Mr Darcy is the hero
(or perhaps anti-hero
) of Pride and Prejudice
, and the archetype
of every romantic
hero who is handsome
, but intensely proud
. There are fireworks with the spirited
heroine, and after much pain and misunderstanding
they fall into each other's arms.
Well, Jane Austen did him first, and if not precisely first, she certainly did him best. Mr Darcy is one of her most memorable creations, and even though the type had been done in a thousand imitations, from good Georgette Heyer to bad Mills and Boon, he stands out as a real person, and his growing transformation shows the depth of his character. But here's how he's introduced:
...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 gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.
His friend is Mr Bingley
, the very amiable and rich and single
young man whose arrival here in Hertfordshire
sets Mrs Bennet
calculating on the prospects for her five daughters. Jane, the eldest and sweetest and prettiest, does in fact team up with Mr Bingley as smoothly as anything, but it is Elizabeth Bennet
who is the heroine of Pride and Prejudice
and a fitting adversary
for the odious and haughty Darcy.
He offends the world at first meeting, and gives an especial slight to Elizabeth, by refusing to offer to dance with her, and describing her as merely tolerable in a comment to Bingley that she could overhear. This makes him unforgivable in her mother's eyes, but Elizabeth takes it in her stride:
Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.
However, as soon as he becomes more acquainted with her, Mr Darcy begins to admire Elizabeth, for her eyes, her wit
, her independence
, and her intelligence
. Were she worthy of him in a material way he would be hooked, but he has no intention of moving from admiration
to love or marriage
. The Bennets are poor people with relatives in trade. This is Mr Darcy's pride
, and his prejudice
. It takes him a long time, and is very mortifying
, to discover he will have to put all this aside if he is to have Elizabeth.
On Elizabeth's part she sees him as disagreable and is quite willing to believe him tyrannical, when a charming young man called George Wickham confides in her that the failure of his ambitions is due to Darcy's interference, a sad reversal of the elder Mr Darcy's goodness and kindness. At first exciting Elizabeth's indignation, this later proves to be untrue, and it is Darcy who comes out better, more solid, in the story.
His other crime against the Bennets is to persuade Mr Bingley that Jane does not care for him so much. He did this out of ignorance, not being able to penetrate Jane's diffident manners, but altogether this adds to the view of him as detestable that all the Bennets and their neighbours share.
So it is with very mixed feelings that Elizabeth starts to learn his true nature: first, on a visit to Kent where she mixes with him and his atrocious aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, where he explains the truth of the case and they quarrel; and then on a tour of Derbyshire where she visits his immense ancestral property Pemberton and hears with what genuine and deep affection and respect his staff all speak of him; and finally when he rushes to London giving very real assistance to one of her sisters who has foolishly eloped with the thoroughly unreliable Wickham.
I cannot once more summarise the plot (see the write-up Pride and Prejudice itself), and of course the whole book is the tale of these two people's changing feelings and discoveries. By the end, naturally, true love does win out, and they have chafed and abraded each others' worst features and will do very nicely together.
His forename is Fitzwilliam. The two best-known repesentations of him are by Laurence Olivier in the 1940 film, opposite Greer Garson, and by Colin Firth in the recent TV series, opposite Jennifer Ehle.
He is of course the inspiration for Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary, whose plot includes a loose reworking of P&P. Bridget drools over Colin Firth on television, and is aware of how absurd it is for Mark Darcy to be all brooding and distant with a name like Darcy. Author Helen Fielding was pleased to be able to get Firth to play Mark in the film, nicely pointing up the parallel.
Part of JudyT's Golden Jubilee celebration of Britain.