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Shipper Manifesto: Elizabeth Bennet/Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)

Fandom: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pairing: Elizabeth Bennet/Fitzwilliam Darcy


Blurb:

Everyone knows the story, it seems. The very haughty, very handsome and very rich Mr Darcy comes to Hertfordshire with his friend. There he meets Elizabeth Bennet, who is clever and pretty and popular. He thinks she's not worthy of his time. She takes an instant dislike to him because of his rudeness. He falls in love with her; her dislike of him increases. There are lies, a separation of lovers, biting witticisms, two declarations and proposals! two refusals! an airing of grievances, a letter, an accidental meeting, a scandal (averted!), a reconciliation, another proposal, and finally a happily ever after.

At no point does Darcy brood. In fact, he smiles quite a lot. He is not at all Brontëan. Similarly, Elizabeth is never secretly in love with him, until she actually is. And the Bennets are not poor by any stretch of the imagination. They have a butler, a housekeeper and other servants! They do not live with pigs and chickens!

Mr Bennet is a gentleman, although on a lesser financial scale than Darcy. It's through the lens of this disparity of wealth that Austen comments on society and gender in her time. What makes this novel resonant even now is that in 200 years so few things have changed. We are still very much concerned with money, with marriage and romance, and with the goings-on of our neighbours.

But Elizabeth and Darcy don't just fall in love and get married, The End. They experience the best and worst of each other. They argue. A lot. They challenge each other. They are forced to confront their own ideas of themselves. They apologise. They become friends. In summation they're two ridiculously attractive and smart and witty, etc. people who fall in love. (God Austen tells us so.) What's not to like?

One of the wonderful things about Jane Austen is that her characters are so fully realised. They seem so much like real people, you get to know them so well, that you forget you have very little idea about how they look. Don't believe me? Here's what we know about Darcy's appearance:
Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mein
Of Elizabeth we know even less:
[her face] was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes

her figure [was] light and pleasing
To sum up, Darcy is tall and handsome and Elizabeth is small and has dark eyes. Not a lot to go on, is it? Well, we also know approximately how old they are. When the novel begins, Darcy is 27 or so and Elizabeth is 20 (at Hunsford she tells Lady Catherine she is "not one and twenty", implying that she will turn 21 soon).

With such paltry information to create a picture, a reader is left to her own devices. How, then, do adaptations always get them so very wrong? For your edification, here are my Darcy and Elizabeth. You may, of course, imagine your own.

Darcy:

Matthew Goode

Elizabeth:

Lady Hamilton (Emma) as Circe, by George Romney 1782

Or, for someone more modern:

Emily Browning. (She doesn't have dark eyes, but I can pretend.)

There's also this gorgeous piece of art by Palnk of Darcy and Elizabeth walking.

I think Lizzy is doing her impression of Lady Catherine. Or maybe Mr Collins. :D

And now, without further ado, the recs:

Fic Rec #1: First Impressions
Author: Elizabeth (Anghraine)
Link: at the Archive of Our Own
Rating/Warning(s): General Audiences

Why This Must Be Read: In this gender swap, Elizabeth Bennet becomes Henry Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy becomes Catherine Darcy. As the author says:
When Henry Bennet, only son and heir to an eccentric country squire, crosses paths with Catherine Darcy of Pemberley, she publicly insults him and runs interference in his sister's romance. Naturally, proposals, matchmaking messes, an elopement, an abundance of mixed signals, and massive misunderstandings ensue.
Elizabeth is probably the most prolific, and certainly one of the best, authors in Austen fandom. Her dialogue is excellent, as is her historical knowledge, and her understanding of the complexities and nuances of the characters. In First Impressions, she brilliantly alters the narrative elements to suit the changed genders of the lead characters, and weaves in passages from the novel to great effect. It's a fantastic story.




Fic Rec #2 Forces of Passion
Author: Alison
Link: at Firthness
Rating/Warning(s): Teen and up (period-appropriate descriptions of sex)

Why This Must Be Read: Technically this is a WIP, but since it hasn't been updated in almost a decade and it ends in a fairly satisfactory place to be called an ending, the fandom tends to treat it as a complete work. Alison begins her story during the proposal scene at Hunsford. What follows is what might have happened if Darcy had been seized by "the utmost force of passion" before Elizabeth could refuse him. As Alison says,
This story hinges around the force of passion, it conjectures how desire might disrupt in the world of 1812. It begins with a rather different version of events in April, in Mr Collins; parlour, when propriety is briefly breached and the conventions of Jane Austen's perfect novel are challenged by matters usually dealt with at that time in French rather than English fictions. The rest is as the saying goes, is about the powers of history and imagination
The writing is rich and vivid; the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is beautiful and fierce rather than melodramatic. And, as in rec #1, Alison makes very clever and very interesting use of Austen's words. This story is a whirlwind.




Fic Rec #3: Five Times Fitzwilliam Darcy Shared a Bed with a Woman
Author: sixbeforelunch
Link: at Dreamwidth
Rating/Warning(s): General Audiences

Why This Must Be Read: What it says on the tin. This is my shortest rec, but my no means deficient in any way. Six's writing is delightful, and though this is for the most part a gen series rather than romance, it provides us with a wonderful view of how Darcy might have come to be the man Elizabeth Bennet marries. There's a great deal of tenderness and not a little humour in these vignettes, particularly in the one that is focused on romance.




Fic Rec #4: A Sure Thing
Author: catie56
Link: at Archive of Our Own
Rating/Warning(s): Teen and up

Why This Must Be Read: This is probably tied as my favourite modern adaptation, and not just because I was privileged enough to beta the rewritten version. A Sure Thing was originally posted to one of the fandom message boards in 2008 and I fell in love with it then. When catie56 decided to rewrite it last year I was privileged enough to beta it, and I love it even more now.

