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Monday, October 09, 2006

New Spin on the Darcy Moment

Well, we have heard a lot about this being Toby Stephens' 'Darcy Moment.' This article, however has a different approach:

And does this (praise be!) mark an end to the tiresome lionisation of Mr Darcy? I say Mr Darcy, but of course we all know I mean Colin Firth.


The slow burn ignited, and up in flames went effigies of Rochesters past; William Hurt (impressive sidewhiskers, but a bit bland), Timothy Dalton (rather shifty, but not in a good way), George C Scott (not dishy enough) and of course, Orson Welles (impressive, but I've never forgiven him for Citizen Kane, surely the most over-rated movie ever made).


All of which brings me back to the disagreeable cult of Mr Darcy, who in recent years has been consistently voted the greatest romantic hero in literature.

Last year a survey of heroes (romantic or otherwise) by the literary website Books.co.uk saw the aloof incumbent of Pemberley Hall triumph over the likes of Romeo Montague, Heathcliff and Rhett Butler, with Mr Rochester languishing very unfairly, I feel, at 15th - just ahead of Mr Pickwick.
It doesn't take a Nostradamus to predict malign forces at work; Mr Darcy's position has rather more to do with Colin Firth than Pride and Prejudice. How else can one account for the fact that Mark Darcy, of Bridget Jones' Diary - also played by Firth - somehow managed to insinuate his way into seventh position.

But why? Charlotte Bronte's Edward Rochester is a passionate, powerful man, by comparison to whom Jane Austen's Fitzwilliam Darcy appears not merely repressed, but sexually continent to the point of constipation. Yes, he's proud and insufferably arrogant, which - shhh! don't tell the feminists - always goes down well with us career girls, but there's something rather unmanly about his prickliness.

Unfortunately for the Darcy camp, last year I witnessed a 'literary death match' between Darcy and Mr Rochester in which Rochester beat Darcy more than two to one. And I'm sorry to say that most of the pro-Darcy aguments were nothing more than 'how could you not like him?' or 'how could you like Rochester? I don't understand.' How can that compare with: "my bride is here because my equal is here," "my second self, and best earthly companion," "I longed for thee with soul and flesh," with his intriguingly complex character? It just wasn't fair.

I think Charlotte Bronte still says it best in this letter where she defends her creation:

Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live, but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it. He is taught the severe lessons of experience and has sense to learn wisdom from them. Years improve him; the effervescence of youth foamed away, what is really good in him still remains. His nature is like wine of a good vintage, time cannot sour, but only mellows him.


siansaksa said...

That comparison betwen Toby Stephens and Hugh Grant starts to become really unnerving! Why everyone is comparing those two? Have they replaced the talent-meter in England with a Hugh Grantometer and now every male English actor should bare the comparison?!

I was quite impressed to discover that fragment of Charlotte Bronte (where she says that Mr R is like a wine). Is it really written by her?
It would also mean that Gordon &Caird did their homeworks well for the musical :)

Liz said...

Ha, I loved this article (must see what austenblog.com thinks of it). Mr Darcy is a dear, but rather too much to live up to, or live with. Not all of us are Lizzy Bennet! It’s funny because I read P&P before Jane Eyre but Rochester has always been my first love. I’d glad people are seeing more than the clichéd taciturn stomper now that Stephens has brought out his more, er, flirty side. He certainly oomphs up the sex in the third episode, and Wilson is positively fizzing. Have you (bronteana) seen it yet?

Brontëana said...

to siansaska:

I really can't say. I am not very familar with Hugh Grant, actually...

I love this quote. It is from a terrific letter Charlotte wrote in response to a letter about Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The writer said how Arthur Huntingdon reminded him of Mr Rochester and Charlotte is very surprised by this and explains her opinions on how they are completely different characters. If I remember correctly, she also talks about her views on Heathcliff in the same letter. She writes wonderful letters, too...

Brontëana said...

to liz:

I will in about half an hour ;) It is good not to see yet another stomping, grimacing brute on screen. And so far it looks like none of our fears were founded. He seems far from over the top, and there have been very few sneers ;)

Bubonic Woodchuck said...

Is it wrong of me to be perversely happy that Sydney Carton beat out Mr Darcy for second in the article's "Top 10 literary crumpet" list? I've always had a bit of a soft spot for him. :P

kayxyz said...

To bubonic: no, Sydney Carton is an intriguing mystery, also embodies a type made famous by Thomas Hardy: the very passive lover (Diggory Venn, Gabriel Oak). Let us not forget to scold Rochester for thinking he could keep a young child and a demented adult safe under the same roof. Seems a very masculine blunder, that.

kayxyz said...

It's kindy of yarky when Rochester yells out "and my foot hurts." The conveyance of annoyance can be with facial and body twitches only. For instance, when he grimaces and he swallows his wine, then sets the wine glass down. That conveys lotsa levels.