Hi, here's Jo, about to be a bit iconoclastic about our Fitzwilliam Darcy. And even about Colin Firth. You have been warned!
I can't remember when I first read Pride and Predjudice, but it was in my teens. I adored it, but looking back it wasn't about Darcy at all. For me it was a Cinderella story and Darcy was the placeholder for the Prince. The Prince in this context is the prize, the gold medal, the goblet. He's set up as the local prize, and as unattainable.
For many readers (and viewers) Darcy clearly is that other character, the Romantic Hero. He stirs romantic emotions and dreams and makes the heart beat faster. This is fine, but it's not like that for me.
Of the recent screen Darcys, I prefer David Rintoul, though none have hit the spot for me, perhaps because they were all supposed to be Romantic Hero Darcy rather that Prince Darcy. Prince Darcy would put all the emphasis on his wealth, status, and unreachablity. Romantic Darcy requires some dash and earthiness that undermines that. Colin Firth is a great actor and could have done Prince Darcy perfectly, but instead we see him fencing — fencing! — and emerging bedraggled from a lake.
I've been thinking about this because I was sent a review copy of an amusing book, Mr. Darcy's Guide to Courtship, by of course Fitzwilliam Darcy, "as dictated to Miss Emily Brand." This is a nicely presented volume on heavy cream paper with greyscale period illustrations and some new drawings that fit in perfectly. It has a period feel without losing readability and would make an excellent gift for an Austen fan.
It's more of a dipping book than one to read straight through, but the dips are tasty. The book draws on period resources, most of them pre-Regency, and there are plenty of Austen references and devices, such as the "ludicrous examples of studied compliments' of Mr. Collins."
Darcy lays out the appropriate behaviours for gentlemen and ladies, but primarily for the gentlemen, on "Making Oneself Ageeable", "Selecting a Bride" etc, and even has as "Ask Darcy" section at the end. This is Darcy before he meets Elizabeth Bennet, haughty, cynical and wry. Right at the beginning it says, "There are some errata in this book, but the Author says he is too busy and important to give you a note of them." You see — Prince Darcy.
This book is delightful as a pastime, but there are period details, literary references and wry depths that reward repeat visits.
Seduction in Silk is out now, so if you don't have your copy, make haste! Readers in the UK now have a UK e-book edition (with an odd cover, I must say) but for a print edition must go for the moment to The Book Depository, which ships book free.