Monday, April 14, 2008

Male on Monday - Mr Darcy



This month our columnist Annie West investigates the appeal of Fitzwilliam Darcy, owner of Pemberley, the man who rejects then woos and finally wins Miss Elizabeth Bennett in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and who is one of the most enduring heroes in English fiction.


‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’


Jane Austen fans will recognise the opening of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, one of the most loved romances of all time. That beginning gives us an inkling of some of the factors that make Mr Darcy so appealing. He’s single (great start) and wealthy (who wouldn’t mind the luxuries of life?) and we quickly discover that’s not all. He ‘soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien...



Unattached, good looking, wealthy... not a bad start. I can see why he might be a candidate for the position of romantic lead. But there has to be more. And there is:
‘...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.'


Just what we need, a problem. After all, we wouldn’t want a hero who’s perfect, would we? Darcy’s pride, as well as his interference in the blossoming love match between his friend Bingley, and Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, ensure she refuses his proposal when it comes. Mr Darcy seems too arrogant, too conscious of his status to make the grade as a hero.


Yet Jane Austen’s story has been read and enjoyed by generation after generation. Surely it wouldn’t be so popular if there was a problem with the hero? The book was written between 1796 and 1797, then published in 1813. There are countless editions of the book and various adaptions into other media, including a musical concept album made in 1995.

Mr Darcy has become one of the enduring heroes of romance. He’s been played by:
Laurence Olivier in 1940 (film)
Farley Granger in 1959 (Broadway musical)
David Rintoul in 1980 (TV adaptation)
Colin Firth in 1995 (TV adaptation)
Matthew McFadyen in 2005 (film) and
Martin Henderson in 2005 if we count the Austen-inspired ‘Bride and Prejudice’.
You can even buy Mr Darcy dress up dolls or download film of Darcy (Firth) diving into a lake!


So what else does Mr Darcy have going for him that makes him such a successful hero? For one thing he comes to love the heroine and freely admits his feelings. ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Unfortunately for Mr Darcy but fortunately for us as his audience, he makes a hash of that first proposal, dwelling on his beloved’s inferior family and freely admitting the role he played in separating Jane and Bingley. But at least he’s a man who’s willing to acknowledge his emotions, and you must admit, the idea of a man besotted with you does have a certain appeal.


He’s intelligent and appreciates Elizabeth’s wit. Another plus. It’s clear that not all men in his period (or now for that matter) would feel the same. It becomes clear as the book progresses that there is a definite level of understanding between the pair that isn’t shared by those around them.


He’s practical when action needs to be taken and successful - he ensures the right outcome for Elizabeth. He sets out to find her wayward sister Lydia, who’s in danger of destroying the reputation of the whole family. He’s single-minded in his pursuit and shows no compunction in using his vast resources to ensure everything turns out right. What a man! After all, don’t we like heroes who can fix the problems that plague us? Whether it be faulty plumbing or social disgrace that threaten us, a man who can rescue us when we most need it has to get a brownie points.


When Darcy saves the family from Lydia’s stupidity, when he jogs his friend Bingley into action that will reunite him with Jane, what then? Contrary to what we might expect, Mr Darcy doesn’t crow about his success. Instead he’s a modest hero, doing what he believes is necessary and avoiding public accolades. He doesn’t need to bignote himself by bragging about what he’s done. He’s honourable. When he realises he’s made a mistake (as he did in misjudging Jane’s feelings for Bingley), he ensures that mistake is rectified. He protects his own – witness his actions to save his sister from the predatory Mr Wickham. It’s that sense of protectiveness (for Elizabeth) and his sense of duty (he believes himself to blame for not preventing Wickham taking advantage of Lydia) that propel him to save the day for Elizabeth’s family.




He’s personable. Those who know him well have only good things to say about him. The housekeeper who’s known him from childhood says ‘...he was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted, boy in the world’ and that he’s just the same now. He’s warm and welcoming to Elizabeths’ aunt and uncle, despite the fact that they’re not on the same social stratum.




