Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Darcy of all Darcys?

If you know the history of Jane Austen, you will know that at around the time she was 21, she fell in love with a man named Thomas Lefroy. However, due to their circumstances (both of their families were considered poor), although they were in love (or at least starting to be in love), they were separated by their families, and never saw each other again, as they both needed to find more suitable families to help with their financial situations. Tom Lefroy went on to marry an heiress that his family approved of, and became a chief legal justice in Ireland. He had a daughter who he named Jane, but it is not known if she was named after Austen. Austen received one proposal from another man, accepted, then the next day, rescinded and never married.

Historians and scholars differ on their analysis of whether or not this short flirtation that took place became the inspiration for the character of Darcy in her novel "Pride & Prejudice." Some say that it fueled the great romance between Lizzy and Darcy, noting that despite the gap of wealth, Darcy accepted Lizzy nonetheless and married her. However, Tom Lefroy in real life was not considered proud, silent, or passionate (traits of Darcy). He was considered a pleasant, talkative fellow, and a penniless law student at that, so this is where the discrepancies start sneaking in.

Despite that, fans of Jane Austen will surely want a piece of him, as a miniature portrait of Lefroy will be available for sale at the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair in London between June 12th-18th, sold by Judy and Brian Harden. It is considered only the 2nd known painting of him as a young man out there; the other version is in the possession of his descendants. The asking price, you ask? A cool £50,000!!!

The watercolour is painted on ivory and measures just 3 inches by 1 ¼ inches. It is by George Engleheart, the great English miniaturist, and the only one which is dated and signed with the artist's distinctive cursive E.

While they are totally trying to profit from the Austen-craze, if you can't own a piece of the man, you can see a portrayal of him on film. James McAvoy played Tom in the film "Becoming Jane," which also starred Anne Hathaway as the author. (I haven't seen this film yet so don't know if it's any good.) The film is loosely based on their short romantic affair, so it's probably full of inaccuracies, but it could give you more insight on the man that might have been Darcy.

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