My Girl’s delight with her English Country Dance class, and her desire to watch the dancing scenes in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, awakened in me a wish to reread that novel. And then I had to watch the production from beginning to end, admiring and sighing over all the beautiful scenery, Colin Firth, the lovely dresses, Colin Firth, the magnificent estates, Colin Firth, the gorgeous sets and, of course, Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.
I am not a Jane Austen scholar, but I know enough to understand that she offered, through her novels, criticism of a society focused too sharply on manners, appearances and status. I wonder if part of her continued appeal is that we have moved so far away from that excess of civility. What an oddity Mr. Darcy would be in today’s world, especially if he suddenly appeared in the U.S., during this particular autumn. What would we make of a fabulously wealthy man whose employees and tenants sing his praises rather than write tell-all books about him, who conceals both his own good deeds and the wrongdoings of others, and recognizes that people of different social strata can be worthy of respect? How would we handle the facts that his only “private server” is his valet, he is careful both in his actions and his speech (usually), and he admits when he has made a mistake? Good manners wouldn’t give Saturday Night Live and the late night talk show hosts much material, and wouldn’t that be refreshing! If Darcy ran for president, his slogan could be “Honesty with Discretion; Courtesy with Morality.” People would probably say he waffled on his opinion of the Bennett sisters, and the birther crowd would actually have a point. But you know, if he looked like Colin Firth, I might just vote for him anyway. 🙂