He’s exquisitely polite and he learns from his errors. He changes and he credits Elizabeth with bringing about that change. What woman wouldn’t be flattered?


‘Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.’


So: young, good-looking, intelligent, wealthy, loving, honourable, practical, successful, protective, kind and honest...Mr Darcy has so much going for him. I think he deserves his place here as our Male on Monday.


Are you, like me, a fan of Mr Darcy? If so, who is your favourite Mr Darcy – one of the actors who’s played the role or the original character in the pages of Jane Austen’s book? If you’re not fond of Mr Darcy I’d love to hear why he doesn’t appeal.



To encourage discussion, I’m giving away to someone who comments a copy of ‘Mills and Boon Presents...’ a special 3 book in 1 anthology out this month to celebrate the centenary of Mills and Boon in the UK. It contains novels by Annie Burrows (historical), Margaret McDonagh (medical) and my own (Modern/Presents) ‘The Billionaire’s Bought Mistress’.




Annie’s hero Rafe Benton is young, good-looking, intelligent, wealthy, practical, successful, protective and ruthless. He has a little difficulty tackling ‘loving’ but he gets there in the end. To find out more about him, visit her website and read an excerpt of ‘The Billionaire’s Bought Mistress’. Or even better, you can order a copy from Mills and Boon UK or Amazon UK. To celebrate the launch of this edition, Annie and the other anthology authors are offering three free books to one lucky contest entrant. You'll find details on the contest page of her website.

45 comments:

  1. Ah, Miss Annie, how you did make me sigh! I've had a crush on Darcy forever. I love that he grows - that he has enough self-awareness to know that all the wonderful things he already has like money and status, etc. aren't going to get him happiness. No, that's in the hands of the woman he loves in spite of himself - awwww! She's the worst possible match for him and yet she's the only woman in the world for him. Love that dichotomy in my love stories!

    And I think you've pointed out one of the nicest bits of the book. Where he IS so modest about what he's done. He does all that stuff for Lizzie without expecting a reward. Just because he adores her. Who wouldn't go wobbly at the knees over such a hero?

    I think my favourite is Matthew MacFadyen from the recent movie. Nobody, I think, has really captured the full character but I love the raw emotion in that portrayal. And I particularly love the scene in the mist at the end - now that makes my knees wobbly too.

    Hmm, note to self, get knees checked out pronto!

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  2. Anna, glad I hit the spot. I've been in love with Mr Darcy ever since I was little and I saw the old black and white film. Thank goodness for the more recent productions, though!

    I'm with you, I love the fact that he's so modest about how he helps her family. He just gets in and does it.

    OK, one vote for Matthew M. Wonder what others will say.

    Annie

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  3. Count me in as another Mr. Darcy fan. I tried to read the book it at about 12 (to impress everyone with how grownup I was) and could not get into it. Then I picked it up again at 14 and loved it. What happened in between? Puberty. What I loved about the story is that Elizabeth is not the prettiest girl, or the sweetest girl, or the richest girl, but she gets the guy in the end mostly by being funny, smart, and true to herself. That was something this awkward teenager desperately needed to hear. I am still a sucker for "proper" men who meet a woman who upsets their applecart.
    I think Colin Firth and Matthew McF. both are great in the role. I did feel the 2005 version was rushed, out of the necessity of having less time.
    I admire Olivier as an actor, but I am not a great fan of the 1940 version of P n' P. I am too distracted by the fact the ladies' are not right. I enjoy him much more in Rebecca, not your typical romance!

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  4. Hi Annie

    What a wonderful post. Brings back all the feelings you have for the wonderful Mr Darcy. Ahhh, I'm may just have to sit down and Priede and Prejudice again. I watch it at least once a month, I have the BBC TV adaptation with Colin and the 2005movie.

    For me there is no other Mr Darcy then Colin Firth. I love him in the part makes me all weak in the knees everytime.

    Annie thanks again for a wonderful post.

