Recently I heard from a reader of The Darcy Saga who was curious about the portraits on the covers. I shared a link to a blog I wrote ages ago for my own website, and thought it was time to share that information here on Austen Authors. Additionally, since it has been a long while, I conducted fresh research in case something new has come to light about the two real-life persons who represent MY Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy.
First, a bit of history on the covers themselves. Oh-so-long-ago (in the summer of 2008, to be precise) my Sourcebooks editor Deb Werksman and publisher Dominique Raccah revealed the draft cover for my debut novel (released in February 2009). They were thrilled beyond belief. I, however, while delighted by the chosen Elizabeth, was not so pleased by the chosen Mr. Darcy. It was tough for this first-time nobody writer to quibble with the two people who held my future in their hands. Luckily, decades of dealing with physicians (who are a million times scarier than editors or publishers, trust me) gave me the courage to express my concerns. You see, the original portrait choice for Mr. Darcy was… shall we say… less than manly. As I said to Deb, “Have you read my book?!” All Darcy Saga readers can firmly assert that MY Mr. Darcy is the very definition of a masculine man! Deb didn’t completely agree with my dislike and negative slurs regarding their first selection, but did appease me by finding another candidate. Suffice to say, the second I saw him I KNEW he was absolutely perfect. Of course, a portrait of Matthew MacFadyen would have pleased me most, but there are those annoying copyright laws. LOL!
It was much, much later when I Google searched to discover the real man depicted in the portrait, and while it would not have mattered if he were an absolute nobody from the past, learning about him only increased my perspective that he is an awesome representative of Mr. Darcy.
COMMANDER HUGH CLAPPERTON
Commander Hugh Clapperton (1788-1827) was a Scottish traveler and explorer of West and Central Africa. His famous exploits and mark on history has earned him an entire article on Wikipedia.
When a young thirteen, Clapperton apprenticed on a trading vessel between Liverpool and North America. After several Trans-Atlantic voyages, he entered naval service and swiftly rose through the ranks. During the Napoleonic Wars he saw a good deal of active service, and at the storming of Port Louis, Mauritius, in November 1810, he was first in the breach and hauled down the French flag. In 1814 he earned the rank of lieutenant and commanded his own schooner on the Canadian lakes until 1817.
Back in England in 1820, Clapperton’s heart soon turned toward Africa. That same year, Clapperton and Walter Oudney (Scottish physician and Consul to Bornu) embarked on an expedition for the British government. His adventures led him through numerous regions of Africa, including Tripoli, Murzuk, Nigeria, and Kuka. Amongst their deeds: mapping the Niger River, the first white men to see Lake Chad, and connections with high ranked sheiks and sultans. He returned to England in 1825 (Oudney had died along the way) to a hero’s welcome. The accounts of the groups’ travels were published in Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the years 1822 – 1823 and 1824. Read on Google Books
Immediately after his return to England, Clapperton was raised to the rank of commander. Before the end of 1825, Commander Clapperton boarded the HMS Brazen for a joint venture to suppress the slave trade and for another expedition to Africa. Sadly, he and his team fell prey to disease and fever almost from the outset. Clapperton retraced his previous route, but was frequently forced to halt due to death and illness. In July of 1826, Clapperton and the remaining members of his team arrived at Sokoto, the then-capitol of Nigeria. Unfortunately, war had broken out amongst the sultans in the region, Clapperton prohibited from traveling on to Bornu as planned. For nearly a year he was retained, essentially a prisoner, during which he suffered constant bouts of illness (including malaria) and depression. Tragically, Commander Hugh Clapperton died in April of 1827.
