Was Bingley a Substitute for Wickham?

Was Bingley a Substitute for Wickham?

Two of Darcy’s friends were Wickham and Bingley. It is interesting to compare them. Jane Austen’s early description of Bingley said, “Mr. Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.” Wickham is initially described as having a “most gentlemanlike appearance.” Elizabeth tells her aunt he is “beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw.” Even Darcy describes him as being “blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends — whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain.”

The second part of Darcy’s comment is certainly negative, but it is likely based on Wickham as an adult, not a child. It is suggested that Darcy remained on good terms with his childhood friend when they were both children. But Darcy said of Bingley, “I had often seen him in love before.” It isn’t an extremely negative comment, but it certainly isn’t a positive one.

There is a subtler similarity between Wickham and Bingley. Both wanted to be a gentleman. Bingley had the education to be considered a gentleman and the money to buy an estate which would make him a landed gentleman. Wickham could pass for a gentleman but had no realistic chance of becoming one.

Whenever I have wondered if something in Jane Austen’s works is coincidental, I remember this is Jane Austen. She could hit you with a sledgehammer with characters like Mr. Collins or brush you with a feather by making Mr. Bennet, with all his flaws, into a character that most people like.

Was Bingley a substitute for Wickham? Colonel Fitzwilliam felt that Darcy took care of Bingley by saving him from a “most imprudent marriage.” Was Darcy’s care of Bingley based partially on the feeling that, somehow, he failed with Wickham but would not fail Bingley? Only Jane Austen knew, and she is unavailable.

Advertisement time: (This is more hitting with a sledgehammer than brushing with a feather, but I don’t expect to fool anyone, so why not admit it.)

Advertisement number 1: Our next book will be Mr. Collins’ Will. We have not yet written the blurb for the book, but Mr. Collins dies in a fire, and it is believed he willed his property to Elizabeth, thinking she would marry him. If the will was destroyed in the fire, it doesn’t matter. But was it destroyed?

Advertisement number 2: Summer Hanford and I think the best book we have published is More Than He Seems which gives an alternate view of Wickham. This review suggests that we succeeded in making that plausible. If you think I have been too careful in selecting reviews, read more of them here.

When Does a Story Begin?

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.

Chapter One

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?

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.

Serendipitous Details

I met Summer Hanford in an online writing class, where the teacher had a master’s degree in creative writing. The teacher described writing a novel as driving with headlights. You could see enough to drive but not much more. Presumably, you knew your goal. Because students could only turn in a limited amount of material, the class encouraged writing roughly a chapter at a time.

There is another philosophy of writing. The writer creates an outline and then follows it. I am a driving-with-headlights writer. Summer is an outline writer. In essence, I give her a detailed outline, which I have achieved without an outline. A twenty thousand word “outline” for a sixty-thousand-word novel is sufficiently detailed, isn’t it? 😊

One of the results of the way I write is that I frequently go back and change things. I decide I want something to happen, so I go back to foreshadow it. Alternatively, I could be originally thinking of going a certain direction, decide not to, but must go back and take out the foreshadowing.

But sometimes things work in another direction. I will put something in and find I can use it. In one case, a character was given a surname of Green. I put something in about green referring to inexperienced or young. I’m sure readers would assume I named the character for that reason, but it happened the other way around.

Yesterday I was working on a novel that is a Pride and Prejudice variation. There is an extremely minor character in Pride and Prejudice named Mrs. Annesley who was Georgiana Darcy’s companion. I didn’t want her in a scene, mainly because a character who is in a scene and contributes nothing makes the scene more complicated to write. Yes, sometimes I’m lazy.

Using the excuse that the carriage taking four people was full, I unkindly left her behind. But Miss Bingley returned early and ended up having a conversation with Mrs. Annesley. I needed that conversation to make Miss Bingley approach something sensibly. Suddenly, I realized here was a character I could use.

I still don’t know how I’m going to use her, but I’m leaning toward pairing her with Colonel Fitzwilliam. But by staying in the background, she achieved a role of a character having at least two scenes. As a fan of Jane Austen, I appreciate the irony.

A Friendly Warning about A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice

Two years ago, almost everyone I knew was computer literate. Now that I’ve moved into a retirement community, many people I know aren’t. Summer and I wish to have our stories available to all readers, and that includes people who cannot or will not read an eBook. Many people love the feel of a book. I can hardly blame them. For me, physical books are associated with many pleasant hours of reading.

Cost, the ability to enlarge the type, and lack of storage space has turned me into a fan of eBooks, but others haven’t made the shift. Perhaps they have better eyesight, more space or more money to allocate to books. Whatever their reason for enjoying print books over eBooks, we’ve taken this opportunity to make four of our short works, previously available only as eBooks because they’re simply not long enough to turn into print books, and put them in a single paper book. There is nothing in the paper books that isn’t in the four, previously published eBooks. We’ve also turned the collection into an eBook because it is very easy to do.

