I write the first draft of the books Summer and I publish together. I don’t plan a theme for the books, but sometimes one occurs. This happened in To Fall for Mr. Darcy. Five characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Lydia Bennet, Georgiana Darcy, and Anne de Bourgh all made choices that had repercussions. All faced the consequences of their choices. Elizabeth’s actions caused her to marry Mr. Darcy, a man she knew nothing about. I don’t think it will surprise anyone that both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy learned to be very happy about those choices.
Darcy’s Other Letter
Darcy’s explained his actions to Elizabeth in a letter. The letter mentions another letter Darcy wrote, one he wrote to Wickham. In Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, he wrote about Georgiana planning to elope with Wickham. Darcy then wrote:
I joined them [Georgiana and Mrs. Younge] unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister’s credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, (emphasis mine) who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge.
What did Darcy say in that letter to Wickham?
Darcy probably didn’t offer Wickham money, because he would end up paying again and again. Also, the offer of money would involve making an offer, negotiation, and agreement. It is not suggested that any of these things happened. There was a single letter mentioned, and it is unlikely Wickham left a forwarding address. What Darcy certainly didn’t write was that Georgiana had told him about the planned elopement. That would have been stupid, since Wickham could sell the letter back to Darcy for a large sum.
Darcy could not depend on Wickham keeping silent for Georgiana’s sake. This is confirmed to the reader by Wickham telling Elizabeth, “I wish I could call her [Georgiana] amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother–very, very proud.” Wickham only valued himself, not others
One possibility for the other letter is, “I’m here. Go away.” Aside from the likelihood that Darcy could never write a letter that short, what would he accomplish by it? Even if Darcy arrived late in the evening with tired horses and thus no ability to leave immediately, he would have at least two servants, possibly more. His servants could be instructed to turn Wickham away, and Darcy could leave with Georgiana in the morning.
It would be more satisfactory to pack up Georgiana and take her with him. If he ensured Mrs. Younge and the servants left too, it would give Darcy some satisfaction imagining Wickham arriving to an empty house. The household almost certainly had a carriage and Mrs. Younge and at least some of the other servants could leave in it. Even if he felt the need to stay a while, why inform Wickham? What Darcy wanted to accomplish was to physically separate Georgiana from Mr. Wickham and ensure that the intended elopement was kept secret.
Wickham hated Darcy. One thing he could easily do to hurt Darcy was publicize the truth: Georgiana had agreed to elope with him. The downside of this is that it would put Wickham in a somewhat bad light. But Georgiana (and thus Darcy) would be hurt more. The only credible reason I can come up with for Darcy’s confidence that Wickham would keep silent was that Darcy knew that Wickham valued his image so much that he would give up the opportunity to hurt Darcy a lot if he hurt himself a little.
When writing More Than He Seems, where we made Wickham a hero, I consciously changed this. Instead of a letter in More Than He Seems, in the aftermath of the non-elopement, Darcy and Wickham had a conversation. It was partially done for the dramatic impact, but also done because I had no idea what Darcy said in the letter. Summer probably kept it in because of the dramatic impact. In More Than He Seems, Wickham was not planning to elope with Georgiana, but Georgiana, Wickham, and Mrs. Younge all lied to Darcy for their own reasons.
Despite having solved the problem of Darcy’s other letter for our book, I still wonder what Jane Austen thought was in that letter.
“But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.” From Darcy’s letter in Pride and Prejudice
This statement occurred after Elizabeth criticized Darcy for telling her all the reasons he shouldn’t marry her. The statement not only said Darcy hates lying, but he hates deceiving people. He certainly didn’t hide his contempt for the assembly where he “danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party.”
He learned from Elizabeth’s reaction to his behavior. When explaining to Elizabeth about his actions in helping Lydia, he said about her family, “Much as I respect them…” Darcy respects Elizabeth’s family? Darcy respected the Gardiners, but I doubt he respected the Phillips. Even Elizabeth showed no sign of respecting her mother or younger sisters. She is also aware her father is flawed. I doubt Mr. Darcy could logically be said to respect her family, even if he respected a few members of it. This partial truth was misleading at best and a lie at worst. It isn’t objectionable if he treated them with respect and never revealed his true feelings.
