Is This Austen’s Real Life Mr Darcy?

Everyone has their own idea of the perfect Mr Darcy (or at least every red-blooded woman with a beating heart). Since I studied Pride and Prejudice at school I’ve been head over heels in love with him, and it’s a book I’ll still re-read fairly regularly.  At school we studied Wuthering Heights at the same time, so many of my teenage years were spent avidly discussing whether Heathcliff or Mr Darcy was the most attractive. Fitzwilliam Darcy still wins out for me every time sigh.

Enough of my adolescent crushes though. Getting back to big news today, one historian claims to have discovered the identity of the real man behind Mr Darcy. It’s something which has long been wondered about but Dr. Susan C. Law now claims to have the answer. After studying Jame Austen’s letters and diaries she believes the man who inspired one of the greatest romantic heroes in fiction was Mr John Parker, First Earl of Morley.

It is a truth universally acknowledged* that Mr Darcy is dark, brooding, handsome and rather proud (which is of course concealing his true nature of dashing amazingness). The First Early of Morley (below) doesn’t really fit this bill I’m sad to say.  While he may have been dazzling company this portrait of him doesn’t quite live up to the fictional character.

*see what I did there?

Disappointed? Don’t be! There a veritable feast of Darcyness below, from the main actors who have played the role to that Lake Scene, a steamy proposal and lots more besides. Enjoy!

First Earl of Morley, Mr Darcy

Here are some of the ways Darcy has been portrayed on screen and in books over the years.

Mr Darcy

Original illustration by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1894.

Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy

Bust of Matthew Macfadyen as Fitzwilliam Darcy from the 2005 film adaption of Pride and Prejudice (the one with Keira Knightley)

Colin Firth

Colin Firth. The very best Mr Darcy IMHO.

Laurence Oliver as Mr Darcy

Laurence Olivier as Darcy in the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice.

And if that’s not enough Mr Darcy here are some of my favourite Darcy moments onscreen.

If that’s not enough Darcy for you and you fancy a more modern kind of Jane Austen fix then try Austenland, which is fabulous (and still has a Mr Darcy in there to fall in love with!)

You can find out more in Susan C. Law’s book: Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House

Image source and copyright: 1This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice. 2, 3, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. 4, 5, This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

7 thoughts on “Is This Austen’s Real Life Mr Darcy?

  1. Nina

    Please don’t leave out the fabulous 1980 BBC version with David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie! As much as I love Colin Firth, this one is my all time favorite version of P&P, my favorite Darcy and my favorite Lizzie.

    • Mary, WHV

      Oh, I don’t think I’ve seen that version! I’ll have to try and find it on DVD. Surely he couldn’t be as good as Colin Firth…? 😉

      • Nina

        Colin is definitely lovely. :)

        David Rintoul brings a sensitivity to the character that I find very moving, and the chemistry and tension between his Darcy and Elizabeth Garvie’s Elizabeth is marvelous. She is my hands down favorite Lizzie of all productions, and it is worth it if only to see her. The actors who play Jane and Bingley are also fabulous. Actually all of the cast are excellent. All those fab BBC actors from that time are in it.


    I’m with Nina on this one (although Firth is the sexiest Darcy). Rintoul brings something quite different to the character of Darcy, an almost shy quality, who uses his arrogance and breeding as a mask for a tormented soul torn between his standing in society and the conventions of the day and his true nature.. Well worth checking out if you can.

    • Mary, WHV

      Oh stop it ladies, you’re getting me even more Darcy-fied than usual! I’ll definitely take a look at that version too if I can find one! What’s your opinion on Austenland?


        Austenland? Not to my taste, I’m afraid. A mish-mash of chick lit ‘lite’ with none of the depth of character and sensitivity of Austen. e.g. Mum has watched P&P, S&S etc. dozens of times, Austenland = 1 viewing.


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