Pride & Prejudice: The Mystique of Austen’s Mr. Darcy

Illustration of Mr. Darcy, by Robert Ball, Double Day, Inc, (1945)MIEN

…but his friend 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. The Narrator on Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 3

It is a well known fact that Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice is one of the most acclaimed and beloved novels of literature. It has been recognized as such by reaching the top of many of the ‘best‘ or ‘favorite‘ book lists from readers, publishers and academia that have been conducted as of late. It is all very flattering and gratifying to Janeites who have long held it in high esteem among Austen’s milieu, but when society elevates its cultural accomplishments with accolades, one is compelled to ask why.

To answer the question properly, one could write a book extolling Pride & Prejudice’s merits, so to ‘cut to the chase’, I will go with gut instinct and credit the hero, Mr. Darcy for its success. The quote above is Jane Austen’s introduction to the character from the opening chapters of the novel, and aptly condenses all of my arguments in his favor quiet nicely. Mr. Darcy is interesting by nature of his physical appearance, refined manner, and Image of Sir Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, MGM, (1940)financial situation! At this point in the novel he has not spoken yet, so I will throw intellect into the mix as well. Any one of these attributes alone could recommend a new man in the neighborhood, but combine all four of these qualities and he is a male sex bomb! The Regency Icon equivalent of hunky actor George Clooney, aristocratic Prince William, and filthy rich Warren Buffett, all rolled into one intriguing personae. Irresistible!

Image of David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, BBC, (1979)If we look even deeper yet, physical charms and big bank accounts can be a bit shallow and unrewarding spiritually as we see in Austen’s other charming rich boy of Pride and Prejudice, Charles Bingley. He is appealing enough to readers as a side dish, but he lacks the intellect, air of dignity and mien mystique of his particular friend Mr. Darcy. Bingley’s open and engaging manners make him agreeable and approachable, but there is no ‘back story’ brewing in Bingley’s life. He does not challenge our intellect or stimlate our passions. He is exactly what he appears to be – a fine, friendly young man of good fortune – end of story.

Image of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, BBC, (1995)Darcy is another matter. His haughty, quiet, and refined demeanor elevates him in our minds (and his) above the country gentility of the Meryton Assembly. His sharp intellect and reserved manner are what captivate our interest. Who is this man, and why does he act that way? Why does he think our heroine Lizzy Bennet is only tolerable? Why won’t he dance with any of the local ladies? Is he just a snob, or is shy? Austen has established an aire of mystique, and our romantic curiosity is arroused.

Image of MatthewMcFadden as Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, (2005)Many people read Pride and Prejudice and think that it is about the five Bennet girl’s quest for husbands. The main character Elizabeth Bennet is often credited as the finest literary heroine ever written. These points may be true, but I put it to you that if Austen had not created such an arrogant, intellectual, and mysterious hero as Mr. Darcy to pique Lizzy Bennet into crisp dialogue and strong prejudices, the book would be forgotten, languishing as a Regency era amusement in the British library catalogue of early female writers.

Do you want to know what others think of Mr. Darcy and his incredible influence on our culture? Check out some of these great online articles.

*illustration of Mr. Darcy by Robert Ball, Double Day, Inc., Garden City, New York, (1945)   

Jane Austen Inspired Ephemera


This was a letter to be run through eagerly, to be read deliberately, to supply matter for much reflection, and to leave everything in greater suspense than ever. The Narrator, Mansfield Park, Chapter 43


Image of Jane Austen note card box coverThe talented folks at Clarkson Potter Publishers, have created this beautiful set of four Austen inspired blank note cards housed in a keepsake quality box. Designed by Margaret Hinders for Potter Style, each of the note cards contain a pastel coloured vintage Regency era image, graphic embellishments and a quote from one of the novels or letters by Jane Austen.

Image of Jane Austen note cardAlso available in the series is a compact journal for those clever on-the-spot writing inspirations that we never remember unless we write them down, and an address book for handy access to important phone numbers and addresses of your Janeite friends who you owe long letters too! These little treasures are light and great for travel, or stuff them in that capacious handbag that your friends and family tease you about.

Image of Jane Austen note cardIn the spirit of the lost art of letter writing, you know that instrument of gentile social discourse that every Regency Miss practiced daily, here is one of Miss Austen’s most famous letters from her novel Pride and Prejudice to inspire you. Written by Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet after her refusal of his marriage proposal, it’s contents transform her prejudices of him, and is a turning point of self discovery for her. 

Image of Jane Austen note card“Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten; and the effort which the formation, and the perusal of this letter must occasion should have been spared had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.

