Generation after generation of men have pretended to struggle with the question: “What do women want?” We talk among ourselves as if it is some unfathomable mystery that we are justified in never figuring out when, in fact, the answer has been quite plain for at least two-hundred years: they want Mr. Darcy. That’s all. Simple.
Well, simple, maybe, but not easy. Mr. Darcy is a complicated figure. First of all, he’s got money, and more of it than the great majority of us regular guys can ever hope to amass. Does that mean we just give up? No. Money matters, yes. But you don’t have to own half of Derbyshire to meet this part of the “being Mr. Darcy” test. What’s important on this score is that you have enough or at least the prospect of enough to make a domestic life what it ought to be. And in Austen’s terms that means something different – better, I say – than what is assumed as normal today.
I’ve heard all of the objections about Austen’s work focusing on only a small class of people whose lives were made possible only by the sweat and privation of many others. I know. Shame on them. But that does not change the point here, or undermine the legitimacy of it. For Austen, a domestic life implied leisure, and plenty of it. That does not mean an annual repeat of the Grand Tour. The leisure Austen coveted and assumed would be a part of any good marriage is daily leisure. Time for reading and music and conversation and walks over the landscape. It was time away from strict schedules and hurry. It meant escape from the world Burke lamented, where “whirl is king.”