Although we love for people to buy our books, the one thing we don’t want to happen is for people to buy A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice thinking it is something new. Consequently, Summer made the cover of A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice with the original covers from the stories contained within.

Three of the books can be read using Kindle Unlimited. Those are:

Epiphany with Tea: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Miss Bingley’s Christmas: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

 Their Secret Love: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novelette

The fourth book, From Ashes to Heiresses: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, can be read for free by going to www.renatamcmann.com

– Renata McMann

Pride and Prejudice, Humor and Cynicism

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Pride and Prejudice’s famous opening sentence sets the tone. Jane Austen contradicts the opening sentence in the first chapter by having Mr. Bennet question it. It is certainly not a “truth universally acknowledged.” It isn’t even a truth, much less accepted.

Jane Austen’s cynical tone is shown by many of her characters. Mr. Bennet utters what might have been her motto: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

But Mr. Bennet also displays cynicism in other ways. When Elizabeth refuses to marry Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet wants her husband to force her to do so, he says, “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Later, Elizabeth wonders how much money it took to persuade Wickham to marry Lydia. Mr. Bennet says, “Wickham’s a fool if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship.” He would be sorry to have his son-in-law be a fool. That is reasonable. What is not reasonable is that to show he isn’t foolish, his son-in-law must squeeze the maximum amount of money out of his bride’s relatives. Surely, Mr. Bennet isn’t sorry about that.

Mr. Darcy isn’t above a certain cynicism: “What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished society.” “Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” True, but even though Jane Austen wrote it over two hundred years ago, many still think dancing is refined.

But Jane Austen certainly was cynical when she described people’s actions. Miss Bingley isn’t as comical as some of the other characters, but she certainly had her moments. “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! …” No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement.

Mrs. Bennet contradicts herself so often that one wonders if she had any idea of consistency. Consider part of her speech to Elizabeth when she refused Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage: “…I have done with you from this very day. I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. … Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

Another instance of Mrs. Bennet’s lack of logic about how she cares for her eldest daughter is shown here: “Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will be sorry for what he has done.” But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such expectation, she made no answer.

Lady Catherine is not as stupid as some of the characters in Pride and Prejudice, but Jane Austen does have such gems as this: The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow.

Mr. Collins has many funny moments, but one that stands out is this: “You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.”

If anyone does not think Jane Austen was a great comedic writer, one approach is to use the same approach Elinor used in Sense and Sensibility: Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.

Happily Ever After for Pride and Prejudice Villains

We have already published three stories that give villains a happy ending: Mrs. Bennet’s Triumph (a bonus short story found on this site as well as at the end of The Second Mrs. Darcy), Caroline and the Footman, and Mr. Collins’ Deception. We are currently working on Mary Younge (pun intended) and have plans for Lady Catherine’s Regrets. The story about Mrs. Bennet is a Pride & Prejudice variation. The others try to be largely consistent with the original but have a separate story within them.

Jane Austen wrote villains who were only slightly villainous. We’ve discussed Caroline Bingley and Mr. Wickham on this website. They are actually the most villainous of the Pride and Prejudice villains because they actively advanced their own interests at the expense of others. The other ‘villains’ are perhaps stupid and self-centered, but think they mean well.

We don’t know anything about Mrs. Younge. We don’t even know for certain that she was ever married, because sometimes women over twenty-five were given the title Mrs. even if they hadn’t married. Was she duped by Wickham? Was she a plant to facilitate Wickham’s marriage to Georgiana Darcy? If so, how could she trust him to give her a share of the money? Was she so enamored by Wickham that she was willing to ruin her career by helping him? How old was she? What was her background? How was she able to run a lodging house after being fired in disgrace? Our answer should appear in the summer of 2015.

Jane Austen didn’t create the Wicked Witch of the West or Hannibal Lector. She created people. How many rock stars have a little bit of Lady Catherine in them? They may even hire their own Mr. Collins, who is an overstatement of yes-men. Mrs. Bennet is an exaggeration, but how many mothers are frantically trying to do what they can to help their children? Jane Austen speaks to us because she saw human truth in her limited world which was, in her words:  “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Caroline Bingley

Caroline Bingley is a character people love to hate. She’s often portrayed as a villain in Pride and Prejudice variations, but Jane Austen cleverly makes her only a mild villain. She lied to Jane Bennet, but most of her lies are difficult to pin down. She talked about people’s feelings, but she could be mistaken in those. Her claim that Mr. Bingley and Georgiana Darcy might marry is not entirely without foundation, since it is implied that Mr. Darcy considered that as a possibility.