Image of Jane Austen journal“Two offences of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge. The first-mentioned was that, regardless of the sentiments of either, I had detached Mr. Bingley from your sister; and the other, that I had, in defiance of various claims, in defiance of honour and humanity, ruined the immediate prosperity and blasted the prospects of Mr. Wickham. — Wilfully and wantonly to have thrown off the companion of my youth, the acknowledged favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our patronage, and who had been brought up to expect its exertion, would be a depravity, to which the separation of two young persons, whose affection could be the growth of Image of Jane Austen address bookonly a few weeks, could bear no comparison. But from the severity of that blame which was last night so liberally bestowed, respecting each circumstance, I shall hope to be in future secured, when the following account of my actions and their motives has been read. If, in the explanation of them, which is due to myself, I am under the necessity of relating feelings which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I am sorry. The necessity must be obeyed, and farther apology would be absurd.

The entire letter from Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet continues here. The note cards, journal and address book are available on-line, and through Randon House, Inc.

Pride & Prejudice: A Young Man of Large Fortune

Image of Allison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, BBC, (1995)FORTUNE

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately;” Mrs. Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 1

Don’t you just love Mrs. Bennet? No hidden agenda here. Her introduction in the novel Pride & Prejudice quoted above reveals just about everything we need to know about her personality and motivations. It’s all about social position and money.

Being the mother of five unmarried daughters between the ages of 15 to 22 who have no immediate marriage prospects on the horizon can really wear on ones nerves, which she reminds us of quite frequently. And her husband, Mr. Bennet, does not sympathize with her in the least, nor share her concern about their children.

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant, like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way! You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

“Ah! you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”

“It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all.”

Image of mr. & Mrs. Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, BBC, (1995)

Poor Mrs. Bennet. She may be a very silly woman, but at least she has some idea of the importance of her daughter’s marrying quickly and to men of good fortune. Her methods for procuring husbands, as we will see, may be creative, but her heart is in the right place.

Image of Lizzy & Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, BBC, (1995)Be sure to mark your calendars and set your watches for the Masterpiece Classic airing of the 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle as wity, plunky and perky Lizzy Bennet and Colin Firth, who needs no introduction, as her sparing partner Mr. Darcy, in the BBC and A & E production of Jane Austen’s classic novel on Sunday, February 10th at 9:00 pm on PBS

PBS Masterpiece Unveils New Interactive Web Site

 Image of new Mastepiece banner



Image of Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, PBS PersuasionIt’s official! In honor of the ‘opening night’ season premeire of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Masterpiece Theatre Classic has revealed their bright and shiny, new interactive web site; – – and it’s ready for your perusal and enjoyment,  full of all sorts of bells and whistles!

Be prepared to be wowed, cuz it sure knocked my bonnet off!

Image of Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland, PBS Northanger AbbeyThe front page sports a completely new design and displays The Complete Jane Austen series, opening with a slide show of photos of Persuasion, and access to a preview film clip. Each of the adaptations are accessible from this portal. Oh joy!

Image of the cast of Mansfield Park, PBSYou can explore each of the six adaptations: Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and new biopic Miss Austen Regrets from the Classic Schedule. Dig deeper and discover the synopsis, cast & credits, cast interviews, characters, Jane Austen and resources for each production!

Image od Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in PBS, Miss Austen RegretsOf particular amusement, is a special section devoted to The Men of Austen, where you can read bios of each of the bachelors, learn “who is a dream, a bore or a scoundrel”, and then vote on your choice of the ideal Austen mate! Check the tallies to see how you rate against other Austen addicts.

Image of the Dashwood sisters of Sense & Sensibility, PBS 2008There is so much to see and explore that you can spend hours just cruising about, scouring the historical archives, peeking at the poster gallery, learning about educational resources, shopping at the store, and connecting to the community through the discussion boards that I will cut it short like Mr. Darcy and decree, “GO TO IT”!

PBS to Connect Jane Austen Community

Illustration by Miroot Puttapipat, “Boxhill Picnic”, Emma, Chapter 44I congratulate you, my dear Harriet, with all my heart. This is an attachment which a woman may well feel pride in creating. This is a connection which offers nothing but good. It will give you every thing that you want — consideration, independence, a proper home — it will fix you in the centre of all your real friends, close to Hartfield and to me, and confirm our intimacy for ever. This, Harriet, is an alliance which can never raise a blush in either of us.” Emma Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 9

In Jane Austen’s 18th-century society, personal alliances fueled the social strata, connecting families in marriage, and in business. And so it continues today, as PBS reaches out to the Jane Austen community to promote its upcoming series The Complete Jane Austen, through its online guest blogger project Remotely Connected.

