It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a fortune must have done some dodgy dealing.
At least, that’s according to author Joanna Trollope who claims Mr Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, profited from the slave trade.
The character, played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation, might represent the pinnacle of stiff British propriety and decency, but she says his billowing white shirt hides “a very dark underbelly”.
In the novel Mrs Bennet might drool in wonder at his £10,000 a year, but Trollope points out that Austen never revealed the source of Mr Darcy’s wealth, or that of his friend Mr Bingley.
“In her novels, nobody works because the unspoken backdrop was the great commodity of the late 18th and early 19th century was sugar, which is not a million miles away from slavery,” Trollope remarked while speaking at the Festival of Literature in Dubai, the Daily Mail reports.
''He is a young man with means because of the slave trade. The slave trade is lightly touched upon in several of the novels but not very heavily.”
In Austen’s novel Elizabeth Bennet hates Mr Darcy at first sight, refusing his first proposal of marriage. But as his pomposity subsides and - as the character jokes – after she sees his huge country house Pemberley in Derbyshire, Lizzie comes around and they are married.
“What built Pemberley?” Trollope asks. “Pemberley was built, one imagines, on proceeds of the coal mines in Derbyshire. What was the life of an 18th century miner like? Not much fun.”
Colin Firth's career in pictures
Colin Firth's career in pictures
1/9 Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary
Firth sports a knitted Rudolph jumper in 2001's hit rom-com Bridget Jones's Diary
2/9 Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice
Colin Firth played Mr Darcy in a 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Women everywhere continue to swoon at 'that' white shirt lake scene.
3/9 John 'Jack' Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest
Colin Firth with Frances O'Connor in 2002's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
4/9 George in A Single Man
Firth got up close and personal with Matthew Goode in Tom Ford's 2009 directorial debut about a depressed gay professor living in Southern California in the early Sixties.
5/9 King George VI in The King's Speech
Colin Firth won an Oscar for his role as the stuttering monarch in this 2010 film alongside Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.
6/9 Arthur Newman in Arthur Newman
Colin Firth with Emily Blunt in 2012's Arthur Newman, about a former professional golfer who fakes his own death to escape a life of failure.
7/9 Harry Deane in Gambit
Colin Firth gave comedy a go in this hit 2012 movie about two criminals who embark on a mission to steal a priceless antique.
8/9 Eric in The Railway Man
Firth starred alongside Nicole Kidman as Eric in Jonathan Teplitzky's 2013 war film about a British officer who is captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp to work on the Thai-Burma railway.
9/9 Ron Lax in Devil's Knot
The English actor starred as private investigator Ron Lax in this 2013 crime drama about three teenagers convincted for killing three young boys.
“There is a very dark underbelly to these stories, which is why I still get so irritated when people insist on treating Jane Austen as if it was like the lid of a Quality Street tin, all sprig muslin and 'oh la sir'.”
Trollope wrote an modern version of Sense and Sensibility in 2013 as part of the Austen Project – a commission by publishers Harper Collins in which several contemporary writers were asked to update Austenian works.
In Trollope’s story, which is set in contemporary Britain, the characters talk of sex-kittens and texts and use phrases like “totes amazeballs”.Reuse content