Darcy at 200: "Arrogant", "over-fastidious" and "abominably rude"—the crime writer P.D. James delivers her verdict on Elizabeth Bennet's future husband...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, January/February 2013
I came under the spell of "Pride and Prejudice" as a teenager, loved it then and have re-read it at least once a year ever since. My attitude to Mr Darcy is however ambivalent. He has lasted because, as the hero destined from the first to win one of the most attractive heroines in English literature, he is an essential part of a novel which will never be out of print. From my first reading, however, I found Darcy irritatingly arrogant, over-fastidious and occasionally abominably rude to people less important than he, and it was hard to believe that a gentleman of any century would have proposed to the woman he loved in the terms used by Darcy to Elizabeth. However, he did redeem himself by the end of the novel and I was always aware that as he was handsome, extremely wealthy and the master of so beautiful a house as Pemberley, it would be a considerable temptation for Elizabeth to fall in love with him. I have never been attracted to arrogant, Byronic heroes in the mode of Mr Rochester or Heathcliff and, although Mr Darcy had changed by the time he proposed successfully to Elizabeth, our relationship will, I think, always remain precarious.
For other views on Mr Darcy, read Allison Pearson on The Immovable Mr Darcy, John Carey on The damning first proposal, Adam Foulds on Jane Austen's alpha male, Helen Simpson's Not a bad boy and Ali Smith's The gift of astringency.
P.D. James is the award-winning author of 20 books. She has also been a civil servant, a governor of the BBC and a magistrate. P.D. stands for Phyliss Dorothy