When I first saw this title (by Emily Brand) in a BBC catalog my immediate response was, which Mr. Darcy wrote it? After all, the proud, status-conscious male chauvinist Elizabeth starts by despising would hardly have written the same advice as the man whom she eventually married.
I was curious enough to get the Kindle edition for my iPad, and decided at once that it had to have been written very early in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy is, frankly, every bit as conceited, proud, and aware of his social position as Elizabeth first imagines him. On the other hand, he has met the Bingleys, actually allows Caroline to write a chapter of advice to women (a chapter which would have had Elizabeth giggling) and is beginning to interfere in Charles’s affairs. Certainly he sees no place for any mixing of classes, and he puts himself very near the top of those not actually royal!
He starts with the assumption that “An eligible gentleman not in possession of a wife is assailed from every quarter with a fervour bordering on derangement.” He clearly regards himself as so far above the average that he may wed any woman who comes up to his exacting standards – an attitude that he retains in Pride and Prejudice until Elizabeth refuses him. (His stricture that “there should be no ‘falling in love’ except with suitable persons” seems to have been discarded somewhat earlier.)
In fairness I must say that his advice is not toward seduction as leading to a light affair; his advice is clearly toward finding a wife who will produce the next generation of a noble family. But I cannot help but imagine how he himself would have reacted to much of the advice in this book a year later in his life.