What makes Mr. Darcy so irresistable?

Throughout the years, women have been swooning for Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy, even before Colin Firth epitomized him in the role that he was clearly born to play.  But what was it about Mr. Darcy that made him so swoon-worthy?

Was it his dark good looks, his heaping 10,000 a year?  Was it his surly, aloof attitude or his natural aristocratic superiority which appealed to these readers?

I would posit that all of these things (or most of them, in my case) do make a case for making Mr. Darcy irresistable to women.  Certainly Caroline Bingley found him desirable due to many or all of these.

But how does a fictional hero appeal to women across two centuries and the seven continents to epitomize the romantic hero?

Mr. Darcy is in clear control of his life, his estates, his family (after that little mishap with Mr. Wickham last year) and has his affairs in order.  Until, that is, he makes the acquaintance of one Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  And it soon becomes apparent that he can think of little else but her.

Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed that, were it not for the inferiority of her connexions, he should be in some danger.

[…and later…]

He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.

Finally, once Elizabeth’s time at Netherfield has ended, Darcy realizes that, despite his own warning signs of danger, his feelings have burgeoned.  He makes a last attempt to squelch them by sheer force of will.

Elizabeth had been at Netherfield long enough. She attracted him more than he liked …. He wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him, nothing that could elevate her with the hope of influencing his felicity; sensible that if such an idea had been suggested, his behaviour during the last day must have material weight in confirming or crushing it. Steady to his purpose, he scarcely spoke ten words to her through the whole of Saturday, and though they were at one time left by themselves for half an hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book, and would not even look at her.

He continues to  fight himself constantly–a struggle which, when outlined during his disastrous first proposal to the object of his affections–instills great distaste in her and “with such little effort at civility,” he is rejected.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.”

[…and later…]

He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand.

Darcy is a man who has lost control of his heart.  “In vain” he struggles against the direction in which it pulls but he cannot divert his own feelings, no matter how hard he tries.  Even after she humiliates him.  Even after she accuses him of being the villain in Wickham’s story–a most vicious lie she has been led to believe.  Even after her ridiculous younger sister causes scandal and ruin by running off with that same Wickham and lives with him unmarried in London.

By the time the circumstances that bring about the second proposal come around, a lot of water has passed under the bridge between Elizabeth and Darcy, but he still cannot control his heart:  His “affections and wishes [were] unchanged.”

It is this desire–even though it brings about disastrous (though, thankfully temporary) results in his life–that he cannot control.  It is his compelling love for Elizabeth which draws readers to his cause and makes them swoon at the thought of being in Elizabeth’s slippers.

In the most excellent 1995 adaptation, the screen writer, Andrew Davies shows us this conflict within Darcy using various scenes not described in the novel.

One of them shows Darcy vigorously working out with his fencing instructor and claiming, at the end, as he turns towards the camera with a fist closed in determination, “I shall conquer this!  I shall!”

And, of course, not long after, Darcy, riding to his estate and (unknowingly) on an almost-literal collision course with his beloved, he pauses at a pond on his estate to douse his desire with a swim.  This scene has become iconic and one that has haunted Colin Firth for the entirety of his career.  To wit:


Though neither of these scenes were written by Jane Austen, they have become popular as a mechanism for the different medium of film to depict what is going on inside of Darcy.   Jane Austen gave us exquisite prose just to this purpose.

It is this quality:  this honorable man, in control of his destiny, his emotions, and a great deal more, losing control over his own heart which I find so incredibly appealing about Mr. Darcy and why he is a hero for my “all-time romantic hero” scrapbook.

*Bold added in all quotes by me

Letters to an Aspiring Author, part 1

“For the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place”  —Rilke


Rainier Maria Rilke was born in what is now Czech Republic, of humble but not impoverished beginnings.  He, among other things, was a poet and philosopher, rubbing elbows, at the turn of the century, with students of the likes of Sigmund Freud, Nietsche, and Auguste Rodin.  He was employed for some time by Rodin doing writing and poetry relating to the great sculptor’s works of art.

But none of these things are the reason I will be discussing Rilke on this blog for at least ten posts (though not consecutively).  During the early part of the twentieth century, Rilke was sent a batch of poetry by an aspiring poet and asked to comment upon and critique them.  The poet’s replies spurred a short correspondence, ten letters of which exist for us now in the published work “Letters to a Young Poet.”