Richard Lemon Lander, Commander Clapperton’s faithful servant, survived and was eventually released. Returning to England, Lander brought news of the explorer’s demise along with his journals. With the assistance of Mr. Lander, in 1829 the Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa was published posthumously, including a biographical sketch of the explorer by his uncle, Lieutenant-Colonel S. Clapperton as a preface. Read on Google Books
In 1830, Richard Lander published Records of Captain Clapperton’s Last Expedition to Africa … with the subsequent Adventures of the Author. Read on Google Books
Amongst his claims to fame, Commander Clapperton was the first European to make known from personal observation the Hausa states of Africa. The bulk of both journeys were made on horseback with Clapperton charting every degree of latitude between the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Guinea. His discoveries led directly to the opening of sustained European contact with an important region of sub-Saharan Africa. Clapperton’s adventures have been written in a number of books, including A Sailor in the Sahara by Jamie Bruce-Lockhart, Difficult and Dangerous Roads (a compilation of his notes), and Hugh Clapperton: Into the Interior of Africa by Paul Lovejoy.
The portrait above, familiar on my covers as Mr. Darcy, depicts a 29-year-old Hugh Clapperton. It was painted by famed British artist Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) in 1817, shortly after Clapperton’s return from Canada. For the sake of comparison, the portrait of Commander Hugh Clapperton above-right was painted in 1825 by Gildon Manton (1789-1851). What a difference eight years can make when living a rough life! Yet, still a handsome man in my opinion.
SIDE NOTE & HONORARY MENTION: Commander Clapperton appears as “Mr. Darcy” on three of the five novels comprising The Darcy Saga. For the prequel duo I chose period paintings of couples together to depict Darcy and Elizabeth. On my third novel, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, my publisher chose to focus on Elizabeth only, which I did not argue over since only Mr. Darcy was shown on the cover of my second novel, Loving Mr. Darcy. For the second novel, the at the time in-vogue concept of cutting the tops of heads was done, and for reasons I never inquired about, a different portrait was chosen. In retrospect, I would have pushed for Commander Clapperton if I’d foreseen him becoming the standard, but I was happy with the look of the chosen alternative.
The portrait of Mr. Darcy on Loving Mr. Darcy, is of British diplomat Benjamin Bathurst (1784-1809). Very little is known of Mr. Bathurst, his only real claim-to-fame being his mysterious vanishing. As the tale goes, while serving as an envoy in Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars, Bathurst and a companion were traveling back to Hamburg after a mission to the Austrian court. They stopped at an inn in the town of Perelberg, ate dinner, and prepared to resume their journey. However, while examining the waiting horses secured to their carriage, Bathurst simply disappeared. An extensive search ensued, including dragging nearby rivers, and members of Bathurst prominent family traveling from England to assist. A few of his clothing items were found, but his body was never recovered. Indeed, there was no one who could offer any evidence and while the sensationalism of a “vanishing” led to multiple wild stories, Bathurst was presumed murdered, such tragedies not extremely rare due to marauding bandits. Decades later, in 1852, a skeleton with a bashed in skull was discovered under the stable of a house within yards from the inn. A positive identification could not be made, even by Mr. Bathurst’s own sister, so the mystery of his vanishing remains.
ELIZABETH CAMPBELL, the MARCHESA DI SPINETO
The woman chosen by my publishing house as Elizabeth Darcy is as much of a mystery as poor Mr. Bathurst. In truth, she would likely not be known or remembered at all if not for the incredible portrait above and the relative-fame of her husband.
Elizabeth Campbell was the second wife of the Marchese di Spineto, an Italian nobleman, scholar, and teacher at Cambridge University. The Marchese rose to prominence in 1820 when he acted as interpreter for Theodore Majocchi —Queen Caroline’s servant— during the Queen’s trial for adultery before the House of Lords. I used the term “relative-fame” above because beyond the trial and a handful of oblique references to his services as an interpreter for diplomats, there is no further mention of the Marchese di Spineto accomplishing anything specific or noteworthy.
As for the Marchesa, scant can be found no matter how exhaustive the research (on Google, at least). An article on the Jesus College Cambridge website about a property leased by the Marchese di Spineto provides a bit more information on the man and his wife, noting that Spineto fathered eleven children, seven of whom were by his second wife Elizabeth. The article also notes that upon his death in 1849, the property “was transferred to Elizabeth who in turn leased the property until her death in 1864.” Specific reference sources were not included, but I tend to trust the historians at Cambridge! Click link to read the short article “An Italian Neighbor” by Robert Athol, which includes Elizabeth’s signature on the lease.
