While Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy will forever be associated with the sopping-wet hunk immortalized by Colin Firth in the 1995 miniseries, a new study reveals that Jane Austen’s iconic literary heartthrob would actually be kind of a scrawny-looking wiener by contemporary standards.
John Sutherland, an English professor at University College London and Amanda Vickery, a history professor at Queen Mary University of London, attempted to provide a historically accurate portrait of what the fictional Mr. Darcy might have looked like, based on Austen’s limited descriptions, her own romantic history (thought to have inspired the work), and the beauty norms of the time.
According to their findings, Mr. Darcy would have been slightly malnourished and pale, due to lack of sunlight. He would likely have had “loose powdered mid length hair” tied in a ponytail, with a slim oval face and pointy jaw.
“In the late 1790s, square jaws were practically unheard-of amongst the upper classes,” claims the study, “with the pointy chin and small mouth evident on Mr. Darcy very common features of the gentlemen of the era.”
While horseback riding would have developed Mr. Darcy’s thigh and calf muscles, it’s unlikely he would have shared Firth’s muscular chest or broad shoulders, since it wasn’t fashionable for the upper classes to do too much heavy lifting. “It was all about the legs,” the authors write. “The six pack was unknown and square shouldered bulk was the mark of the navvy not the gentlemen … The general effect was one of languid, graceful length not breadth. More ballet dancer than beef-cake.”
On the plus side, if you’re really into sallow-faced ponytail guys with overdeveloped thigh muscles, reading Jane Austen just got way more interesting.