Saturday 18 March 2017


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.

Book Description

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. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 Author Biography

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, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon.

Spotify Playlist

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


Just Jane 1813 said...

Thank you, Maria, for launching this tour. We are so excited to share this post with your readers! I hope you all enjoy it.

Vesper said...

The problem with the portrayal of the Regency/Georgian man is the comparison with a present day actor, who people think is Darcy. The difference is three hundred years of change.

sophieturner1805 said...

Maria, thank you so much for hosting the launch of this tour! I'm so excited to share this post, and "Mistress," with readers. :-)

darcybennett said...

I am thankful for the wig tax as I don't think even Mr. Darcy could make that look good.

Just Jane 1813 said...

LOL! Good point!

sophieturner1805 said...

Vesper, yes, I think the adaptations have left most people thinking of actors when they think of Darcy. But since it's fiction to begin with, I think whatever each reader has in her or his mind as Darcy can be their Darcy.

darcybennett, haha, agreed! Before the fashion revolution that was the Regency, I think people must have had to judge other people based on entirely different aesthetics.

ColleenL said...

Enjoyable post and congrats on the new book! My Darcy is more what you describe- with the powerful thighs :) Not the effeminate featured Brommel.
I'm looking forward to reading this book. I'll be honest, Elizabeth-Collins parings make me want to cringe sometimes but I was happy to see that he does not make it very far into the book. But I love the stories where Elizabeth retains her strong character despite past horrible backstories and Darcy has to charm out her loving personality again. Love that there is a Spotify playlist to go along with the book! Thanks for the giveaway chance too.

bn100 said...

fun images

Julia V said...

Good lord, it had never even occurred to me that Darcy might wear a powdered wig, how upsetting. I'm glad that my first encounter with the idea is a refutal!

sophieturner1805 said...

Colleen, I definitely hear you on Elizabeth-Collins pairings, and I'll assure you that he doesn't survive the prologue. Her first marriage certainly affects Elizabeth, though, and I love the way you described Darcy having to charm out her loving personality again. :-)

bn100, glad to hear you enjoyed them!

Julia, yeah, that was my reaction on first seeing the article. Glad you saw the refutal first in case you encounter it elsewhere!

Daniela Quadros said...

I am very excited to read this book. Thank you for the giveaway! :)

Anji said...

My first visualisation of Darcy was Laurence Olivier, as my introduction to the works of Jane Austen was via the 1940 film of P&P. Later, he evolved into someone slightly younger looking (Darcy's late 20s as opposed to Olivier's mid 30s) but not really like anyone in particular from real life, and I include Colin Firth in that. I sometimes hear Colin's voice when I'm reading but that's as far as it goes. My Darcy is tall, dark and drop-dead gorgeous but nothing more. He certainly doesn't have powdered hair!

My problem with that drawing is that the Powder Tax was brought in during 1795. Jane Austen wrote her first draft of First Impressions a year or two AFTER that and it wasn't published, as Pride and Prejudice, until some 16-17 years later after major revisions. So when did her visualistion of Darcy date from? The days of the first draft, when a gentleman of his status might have paid for a certificate to carry on using hair powder, or the later draft, when he almost certainly wouldn't have? We'll never know and in the end, he's a fictional character (shock horror!) so we can imagine him any way we choose and not be bound by dramatic portrayals or historians" drawings.

sophieturner1805 said...

Daniela, glad to hear it! :-)

Anji, I'm with you. Darcy in my head sometimes veers into Firth territory (I do think he did an excellent job playing him), but more often he's a more nebulous handsome, dark-haired man. Definitely tall. And yeah the Powder Tax was definitely my issue with it, too. Regardless of who Austen had visualized as Darcy, I think by the time it was published her expectation would have been that people envisioned Darcy and Elizabeth as "modern" people. If I recall, there was even some concern over references to places in Bath seeming outdated in Northanger Abbey, because that was written so much earlier. It might have been her family, though, and not her, since it was published posthumously. Although she did revise it before her death. I need to dig into this more.

Mary said...

What an interesting post-informative, interesting and one that definitely provided good for thought!

I know I'm not alone in having the '95 P&P characters in my head whenever I read JAFF. To me,Colin is Mr Darcy,Jennifer, Elizabeth while Benjamin is our dear Mr B!

I finished this wonderful book last night and I can honestly say it was one of the most compelling,beautifully written books that ive ever read. Delightful,heart wrenching, deeply moving and of course,highly recommended!

I wish you the best of luck with this book,Sophie.

R's Rue said...


sophieturner1805 said...

Mary, thank you so much for your kind words about the book. I'm a reader first and a writer second -- I write because I want to create these experiences for others. So to hear this book resonated with you is absolutely wonderful to hear.

NovElla said...

You put together some really great counterpoints!

sophieturner1805 said...

Thank you, NovElla! Good luck in the giveaway!

Jo's Daughter said...

Colin's look is pure perfection if you ask me. The darkblue of his jacket so compliments his brown "curly" hair...

oloore said...

Thank you, Sophie, for justified rebuttal of that new York Times vision of how Mr.Darcy could have looked in their opinion. I was stressed a lot by the powdered hair blue coat picture, and so I heartily welcome your counter arguments:) And look forward to enjoying your blog tour and trying my luck in one of the wonderful giveaways.

KateB said...

Thanks Maria for making these wonderful observations about masculinity. Darcy should make an understated, elegant figure. No wigs. :)
Thanks for the giveaway. Congratulations on the book release, Sophie.

Andreea Dragan said...

I want so much to read this book!! Thank you so much for the chance and congratulations to the author for such a good and original idea!

sophieturner1805 said...

Jo's Daughter, I agree...I think he looks exceedingly well. ;-)

oloore, glad the rebuttal helped! And glad you're on board for the blog tour. We've got lots of great things coming up.

KateB, an understated, elegant figure is an excellent way to put it. Thanks!

Reeah, glad to hear you like idea, and thanks!

Dung said...

I remember reading that article and couldn't disagree more! Thank goodness for powered wig tax! Congrats on your release. Looking forward to reading it!

sophieturner1805 said...

Dung, thanks for your comment! And yes I think we're all feeling a bit more grateful for that powdered wig tax. Good luck in the giveaway!

Lúthien84 said...

I totally agree with you on Darcy's fashion sense, Sophie. In my mind, he is more Brummel than a fop.

sophieturner1805 said...

Thank you, Lúthien84! I think we're totally agreed on that. I do wonder if Brummel's hair was regularly that tall, or if it's a bit caricatured in that photo, haha.

Ceri said...

I saw this article and instantly discounted it, so I am glad to see your rebuttal :)

sophieturner1805 said...

Ceri, thanks, I'm glad to help with rebuttals of that. :)