Caroline Bingley is funny because she undermines herself. Sometimes she does so immediately, such as the following statement:

“Elizabeth Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”

One has to ask if she is listening to herself.

When Darcy praises Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes, Caroline mockingly talks of Darcy’s marriage to Elizabeth with an emphasis on his dealings with her family. But Darcy controlled his attraction to Elizabeth very well until he saw her at Rosings, away from her family. In Darcy’s proposal, he talked about his struggle. He almost certainly thought that he could enjoy Elizabeth as a wife and only have infrequent contact with her family. Caroline’s talk of the marriage probably helped Darcy’s struggle, since it pinpointed the problem.

Caroline also pushes Darcy to say how attractive Elizabeth is, probably for the first time. Regardless of how many times he thought that, saying it in public probably helped solidify his feelings for Elizabeth.

Caroline’s attempt to attract Darcy in a positive way, by flattery and attention, has to be considered less than well-planned. He must be very used to both. Praising his writing? Asking him to include statements to his sister, when it would be permissible for her to write Georgiana directly? Telling him they are both above the company they keep, when he must consider himself well above her? Reading the second volume of a book when he is reading the first volume?

On the last, how about reading the first volume when he is not reading it, and talking to him about it? Wouldn’t that be more likely to attract his interest?

Summer Hanford and I wrote a short story called “Caroline and the Footman” which explores the possibility that Caroline Bingley’s actions are not caused by stupidity and not motivated to attract Darcy. We aim to shatter the Caroline Bingley villain motif, and turn what you thought you knew about her on its head. This story will come out in January, 2015.

Georgiana Darcy

Georgiana Darcy is an important character in Pride and Prejudice, although she doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. As a writer of Pride and Prejudice variations, I have tried to speculate on what she was like. As is usually the case, I started with what Jane Austen tells us about her.

Wickham persuaded Georgiana to elope with him, which supports his contention he devoted hours to her amusement. His statement of her being proud we can dismiss along with his other lies about the Darcys. Miss Bingley describes her in glowing terms, but that can likewise be dismissed, since she was trying to ingratiate herself with Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Reynold’s description of her working on her accomplishments is probably true, since it is consistent with other sources.

When the reader actually meets her, she is shown to be very shy rather than proud. Jane Austen wrote a paragraph about Georgiana after Elizabeth marries Darcy, but it gives us relatively little information about her character, except that she was unsure of herself.

Georgiana could simply be shy, but she could be shy and rebellious. Her initial willingness to elope with Wickham says that she didn’t always follow the rules. She knew she was doing something wrong and her brother would disapprove. Presumably, her governess, Mrs. Younge, encouraged her on that, but she was no more willing to stand up for what she knew was right than she was willing to stand up to Miss Bingley criticizing Elizabeth, which was one of the few of Georgiana’s actions Jane Austen described.

In Georgiana’s Folly, Summer Hanford and I tried to show Georgiana as a rebellious teenager. Her relationship with her brother isn’t as perfect as it is sometimes portrayed.

Was Wickham Evil?

“[Wickham had] vicious propensities… [and] his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.” From Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth.

To answer that question, we have to list those things that are known about him.

He went into debt. These debts were both gambling debts and debts to merchants. The gambling debts were debts of honor, and thus not legally recoverable. The debts to the merchants in Meryton and Brighton were much more serious in Jane Austen’s time than today, because he could go to debtor prison.

He slandered Mr. Darcy. He certainly was guilty of that, and Darcy could have sued him for damages. Of course, Wickham didn’t have any money to pay Darcy.

He tried to elope with a fifteen year old heiress. This looks worse from a modern perspective than from the time. Mr. Wickham and Georgiana Darcy could legally marry in Scotland. He also had the consent of the person who was in charge of Georgiana. Mrs. Younge wasn’t Georgiana’s legal guardian, but was entrusted to her care. Her encouragement of the elopement gave Wickham some legitimacy.

He ran off with a sixteen year old. Again, this was less serious in his day than now. I don’t claim to know the law on this issue, but the fact that Mr. Darcy couldn’t get Lydia Bennet to leave Wickham suggests there were no legal issues here. Also, Lydia’s mother was happy with the marriage. The fact that the Bennets’ neighbors accepted Lydia and Wickham once they were married suggests that they didn’t consider Wickham too evil for this act.

As villains go, Wickham is very mild. Darcy said he had vicious propensities, but at the time Jane Austen wrote, “vicious” meant “immoral, corrupt. The word then did not have the connotations of ferocity or aggression that it has now.” [The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, edited by David M. Shapard, 2004, page 369.] It is easy to believe that he was guilty of “idleness and dissipation,” but that came from a man who hated him. A less prejudiced observer, Mrs. Reynolds, called him very wild. Wickham certainly wasn’t a good man, but calling him evil does not seem to be justified.

…except that he caused pain to our favorite fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth.