Last December I read Darcy’s Tale, Volume 1: Into Hertfordshire by Stanley Hurd and interviewed him for the very first time. Now two releases (technically three releases) later, I’m thrilled to welcome Stanley Hurd back to Austenesque Reviews, (practically on the anniversary of his first visit!) as he celebrates the release of Darcy’s Tale: Deluxe Edition!
Welcome back, Stanley! I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading your novels this past year. What a wonderful gift for writing you have, and how lucky are we that you choose to share your gift with us! How about we start off our interview by talking about your portrayal of Mr. Darcy. I can tell that just like Mr. Darcy, you are a thinking man, can you tell us a little bit about your thought process of developing Darcy’s character for your retelling? Has your opinion of Darcy’s character undergone any changes since you started this project?
The only real concept that I brought to the table was that he didn’t fundamentally change who he was throughout the novel: that he was as good a man at the beginning as he was a year later. Honestly, I didn’t feel as though I was developing Darcy’s character, so much as I was trying to reveal and expand what Austen had set in place. Whenever I had difficulty trying to figure out what must have been going through his mind, I would go over and over that passage in Austen, and I almost always came away with the understanding I was looking for, and a conviction that our Miss Austen had been way ahead of me. I really believe that she had him very fully developed in her mind as she wrote P & P; she just held it back. By way of example, most people see Darcy as aloof and a bit arrogant; I suspect that JA meant for us to think that, even though she knew better. How much of his reputation amongst us readers, I wonder, is due to his treatment of the people Austen herself disliked? Much of what we are shown of Darcy involves people who are in some way annoying to him, such as Miss Bingley, Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, Wickham, and Mr. Collins. Austen predisposes us to see him in that manner, of course, on our first introduction to him, at the Meryton assembly when he is clearly out of sorts. From then on we often see him responding to these irritating individuals with as much cool civility as any of us could muster, but it certainly doesn’t show him at his best. And she passes very quickly over his interaction with Elizabeth. The next time you read the original, notice how often he smiles at Elizabeth.
I haven’t really changed my mind on Darcy as a result of this in-depth examination of his character, but I certainly have more empathy for what he went through: the man had a decidedly rough year, which, given our perceptions of his character, his position, and his resources, I think we tend to discount. When I was writing the last chapter of volume II, where he has his proposal turned down, I realized how hard this would hit a man his age: to have his first true love (and I conclude it to have been his first true love, because a) Austen would have hinted at it, otherwise, as she gave us all the salient aspects of his character, and b) there would have been little to hold him back from following his heart, had he lost it to someone else) anyway, to have his first true love, at a time of life when his depth of feeling would be completely developed, spurn and scorn his addresses, would have hit him very hard, indeed.
So the short answer to your question is, I think him very much as he ever was. 😉
Brilliant answer, Stanley! I’ve never before thought about how Jane Austen might have purposely wanted us to think him arrogant and aloof. I definitely agree with your view of Darcy not changing in essentials. In our first interview you talked about how showing Darcy as a “good man and true” was most important to you with this retelling. What aspect of Mr. Darcy’s character did you most enjoy fleshing out? What parts of his character were the most challenging for you to write?
I enjoyed most of it, really. I liked showing him on his own with Bingley, and how two guys will talk together. I liked showing him to be as clueless as most of us are, when it comes to the opposite sex. By the way, that is something some readers have objected to, as in his inability to see through Miss Chesterton’s arts. But I have said before that I have done things equally clueless in my own life, and I defend Darcy’s (and my) thick-headedness by emphasizing that a guy only sees a woman’s behavior when she is around him: he has no baseline for comparison. So if she is flirting with him, for example, it takes a while for him to know that it is meant for him, and not just her normal behavior. And besides, what woman doesn’t know that the best men are clueless about that sort of thing? It’s the Wickhams of the world who can recognize a woman’s feelings early in their acquaintance, and manipulate them.
The hardest parts were where I had to delve into his deepest emotions: the refusal at Hunsford, and his last proposal in Hertfordshire. The former was hard to live through, seeing it through his eyes, and the latter was just awful to get right. I blame Austen for that. She took a guy who hadn’t exactly shown himself to be a Byron, and stipulated that he “expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do”. Well, dang! –that makes it tough. I must have re-written that scene thirty times.
I can imagine those crucial scenes being especially difficult to get just right, but you definitely did, in my humble opinion! Throughout your trilogy you have shown us what Darcy does during those long periods of times when he is away from Elizabeth, as well as introduce us to new characters and important relationships in Darcy’s life. Can you share with us a little of what inspired your creation of these events and characters? Do you have a favorite character?
Well, I suppose the first one I think of is Miss Chesterton; she is based on Lady Susan. Even though I think Austen thoroughly enjoyed the character of Lady Susan, as a man who has kicked around the world for a while, and been kicked around my fair share, I really didn’t like her. When a man finally sees through the arts of a scheming woman, he feels violated to his soul. On some level we actually do know how vulnerable we are to you guys, and we trust to your goodness not to take advantage of the access you have to our hearts. It goes both ways, of course, which is why Wickham is such a nasty piece of work, but the typical male response to treachery is a testosterone-laden desire for retribution and victory; not really sure what a typical female response is, as I have not seen it amongst my immediate acquaintance. At any rate, as payback to Lady Susan, I thought it would be fun for Darcy to put her in her place; and it offered a fine method of expressing his character further.
Now, Corporal Sands is a completely different thing. He is based on a karate instructor I had, who stood 5 foot, 6 inches tall, and bench-pressed over three hundred pounds. I once saw him snap a pair of pliers in his hand. He didn’t have quite the sense of humor that the good corporal does, but he was a hell of a fighter, and a loyal friend. I’m not sure where Corporal Sands learned his habit of whistling, but some of the non-coms I’ve known have a way of thinking about the hierarchy of the group they run with in a military fashion, so I just had Sands say it out loud. The results tickled me, so I kept it up. Whenever I need a little lift, I read his part of the story up to where they catch up to Wickham; I always get a chuckle.
And then, there’s Perkins. I think strong, good-hearted men tend to feel protective of those around them, and Perkins is an example of how Darcy tries to look out for those dependent on him. Dorothy Sayers once wrote that “a man is rich who has a good wife and a good servant” (I think that’s the right wording), and I tend to agree. In turn, Perkins does all he can to look out for his master. Darcy had to have a servant, and this was the only relationship I felt comfortable imagining him in, given it was someone who he would interact with closely on a daily basis.
I love that Miss Chesterton was inspired by Lady Susan! And I love Darcy’s “typical male response” to her treachery! Corporal Sands was such a fresh and fun character. Speaking of characters, we know Jane Austen adored Elizabeth Bennet and thought her “as delightful a character as ever appeared in print” and that she was also quite fond of Emma Woodhouse even though she is a “heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” But what do you think she thought of Mr. Darcy? Do you think he is her ultimate hero? Do you think Jane Austen, who many feel Elizabeth Bennet strongly resembles, and Mr. Darcy would suit each other?
I believe she thought very well of Darcy; certainly she thought him worthy of her favorite lady. But I would hesitate to say she felt him to be the ultimate hero; I find my feelings on that subject tempered by her obvious regard and admiration for Colonel Brandon and Captain Wentworth. I’m not sure whether it is simply the fact of their military service she admires, or how long they suffered from their broken hearts, but there is something there that makes me think Darcy would need just a wee bit more to be the “ultimate,” in her estimation.
As for the other…it is so difficult to imagine the right man for Austen. The problem is she’s too darned acute in her analysis of character; love is blind of necessity, as too clear a view of our beloved cannot help but temper our esteem. But it pleases me to think that Elizabeth’s life with Darcy was her way of imagining perfection; a daydream of happiness. Many critics have called P & P a fairy-tale, where the deserving but (relatively) poor girl gets her prince charming. Maybe it was a fairy-tale in fact, brought into being by Austen, to create a world where she herself could find a happily ever after.
Mmmm I like that notion. And I do think you are right about Jane Austen and how her preferences may align other heroes she created. Now I know you are working on some projects that these readers would love to hear about! Can you share with us a little about your current WIP’s and what treatment we can expect to see happen to these characters?
I have two books going at the moment; I jump from one to the other whenever I run out of ideas for the one I’m working on. The first is about Colonel Fitzwilliam, and his role in the Napoleonic wars. It is, of course, a love story, but the war gets in the way a great deal. When I thought of the Colonel, I didn’t imagine him to be the typical Regency second son, whose commission was purchased just to allow him to hang out among the ton. I saw him as a military man by inclination, and decided he needed someone sweet to keep him from turning into the archetypical British Colonel, all gouty and sour, and sporting a bristling mustache. He falls deeply, and quickly, for Miss Emily Chelwood, whom I just love to bits. She has Elizabeth’s clarity and courage, and Jane’s sweet vulnerability. (Those of you who belong to Goodreads can find an excerpt with her in it on my blog.) But the war intervenes, and he is sent to France during the Peace of Amiens to scout around. He falls prey to a counter-espionage plot, gets tangled up in a duel (instigated by his foolish older brother, Viscount St. Stephens) in which Emily’s elder brother is killed, which estranges him from Emily’s family, and he must ultimately effect a reconciliation in order to rescue his beloved when her father’s estate passes to a grasping elder cousin. Whew!
