It is a truth universally acknowledged that a romantic at heart is always searching for their Mr Darcy. Preferably one that wears a dripping white shirt rather well. Now an academic has claimed that she has found documents and letters that prove that Fitzwilliam Darcy, the tall and brooding chap that eventually wins over the spirited Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, was inspired by John Parker, the 1st Earl of Morley.
Dr Susan Law, a historian, told the Daily Mail that the letters show that Jane Austen was a good friend of Parker’s second wife, Frances Talbot, who was also a writer.
Law says that after Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously by Austen, many at the time had believed that Frances was the author because the character of Mr Darcy was so similar to her husband – physically, and in character.
Dr Law says she spent five years travelling the country unearthing old newspaper cuttings, diary entries, letters and other documents to prove Parker was Austen’s inspiration.
Dr Law told The Daily Mail, “We don’t have the concrete evidence but I have discovered there were a lot of rumours about at the time and it is a convincing argument.
“There is a massive intriguing web around it. It is clear that Jane Austen had very close links with the family. She sent Francis one of the first editions of Emma – when she only had 12 printed.
“Jane Austin’s brother Henry was also a university friend of the Earl of Morley. They were contemporaries and he then become a banker to his regiment and later the domestic chaplain to the Earl of Morley’s family.”
John Parker was the subject of quite a scandal at the time, fathering three children with a mistress and his first wife eloping with a family friend.
However John Parker is not the first candidate for the real Mr Darcy. In the past contenders have included a former love of Jane Austen, Tom LeFroy, and a doctor called Samuel Blackall.