Austentatious, and A Lady’s Diversions, two sister Austen blogs, mentioned an article titled Darcy Fancy. I clicked on their links to read it, but couldn’t find it. Here’s the text from a similarly titled article in The Times Union. Whether it is the same article or not, thanks, ladies, for leading me to it.
Darcy fancy: Leading man speaks and sells volumes
By AMY WILSON First published: Sunday, March 4, 2007
We’re literate women, and we’re kind of iffy on “happily ever after.”
With one exception.
He’s tall, brooding and loaded.
If he had ever really existed, he’d be long dead.
The shadow of his seldom-seen smile still lingers in the recesses of our little reader-girl brains.
It has, as well, stoked the romantic fantasies of generations of women worldwide.
To this day he is his own industry: in books, on TV, in movies.
To this day, dead or not, he looks darn good.
Mr. Darcy, how we love you.
That said, a thinking girl would eventually be forced to ask herself why she loves this character from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
There is proof aplenty out there of this can’t-get-enough premise. We give you the following in recent publication: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley,” “Darcy’s Diary,” “The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy,” “The True Darcy Spirit,” “Lord Darcy” and “Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife,” to name a few. Plus, author Elizabeth Aston’s “The Second Mrs. Darcy: A Novel” comes out as a Touchstone Paperback on March 6.
We give you as well the new three-parter by Pamela Aidan — “An Assembly Such as This,” “Duty and Desire” and “These Three Remain” — a series of novels that takes on “Pride and Prejudice” as told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Then there’s a series of “Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries” — named, charmingly enough, “North by Northanger, or the Shades of Pemberley”; “Suspense and Sensibility, or First Impression Revisited”; and “Pride and Prescience, or a Truth Universally Acknowledged.”
And, so you know this is not about to end anytime soon, there’s “The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World” by Margaret C. Sullivan, which is already selling scads on Amazon.com and it doesn’t come out until May.
So, yeah, even though “Pride and Prejudice” was published in 1813, Mr. Darcy is still very much on our minds and in our hearts and on our lips.
Our hunger is not yet sated.
Reason 1: We are Elizabeth The most obvious reason for our allegiance: We see ourselves as “Pride and Prejudice’s” beautiful, interesting and sharp-witted Elizabeth Bennet, a woman who knows herself and makes no compromise even for security in a world where security is nothing less than everything.
Fantasy being no small motivator of book purchases aside, Reason 1 is a plausible one, as it works on our inner Cinderella and our outer Oprah.
Paula Marantz Cohen, author of “Jane Austen in Boca,” seems to agree. She sees that part of Darcy’s appeal “is that he is drawn to Elizabeth’s impertinence, not put off by it. He has the confidence to like a woman with character.”
Darcy thus falls for Elizabeth because she/we is/are behaving completely without guile. He loves this/us and fears that her/our first estimation of him — that he is no gentleman — has some basis in fact.
Reason 2: We like our brains
Lisa Zunshine is an associate professor of English in Lexington, Ky., who has written a book called “Why We Read Fiction.” She and others have, in the past decade, been studying ideational approaches to literature and culture.
What they’ve discovered is this: We are constantly trying to perfect our own ability to “mind-read,” or, rather, “to explain other people’s behavior in terms of their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires.” It is called, in the high-science parlance, Theory of Mind.
And we do it unconsciously all the time. It is what underlies and props up all our real social interaction. It is how we manage to get by. And the better we do it, the more confidently we maneuver life.
And because our minds do not distinguish between real and fictional people, “fiction builds on our Theory of Mind,” Zunshine says.
Here is where Jane Austen and her Mr. Darcy come in.
Austen makes her reader work. Because the reader never actually knows what Mr. Darcy is thinking, we must constantly infer it from his actions, Elizabeth’s actions, their interplay, the actions of others, the misinterpretations of others, the evidence of their actions, the evidence of their actions to the contrary.
“In Jane Austen,” says Zunshine, “the minds of men are kept closed to us.”
So we look at the source of any piece of information about Darcy, and we have to keep “under advisement, if you will,” what we think of the truthfulness of that source, she says. And then we continue to process what is happening given everything else we know.
The upshot: Our brains are humming, investing Darcy with attributes, and then readjusting those conclusions constantly in light of new information.
We love him then, because Austin crafted — Reason 2 — the perfect puzzle.
Reason 3: It’s the mister
Last, like all fictional characters, Mr. Darcy’s teeth are always brushed and he never leaves his underwear on the bathroom floor. That indeed inspires loyalty.
Still, Austen has one-upped almost all other male fictional characters by constantly referring to the man as Mister, though he has a first name, Fitzwilliam.
Nevertheless, maybe part of the allure is that we never get so familiar with Mr. Darcy that we call the man anything but.
And he, in turn, will never call us Sugar Tush.
Amy Wilson writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Reporters Cheryl Truman and Jamie Gumbrecht of the Herald-Leader contributed to this story.
Romance begins with ‘Pride and Prejudice’
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 58 of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
After a short pause, her companion (Darcy) added: “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2007, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.
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