Sophie Turner: Masculinity in the Regency
Good morning, Maria Grazia, and thank you for welcoming me to your wonderful blog. I am thrilled to launch the blog tour for my latest release, Mistress, here at My Jane Austen Book Club. Today I wanted to share with you and your readers a post about one of my favorite Austen heroes, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Like quite a few women, I was mildly horrified by the New York Times article that envisioned Mr. Darcy as a pale, rather thin man with powdered hair. Horrified, and a little perplexed.
Darcy from the study mentioned in the article, vs., of course, Colin Firth’s portrayal
Assuming the 1811 timeline of Pride and Prejudice, Darcy was better than 15 years past when hair powder was common. Following a tax on hair powder in 1795, use fell off rapidly. It’s pretty possible that Darcy might never have used hair powder at all, and I can see no way that an 1811 Darcy would have had powdered hair.
The entire look of this sketch Darcy seems to ignore, well, Beau Brummel
Brummel, well before 1811, had ushered in a revolution in men’s fashion. It is known today as dandyism, but what Brummel created was, in its fundamentals, the suit. Gone were the elaborate colors and embroidered coats of the fops,and in their place, a dark coat and tan trousers (trousers!), exquisitely tailored. Gone too was long hair, in its place short haircuts such as the Brutus. And Brummel also ushered in a greater emphasis on hygiene, as a proponent of a daily hot bath. Personally, I think it almost certain that Darcy, as a young man of the ton, would have followed Brummellian fashion.
I don’t know enough about the argument for a narrow, decidedly un-Firthian jaw to comment, but the sloping shoulders and underdeveloped torso I’m also a pretty dubious of. The article argues that powerful thighs were the ideal for a gentleman, borne of frequent horse riding, and as someone who rode for many years myself, I can definitely say that it builds a lot of strength in one’s thighs. But there is also a certain amount of core strength required, and riding was not the only pastime for a gentleman – boxing and fencing were also popular and would have certainly built upper-body strength. The combo of tan trousers and dark coat did emphasize the thighs more, but that doesn’t mean men were emaciated up top. I think the degree of, well, musculature that Darcy had in various areas of his body would have been entirely related to what sports he participated in, and is therefore open to interpretation. As well, some of those sports would have seen him out of doors a great deal, and therefore not the pale fellow seen in the sketch.
Brummel redefined what it was to look masculine, during the Regency, and I think this is part of the allure of that era still holds for modern readers. Personally, I find it difficult to see a man in a wig and a pastel, embroidered coat as sexy. But a man wearing the clothes below? Absolutely sexy.
|A great example of Regency sporting clothes|
Mistress was the first time I’ve written more detailed intimate scenes between our dear couple, and it was important to me that both Elizabeth and modern readers see that Darcy is physically attractive. Taking a bit of inspiration from Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck, where Judith Taverner mistakes a man in a spangled coat for Brummell, I had Elizabeth compare the rather over-dandied Mr. Althorpe to Mr. Darcy. The latter, of course, is actually nearer Brummell’s ideal:
Elizabeth looked up, then, and found the object of her thoughts entering the drawing-room, and looking very well that evening. While Mr. Althorpe could rightly be described as a dandy, everything about Mr. Darcy’s dress was exceedingly understated, and yet clearly of the highest quality. She chastised herself, then, for the last thing she should be doing after her conversations with Jane and Mr. Althorpe was contemplating Mr. Darcy’s manner of dressing. Still, when he gave her what seemed a particular glance and smiled, Elizabeth could not help but return his smile fully.
Elizabeth can see what’s attractive about such a man, and hopefully so can readers, in their imaginations. Perhaps that’s why I reacted rather strongly to the sketched Darcy in the NYT article. I still think it’s more likely that he’s nearer Colin Firth than the man in the sketch. If there’s anything I’d criticize, it’s that there’s a bit too much color happening in his coats and waistcoats in the miniseries, something This Charming Man, a dramatization of Brummell's life, gets right.
The whole movie is worth a view (although it gets a bit weird at the end) for those readers interested in all that Brummell did for Regency fashion. But those looking for a shortcut (or a lovely, if X-rated preview), can start with this YouTube video.
One night, to decide his entire life's happiness.
Chastened by Charles Bingley following Mr. Bennet’s untimely death, Fitzwilliam Darcy determines he will offer marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, but she marries another.
Years later, a widowed Elizabeth is mistress of Longbourn, and has vowed she will never marry again. A house party at Netherfield brings them back together, but Darcy will have to win more than her heart if he is to have any chance at making her mistress of Pemberley.
Readers of Sophie Turner's more chaste Constant Love series should be aware that this novel contains decidedly adult content at certain parts of the story.
Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.
She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.
Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.
She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon.
Sophie has created a fantastic playlist that accompanies her book!
Blog Tour Schedule
March 18 / My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
March 19 / Of Pens & Pages/Book Review, Excerpt & Giveaway
March 20 / Margie’s Must Reads /Book Review & Giveaway
March 21 / More Agreeably Engaged/Author Spotlight & Giveaway
March 22 / A Lady’s Imagination / Guest Post & Giveaway
March 23 / Just Jane 1813/Guest Post & Giveaway
March 24 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
March 25 / My Love for Jane Austen/Excerpt Post & Giveaway
March 26 / My Vices and Weaknesses/Book Review & Giveaway
March 27 / So Little Time…/Excerpt Post & Giveaway
March 28 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Guest Post & Giveaway
March 29 / From Pemberley to Milton / Vignette Post & Giveaway