In the first letter, our young poet has sent his work to Rilke for critique.  The poet admonishes his young protegé, writing:


“Nothing touches a work of art so little as criticism.”


Art, in all its forms, is the product of the inner environment.  I’ve often used this analogy to explain to my students that our schools place so much emphasis on the exterior environment and the measurements of them—mathematics and the sciences—and the interactive disciplines, as in the social sciences, and history.  The concrete, the physical.  Modern education in America places a heavy emphasis on all of the above.  I know because, at least in my state, these are the only subjects measured by standardized tests.  A person could be completely art illiterate—impervious to anything but the shallowest exposure to literature (as English is a tested subject), the visual arts, music, performing arts are virtually ignored.

But that is my aside, back to Rilke and his trenchant discussion of art and the criticism thereof for in this first letter I have found a key to my issues with my own art, my writing.  I have failed thus far in producing a finished product because I have not heeded his above observation.  “Nothing touches a work of art so little as criticism.”

He goes on to explain that true art must come from deep within.


“I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing [in which sending your work out to be criticized by others).  You are looking outside and that is the thing that you should most avoid right now.  No one can advice or help you…”


Many of you might not concur.  And I’d agree that when a person gets stuck—on a particular scene or piece, especially—turning outwards to a sympathetic friend or nonjudgemental critique partner can be useful—even essential.  I owe much of what I’ve learned about writing fiction by the trial and error method.  But in looking back, that process has trod a little on my soul each time, too.  Instead of working to produce a piece of art separate from myself and not trusting myself to judge what is good and real, I have, instead, developed a huge complex and become gun-shy.  My work became myself—or an extension thereof—and therefore any criticism of my work would be a criticism of me.

Rilke says that instead of looking outward for praise—instead of seeking to hear what you want to hear, to dig deep into yourself instead.  Seek not for outward flattery but for the feeling of accomplishment and success that comes from within.  Write, create because you must.  Because it’s what your blood, your veins, your heart tells you that you must do.  As Rilke says:


“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether I has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.  This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?  Dig into yourself for a deep answer.”


Must I write?  Would I die if I was forbidden to write?  I’d like to think I could find outlets that would substitute for it.  To say I’d die might be overly dramatic, but I do know that when I’m not writing, when I’m not digging into myself and bringing out those things hidden deep in my heart and in my psyche—my muse, if you will—I grow depressed, grumpy, and find life much more difficult to take.  Who is to say I wouldn’t die, eventually, from the deprivation of it?

Rilke, one would assume, belongs to that school of artists who feels that one must “suffer” for their art.  Suffering comes in many ways.  If, in fact, one is not suffering for the sake of the art, one is taking one’s own suffering, all the humiliation, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and using them to fuel their art.  He says as much, in the very first letter:


“Write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty.  Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the things around you, the imgages from your drams and the objects that you remember.  If your every day life seems poor, dome blame it; blame yourself.  Admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creature there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place.” [Emphasis added]


I’ll take these lessons and commit them to my own heart, my own soul, my own muse.


The Greatest Love Letter in English Literature

And what, you may ask, is my opinion on this matter?  Well I do have one and it is a strong one.  Its author is none other than Miss Jane Austen (are you surprised?) and it is penned, in the story, by Captain Frederick Wentworth.

Before I post the text and my discussion of it here, a bit of background to the story might be necessary as the Letter (yes the uppercase L is important) is penned and delivered in one of the last chapters of the last complete book that Miss Austen scribed before her untimely death.  That novel is Persuasion, which has, as I’ve grown older, supplanted Pride and Prejudice (oh the horror!  supplanted?) as my favorite all-time novel.  I do plan to discuss that progression of my tastes at another date.  It is fresh on my mind, dear reader (notice I use the singular as I am well aware of the singularity of my readership), and will be touched, I promise you.

The set-up for the letter is as follows: Anne, daughter of a rather vain and spend-thrifty baronet was persuaded by family and close friends to jilt her fiancé, an up-and-coming naval officer of no fortune or notable family (both very important) and so, finds herself, eight years later at the beginning of the book well on her way to becoming a spinster.  In the meantime, she has turned down at least one other offer of marriage (a young man who has gone on to marry her younger sister) and never forgotten Frederick Wentworth, though she had been urged to do so.