The only other references are vague mentions of her name in two books from the era written about other people. The first is Romilly’s Cambridge Diary 1832-42 (Reverend Joseph Romilly was a Fellow of Trinity College and Registrary of The University of Cambridge). The Marchesa is mentioned over twenty times within his diary, which sounds illuminating except that her name is merely noted as attending church services, and once for not attending service due to being in mourning as a result of her mother’s death.
The second literary reference was the biographical book Darwin’s Mentor: John Stevens Henslow, 1796-1861, where she is mentioned a few times simply by her title “Marchesa.” The first mention is her inclusion at a tea with Mr. and Mrs. Henslow, and Charles Darwin. Another note is her presence at a New Year celebration on January 3, 1838.
In the commentary of the book, the authors’ clarify who the “Marchesa” is with the following:
“The marchesa who appears in a number of references to Henslow’s parties was the second wife of the teacher of Italian and French in the University, the Marchese di Spineto. She was born Elizabeth Campbell, a ‘Scotch lady of good reputation’ and she and her husband must have been very popular at the University.”
Strangely, for a woman not obviously “famous” or a major player in Society, the portrait of Elizabeth Campbell used on my novel covers was painted by renowned artist Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823). The exposition about the painting, from Historical Portraits, is fantastic and fits the image of Elizabeth Darcy in my opinion. (blue color emphasis mine):
Portrait of Elizabeth Campbell, Marchesa di Spineto, c.1812, a painting by Sir Henry Raeburn. The combination of ‘sensibility and sexuality’ that Duncan Thomson detects in Raeburn’s Mrs Robert Scott Moncrieff can be imputed just as much to the present portrait, which was painted, Thomson suggests, at around the same date. The fact that the sitter’s physicality as a woman is as much the subjectof the portrait as her intellectual presence produces an image of considerable power, and one that is to be engaged by all the senses. The feeling of sensuality barely restrained by decorum is worthy of the very best work of the romantic painters on the Continent at this date…..
Elizabeth Campbell is one of a number of Raeburn’s portraits painted at this date in which the sitter’s emotion is as much a subject of the painting as her likeness, and perhaps by its comparative restraint, it is one of the most successful. Other examples of female half-length portraits at this date rely for too much of their effect on an extravagance of posture or expression; Elizabeth Campbell’s confident, level gaze makes for a more impressive and intense interaction. Unlike other sitters, whose raptured glance to either side of them inevitably deflect our attention, Elizabeth Campbell contains the sitter’s scrutiny within her own and holds them there. The sitter’s command is total, even over her draperies.
In other compositions a cloak is pulled tighter over the shoulders to be pulled opened at the breast in an almost melodramatic touch. Here the Marchesa’s cloak rests upon the sitter’s back so lightly that, it seems, the slightest movement would cause it to slip off. Against comparable female portraits by Raeburn at this date, less is more in the case of Elizabeth Campbell, and the sitter came equipped with sufficient personality and presence of her own that the painter needed to trust only his own power to interpret his subject without inventing for her any excess of passion.
There is one other portrait believed to be of Elizabeth Campbell, the Marchesa di Spineto. Seen to the right, the portrait is indisputably painted by George Henry Harlow (1787-1819). However, he simply titled it “Portrait of a Young Lady.” The majority of Harlow’s portraits indicate who the person is, but not all of them, so it isn’t completely unusual for the sitting subject to be unnamed. The prevailing opinion of art scholars and historians is that this unknown woman is the mysterious Marchesa di Spineto, but this is largely based on her resemblance to the portrait above.
So there they are, the two historical people who have become Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. No offense intended to the unfortunate Mr. Bathurst, but with only his chin and stunning cravat and waistcoat showing, he just doesn’t count as much. LOL! As always, your thoughts are welcome. I suppose we all imagine our favorite actors as we read the fan-fiction novels we love so much. Nevertheless, the models on the covers, whether a period painting or contemporary photograph, must capture a reader’s attention and fit the characters we adore. In my opinion, Commander Clapperton and the Marchesa are extraordinary. I may be a tad prejudiced, of course. LOL!