I could go on for pages (and have done) about this story, but all I'll say here is that it's probably the most faithful modern I've ever read in terms of carrying the plot and the characters realistically into this century. The relationship between catie56's Elizabeth and Darcy retains that difficult to define chemistry which makes them so fascinating to read. I am not biased in the slightest when I say that this story is marvellous.




Fic Rec #5: Summer at Pemberly
Author: Lucy
Link: at Derbyshire Writer's Guild
Rating/Warning(s): Teen and up (period-appropriate descriptions of sex)

Why This Must Be Read: Lucy has written several stories in the fandom, but this is definitely my favourite. Generally I’m a stickler for grammar and spelling, and Lucy has some serious issues with homonyms which can be a bit distracting, but overall her writing is so charming that even my inner grammar maven can overlook the errors. (Although I do find fandom's propensity for shortening Fitzwilliam to William bothersome.)

As the title implies, Summer at Pemberly opens a few months after the wedding of Lizzy and Darcy. Its plot is quite large in scope –- incorporating both characters from the novel as well as original characters –- but maintains focus and interiority upon its main characters. While by no means explicit, Lucy manages to imbue Lizzy and Darcy’s more intimate moments with an eroticism I think many smut authors would envy. Filled with family and friends, love and romance, reconciliation and just a hint of scandal, Summer at Pemberley is a lovely, satisfying read.




Fic Rec #6: Contradictions and Varieties
Author: Elizabeth (Anghraine)
Link: at Archive of Our Own
Rating/Warning(s): General Audiences

Why This Must Be Read: I mentioned that Elizabeth is prolific and one of the best, didn't I?

This is an AU that branches off from canon during Elizabeth and the Gardiners' visit to Derbyshire. There's a large temporal jump from there in Chapter 1 to Chapter 2 wherein Lady Catherine doesn't visit Elizabeth and Longbourn. A much longer courtship period results.

As usual, Elizabeth has created an amazing cast of original characters to people her Pride and Prejudice universe who are almost as delightful as our main characters (I am only a little biased of course), and her excellent writing brings them all to life. But, in the end, it always comes down to her understanding of Darcy and Elizabeth and their relationship. Basically it's just wonderful.




Fic Rec #7: Disenchanted
Author: Kara
Link: at Derbyshire Writer's Guild
Rating/Warning(s): General Audiences

Why This Must Be Read: Magic! Mages! Shakespearian Codes! The only fantasy Austen AU I'm aware of, Disenchanted offers a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in an England ruled by wizards and enchantment. Mystery and intrigue abound. There are magic forests, pixies, and dragons (oh my!). And I can't say much more without ruining the plot. Unfortunately, the writing is plagued by grammatical problems. But if you can get past that, this story is a grand and fantastical adventure that makes a very fun read.




Fic Rec #8: A Long Engagement, or the Improvement of Human Reason, as illustrated in the long and tortuous courtship of Edward Bennet, squire, and Philadelphia, Lady Darcy
Author: hl and Tulina
Link: at Archive of Our Own
Rating/Warning(s): General Audiences

Why This Must Be Read: One of the most ambitious in scope fics I've read in this fandom, A Long Engagement is a gender swap with much broader changes than Elizabeth's First Impressions. Tulina and hl have written a Bennet family of sons, not daughters, wherein Mrs Bennet is the sensible one. All the major characters have changed genders and therefore the story itself is fundamentally altered.

The story is written in both epistolary and straight narrative styles, which allows us greater access to the thoughts of the main characters. It also comes with bonus art!

It's difficult to encapsulate this story, but once you've finished it you'll understand what I mean when I say that it's profoundly different from Pride and Prejudice and yet also very much the same.




Fic Rec #9: The Muse
Author: Jesse
Link: at Firthness
Rating/Warning(s): Mature

Why This Must Be Read: Think Pride and Prejudice crossed with Center Stage. If you don't like ballet, this may not be the fic for you, but give it a chance anyway.

Elizabeth is a corps de ballet member and Darcy is the hotshot ex-principal dancer turned renowned choreographer. The tension and passion of the original novel take a more visceral, physical form in this retelling. Rather than a comedy of manners, or a social critique, Jesse writes an elemental story about the link between creativity and desire amidst the often-petty politics of professional dance. Darcy is haughty and brilliant, Lizzy is stubborn and talented, and their dancing is infused with eroticism.

The plot tends to lose its way a little at times, and the characterisation of Georgiana is not especially appealing to me, but all in all it's still one of my favourite moderns.




Fic Rec #10: Depths of Attachment
Author: ali972
Link: Please see note below*
Rating/Warning(s): Teen and up (period-appropriate descriptions of sex)

Why This Must Be Read: Depths of Attachment is the story of Elizabeth and Darcy from post-proposal to just after their marriage. This is one of the most common topics in Austen fic and DoA might just be my favourite treatment. Ali's writing is wonderful. She has a marvellous way with dialogue and each of her POV subjects (Elizabeth, Darcy, and Mr Bennet) is perfectly in character. This story is just a delight to read (and reread... and reread).

Note: Ali has recently deleted her site. Since her stories are no longer available anywhere else, I've asked her permission to host her stories on my own site, so that the fandom doesn't lose them altogether. Since I haven't heard back from her about it yet, I've taken the liberty of making just this story available for now. But I may have to take it down if she declines permission in the future. If you like DoA, I recommend you save it! (Also, obviously, none of the links on the pages will work.)

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7
Tags: fandom: pride and prejudice, ship: elizabeth bennet/fitzwilliam darcy, special: manifesto
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