    Hugs
    Sandie

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  5. Hi Annie
    Great column, thank you!
    My absolute favourite Mr Darcy is Colin Firth - dark, brooding, handsome and soooo superior. Though I do confess that I wish he hadn't smiled broadly at the end in the wedding scene. I know it sounds silly but it spoiled the image for me and, up until that point, he'd been doing such a great job of projecting warmth with those gorgeous dark eyes and the merest hint of a smile.
    Do you know, somehow or other, I'd managed to completely block out Mr D's first name - he was just too delicious as plain Mr Darcy.
    Mmm, must be time to get out the video and break open a block of chocolate for another marathon viewing.
    Thanks again!
    Sharon

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  6. Jill, isn't it amazing what a difference a year or two makes to your enjoyment of the book? I think there's an optimum time for reading some stories. Early teens definitely on this one! Great point you made about Lizzie not being the prettiest or richest but being true to herself as well as funny and smart. I do think that's an important message - not just to teens.

    I agree with you on Rebecca - great film!

    How hard it must be to be torn between Colin F and Matthew M!

    Annie

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  7. Ditto for Colin Firth. He is so delicious in the role. I like Matthew, too, but one true Darcy is Colin.

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  8. Sandie - once a month? What fun. My daughter was watching it recently and I was cooking, but the sound of that lovely soundtrack kept luring me round the corner to stand, watching. I love that production.

    Annie

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  9. Oh, Annie, wicked woman! I'm supposed to be working and all I'm doing now is fanning my face and fantasizing.

    My 'treat' whenever I finish a WIP is to sit down and watch the BBC P & P from go to woe. The BBC version is by far my favourite - probably because it is so long in comparison to the movie length versions, but the characterisations are so spot on.

    And, okay, I'll admit it... Colin Firth as Mr Darcy makes me drool in my popcorn

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  10. Hi Sharon,

    That's really interesting about not liking the smile at the end. As you say, CF did so much with that little quirk of the lips and the warm expression in his eyes (I wish I could write that properly in one of my books!). I rather liked his smile at the end, but I see what you mean about it being out of keeping with the rest.

    I also love the scene at Pemberley when he's so nervous and polite.

    Hi Anonymous - another vote for CF. He's definitely popular!

    Annie

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  11. Michelle, remind me to bring my own popcorn if I ever come to your place for a movie marathon!

    That's a terrific way to celebrate finishing a book - watching Pride and Prejudice. I wish I'd thought of it! Will bear it in mind for the end of this book. Thank you!

    Annie

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  12. I have been in love with Mr Darcy since I was 14. I was camping at Wilson's Prom and mum gave me her school prize copy (leather bound with guilt edges)to read. I HATED Mr Darcy with a passion (as the author wished me to do) and then I fell for him as hard as Elizabeth did. It was after reading P&P that I went in search of other romances.

    I even refused a first date because a TV adaption of P&P was going to be on. SO the guy said, "ok, I'll bring dinner and watch it with you." (!!!)
    I married him :-)))

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  13. Great posting Annie! I've been a fan of Mr. Darcy's since I first saw Laurence Olivier play him in the 1940 movie version of "Pride and Prejudice" while in my teens (thanks to my mom who is a classic movie fan) but I must admit Matthew McFadyen has completely stolen my heart...with a small corner still reserved for Colin.

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  14. Colin Firth! Colin Firth! Colin Firth!!! And yes Annie, that's THREE votes to count there ;).

    Nobody, and I mean nobody has ever in the history of film been able to portray lurve in a simple look like he does when watching her turn pages for his sister playing the pianoforte. Heaven. I'm feeling all wobbly just thinking about it.

    I honestly thought poor Matthew McFadyen was terribly soft and weak in comparison. Ducking out of way of flying harcover copies of P&P ;).

    And darn you i'm gonna have to read the book again now!!!

    Ally

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  15. Fiona, that's so sweet. Either your husband has great taste in fiction or he knows the way to a woman's heart. Either way he sounds terrific!

    Annie

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  16. Christyne, mum introduced me to the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier film. She's a big fan though I think now she prefers the modern adaptations. I still remember Lizzie's mother from that movie, with the huge leg of mutton sleeves and high brimmed hat, fussing around like a rather bewildered hen.

