Pride and Prejudice: Which Mr. Darcy Has the Noble Mien for You?

Portrait of Edmund Lenthal Swifte circa 1802, by John OpieMr. 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 gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley… The Narrator, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3

This is our introduction to the infamous Mr. Darcy from chapter three. Fine, tall, handsome, noble with ten thousand pounds a year! What a social pedigree. What unmarried woman, or over anxious mother would not want to snag him as a husband for themselves or their daughter? Interestingly, the description is subjective, allowing the reader to insert their own physical characteristics to form their ideal Mr. Darcy. How then did the archetype of Fitzwilliam Darcy as dark haired and fair complected come about? Blame the movies.

This striking portrait of a Regency era gentleman matches my impression of what Mr. Darcy should look like in my mind from Jane Austen’s description and the later influence of Hollywood and television. When I came across this portrait of Edmund Lenthal Swifte on the Tate Museum website, I was struck by the incredible similarity to actor David Rintoul who had portrayed Mr. Darcy in the 1979 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. They could be twins separated at birth by two hundred years. ;)

So gentle readers, who is your ultimate Darcy archetype? In a contest of dueling Darcy’s between Edmund Lenthal Swifte, Sir Lawrence Olivier, David Rintoul, Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen or Elliot Cowan, who really floats your boat? Cast your vote before November 1. You might just be surprised with the results.

Dueling Mr. Darcys