Darcy showed respect to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Did he really respect her? We never enter his mind on the subject, but he was too intelligent not to see her flaws. So, disguise is acceptable when dealing with an older, related woman of higher rank? It is also acceptable when hiding secrets about his sister. He was not very happy with himself for concealing Jane’s presence in London from Mr. Bingley, but he did it to benefit Bingley.
Darcy cannot be absolved of lying. but his lies were either the polite, social lies that almost everyone tells or for the good of someone he cared about.
Wickham’s lies were malicious. Perhaps he benefited from them by receiving sympathy and attention from people, but it seems more likely that they were designed to hurt Darcy, not to help Wickham. Mixed in with Wickham’s lies about Darcy depriving him of his inheritance was “[Darcy’s pride] has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor.” Wickham even praises Darcy’s social skills with the caveat they are only used with people who were “his equals in consequence.”
Like all skilled liars, Wickham only lied about what to him were the important points. He stuck to the truth as much as possible.
On a personal note, my mother-in-law’s signature dish was homemade meat ravioli. It was good, but not extraordinarily so. I praised it more than it was worth and ate more of it than I should have, which supported my lie. I never told anyone, even my husband, what I really thought. After she died, I was free to tell people. I lied, but I felt my behavior justified, especially since I was uniform in my praise both when she was present and when she wasn’t. After she died, I doubt anyone cared. I certainly felt no need to carry that secret to my grave.
The difference between Darcy’s and Wickham’s lies is in motivation not truth. Our book, More Than He Seems, gives Wickham a better motivation.
When Does a Story Begin?
Summer Hanford and I will soon be publishing More Than He Seems, which is a story about Mr. Wickham, who is the hero in our book, not a villain. Wickham’s story is essentially true to Pride and Prejudice but there are justifications for his actions which don’t contradict the plot of Pride and Prejudice. Since Wickham’s relationship with Darcy is an important part of the story, we could hardly start the story with Wickham’s appearance in Pride and Prejudice. Wickham doesn’t appear until after more than thirty percent of the novel, and most of the Wickham/Darcy relationship took place before the novel started.
So where should the story begin? Hamlet is an example of a story where the starting place might not be considered the logical one, although, of course, being written by Shakespeare, it was the right place to start for his story. An extremely simplified summary of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is that Hamlet receives some evidence that Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father.[i] Hamlet spends most of the play trying to confirm the story and it goes badly. The play doesn’t start with Claudius murdering Hamlet’s father, because that is not the story that is being told. The story isn’t about the murder, but about Hamlet deciding whether it was a murder, along with Claudius trying to thwart him.
Darcy says Wickham went to Cambridge. It is likely Darcy did also. We assume they were roommates. We also assume that this is where Wickham’s life takes a very different direction.
The pub to which I’d been directed was a little too far from the college for Cambridge students to frequent. I didn’t mind the long walk and appreciated the anonymity the removed location gave me. It would be unfortunate if word got back to Darcy, or anyone else at university, that I’d been seen with the gentleman who’d asked to meet me.
I’d dressed carefully, deliberately looking just a little shabby. Although I boxed reasonably well, fenced better than most, and carried a pistol I knew how to use, I had no illusions those skills made me safe in the neighborhood in which my destination stood, huddled among other slightly disreputable, dilapidated establishments. Out front, I paused to take in peeling paint, a sign faded into illegibility, and two cracked stone steps leading to the door. I drew a steadying breath and headed in.
It took me a moment to pick out the man who’d asked me there. He’d swapped his regimentals for the garb of a workman. Dirt stained both hands and face. He sat alone, appearing to brood over a pint. I appreciated his care. I didn’t want to be remembered. No one liked a snitch. I had become one.
I strode over and straddled the bench across the table from him saying, “There you are,” as if we’d planned to meet, which we had.
