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D’Arcy Wentworth: Heroic Inspiration?

  Jane Austen’s Aunt was once at risk of transportation to Botany Bay for shoplifting. It is piquant that Austen named two of her major male characters Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, because a leading inhabitant of New South Wales in those years was D’Arcy Wentworth, disreputable but acknowledged kinsman of Lord Fitzwilliam. D’Arcy Wentworth’s career smacks more of Georgette Heyer than Jane Austen, since he was a highwayman four times acquitted. Rather than push his luck further, he went, a free man, as assistant surgeon with the Second Fleet in 1790. As a young teenager Jane Austen may have read about him in the Times. Remembered in Australian history, his origins somewhat fudged, as father of the better-known W.C. Wentworth, D’Arcy turns out to be a complex and significant character. All his life he was an outsider. Born in Ireland in 1762, he was the youngest son of a Protestant innkeeper whose family had come down in the world. D’Arcy qualified as an assistant surgeon in London, but then gravitated to vice and crime; through flash arrogance, Ritchie thinks, rather than a self-destructive urge. Once in Australia, Wentworth spent his first six years on Norfolk Island, the margin of marginalised New South Wales. Back in Sydney, he still seemed too raffish for intimacy with the New South Wales Corps clique, the Macarthurs and their like. Because of his professional skills and an economic clout built up through trade, notably in rum, Wentworth could

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