The other book is about Captain Wentworth. It is the story of Persuasion told through his eyes, from their meeting when he was a newly-made commander at the age of 23, through to their rapprochement at Bath. As I did with Darcy, I am trying to keep as strictly to canon as I possibly can, and show the Captain as he fights to overcome his grief and anger at what he thinks is Anne’s change of heart, or simply weakness of character. Early on there is the temptation to throw his life away in glorious battle, where his passing would surely be read in the newspaper by the lady who had spurned him. Later, as he toys with the idea of other women, and sees his comrades on shore leave, and with their intendeds, he tries to find interest in the women around him. Finally, after the war, when fate sends him to Uppercross, we have to investigate what holds him back from settling with one of the Musgrove girls. I can’t present it as a sort of mystery, as Austen does, where the reader anxiously waits to discover who will end up with Anne at the end, but I believe there is a good story to be told about a proud but wounded man, handsome, accomplished, and rising in his profession, who must learn that audacity isn’t always the answer; and balance, especially in marriage, is a thing to be desired.
Not to put any pressure on you, but I cannot wait for both of those to be finished and released! Very exciting!!! Love both the characters you have chosen to feature! And now, since I have already done a Quickfire round of questions with you, Stan, I thought it would be fun to do one with Mr. Darcy. I hope you don’t mind! Could you please summon Mr. Darcy to answer these following questions:
There can be little doubt that it was my parents who had the most profound effect on my character. My father showed me what duty, honour, and humanity consisted of, and how a man must carry himself in this world. But I credit my mother for showing me the meaning of courage, and the importance of family loyalty; it was she who was our protectress, and her loss left all of us, to one degree or another, less able to stand against the ravages of the world. But her legacy also taught us how we must lift one another back up, when the agencies of the world conspire against us. So it is to her memory I look most often, and it is her memory I most honour.
What talent do you wish you could possess?
I have always felt my position demanded a better man in company than myself, but, with the help of my darling wife, I am improving at last.
Describe your perfect day.
The easiest yet: nothing more than an ordinary day at Pemberley. I might, perhaps, add a ride into the country with my bride, which pleasure we indulge in far too infrequently, duty being what it is. Now that she has accustomed herself to riding, my wife takes considerable enjoyment in the activity. She is often to be seen, either mounted or on foot, wandering the lengths of the valley in search of hither-to unseen sections of the river, or some secluded dell. She has shared with me these examples of the picturesque to be found in the remote and isolated parts of the estate, to my undying delight.
What do you love most about Mrs. Darcy?
Ah…the most difficult yet. —Her smile? Her wit? Her beauty? How she transforms me into a better man than I am? How her love saved me from despair, and a dark and bitter existence? All this, and more. As much as I hate to admit it, though, Bingley is right when he says one cannot analyse the workings of one’s heart like a naturalist studying an insect; I must leave the reduction of love into words to a more worthy philosopher than myself.
What is something no one knows about you?
In spite of the brazen nature of this, and, may I say, your other questions generally, I am minded to reply this one last time—a return for the sincerity and warmth of your hospitality. My most heartfelt thanks for your kind invitation, and your most generous welcome.
Know, then, that before my marriage, I always carried a miniature of my mother inside the cover of my watch: a talisman, if you will, of protection and comfort, and a reminder of what strength life demands. I now have a second watch, bearing a miniature of my wife: my guardian angel, my light, and my hope; I wear them as circumstances demand, or a fond heart suggests.
Your humble servant,
Many, many thanks to both Stanley Hurd and Mr. Darcy for answering all my nosy and impertinent questions! I wish you all the very best with your releases and upcoming projects, Mr. Hurd, and I wish Mr. Darcy all the happiness in the world with his lovely new bride!
Today Stanley Hurd generously brings with him 3 BRAND NEW paperback copies of Darcy’s Tale, Volume I: Into Hertfordshire + 1 ARC (uncorrected proof) of Darcy’s Tale: Deluxe Edition for me to giveaway to some lucky readers!!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some kind words for Stanley!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Stanley!
- This giveaway ends December 17th!
Want to double your chances of winning?? Come check out my review of Darcy’s Tale: Deluxe Edition on Friday! 🙂