Colin Firth might be the quintessential screen depiction of Fitzwilliam Darcy, but does he actually resemble Jane Austen’s idea of the Regency heartthrob?
Not so much…
Academics John Sutherland, the Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature at University College London, and Amanda Vickery, Professor of Early Modern History at Queen Mary University of London, have taken Austen’s descriptions of Mr Darcy, and working with editorial artist and illustrator Nick Hardcastle have come up with the first ‘historically accurate’ rendering.
And here he is. Austen’s take on Darcy, rather than being tall, dark and handsome like Firth, was of a man who was pale, with powdered white hair.
He would also have had sloping shoulders, a long nose, pointed chin, and a long oval face.
And while that sounds somewhat wan, it’s worth noting that he would also have had large quads, thighs and calves, commensurate with being a good fencer and horseman, though he would also be shorter than his on-screen contemporaries at around five-foot, 11-inches.
Firth, by comparison is six-feet, two-inches, while Matthew Macfadyen, who played Darcy in the 2005 movie, stands at six-feet, three-inches.
Said Professor Vickery: “Mr Darcy is an iconic literary character, renowned for his good looks, charm and mystery. As Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in the 1790s, our Mr Darcy portrayal reflects the male physique and common features at the time.
“Men sported powdered hair, had narrow jaws and muscular, defined legs were considered very attractive. A stark contrast to the chiselled, dark, brooding Colin Firth portrayal we associate the character with today.”
The study was done by TV channel Drama, to coincide with a new Jane Austen season.
The season will include screenings of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Emma’ and ‘Mansfield Park’, starting from February 12.