Persuasions #11, 1989                                                                                                                                                                Page 13

D'Arcy Wentworth, One of the Fitzwilliams 

Rochester, NY

In The Fatal Shore, his account of the founding of Australia, Robert Hughes devotes several pages to an accused highwayman from England who made good in Australia, D’Arcy Wentworth of the Fitzwilliam family.

Wentworth served as a medical ensign in the Irish Volunteers, and is described as “a man of great charm, cheerful, gregarious, liberal in his political views” (Hughes 361).  In London to continue his medical studies, he was introduced into high society by his high-born relations, the Fitzwilliams, “and soon this personable lad was living far beyond his means” (361).  Acquitted three times of highway robbery Hughes relates, he came up again on a fourth charge in 1789.  “Wentworth, who cannot have been too sure of his innocence,… [told] the judge he was going to Botany Bay anyhow… as an assistant surgeon.  He was acquitted a fourth time, but now he had given his word and had to go” (361).

Hughes relates that “he sailed on the Neptune, the hell-ship of the Second Fleet.  A third of her five hundred convict passengers died, but Wentworth survived and so did a twenty-year-old girl named Catherine Crawley, transported for stealing cloth.  By the end of the voyage she was heavily pregnant by D’Arcy Wentworth” (362).  Their son, born at sea, later became a prominent journalist and political activist in the new land.  As for D’Arcy, he “went on to make a fortune… when he died… the funeral cortège was a mile long… he sired (and supported) at least seven other children by various mistresses in Australia” (362).

Thus Barbara Kerr-Smith has firm basis (once she establishes Jane Austen in Australia on a visit with the Leigh-Perrots) for the appearance of D’Arcy Wentworth in her recent novel, Antipodes Jane.

The meeting in Australia is fanciful, and Jane Austen couldn’t have known the later career of the swashbuckler with the fascinating name.  It is reasonable, however, to imagine an alert girl of 14 reading an account of his early tribulations in the Hampshire Chronicle, feeling a teenager’s ready sympathy for an unjustly accused buck, and storing up his names for some of her own most personable heroes.  


Hughes, Robert.  The Fatal Shore.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.
Wilson, Barbara Kerr.  Antipodes Jane.  New York Viking, 1985.

Back to Persuasions  #11 Table of Contents

Return to Home Page