Fitzwilliam Friday–What’s in a Name? Part One

It’s not until the end of Chapter 25 of Pride and Prejudice that we discover Mr. Darcy’s first name. The reason? Austen wanted to prejudice her readers.

What you need to know about Fitzwilliam Darcy’s name is that it’s basically HoityToity MoneyBags. Next time, we’ll talk about the surname Darcy. That signalled a lot to readers all on its own. Nor is Pride and Prejudice the only book that Jane Austen does this. However, adding Fitzwilliam as Darcy’s first name? Well, it just takes any negative opinions about the pride he must have and would have pushed it over the top. You see, one of the wealthiest men in Great Britain at the time was the fourth Earl Fitzwilliam.

William Fitzwilliam (and they’re nearly all William Fitzwilliam for hundreds and hundreds of years) lived from 1748 to 1833. He was the eldest son of the previous earl and inherited the title at the age of eight. The various estates were worth nearly seven thousand pounds but he also inherited debt worth forty-five thousand pounds with an annual charge of half his income. He sold an estate to clear the debt.

Lord Fitzwilliam’s mother was the daughter of a marquess. His maternal uncle, who inherited the title, was briefly prime minister but died a few months into service. The second marquess had no issue and the title went to a cousin. The money and family mansion, however, went to Lord Fitzwilliam.

The house was the largest in the country. He also became one of the greatest landowners. With the estates, came rents and collieries just as the industrial revolution began. In 1810 his rents from the Yorkshire estates alone were 22,0000 pounds. His total income was nearly 60,000 pounds per annum. By 1815, it was about 115,000 pounds.

As a landlord, however, he did reduce rents when times were hard in addition to giving to other charitable enterprises. That fact, however, might not be well-known outside of his tenants. It certainly wouldn’t be as well-known amongst the average reader.

No, they would know that he was one of the richest men in the nation, had a strong political career, and had once been a front runner for the position of Prime Minister. Mr. Darcy might be insanely rich in the minds of Meryton with his 10,000 a year but imagine just how impossibly rich and above the Bennets he must be with relations like the third earl. Of course he would be proud and look down upon people from an estate worth not only a tenth of his own but one hundredth of his uncle’s.

Waiting until so late in the book to tell us Darcy’s first name and after we seem to have proof of his bad nature not just poor manners is a redirect by the author. Now, regardless of how we know Darcy feels about Elizabeth, we can hardly imagine he would propose to her. Nor can we expect that if he does that he would ever deserve her. Surely he is arrogant, rich, and an abuser of his fellow-man as so many of the rich are. FITZWILLIAM Darcy would never deserve our dear Elizabeth.

8 thoughts on “Fitzwilliam Friday–What’s in a Name? Part One

  1. Interesting, thank you for sharing.
    Earl Fitzwilliam seems to have some of the issues Darcy had, doing good (the tenants) but people only saw his wealth. Like Elizabeth in PnP was blind to his better character traits. Makes me wonder how much of this Austen could have known…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to research that one day but I don’t know if we could ever know. I wonder how much about his behavior would be known far from his estate. I’m sure he wasn’t the only benevolent landlord but I do think there’s quite a bit of inspiration there.

      Like

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