    I have the Black and White film and the Matthew M film, but when I went to watch the Colin F TV series recently, which I know I taped, I couldn't find it! We had to borrow it from my parents. Hm, I have a birthday coming up in a few months, maybe I should ask for a copy.

    Annie

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  17. Ally, chuckling here at you dashing off to read P&P again. It's interesting the way it stands the test of time. I think it's the characters that are so strong and real, and the fact that we can relate to Lizzie so well (and to Mr Darcy!).

    Annie

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  18. Put me squarely in the Colin Firth camp. Matthew McFayden didn't do it for me at all!

    I have to confess to rewinding the tape (yes, I had it on video before the DVD came out!) and watching Mr Darcy emerge from that lake over and over again! Colin Firth IS Mr Darcy in my mind!

    BTW, I also thought Jennifer Ehle was the perfect Lizzie. I think I loved the BBC series so much because it was so true to the book, and so well cast.

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  19. love Pride and Prejudice, from the time i first read the book, thirteen years old. colin firth is Mr. Darcy, no other. please pick me, as i am a Mills and Boons fan. if it wasn't for Mills and boon we wouldn't have the paperback romances. since i am 84, you know i have read lots of them.
    chrisc@comcast.net

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  20. Annie,
    Great job bring Mr Darcy to the Male on Monday blog and fantastic article. Drooling all over Colin again. What better way to start the week. Yes, I love Colin the best.
    Regards
    Annie (another one)

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  21. Lisa, you didn't wear out the tape by rewinding it time and again? I have a friend who used to do that with 'Last of the Mohicans'! It was the scene where they say goodbye at the waterfall that's her favourite. Hm, maybe there's something about heroes and water!

    Annie

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  22. ChrisC, I'm wondering just how many romances you've read in 84 years. As you say, if it weren't for Mills and Boon we wouldn't have paperback romances. It's so exciting to be writing for the company in the year it celebrates 100 years of publishing. Personally I think Jane Austen had a bit to do with romance getting off the ground!

    Annie

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  23. Hi Annie, I suspect you're not alone in drooling over Colin F. In fact, reading these comments makes me wonder if he keeps a towel nearby just in case fans get too close.

    Annie

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  24. Annie, loved the post, love the reminder about all wonderful things Darcy - not to mention all things Colin Firth. Definitely my choice of hero and actor to play him. Afraid I just don't get anything MM. Not my cup of tea.

    And Fiona L - was that a freudian slip when you mentioned your mum's leather bound copy with the *guilt* edges? LOL. Guilty pleasure indeed! What a way to go:-))

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  25. Annie, what a masterly analysis! Darcy is such a favourite of mine--but I suppose that's not much of a surprise. *g* I don't think I've seen him played as I think of him, unfortunately, though I loved MM in the recent version. He still wasn't my idea of Mr Darcy, though. I'm sure there'll be another version in the next couple of years! P&P never goes out of style. Thanks for a lovely read, Annie.

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  26. Trish, sigh, yes it's the combo - the character in the story plus the actor (whichever one suits you). I think it's a win-win situation!

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Annie

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  27. Christine, a masterly analysis? I was afraid I was just raving about one of my fave characters. I take that as high praise since you write the most delicious regency heroes. I suspect you've been reading Jane Austen and taking a note or two on what readers respond to.

    Glad to see another vote for Matthew M. It's nice to have a little healthy competition.

    Annie

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  28. I have loved Mr Darcy since I first read P&P.
    I do have a theory that the first Mr Darcy you seen on screen is the one you instinctively go back to. For my part, I have ALWAYS loved David Rintoul as Mr Darcy. He just is.

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  29. Michelle, our first vote for David Rintoul! How exciting!

    Hm, my first on screen Mr Darcy was Laurence O. I supposed I do think of him still, but the modern version are so much more my style.

    Lovely to see you here!

    Annie

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  30. Hi Annie,
    here is one vote more for Colin Firth (or could it be two, my daugther adores him too!)! He was so how I had imagined Mr Darcy when I first read the book a long time ago...

