2015年4月28日星期二

Is this the real Mr Darcy? Letters 'prove' that tall, dark and brooding aristocrat whose wife's adultery scandalised polite society was the inspiration for Jane Austen's hero

  • Dr Susan Law believes John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley, was real Mr Darcy
  • Like Mr Darcy, Earl was 'tall dark and brooding' and had troubled love life
  • Letters show Austen stayed at his house while writing Pride and Prejudice
  • She was a close friend of the Earl's second wife, who was also a writer 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every woman is in search of her own Mr Darcy, but one author claims to have unearthed the original man who inspired Jane Austen's romantic hero.

Dr Susan Law says she has uncovered documents and letters which prove that the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy was inspired by John Parker, the 1st Earl of Morley.

Like Mr Darcy, Parker was 'tall, dark and brooding' and also became embroiled in a sex scandal after it was discovered that his first wife had been unfaithful to him.

Dr Susan Law, an author and historian, says she has uncovered new evidence that Jane Austen's 'dark and brooding' Mr Darcy was inspired by John Parker (pictured), the 1st Earl of Morley

Dr Law says the new evidence shows that that Austen stayed at the Earl's country home Saltram House in Plymouth, Devon, in the early 1800s when Pride and Prejudice was written.

OTHER CONTENDERS FOR TITLE OF THE 'REAL MR DARCY'

Tom Lefroy, an Irish gentleman who Austen fell in love with aged 20 after he visited her family home.

Lefroy's precarious financial situation meant he was taken to London and married to a rich heiress, but perhaps as a testament to his affection for Austen he named his first daughter Jane.

Dr Samuel Blackall, a theology student and fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who met Jane in 1798 at a home of the Lefroy family. 

The two did not cross paths again until 1802, on the Devon coast, where Austen said she had fallen in love with a clergyman, believed to be Dr Blackall.

However, it is thought that Jane's sister Cassandra was also fond of Dr Blackall, causing a rift between them, and driving him away. 

A series of letters also show that Austen was also good friends with Parker's second wife, Frances Talbot, who was herself a known author, and that the two often exchanged writing.

In fact, shortly after Pride and Prejudice first appeared anonymously, Dr Law says it was believed that Frances was the author, as the character of Mr Darcy fit her husband's profile so closely.

Dr Law, 52, an author and historian from Knielworth, Warwickshire, said: 'The physical similarities in them are obvious but there is also so much evidence to suggest the Earl was Mr Darcy.

'When Jane Austin published her two novels Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, she did so anonymously.

'The Earl's second wife Francis, who was well known in literally circles, was widely thought to be the author of those novels.

'The Earl was tall, dark, handsome and slightly brooding. There is a picture of him in 1805 image in his militia uniform and another in the library. He looks very intense.'

The Earl himself became mired in scandal after it was revealed that he had fathered three illegitimate children with his married mistress, leading his first wife, Lady Augusta Fane, to elope with a family friend before the two divorced in 1809.

It was already thought that the Earl's messy love-life likely provided the inspiration for Mansfield Park, but Dr Law now believes he likely inspired Mr Darcy as well.

Dr Law says she spent five years travelling the country unearthing old newspaper cuttings, diary entries, letters and other documents to prove Parker was Austen's inspiration. 

Like Mr Darcy (pictured, played by Colin Firth), the Earl had been mired in a sex scandal himself after it was discovered he had fathered three children by a married mistress, causing his wife to elope with a friend

Like Mr Darcy (pictured, played by Colin Firth), the Earl had been mired in a sex scandal himself after it was discovered he had fathered three children by a married mistress, causing his wife to elope with a friend

Dr Law says documents show that Austen was close friends with the Earl's second wife, and that Austen stayed at Saltram House (pictured) which belong to the Earl while writing Pride and Prejudice

She added: 'We don't have the concrete evidence but I have discovered there were a lot of rumours about at the time and it is a convincing argument.

'There is a massive intriguing web around it. It is clear that Jane Austen had very close links with the family. She sent Francis one of the first editions of Emma - when she only had 12 printed.

'Jane Austin's brother Henry was also a university friend of the Earl of Morley. They were contemporaries and he then become a banker to his regiment and later the domestic chaplain to the Earl of Morley's family.

Despite spending five years on her research, Dr Law (left) says she was unable to find 'cast iron' proof that Austen (right) used the Earl as a model for Mr Darcy - but says she is 'pretty convinced' it is him

'We know how close Jane Austen and Francis were. She never came out and said 'your husband was Mr Darcy' - so we can not say that 100 per cent.

'It can be very frustrating and it is like trying to piece together a jigsaw. It has been fascinating and I have been longing to find that cast iron bit of evidence.

'But after spending so long on it, I am pretty convinced.'

 



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