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.