Richard Fitzwilliam looked up from his pint to meet my gaze with hard, piercing eyes. “You’re early.”
“So you are,” I pointed out.
He nodded and fished in his pocket to pull out a dirt stained, ragged looking page of a newspaper, folded into an envelope. He pushed it across the table. Movements casual, as if nothing of much importance rested inside, I picked it up. The bills concealed by that much abused page felt crisp and new through the worn paper. Trusting Fitzwilliam enough not to count, I slid the enveloped into my coat pocket, not wanting to call attention to it.
Once my payment was out of sight, I waved over a serving girl and ordered a pint. After all, it would look suspicious to immediately get up and leave. As she walked away, I turned back to the colonel. “Thank you.”
He took a sip from his tankard. “It should likely be the other way around.”
I shrugged. Part of me felt good about what I’d done. Deserving of thanks. Part of me didn’t.
He kept his gaze on me. His eyes seemed to see right into me and read my soul. “I need to speak with you about your expenses.”
“You didn’t pay me what we agreed?” I said, chagrinned. I should have counted, calling attention to the bills be damned. If anything, I’d saved money for my King and Country. The serving girl returned to thunk a tankard down before me, but I didn’t look up at her. To have my compensation docked stung.
Before I could, Fitzwilliam fished out a few coins for the girl, waiting until she departed again to say, “No, I did not pay what we agreed. I added a bit. The expenses you reported weren’t enough. You must have spent more to gain Lenox’s trust.”
Fitzwilliam thought I deserved more? I savored the feeling, permitting a grin. “I didn’t spend more. I won.”
“You won?” the colonel said incredulously. “Your instructions were to lose.”
I took a swig of what proved to be very bitter ale. “I got the information. What do you care how I did it?”
“But…” Fitzwilliam paused, expression a touch baffled. “How did you do it?”
Around us, the noise picked up. The workday had ended. More and more laborers and tradesmen filed into the pub by the moment, the air growing thick with their sweat. “By essentially breaking even.”
“Breaking even?” Fitzwilliam prompted.
I couldn’t help it. My grin grew a bit smug. “Well, actually, I came out ahead by three shillings but that’s after, what, seven months?” I leaned forward, casting off my moment of satisfaction at confounding Fitzwilliam for a more serious tone. “Lenox isn’t an utter fool. He suspects people who lose too much to him.”
Fitzwilliam nodded, a gleam of respect in his eyes.
I shrugged, ready to grin again. “Besides, you did overpay. I didn’t subtract the three shillings from my total.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam offered me an amused look. “Consider it an addition to your bonus.”
I snorted. “A real bonus would be compensation for the money I could have won but made sure not to during that time.”
Again, a gratifyingly surprised look crossed his face. “You keep track?”
“Of course, I keep track. I may not be as good a student as Darcy, but I know how to write down expenses and add them up.”
“Yes, you were given, and are still getting, a good education.” Fitzwilliam saluted me with his tankard. “And you did an excellent job.”
I offered another shrug. I’d enjoyed his honest surprise more than his platitude. “So, what will you do with the information? Or will I never know?” I was aware that I might never find out. I’d known that going in. I wouldn’t have asked, except that I had mixed feelings about what I’d done. I’d earned a man’s trust and then betrayed it.
Yet, Lenox was selling valuable information. Information he managed to get from his father, a vice admiral who was far too trusting of his eldest son. That information was reaching Napoleon. Essentially, Lenox profited from spying. By however roundabout a route, the man was a traitor.
A ghost of a smile crossed Fitzwilliam’s face. “You’ll know. Just read tomorrow’s paper.” He saluted me again with his tankard. “England owes you, and hardly anyone knows it. Thank you.” Eyes suddenly deadly serious, he added, “You’ve saved a lot of lives today, Wickham.”
“I hope so. I’ve certainly hampered mine.” For one thing, I’d nearly lost my dearest friend.
“Darcy will recover,” Fitzwilliam said, following my thoughts again.
“Will he?” As Colonel Fitzwilliam was Darcy’s cousin, he knew as well as I how stubborn Darcy could be.
