Inspired by Darcy: Characterizations of Jane Austen’s proudest hero

Jane Austen's character Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Darcy

Have you noticed how many novels are based on or inspired by classics, especially novels by Jane Austen? First there are the retellings of stories, like Emma and the Vampires, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, in which an author takes the original classic and adds exciting paranormal characters. Sequels to Pride and Prejudice, from the efforts of Emma Tenant, Joan Aiken and Jane Gillespie to more recent novels like Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Diana Birchall and Letters from Pemberley by Jane Dawkins prove that Austen’s popularity is still going strong.

Novelists seeking good characters for their stories often insert Austen herself into their books, like Jane and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron, the newest in a mystery series featuring Jane Austen. Other examples are According to Jane by Marilyn Brant, Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathly and Just Jane by Nancy Moser.

What astonishes me is the sheer volume of fiction about Mr. Darcy.
I can understand a crush on Edward Cullen (Twilight) or even Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, whose “half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire…” But Darcy is so off-putting even his friends don’t use his first name. He’s disapproving, snobbish in his wealth and supercilious in his manner. Even when he proposes he reminds Elizabeth of his higher social standing. Is this a character to admire? Apparently so for many readers, since he’s made a big enough impression on authors over nearly two centuries for them to put him through his paces in book after book, like a literary Ken doll.

From the library catalog title list we can infer that combined, these authors think of Darcy as secretly a vampire or a werewolf (both?) with a dark past; who has trouble telling the truth; spends illicit weekends in the arms of “modern” women; is a heartbreaker; has a sister and more than one daughter; has an alter ego who dreams odd dreams and obsesses over things, and that he writes a diary in which you can read all about it and his haunted house, Pemberley. If you are looking for a fresh take on the ubiquitous Mr. Darcy, here are a few good titles from 2011:

James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley
Married six years, the Darcys are preparing for Lady Anne’s annual ball when Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, Lydia, rushes in to announce that her husband, Mr. Wickham, has been shot and killed on the grounds.

Hamilton, Maria. Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman
Beginning in the middle of Pride and Prejudice, the author proposes an alternate story in which Mr. Darcy returns to Elizabeth’s life much sooner in an attempt to win her love and fix her sister Jane’s falling out with Bingley.

Louise, Kara. Only Mr. Darcy Will Do
Mr. Bennet’s death means a lowering of expectations for Elizabeth and when she takes a job as governess she cannot avoid Mr. Darcy who runs in the same social circle as her employer.

Reynolds, Abigail. Mr. Darcy’s Obsession
Mr. Darcy goes to visit Elizabeth Bennet in London, where she now lives in reduced circumstances, and discovers he still loves her – but dare he marry her now?

Simonsen, Mary Lydon. Mr. Darcy’s Bite
Admittedly Mr. Darcy has his faults, but in Simonsen’s version he is also a werewolf who places Elizabeth in danger every full moon and causes grief for a jealous she-wolf: not a good thing.

And don’t miss Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford!

One thought on “Inspired by Darcy: Characterizations of Jane Austen’s proudest hero”

  1. And don’t forget the seemlingly endless literature telling the stories of the offspring of Elizabeth and Darcy. Never mind that Jane Austen doesn’t give a single hint of children to come. Most of the sequels are horrible might be a few gems in the mix but I can’t remember any.

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