Eight Austen enthusiasts and authorities from the online community have been invited to write about each of the upcoming Jane Austen adaptations and a new biography being presented by Masterpiece Classic, beginning Sunday, January 13th with Persuasion, and concluding in April with Sense & Sensibility. Continue reading “PBS to Connect Jane Austen Community”

Jane Austen gifts & toys

Image of Jane Austen license plate




I wept the day I moved away from the state of California. My family thought that I was being sentimental, and rightly so. I had lived there all of my life. I was leaving friends, connections and fair weather. Reason enough to be sad. Truth-be-told, I had just learned that the state of Washington did not offer a heart character in their personalised license plates. I would not be able to re-create my favourite Jane Austen toy; – – my ‘heart’ JAUSTN license plate. Oh misery and woe, you are cruel companions!

My next shock was when I visited the state automobile registration office to apply for a new license. When the clerk coldly asked me to hand over my California plates, you never saw someone walk so decisively out of a government office. Total knee jerk reaction. I didn’t even realize what I had done until I hit the street. Phew! Only Lydia Bennet’s stealth elopement had more velocity.

I can’t tell you how I managed to keep them, because I like my freedom.

Image of the Pemberley ShoppeThere are so many ways that Janeites can celebrate our passion for our favourite authoress. The Republic of Pemberley has a wonderful selection of Austen inspired items at their Pemberley Shoppe. Recently my favourite item is the 2008 wall calendar entitled Aimable Rancor, featuring twelve months of inspiring Regency images and pert quotes by, – – you guessed it, – – Jane Austen. Image of Pemberley 2008 Aimable Rancor Wall CalenderPemberley’s items are so clever and beautifully designed that it is difficulty to decide which one to gift to a dear friend, or hoard for myself. Purchases are guilt free though, since the profits benefit a most deserving web site, The Republic of Pemberley.

What are your most amusing and or cherished Jane Austen items? Image of Peacock edition of Pride & Prejudice, published by George Allen, London (1894)Are you the lucky owner of the elusive Jane Austen bobble-head, or the highly collectible ‘peacock’ edition of Pride & Prejudice from 1894? Do you live in your Mrs. Darcy wanabe T-shirt? How many copies of the 1995 Pride & Prejudice have you gone through? Tell all.  


Deigned to return

Image of Pride & Prejudice book cover, Purnell Books, Maidenhead, (1976)DEIGNED 

when they were suddenly arrested by the sight of the stranger, and Elizabeth, happening to see the countenance of both as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of the meeting. Both changed colour; one looked white, the other red. Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat — a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it? — It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know. The Narrator on Mr. Wickham & Mr. Darcy, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 15

I have often thought that this scene is like a fast Quadrille dance with couples swirling in and out, changing partners, then the music stops, everyone is dizzy and no one ends up with who they were originally partnered with. My head is spinning!

We see three parties meeting by accident on the streets of Meryton; Elizabeth and her sisters with Mr. Collins, meet Mr. Denny who introduces them to Mr. Whickham, and then Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy on horseback. Mr. Darcy sees Whickham, and in an instant, the shock of recognition turns one white, the other red. Jane Austen orchestrates it all so smoothly, but it is an important scene that introduces a new character, and a mystery. Just the fact that Elizabeth’s curiosity is peeked by the interchange significantly raises the interest for the reader.

Jane Austen does not indicate which of the gentlemen turns white or red. To reveal it outright, would tell too much and she knows it. It has often been debated by Janeites, and if you think you know the answer based on human emotions, then you might be right!

I had to comment on the book cover illustration that I included with this post because it is just so darn corny. Not only are the characters in obvious Victorian era attire, but the artistic style reminds me of the less expenive, dare I say, CHEAP romance novels from the 1970’s. My only conclusion was that the publisher Purnell Books of Maidenhead, England was attempting to appeal to a wider audience. Jane has made many happy, or rich.

*Image of the book cover illustration of Pride & Prejudice, Purnell Books, Maidenhead, (1976) 

Happy Birthday Miss Austen


16 December 1775


Watercolour painting by Cassandra Austen of Jane Austen

Pull out your party horns and paper bonnets, and join the livations today for the authoress of awe, Jane Austen! I shall be celebrating in style with an all day marathon of a viewing of the film adaptations of Pride & Prejudice. Which One you ask? I shall visit them all!

So raise your glass in a hearty toast, and party like Lydia!

Cheerful prognostics

Illustration by Miroot Puttapipat, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 7PROGNOSTICS

Jane was therefore obliged to go on horseback, and her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. Her hopes were answered: Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard. Her sisters were uneasy for her, but her mother was delighted. The rain continued the whole evening without intermission: Jane certainly could not come back. The Narrator on Jane Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 7

Mrs. Bennet, that meddling marriage maker who saw an opportunity and ran with it.

