Although we think we have a good idea of what Jane Austen's Mr Darcy looks like – tall with floppy brown hair and a sopping wet white shirt – it turns out that the modern interpretation of the iconic fictional character, as portrayed by stars including Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen, could not be more wrong.
According to a month-long research project at University College London, English Literature and history experts John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe and Amanda Vickery have revealed that instead of brown hair and a surly expression, Jane Austen would most likely have envisaged Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley with powdered white hair, a pointy chin, a long nose and a pale complexion, while his physique would have been similar to a ballet dancer.
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They explained: "The six pack was unknown and square shouldered bulk was the mark of the navvy not the gentlemen. Chests were modest and shoulders sloping. Arm holes cut high and to the back rather pinioning the man within. The general effect was one of languid, graceful length not breadth. More ballet dancer than beef-cake," before adding: "Darcy's teeth will not yet be decayed. He may well, unlike the mass of the English population, carry them into late life... Darcy may well have smelt of musk or flowers. Perfumes were unisex in the period."
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Their study, The Real Mr Darcy, marked the launch of the Jane Austen Season on TV channel Drama. With the help of illustrator Nick Hardcastle, the group introduced a historically accurate drawing on how Mr Darcy might have looked. Fans of the romantic hero were quick to discuss the findings, with one tweeting: "Is this the man Elizabeth Bennett would have fallen in love with? No way!!! Whereas Colin Firth is the perfect Mr Darcy." Another joked: "Don't know why everyone's up in arms at the revelation that Mr Darcy wasn't hot, Lizzy isn't interested until she visits his massive house."