The internet has been all over this, a “dramatic re-appraisal,” as the headline breathlessly puts it. But we never knew just what Darcy looked like in the first place — all Jane Austen gives us is “fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance of his having ten thousand pounds a year.” But the piece by John Sutherland and Amanda Vickery is great, a thorough exploration of early 19th-century ideas about male desirability, ticking through things like the importance of cravats, knowing how to move gracefully, and having a well-turned leg. None of this was news to me, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the first readers of Pride and Prejudice probably did not imagine him as looking like a certain English actor.
What surprised me instead was that was seen as surprising. Continue reading