Jane Austen fans have long speculated about who could have inspired the character Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice,” but rumors have never led to a truth universally acknowledged. British historian and author Susan C. Law is hoping to change that with a new book about sex scandals in 19th century England. In her book, “Through the Keyhole,” Law claims Darcy was based on John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley, a British aristocrat who served in the House of Lords, and who was “involved in a sordid sex scandal that led to divorce” in 1809.
Morley’s second wife was a friend of Jane Austen, and her brother Henry knew the earl in college. Law notes that Morley looked the way that Austen described Mr. Darcy — handsome and “very intense.” Law says she can’t conclusively prove that Morley was the inspiration for the beloved character, played on screen by actors including Colin Firth, Laurence Olivier and Peter Cushing, but she’s still fairly sure she has the right man.
“It can be very frustrating and it is like trying to piece together a jigsaw,” Law said. “It has been fascinating and I have been longing to find that cast iron bit of evidence. But after spending so long on it, I am pretty convinced.”
“Pride and Prejudice” might not have been the only Jane Austen novel inspired in part by Morley, who had illegitimate children with a mistress, causing a scandal that gripped the press at the time. “There was a media frenzy over this,” Law said. “The original adultery is generally believed to have been behind the adultery plot in ‘Mansfield Park.”
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