Saturday, April 29, 2006


A forewarning that I mean no offence. This is simply a collection of concepts that show up frequently, and my opinions on them.

Christian names/nicknames:
  • Colonel Fitzwilliam's Christian name is "Richard."
    • There is no suggestion of this, or any other name, in P&P. Jane Austen disliked the name "Richard." I use it nevertheless.
  • Mr Bennet's Christian name is "Thomas."
    • Another nameless character. It's as likely as anything else.
  • Mrs Gardiner's Christian name is "Madeleine."
    • We do know that her name begins with an "M." Madeleine, however, was not in use in England until later. The old standards, Mary, Martha, Margaret, etc, are much more likely.
  • Mrs Bennet's Christian name is "Frances."
    • This comes from the mini-series, where Mr Gardiner calls his sister "Fanny." There is no reason within the novel, however, to suppose this, particularly as none of her daughters have that name. An enormous proportion of eldest daughters, within Jane Austen, are named for their mothers, so the most likely is "Jane." I imagine she would (could) be called "Jenny" (a nickname for "Jane" in use at the time) which seems to fit her better.
  • Mr Darcy's Christian name was George.
    • We are talking about the late Mr Darcy; although there is no reference to his name in the novel, he has a god-son named George and a daughter named Georgiana. It is a reasonable conclusion, although it is entirely possible that young Wickham was named for his own father, and Georgiana for their ducal neighbour. I still think "George" is the most likely possibility, however.
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy is called:
    • "William" (or some variant thereof): There is no reason to suppose this, and it's about as probable as Captain Wentworth being called "Eric." He does not seem the sort to go by a nickname, and the two names are in fact separate (rather than something like "Lizzy" or "Betsey," which are short forms of "Elizabeth" rather distinct names in and of themselves): "Fitzwilliam" is a family name, and refers to his mother's family, the Earls Fitzwilliam. The two times he is referred to by anything other than "Mr Darcy" or "Darcy," the entire thing is used. If he did use a nickname, it is more likely to be "Fitz," which is a short form of names beginning Fitz- rather than a name itself.
    • "Darce": Again, there is no reason to think so. "Darcy" is not a long name and when his male friends speak of him, they invariably use the whole thing.
  • Georgiana Darcy is called "Georgie."
    • Very improbable, as -ie spellings were not generally used in nicknames until much later on, likely because they are French in origin -- we have Jenny, Sally, Lizzy, Molly, and so forth, rather than Jennie, Sallie, Lizzie, Mollie. If her name was shortened in that way, it would have been to "Georgy" -- the nickname we see in Jane Eyre, even several decades later. "Gee" is one that actually was used contemporarily. Still, there is no need to shorten it; some women shortened their names, some didn't, but it was not as prevalent as it is today, to go by Jane Austen's novels: only one heroine is known to all by her nickname, Fanny Price, while Elizabeth Bennet, although always Elizabeth to the narrator, and as as far as we see to her husband, is often called "Lizzy" or "Eliza." Of the other heroines, Elinor, Marianne, Emma, Catherine (Morland), and Anne, all are called by their full Christian names.
Titles and manners of address:
  • Lord ----, Darcy's uncle, is the Earl of Matlock.
    • This, too, comes from the mini-series. Of course there is no such earldom, although it is just as good a name as any. Personally, I am next-to-certain Jane Austen meant her audience to associate Darcy's family with the Whig Fitzwilliams, so prefer to use that title.
    • If he is the Earl of Matlock, he would never be addressed as "Lord Fitzwilliam," but rather "Lord Matlock." Neither would "earl" be used in his address.
  • Darcy's mother is interchangeably "Mrs Darcy" or "Lady [Anne] Darcy."
    • This, too, springs from the mini-series, but it is a mistake. Lady Anne Darcy was the daughter of an earl, and received the courtesy title of "Lady," affixed to her Christian name, which remained with her for life, unless she married a peer in his own right. Never Mrs Darcy, never Lady Darcy, always Lady Anne. A woman who has "Lady" by virtue of her husband's rank would likewise never be "Lady Martha Lucas" (for instance), but only "Lady Lucas." A pet peeve of mine, I'm afraid.
  • Any man at the head of his family being called "Mr [Firstname] [Lastname]." Such as, "Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy."
    • No again. Such a man might be called, Fitzwilliam Darcy, but only if his father or elder brother were alive would he be "Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy" (as in when Mrs Gardiner recalls having heard of "Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy" some ten years prior, at which point the eighteen-year-old Fitzwilliam is still a minor and his father still alive).
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh is called "Lady de Bourgh."
    • For precisely the same reason that her sister is not "Lady Darcy," Lady Catherine is only ever "Lady Catherine," by virtue of her birth. I daresay she would make her opinion on such impertinence clear to the impudent cur who dared so address her.
Physical descriptions:
  • Jane and Bingley are fair-haired.
    • As far as I can tell, this springs entirely from the association of 'angelic' qualities with golden hair. We know nothing about their colouring, except that in the picture that Jane Austen felt was the very image of 'Mrs Bingley,' the lady has dark brown hair.
  • Elizabeth and Darcy are dark-haired.
    • There is some reason to suppose Elizabeth is dark, because we know her eyes are dark (although there are some people with fair hair and dark eyes, far more often dark eyes go with dark hair). With Darcy, it probably is linguistic in nature, springing from the inclusion of 'dark' in his name. Also the, IMO erroneous, association of Darcy with the brooding, melancholy, Byronic, romantic ideal, necessitates a certain darkness of countenance. In fact we know absolutely nothing about his colouring.
  • Georgiana is fair.
    • Again, it seems association of her sweet, shy nature with blonde hair.
  • The Darcy siblings do not resemble one another: Georgiana favours her golden-haired mother, Darcy his dark father.
    • My impression was always that they do look like one another: the description of Georgiana as tall and womanly (the feminine equivalent of Darcy's 'fine tall figure'), immediately followed by the observation that she is not so handsome as her brother, always implied to me some degree of resemblance. We know nothing of what the senior Darcys looked like; we do know, however, that there is 'some resemblance' between Darcy and Lady Catherine, who is his mother's sister.
  • Mr Collins is ugly and greasy.
    • Again, we know little about him. He is tall and heavy, but not said to be physically repulsive.
  • Elizabeth is unfashionably buxom.
    • Firstly, if she were, that would be fashionable rather than the reverse; secondly, she is not. Her figure is 'light and pleasing,' she is less heavy than Jane, built on a smaller scale than Miss Darcy, and so forth. One of the 'flaws' Miss Bingley carefully points out is a too-narrow face.
  • Colonel Fitzwilliam is handsome.
    • The entire cult of Colonel Fitzwilliam is something of a mystery to me. But in this circumstance, he is distinctly described as 'not handsome.' Presumably in a manner closer to Henry Crawford than Mr Collins.