Doubt overshadowed the colonel’s features. “I’m sorry it came to this, but we’d tried other ways and failed. You don’t discharge a vice admiral lightly. Especially not during a war. We had to be certain.”
“I understand.” And I did. I only wished Darcy could.
“You really have saved lives. The lives of good men. Sailors. Countrymen. You should be proud of the service you’ve rendered.”
I was proud. The sour ale and the colonel’s praise warmed me as I made the walk back to the room I shared with Darcy, every sense on high alert on the shadow-cloaked streets. Not only was the neighborhood I hurried from more dangerous at night, I now carried a tidy sum. I didn’t fancy parting with my hard-earned money.
I entered to find Darcy at the table, working with his usual diligence. His valet, Jackson, was nowhere in evidence, likely sent away as Darcy pursued his studies. I suppressed a sigh on Darcy’s behalf. He needed to read everything three times to my one to commit details to memory. Accepting a lower score would open up hours of his time. Perhaps even permit a whole new world for him. But his Darcy-pride wouldn’t permit anything less than top marks. Certainly, not anything less than I scored.
He looked up to watch me enter, frowning as I removed my shabbiest coat. “You missed the lecture on the Battle of Thermopylae.”
“The Greeks were outnumbered and lost. It took a while,” I said flippantly, tugging at my cravat.
Ever the worrier, he retorted with, “Where have you been?”
“Sampling a different pub,” I said with partial truth. I sought about for more, decided on two additional, unrelated truths that would stave off further questions. “The barmaids weren’t pretty. I doubt I’ll go back.”
Darcy’s frown deepened. “There are times you disgust me, Wickham.”
He used to call me George, and I called him Fitz, which was short for Fitzwilliam. It pained me that, over the course of my investigation of Lenox, we’d gone from Fitz and George to Darcy and Wickham. I hoped that someday, Colonel Fitzwilliam would be able to explain to Darcy what my King and Country had asked of me, but I didn’t count on it.
Trying not to permit regret into my tone, I adopted a nonchalance and sallied back, “I guess I’ll just have to live with that, Darcy.”
Scowl firmly in place, he returned his attention to the book before him, muttering, “I don’t know why I put up with you.”
As I didn’t either, I refrained from a reply. I’d taken up with several unsavory fellows as part of my task in gaining Lenox’s trust, and frequented the sort of gaming hells and brothels that I knew turned Darcy’s stomach. For over seven months, I’d come back to the room we shared reeking of tobacco smoke and pungent cologne. If I’d have wagered on how long Darcy would have put up with such behavior, I would have lost. I almost resented that he hadn’t kicked me out. His continued loyalty only made our estrangement feel worse.
But my time as a reprobate was over. Lenox was found out. Whatever Colonel Fitzwilliam and his superiors meant to do, my part was finished. I rolled up my shirt sleeves and pulled out the chair across the table from Darcy. Aware it would also help him learn faster, I asked, “Tell me about the Battle of Thermopylae.”
He raised a mulish expression from his book. For a moment, I thought he wouldn’t comply. But Darcy never could resist giving a good lecture, especially one that promised a discussion at the end. He started the tale, consulting his journal to add in salient points our professor had raised. Darcy always kept a journal, detailing events of interest from the day. At least, that’s what I assumed he wrote. Despite what he might think of me, or how I’d acted to help Colonel Fitzwilliam, I would never violate Darcy’s trust by reading his private musings.
By the time he finished recounting the details of the Battle of Thermopylae, I could tell he’d at least somewhat forgiven me. In gratitude, I obliged him by playing the foil to his views as we went back over the lecture. One thing Darcy loved, even when he was happy with me, was for us to argue. I was one of the few people in his life who wasn’t too daunted by him to do so. For that reason, if none other, he would always forgive me. If Darcy and I weren’t speaking, who would he have to disagree with him?
The next day, when Darcy got the paper, I couldn’t miss the frontpage news. Lenox’s father had resigned his post as vice admiral for reasons of ill health. Darcy, coffee service at his elbow and paper raised in front of his face, didn’t see my grin.
