Making Mr. Darcy

Cultural Context for the Regency Gentleman

Our first impressions of the works of Jane Austen are often constructed through modern television and film adaptations of her novels. In adaptations, a “proper” Regency gentleman may be easily created simply by casting a British actor with a posh “received pronunciation” accent and a good costuming department. To be considered a gentleman in actual Regency society, however, was a different matter. Works selected for this exhibition illuminate how gentlemen contemporary to Jane Austen (1775-1817) were educated, dressed, occupied themselves in work and leisure, participated in politics, and managed their love lives, providing additional context for Austen’s characterizations of gentlemen, both admirable and troublesome.

This is one of the earliest machine printed paper doll sets. Shury, Daniel, The Protean Figure and Metamorphic Costumes, 1811.

Making Mr. Darcy was originally a physical exhibit on display in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library from February 21 to May 24, 2019. It was curated by Lynne M. Thomas, head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Professor. For a reflection on the creation of the physical exhibit and photos of the exhibit, please visit this article from the Conservation Lab blog.