  • The marriage of Mr Darcy and Lady Anne must have been a love-match, as she (an earl's daughter) was so much his social superior.
    • If it was, this is unlikely to be the reason for it. The Darcys are an ancient, wealthy, and highly respectable family. Before the Reform Acts of the 1830s, interest and connections were the ticket to political success; but the senior Mr Darcy's uncle was a judge, and this without the connection to the Fitzwilliams. Given the prejudice against newly-minted titles (such as Sir Walter Elliot's horror at giving precedence to Lord St Ives in Persuasion), the Darcys might very well have outranked the Fitzwilliams overall, while still giving them the precedence due their rank. In P&P, Darcy is completely indifferent to the Bennet girls' comparative poverty; his superiority comes from his lineage.
    • Perhaps it was a love-match, but if so, they were spectacularly poor parents. Mr Darcy raised his godson, George Wickham, at his own expence, alongside his own son, and never saw past his pleasing facade. Wickham was his 'favourite' (according to both Darcy and Wickham). Both Mr Darcy and Lady Anne gave their only child (for twelve years) good principles, but left him to follow them in pride and conceit; they 'encouraged, almost taught' him to think poorly of all outside the family circle. Elizabeth Bennet is quite right when she judges that there has been some great mismanagement in the respective educations of Darcy and Wickham. Mr Darcy, who took such an interest in his steward's son, and was such an exemplary master, seems to have been the more open-minded of the two, which is backed up by Darcy's 'my father particularly.' The desire to idealise this marriage is not something I entirely understand; perhaps because two good people, married to one another, must be well-suited, or perhaps simply furthering the fairy-tale of P&P and Pemberley.


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