Mr Darcy versus Mr Beaumaris
The recent 200th anniversary celebrations for Pride and Prejudice, started me thinking about Georgette Heyer’s heroes. And, specifically, about how they compare to Fitzwilliam Darcy.
The Heyer hero who appears to me to be most like Darcy is Mr Beaumaris, from Arabella.
There are obvious similarities between Darcy’s first meeting with Elizabeth Bennet and Arabella Tallant’s unexpected descent upon Mr Beaumaris in his hunting lodge. But are there other ways in which they are alike?
They are of a similar age. Mr Darcy is 28 and Mr Beaumaris is 30. It is also interesting that both men are referred to by their title throughout the book, thus highlighting the formal approach and general ‘stand offishness’ of the character himself.
Their physical appearance is also similar. I know many people automatically picture Colin Firth when they hear the name ‘Darcy’. I saw Rufus Sewell in the role on stage many years before the BBC adaptation was made and, therefore, he is my Darcy. I don’t have as clear a picture in my head of Mr Beaumaris … but he doesn’t look like either of them!
Jane Austen introduces us to Mr Darcy with:
‘… his 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 a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening …’
Georgette Heyer spends much longer on her description of Mr Beaumaris:
‘Mr Beaumaris’s habitual aspect was one of coldness, and reserve, but sometimes he could smile in a way that not only softened the austerity of his countenance but lit his eyes with a gleam of the purest amusement … Those who had never seen it were inclined to think him a proud, disagreeable sort of man, though only the most daring would ever have uttered aloud such a criticism of one who, besides possessing all the advantages of birth and fortune, was an acknowledged leader of society.’
‘No one she had ever seen approached the elegance of Mr Beaumaris.’
‘A very good form, too, she noted with approval. No need of buckram wadding, such as that Knaresborough tailor had inserted into Bertram’s new coat, to fill out those shoulders! And how envious Bertram would have been of Mr Beaumaris’s fine legs, sheathed in tight pantaloons, with gleaming Hessian boots pulled over them! … Arabella was not perfectly sure that she admired his style of hairdressing – he affected a Stanhope crop – but she did think him a remarkably handsome man, as he stood there, laughter dying on his lips, and out of his gray eyes.’
To be continued …