Colin Firth’s famous portrayal of the dashing Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ sent many hearts a-flutter over two decades ago. But now, social and contemporary fashion experts believe that he would actually have looked very different.

Their conclusions were generated into a picture form by illustrator Nick Hardcastle in what is a quite disappointing image of what the “real” Mr. Darcy – a fictional character, after all – would actually have looked like.

Colin FirthColin Firth's smouldering portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 'Pride and Prejudice' series was probably inaccurate

Evidence in Austen’s original 1813 novel is actually quite thin on the ground, with the author providing few clues as to his actual physical appearance. The first description is that Mr. Darcy is “good looking and gentlemanlike”. However, with an ambiguous add-on, Austen writes:

“Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.”

Casting directors for the many film and TV versions have generally interpreted this to mean that the socialite is rugged and handsome, but the panel of experts commissioned by the Drama Channel believe the Mr. Darcy that Austen actually envisaged would have been rather pale and weedy, tall with sloped shoulders and white powdered hair.

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The broad shoulders and muscular chest associated with Firth’s portrayal in the 1995 BBC re-make – the one that inspired Helen Fielding to create the Mark Darcy character for ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and whom Firth also played – would in Georgian times have denoted hard-working outdoor manual labouring and would not have been considered attractive qualities for a man of leisure.

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“As Austen wrote ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in the 1790s, our Mr. Darcy portrayal reflects the male physique and common features at the time. Men who sported powdered hair, had narrow jaws and muscular, defined legs were considered very attractive. A stark contrast to the chiselled, dark, brooding Colin Firth portrayal we associate the character with today.”

The research’s conclusions were released in time for Valentine’s Day, with the Drama Channel launching its Jane Austen season on February 14th.

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