual in that clean shaven age.

  6. Indoors? Pshaw. Gentlemen spent scads of time hunting and fishing in the season.
    Also, interestingly, one of Benjamin West’s sons was a main character in Stephanie Barron’s Austen mystery series.

  7. Was the “historically accurate Mr. Darcy” article meant to be clickbait? It sounds as accurate as “wimminz back then bled in their skirts.”

  8. In 1795, William Pitt the Younger as PM of England introduced a tax on hair powder (Pitt was a youngish man of 36 at the time). Reformists and those opposed to Pitt (mainly Whigs – but the Whigs were famously corrupt, so it’s convoluted) adopted the cropped hairstyle from the Revolution (sometimes called the French Cut) no matter what their age. Although the tax cost them money, Tories and those pro Pitt often kept powdering their hair. The tax hastened the change to natural hair.

    So in 1796, would Darcy have been a Whig or a Tory? I’m guessing a Whig or some type of reformist considering how his father and he dealt with Pemberly and educating Wickham. Natural hair it is.

    1. He was gentry, and the gentry were overwhelmingly Tory. Although he was related to minor aristocracy, he didn’t belong in that class. By 1795 short, natural hair wasn’t just a statement of politics, it was the fashion. Anyone with a powdered wig, unless they were actually politicians, would be considered old-fashioned. All you have to do is look at portraits of British men dating 1795. The young ones are sporting natural hair. Interestingly, the fashion for wigs and hair powder lingered a bit longer in the USA, but then, they weren’t subject to the hair tax.

  9. If you can fi nd a portrait of a man called Robert Cary Elwes then you have a picture of what Mr. Darcy looked like FOR HE IS THE ORIGINAL MR.DARCY
    I have researched this man quite carefully and I have found much much more than just the original Mr.Darcy
    For example the original location for Thornton Lacey . It’s a real village in Northamptonshire and is where RCE lived.
    The real life location for Northanger Abbey. It’s a real life abbey owned by a cousin of RCE, and was easy walking distance of Jane Austen during the time she wrote Northanger Abbey.
    I can explain how they could have met there was an actual ball in Winchester that both could have and certainly Jane Austen attended.
    I can explain much more but
    Finally for now I have discovered 2 types of” Eastrr Eggs ” within Jane Austen’s work based around anagrams and names. RCE can be found 3 times
    You can iif interested read more at my blog WISDENSSECRET.COM where all that has been found so far is explained.

    1. I’m an author, and I write historical romance.
      I use real-life buildings and real-life characters in my books. They fit two categories: historical characters like Pitt, Wellington, and the monarchs who existed. They are as accurately described as I can make them and I don’t deviate from the historical record. The other kind are the characters I invent, and the houses I invent. While they are often based on reality, the word “based” is what matters. Because I’m writing fiction, I feel free to deviate from the historical facts when they suit me.
      For instance, I wrote a book called “A Touch of Silver,” with a central character based on one of my ancestors, the silversmith Hester Bateman. But Hester never remarried after the death of her husband, and she remained in control of the business she founded. In my book, I renamed Hester into Annie, and gave her a romance. That would have been totally unacceptable in an account of someone called Hester Bateman, but for Annie Cathcart, it was okay. If I’d stuck with calling her Hester, then I’d have stuck to the historical facts. But I didn’t.
      Jane did the same thing in her books. Most authors do. So while the “real” Darcy might have been based on Elwes, there are significant differences.

  10. The thing about sloping shoulders is nonsense too. The point about the 18th-century and Regency-period coat was that sloping shoulders were admired in a gentleman (showed he wasn’t a coalheaver or ploughboy) and the coat was very carefully cut to make it look as though they sloped like the shoulders of a hock bottle – the very opposite of modern tailoring, where the jacket shoulders are always at least a bit padded, to give the appearance of fine broad shoulders, which is what is admired today.

  11. I’m not going to pile on to the significant list of historical hand-waving that seems to have been necessary for that article to reach its conclusions, but I can’t help but wonder if it even matters what Mr. Darcy’s “historically accurate” appearance would have been. I think Austen barely describes his appearance because it’s less important than his personality and his character. I also think that books that do that age better too because each generation can imagine their own “Mr. Darcy” based on what their own perceptions. So if Mr. Darcy would look like a pale, inbred, short guy with a pointy chin or a tall, swarthy guy with brown hair and smoldering eyes, it doesn’t affect their love story so it shouldn’t matter! It reminds me of “Gotcha” journalism except that the person they’re “exposing” is a fictional character from 200 years ago. It seems both lazy and ridiculous.

  12. They mention the “Hanoverian jaw” when there ain’t no such thing, even saying their current monarch (Elizabeth) has it. I want some of what they’re smoking.

    There’s a HAPSBURG jaw, but that died off with the Hapsburgs, also likely from inbreeding.

    So for them to screw up such a basic historical fact makes me doubt pretty much anything else they present. Elves, indeed!

  13. I’m sorry. You think Thranduil is “far less interesting” than Legolas? Girl what have you been smoking Thranduil has more charisma and sex appeal in his spikey little crown than every other elf in those movies combined. Also he’s played by the marvelous Lee Pace!

    You have truly BAFFLED me.

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