Through a bizarre coincidence (as they surely happen in almost all of good literature), due to the spend-thrifty and vain nature of her father, they must let out their estate while they “retrench” to Bath.  Anne stays behind with her sister’s family at a nearby estate while the house is let out to a retired Navy Admiral, whose wife is none other than the sister of Captain Frederick Wentworth.  Thus, Anne is forced back into the society of her former fiancé, who has since become extremely successful in the navy and, more importantly, extremely rich on prize money.  During this period of reacquaintance, Frederick never allows Anne to forget what she has lost.  He is resentful and virtually ignores her and she must stand back and watch as he woos the Musgrove sisters, sisters-in-law to her younger sister Mary.

Throughout the course of the story,  other things happen and then, the entire party of people end up in Bath.  The Musgrove sisters each end up engaged to other men. 

And now the question hangs between Frederick and Anne: can he forgive her?

Anne is speaking to Captain Harville, a close friend of Wenthworth’s,  in a salon where a few people are assembled.  Harville is the brother of a young lady who has passed away, and whose fiancé is now engaged to Louisa Musgrove.  The two discuss the differences in how the sexes approach love.  Are men more constant or are women?  Are men more passionate or are women?  

Frederick Wentworth sits nearby, silent, seemingly not listening as he writes an order for picture framing.  Anne and Harville make an interesting study of the differences, ultimately agreeing to disagree.  Anne underlines the constancy of a woman’s love, that though a man may love stronger, a woman’s love will endure.  That women love longest “when existence or when hope is gone.”

Soon after the captains leave on their errand, Anne discovers a Letter.   It has been penned to her by Captain Wentworth, who had listened to every word of her conversation with Harville and, as evidenced, was moved by it.

Thus, here be the Letter:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

And so, gentlemen of the readership (or likely, gentleman–or underage kid that got here by googling “good love letters to plagiarize”), here is the most knee-melting, the most heart-piercing, the most swoon-worthy love letter in all literature.  Penned by a man to a woman, but ultimately, by a spinster author of middle age.  Who lived 200 years ago.   She can still teach us all a thing or two about love. 

The bald-faced raw emotions expressed here, especially by a man who has shown little indication of these things to Anne throughout the story.  In fact, his actions demonstrate quite the opposite but for the little things that Anne grasps onto during their association together.  Yes he ignores her completely as the group strolls through the countryside, but he immediately implores his sister, driving by in a carriage, to give her (and only her) a ride as she is having difficulty.  He praises her quick-thinking and capability in a tough situation even while he has spent an entire outing to Lyme wooing Louisa Musgrove and agonizing over her accident.  These small things Anne clings to and they give her hope, even when “all hope is gone.”

But Wentworth has never stopped loving her.  And in this Letter, he pours out his emotions, “half-agony, half-hope.”  He speaks of the heart (his) that she “almost broke eight years and a half ago.”  His soul is pierced.  He is overpowered and fervent.  And these emotions he expresses wholly and unabashedly to the woman he loves.

He also lays bare his heart to her.  “I offer you my heart… I have loved none but you.”  He is “undeviating” in his feelings and has loved her the entire time though she heartlessly spurned him.

He praises her, “too good, too excellent creature” in possession of “such precious feelings.” And in lines closely associated, admits his faults, “Unjust I may have been.  Weak and resentful, I have been.”  But despite all this.  He is never inconstant.

And lastly, he singles her out as the object of his heart’s desire and happiness:  “You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?”

There you go, ladies and gentlemen.  

How to Pen the Ultimate Swoon-Worthy Love Letter 101

by Miss Jane Austen.

1. Bare your emotions

2. Pour out your heart

3. Praise the object of your affections

4. Admit your own faults and your regret for them

5. Single out the oject of your desire and tell him/her your plans for the future and their irreplaceable part in those plans (in the most non-creepy and non-stalkery way, of course.  Sure he followed her to Bath but he was ready to leave again when he thought she got engaged to her cousin. So he wasn’t going to push the matter until he heard her speak about the constancy of her love even though she had lost hope.)

Best of luck to you in writing your own.

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