At last! According to numerous media stories, including this one in The Express of London, British journalist and historian Dr. Susan Law has discovered the real-life model for that Pride and Prejudice heart-throb, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Law says Darcy was patterned after “the intense, charming and often controversial 1st Earl of Morley John Parker.”
According to Law, Austen became acquainted with Parker when she spent time at his home, Saltram House in Plymouth (pictured below), which happened to coincide with her work on P&P. Parker’s second wife, Frances, was one of Austen’s near friends. Frances also had a literary bent and, Law says, initially Austen’s anonymously published novels P&P and Sense and Sensibility were believed to have been written by Frances.
Coincidentally, Saltram House was used in filming S&S in 1995. It represented “Norland,” the home Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters were forced to leave after Mr. Dashwood died. A scandalous end to John Parker’s first marriage may have inspired the adultery that shakes the family of Mansfield Park, Austen’s third novel.
Law maintains that in five years of research she has found letters and documents that bolster her case. These claims are detailed in her new book, provocatively titled Through The Keyhole: Sex, Scandal And The Secret Life of The Country House (I’m not planning to read and review this one, so I’ve provided the link below now, in case you want to). “The physical similarities in them are obvious,” she says. “The Earl was tall, dark, handsome and slightly brooding.”
Although she’s yet to find that “cast iron bit of evidence,” after spending so much time and effort on her researches, she says, “I am pretty convinced.” I haven’t read her evidence, OK, but I can’t believe the wife of my Mr. Darcy would ever cheat on him.