A Poison Pen Letter for Wickham

See the source imageThank you! All your positive feedback on my previous post (Fitzwilliam Darcy: in His Own Words) really energized me. Now I’m off and running on what will hopefully become my next novel! – expanding on the Pride and Prejudice saga to tell the story from Darcy’s point of view, beginning months before the scope of Jane Austen’s original book.

So what was Darcy doing before he turns up at the Meryton ball, where he meets Elizabeth? Most of it is open for speculation, and I am very happy to fill in the blanks! We could learn a little something more about his childhood and his relationships with his parents, his sister, and Wickham perhaps. What were his ideas about marriage, and had he come close to taking the plunge before? (see previous post for a clue on this one)

See the source imageThe only situation in Darcy’s prior life that we know very much about from P&P is Wickham’s attempted elopement with Georgiana. Since this event falls within the scope of my work-in-progress, I took another look at D’s letter to E, where it’s spoken of:

Georgiana… was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse… I joined them 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, who left the place immediately…

I wrote to Mr. Wickham? I hadn’t notice this line before. I was thinking Darcy had handled it with a face-to-face confrontation, as depicted in the P&P ’95 adaptation that I’ve watched a million times. So why would he have chosen to use a letter instead? Hmm. Since I was about to write that scene, I thought I should know.

So I posed the question to all my friends on our Austen Variations Facebook page and got some interesting and insightful answers: Maybe because it was more private. Maybe Wickham had already run away. Maybe it was to distress Georgiana as little as possible. It was simply more Darcy’s style. All good ideas.

See the source imageNevertheless, there it was in black and white: I wrote to Wickham. And since I’m only adding to, not changing, the original story, a letter from Darcy to Wickham I must write!

No problem; I love writing the letters contained in my books. It’s one of my favorite parts! But what would Darcy say in this letter? He must get his point across clearly and powerfully but without putting anything on paper that could be used against him or to soil Georgiana’s reputation. Here’s what I came up with:

You are a rogue and a scoundrel, sir, and if I could do so without harming others, I would immediately expose you to the world as such. But I swear that nothing in all of creation will constrain me if by word or action you should ever threaten harm to me or my family again. If you value your safety, you would be wise to remove yourself from the vicinity at once and keep well out of my sight henceforth. For I shall not be responsible for my actions if I ever catch you within ten miles of a certain person again. I trust I make myself clear.

Darcy doesn’t sign the note, but I’m pretty sure Wickham will be able to guess who it’s from!

What do you think? Why would Darcy choose a letter over a face-to-face? Is this about right, or do you think the letter would have contained something more… or less? What else about Darcy’s life before Elizabeth would you like to know and read about in this book? I love your creative feedback!

Audio Book Update – In case you haven’t heard yet, Leap of Hope is available in AUDIO! Murder at Northanger Abbey, which is in production now, should be ready by the end of October. And I have just signed a contract for Prayer and Praise: a Jane Austen Devotional. I’m hoping it will debut before Christmas!

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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14 Responses to A Poison Pen Letter for Wickham

  1. Michelle H says:

    I think your letter is a compelling idea. I just don’t know. I keep thinking to myself of being a very naive young adult and having my Grandmother repeatedly drum into my head that I should be extremely cautious about what to put into writing when sending a letter to anyone, but especially someone of the opposite sex. (I was writing a high school friend who had taken a summer job as a forest ranger apprentice after graduation. And furthermore only interested in my best friend as a potential girlfriend, not me.)

    Now I realize that this is Darcy writing to another man, but he is approaching a very sensitive subject. There could be another servant who know who the letter is from. The messenger could be unreliable and have a loose mouth when in his cups, blabbing about more than he actually knows but once some tasty tidbit is out there about ‘The Quality,’ whoever wants to pass on and enlarge the tidbit into a full banquet can at least get accolades for a brief shining moment. And of course lots of people saw them together at Ramsgate.

