For years, film and TV adaptations of the iconic Jane Austen novel have cast as handsome, brooding men in the iconic role of Mr. Darcy. But the authors of a new study into the 19th-century British character suggests he may not have been the dark, tousled haired, strapping hunk we’ve all imagined.
In the new study billed as the first historically accurate portrait of the fictional character, scholars found that Fitzwilliam Darcy would have probably had “sloping shoulders, powdered white hair, a long nose, pointy chin and pale complexion,” in keeping with early 19th-century ideas of male beauty.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but one scholar behind the study told the New York Times that a real-life Mr. Darcy of that era would be a “far cry from muscular modern-day television representations.”
According to the study, evidence suggests that while Mr. Darcy would have been about 5-feet-11-inches tall, his stature would likely have been “more ballet dancer than beef-cake.”
The research, released on Thursday, came with an illustration of what Mr. Darcy would have looked like in 1813, when the novel was published.
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The study was conducted by John Sutherland, modern English literature professor at University College London, and Amanda Vickery, professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London.
The scholars noted that Mr. Darcy’s body would not have been toned and chiseled — “chests were modest and shoulders sloping” back then. “The six pack was unknown and square shouldered bulk was the mark of the navvy not the gentlemen.”
Austen gave little details about Mr. Darcy’s appearance in the classic novel, allowing fans to use their imaginations about the ultimate eligible bachelor. Instead, she simply described him as being handsome and aristocratic. Firth, who portrayed Mr. Darcy in the 1995 TV adaptation of the novel, is most often associated with the iconic character, although there have been plenty of other handsome men portraying Mr. Darcy, including Matthew Macfayden in the 2005 film adaptation.