Well intentioned, but wreck-less with her daughter’s health; – – her delight upon hearing of Jane’s illness and extended stay with the Bingley’s at Netherfield is alarming. We laugh at her antics, but you gotta hand it to her. If Jane’s trifling little cold had not impelled her sister Elizabeth to visit her at Netherfield, the plot might not of had it’s storybook ending.

Mrs. Bennet could be Jane Austen’s most interfering stage mother, but scholar Cecilia Salber thinks that she is not the only meddler, and there is a lot of ‘butting in’ going on in Pride & Prejudice. 

“Austen prominently presents interference in many guises. In fact, meddling is the dominant action that propels the plot. These incidents starkly portray many of the social and economic realities in Austen’s world, realities quite different from our own. Yet, in portraying motivations from the selfish to the altruistic, Austen also uses interference as a litmus test of the intelligence and integrity of her characters – qualities valued equally in her time and our own.”

Not sure if Mrs. Bennet was selfish or altuistic? Find out for yourself in this amusing article “Excuse my interference”: Meddling in Pride and Prejudice , at Persuasions on-line.

*Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, “Jane had not been gone long before it rained hard.” page 30, Pride & Prejudice, The Folio Society, London (2006)

Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts

Illustration by Rex Whistler, Pride & Prejudice, St James Theatre, London (1936)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. The Narrator, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 1

The most universally acknowledged famous first line in literature to inspire the admiration and the imitation of the world. We can never have too much of a good thing.

In the beginning, – – Jane created six major novels, some minor works, poetry and family letters. For one hundred and twenty years we read and cherished her prose, having to be content with the real thing. And then, there was the adaptation; – – and Jane and her characters were reborn, and reborn, and yet again reborn. Today, Jane Austen is a hot property, but unfortunately not available for movie premiers!

One of the first major adaptations of Jane Austen’s work was a stage play of her most beloved novel Pride and Prejudice, written by Helen Jerome, entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts. It opened to critical acclaim at the Plymouth Theater on Broadway in New York city on November 5th 1935, and ran for 219 performances. Taking the leap across the pond to England, it premiered at the St. James Theatre in London in 1936 with a new British cast featuring Cecelia Johnson as Elizabeth Bennet. The new sets and costumes were by the renown designer and book illustrator Rex Whistler (1906-1944). The whimsical programme cover illustration is also by Whistler and is highly collectible by Jane Austen enthusiasts.

Wouldn’t our Jane be amused by the empire that she has inspired?

Read the entire play online here

*Illustration by Rex Whistler, Theater programme cover art, Pride & Prejudice, St James Theatre, London, (1936)

Happily employed

Illustration by Isabel Bishop, Pride & Prejudice, 1976EMPLOYED 

…as they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet’s carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman’s punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs. These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and cucumber. The Narrator on Kitty & Lydia Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 39

Misses Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, and their friend Maria Lucas have traveled by coach from London to Hertfordshire, and arrived punctually at the appointed coaching house to transfer to their father’s carriage. The surprise is their two younger sisters Kitty and Lydia who greet them with an arranged luncheon, which they have ordered but can not pay for because they have spent the cost on amusements and bonnets!

I believe that Jane Austen wanted us to be shocked by such capricious behaviour of the younger Bennet sisters unchecked employ, but honestly, I have always been distracted by the fact that three young unchaperoned Regency ladies are traveling by commercial coach from London, and are met by two even younger ladies who have also arrived without a responsible adult in tow! Where are their relations? Where are their guardians? This seems odd, and I am quite sure that if Lady Catherine heard of it, she would pronounce it as shocking news indeed!

Learn more about traveling by coach during the Regency period in this excellent article by the accomplished fellow Janeite and Regency era authority Ms. Place, at her excellent blog, Jane Austen’s World.      

*Illustration by Isabel Bishop, “Both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dinning-room up stairs” page 233, Pride & Prejudice, published by E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., New York (1976)

Inured to self-denial

Illutration by Isabel Bishop, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 33INURED

“He (Mr. Darcy) likes to have his own way very well,” replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. “But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and dependence.” Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 33

As Elizabeth Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam walk in Rosings Park, their conversation turns to from travel to a very serious matter, – – money and marriage. We learn from this conversation the importance and power that fortune affords the lucky individuals that are born to it. In Colonel Fitzwilliam’s case, he is the second son of an Earl, and as such will not inherit his father’s estates, and must earn his living or marry into it.

It is interesting to ponder what life would have been like in Regency England if property was not inherited solely by the eldest son. Jane Austen certainly understood male primogeniture, but one is mystified by the sheer number of people that were inured by it’s outcome. It’s power drove the culture of a nation.

Learn more about understanding the cultural nuances of Regency gentry in this great study guide by Jane Austen stage director and adaptation writer Pamela Whalen, from the Jane Austen Society of Australia.

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