    I DO like the wording of your letter! I think it’s the privacy and delivery of said letter that bothers me. I could see Darcy handing Wickham the letter in person after setting up a meeting. And I can totally see G.W. hanging around to see how much Georgiana can convince Darcy of their ‘regard for each other.’ Obviously a variation on canon. Okay Shannon, here’s a question that popped up with this enticing subject. How much of Wickham’s misdeeds did Darcy inform Georgie of after he showed up at Ramsgate? Would he have told her everything? Hmmm. Or kept trying to protect her from the worst of the world’s evils? I really need your opinion!

    • It’s partly because of some of your concerns that I was surprised that Austen says Darcy wrote to Wickham. Some in the FB discussion thought it more private than a face-to-face (no witnesses to overhear or even see the two together), but it could also be considered LESS private because of the paper trail. Which is why no names or specifics are mentioned in the letter I wrote. Wickham knows what he’s done and planned to do. Now he knows that Darcy knows. That’s all that’s necessary. And I don’t think delivering it discretely would be a huge challenge for a man with Darcy’s resources.

      As to what D would tell G about W, I’m working on that right now. For one thing I’m not sure D would know a lot of specifics himself, at least not recent stuff, since he hasn’t seen much if anything of W in the last several years. But I don’t think he would need or want to give G all the dirty details. His top priority would be protecting his sister and minimizing her pain.

      • Michelle H says:

        I Totally agree, Shannon. And I suffer from that ‘too many variations swimming around in my head and merged together’ syndrome. 🙂 Her guardians wanting to protect her, seeing her as still innocent and child-like. Which in some stories lead to later complications. :/

      • I have enough trouble keeping straight what’s in Austen’s books and mine, especially vs the movie adaptations. With few exceptions, I don’t read other sequels/variations. Prefer to think there’s ‘one true story.’ 😉

        However, I understand that some people think G is not all that innocent anymore after her encounter with W – ‘damaged goods. ‘Again, I prefer not to go there.

  2. sheilalmajczan says:

    I think your letter is a good one. No details but Wickham would know who it was from and Darcy’s ability to follow up on his threats. I am sure he would share some of Wickham’s background with her, i.e., Darcy paying him in lieu of the living, as it showed how spendthrift that man was…seeing as how he came back wanting the living after spending the money given him. Georgiana needs to know some truths about not only W. but so as to be on her guard against any future suitor who might have false pretenses. Good luck with your writing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for your comments, Sheila! Yes, I think D would focus on W’s lust for G’s money rather than what other lusts might have been involved, so she would be more forewarned about fortune hunters in the future.

  3. Michelle H says:

    Oh! By the way, I’m looking forward to your next completed book. Best of luck.

  4. I am excited about your contract for your Jane Austen Devotional!! Do tell!!! (You may pop me an e-mail if you like.) I am so excited and thrilled for you!!! Yay!!!! 😀

    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Susanne 🙂

  5. Gail Frisby says:

    I love it

  6. Meg Patterson says:

    I think the letter should mention Wickham’s seduction of Georgianna was a unforgivable betrayal of the senior Mr Darcy, her father, who had bestowed on Wickham every opportunity to better himself.

    • Thanks, Meg. I’m sure Darcy would have liked to say this and SO much more! But how much can he say without putting in writing something that could tarnish his sister’s reputation if it were revealed? That’s the tricky part. There is another letter earlier in the book – Darcy writing to refuse Wickham’s request to have the Kympton living reinstated in his favor – where D does have a chance to say something else along the lines you’ve suggested (not the part about G of course):

      “Please be advised that I have received your letter, however I have no intention whatsoever of acting as you have suggested therein. You seem to have forgotten (but I have not), that three years ago you unequivocally resigned all interest in the church and all claim to the Kympton living. You requested and received from me a substantial monetary compensation instead, with which you might have established yourself in a new profession and been made comfortable for the rest of your life. I have thus already discharged my responsibility to my father and to you. Your current distress of circumstance is of your own making, sir. I take no share in it. Another man – one more suited to the office – will be given the living of Kympton, and there is an end to it.

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