The novelist Helen Fielding recently caused outrage amongst her fans when it was announced that in her latest book she had killed off one of the main characters of her hugely successful Bridget Jones series. Bridget was now a widow, having lost her husband five years ago.
Why should this cause such dismay? The man in question was no ordinary spouse. He was a Mr Darcy.
By replicating the surname of Jane Austen’s romantic hero, she automatically transferred some of his cachet to her character, albeit that the two are barely alike. Or were, when confined to the page. The duo were further conflated when Colin Firth, who in the eyes (and hearts) of many Englishwomen was the quintessential Fitzwilliam Darcy due to his role in a BBC production of Austen’s novel, was cast as Mark Darcy in the film of Bridget Jones’ Diary six years later.
That he should have captured the affections of so many was perhaps more due to Firth’s looks and an infamous wet shirt, than to the charm of the character. Austen’s creation is rude and stand-offish for much of the novel.
I met my friend Nicola who was in the role of agony aunt recently, and finding a walk to be a good vehicle for our talking we set off up the Derwent Valley with her young boxer. The valley is a wildlife haven, particularly noted for its population of red kites which have been successfully reintroduced to the area and so they and other fauna are represented in a series of sculptures that hide amongst the trees.
But our afternoon wasn’t about the kites. It was the utter ebullience of Darcy. You could hardly call him stand offish!