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  31. Hi Eva, thanks for commenting. I think the fact that he's how you imagined the character is so important. I've just checked with my daughter too. Guess what? Her favourite is Colin F as well.

    Annie

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  32. Hi Annie,
    Isn't it amazing how a character is so thoroughly known by just his name - Mr Darcy. You know I was a late comer to reading P&P - read it just a few years ago though I have seen adaptions and also seen/read other works that have been inspired by P&P. What a great legacy for Jane Austen. Something I'm sure all writers strive for. As for choosing a Mr Darcy - well I adore both CF and MM. They were right for the particular productions they were in. Oh and if you haven't seen St Trinians, there is quite a few references to Mr Darcy (including the name of a dog)-- funny as CF is in the film and he gets wet in this one too....(calm down girls *wink*) I think the filmakers were having a jolly old time with it. And I also think CF looks better the older he gets.

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  33. Although my favourite version of Pride and Prejudice is the BBC version, which I think really does justice to the book, my favourite Mr Darcy is Matthew McF. He embodies an aspect of Mr. Darcy that the others don't - his total inability to express his deeply felt emotions.
    luv,
    Annie Burrows

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  34. My vote goes to Colin Firth, he looked and acted exactly the way I pictured him in my head. P&P is my favourite book. I love the letter scene as Elizabeth tries to reconcile what she thinks she knows with what she's just read.

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  35. I am in a minority in that I have never liked Pride and Prejudice at all. However having seen a few clips on TV of a rather hot Mr. Darcy (as played by Colin Firth) I would have to say I might be persuaded to change my mind about him :D

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  36. I am a fan of Mr. Darcy. My favorite is Colin Firth.

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  37. Eleni, you're right, Mr Darcy is so instantly known by so many. I'm sure Jane Austen had no idea how popular he'd be.

    I saw the movie you were talking about and I'm sure they were having fun with the P&P references, including the wet shirt!

    Annie

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  38. Annie, he does do that thoroughly flummoxed approach to emotion well, doesn't he? You can almost read panic in his eyes sometimes as he struggles with it.

    Annie

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  39. Hi Nell and Crystal. It looks like you're both in the majority with preferring Colin F.

    Nell, I also like the scene in the BBC production (CF) when he's writing the letter to Lizzie and you see more of his emotions.

    Annie

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  40. Hi Ilona, how great of you to post since you're not a Darcy fan. Perhaps you might watch the CF production one day and see what you think? I'm sure the fact that he's so appealing helps the story!

    Annie

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  41. I do like Mr. Darcy. In fact, he is a favorite of mine. He was so pompous at first but then you saw the different sides of him as the story progressed and you realized how much he cared for Lizzie. I think Colin Firth was one I enjoyed the most.

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  42. Hi everyone,

    As you know, I'll be choosing a prizewinner from those who've posted on this topic. That person will receive a copy of the big 'Mills and Boon Presents....' anthology. I'll post the name of the winner in about 12 hours as I know it's still early afternoon in some places and I don't want to prevent people having a chance to win (plus I'll be out for the next 12 hours).

    Please check back later and I'll have the winner's name for you.

    Best wishes,
    Annie

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  43. Hi Maureen,

    Yes, 'pompous' is a good word for him - but cute too. Actually, I always wondered about Lizzie admitting that she really fell in love with him when she saw Pemberley (G)!

    Annie

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  44. WE HAVE A PRIZEWINNER! Actually, we have TWO!

    Thanks everyone for taking part in today's discussion on Mr Darcy. I had a ball reading your different perspectives on one of my favourite men.

    There were so many interesting responses I couldn't limit myself to one prize. So:

    JILL wins a copy of the anthology MILLS AND BOON PRESENTS.

    CHRISC wins a second prize - a copy of my upcoming US release - THE GREEK TYCOON'S UNEXPECTED WIFE.

    Congratulations Chris and Jill!
    Please email me with your postal addresses and I'll pop them in the mail to you.

    Best wishes,
    Annie

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  45. Of course it would help if you had my email address! It's annie@annie-west.com

    Annie

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