Partly born of my success, my expression also reflected relief. Now, things could go back to normal. Darcy would eventually forgive me for my stint as a miscreant. Perhaps, in time, Colonel Fitzwilliam would even decide my deed no longer needed to be kept secret. I enjoyed picturing the look on Darcy’s face when I explained it all to him.
[i] “My name is Inigo Montoya. [Batman, Hamlet] You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Wickham, a Hero?
We will soon be publishing More Than He Seems. It is a novel that does not change the essential plot of Pride and Prejudice but makes Mr. Wickham a hero. It wasn’t easy. One of the hardest things to do was to explain Georgiana’s near elopement with Mr. Wickham. The answer was surprisingly simple. Georgiana lied and Mrs. Younge supported her lie. The difficulty was to find a justification both for the lie and for Mrs. Younge’s support. We gave one reason for Georgiana to lie and a different reason for Mrs. Younge to support the lie. The real question is, what were those reasons and why didn’t Wickham explain everything to Darcy?
This part of More Than He Seems has a difference from Pride and Prejudice that probably could be eliminated, but we went for drama over adherence to the source. Darcy mentions in his letter to Elizabeth that the elopement was planned to take place within a day or two. We changed it to be within minutes. Also, Darcy said he wrote to Wickham after he found out about the planned elopement. We had Darcy confront Wickham. Again, Wickham receiving a letter isn’t as dramatic as having the two men face each other.
I must admit that I would very much like to see what Darcy wrote to Wickham. Did he simply tell Wickham to go away? Did he offer money for Wickham’s silence on the projected elopement? There is no mention of Wickham replying to Darcy’s letter, which makes an offer of money less likely. If I were Darcy, and I wanted Wickham’s absence, I wouldn’t have written a letter. I would have packed up everyone and left. Let Wickham come to a vacant house and wonder what happened. But that’s not the story we wrote.
“Love, Letters and Lies: A Pride and Prejudice Variation” started with a premise that Elizabeth would take extraordinary steps to avoid marrying Mr. Darcy. They end up locked in a room together at Netherfield Park. Darcy is not really all that upset at being forced to marry Elizabeth, but she takes down the curtains, fashions a rope and climbs out the window. This, needless to say, banishes all thoughts from Mr. Darcy’s mind that she is trying to attract him.
I wanted Elizabeth to be brave but not reckless. Thus, I had her climb out of what in America is called the second floor, but in England is the first floor. To avoid confusion, I had to make it clear without it being awkward. I solved that problem by never using “first floor” or “second floor.” I wrote that it was one floor up.
When I was writing Courting Elizabeth: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, I created a character whose existence is implied in Pride & Prejudice, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother. I called him Lord Henry. Sadly, I got the title wrong and should have called him Lord Matlock. (I could claim that he was the Earl of Henry, but I don’t think anyone would believe me.)
Lord Henry evolved as I wrote him. I originally intended for him to die. I then started liking him so much that I couldn’t do that. I went back, changed a couple of very minor things intended to foreshadow his death and left him in. The reviewers made me glad of my decision. Lord Henry received more positive comments than any character I’ve ever created.
When I worked out the basic plot for “Entanglements of Honor: A Pride and Prejudice Variation,” I wanted to go with a variation of the standard compromise situation. Rather than having Darcy compromise Elizabeth, I wanted Darcy to compromise Jane, and Bingley to compromise Elizabeth. Then I would have them switch.
The problem was finding a single event that would cause this. I didn’t want one couple in a snowstorm in a cottage and the other couple accidentally locked in a room. I came up with Miss Bingley arranging for a large fire to be lit in an unoccupied room, when she was unaware the damper was closed. This gave people reason to believe there was a fire when there wasn’t. (Well, actually, there was a fire, but it was safely in the fireplace.) It also had the advantage of making Miss Bingley unhappy, because she caused two marriages to take place that she definitely did not want to happen.
I enjoy making Miss Bingley unhappy.