Of Love Letters and Letters of Love

Of Love Letters and Letters of Love

Many people consider Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot the most romantic love letter written in Jane Austen’s novels. I don’t believe anyone who has ever read the letter can deny being touched by the words. From the very first sentence, it captures the reader’s heart.

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.

 

Captain Wentworth’s letter has all the ingredients of a love letter and is certainly swoon-worthy.

For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine… A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.  

The letter is written in haste, which in my opinion, only adds to the sincerity of the sentiments expressed in it. It is short and sweet and full of emotions that are so unlike that of a military man, and yet, so fitting and so right!

However, as much as I adore Captain Wentworth’s letter, I must confess that I find Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth even more beautiful. I am sure many of you are shaking your heads disapprovingly, thinking Mr. Darcy’s letter is the farthest thing from a romantic love letter. But stay with me while I state my reasons.

Let me begin by agreeing that Darcy’s letter lacks all the sweet declarations that were so openly made in Captain Wentworth’s letter. There are no words of love or confessions of deep affection. He doesn’t say anything that is remotely romantic. The tone of the letter is not even pleasant. In fact, the first few sentences of his letter are quite defensive.

Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes, which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten;

Anyone with some understanding of Darcy’s character would be able to recognize Darcy’s voice in every sentence. Who else would write such words? Every word speaks to his turmoil, anger and his injured pride. But amidst the anger and the bitterness, there are other sentiments that run much deeper. His letter shows his deep respect for Elizabeth, his trust in her character, and his care for her wellbeing.

You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.

He has so much faith in Elizabeth’s justice and her character. He is angry and his pride is bruised, but he still believes her to be fair in her judgments. He also believes her to be a lady of superior sense and understanding.

It pains me to offend you. But amidst your concern for the defects of your nearest relations, and your displeasure at this representation of them, let it give you consolation to consider that to have conducted yourselves so as to avoid any share of the like censure is praise no less generally bestowed on you and your eldest sister, than it is honourable to the sense and disposition of both.  

We all know Darcy can be brutally honest and his letter is certainly very honest as he tells Elizabeth what he thinks of her relations. But he is equally honest when he praises her and Jane. And yet, there is more. It is not only respect he feels for her. He trusts her. Implicitly. He trusts her with his most guarded secret.

I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy.

How is it that such a guarded, private man who has never shared his family’s affairs with anyone, feels compelled to tell Elizabeth everything? He shares with her details about his sister, that if made public, would prove detrimental to Georgiana’s reputation and happiness. And yet, he feels confident that she would never betray his trust. One of the reasons I love Darcy’s letter so much is that it allows Elizabeth to truly see him, to hear his side and to understand his behaviour. He opens himself up to her, and in doing so, he shows a vulnerability that is very endearing.

Why would a man of his position and pride put himself through the trouble and humiliation of explaining his actions and sharing his past with the woman who has refused his hand? The only explanation is that he cares for her opinion. Even after everything that has happened, he does not want her to think ill of him. And he wants to protect her by any means necessary. Even if it means for him to humble himself.

If your abhorrence of me should make my assertions valueless, you cannot be prevented by the same cause from confiding in my cousin; and that there may be the possibility of consulting him, I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning. I will only add, God bless you.

The very existence of the letter and the information he provides in it speak volumes about Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth. There are no expressions of love and devotion in Mr. Darcy’s letter. And yet, every word is evidence of his steadfast regard for her opinion and his protectiveness over her. Darcy’s letter may not be a romantic love letter, but it certainly is a letter written by a man deeply in love. What do you think? Which of the two letters do you find more telling about the gentleman’s sentiments?

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Since we are on the subject of letters, I’d like to share two letters from my novel, To Save and Protect. The first one is written by Elizabeth to her father regarding a certain gentleman, whose identity we can all guess, and the second one is Mr. Bennet’s response to his favourite daughter, regarding the same gentleman. I have tried to stay true to both these characters, their sense of humour, and their love for one another. I hope you enjoy reading the letters and let me know what you think.

  

Dear Papa

I am happy to report I have arrived in London and I am enjoying my time with my dear aunt and uncle Gardiner, my exuberant cousins, and of course, my sweet Jane.

You may well be surprised to learn of my early arrival in London. However, I am persuaded you will be far more surprised by my news. I am sorry I am sharing such important news in a letter. I would have preferred to share it in person. However, it cannot be helped and I know that once you know the particulars, you will appreciate the urgency and importance of this letter.

I do know you well enough to know how much you dislike mundane topics and unnecessary chatter. So, I will arrive at the heart of my news without further delay. I want to inform you that within the next few days, you will receive a call from a most impressive gentleman. The identity of the gentleman I shall not divulge as I am persuaded you will appreciate the mystery as well as the surprise. As for the reason for his call, I will let him explain everything, as I trust him to do the office admirably.

What I ask of you, my dear father, is to listen to all the gentleman has to say, for I am confident you will be as impressed with him as I am. I also ask you to be kind to him, as he does not know your sense of humor as I do, and will not appreciate being the object of your sarcasm. Finally, I pray, that you grant his wish, as it is also my greatest wish.

I hope to assure you that I am completely in agreement with what the gentleman will share with you. Please trust my judgment and lend us your support. I will, of course, share with you all the particulars upon my return to Hertfordshire.

Your loving Lizzy

Gracechurch Street, London

 

 

Dear Lizzy

If shocking me beyond repair was your intent, allow me to congratulate you as you certainly succeeded in that endeavor. Mr. Darcy paid me a visit four days ago, and let me assure you it was quite an uncomfortable meeting. I will not bore you with the details of our discussion. I will only say I am very pleased you escaped such a difficult and dangerous situation at Sandry Hall.

As for my opinion of your young man, I have to say he is by far the most overbearing, highhanded, self-assured man I have ever had the misfortune of knowing. He left this house four days ago, and yet, I am still exhausted, still recovering from his demanding and controlling demeanor. I have given him my consent to marry you, as I dared not refuse him anything. That man is certainly a force to reckon with when he wants something, and it is quite evident that he wants you.

But, to be serious, Lizzy, I could not be happier in your choice of a husband. He is honorable and generous. In fact, his generosity seems to know no bounds. He seems to have adopted your entire family and is already making decisions for your sisters’ futures. Indeed, I should be offended by his highhandedness and presumptuous actions. But then, I have too much sense to let an unnecessary sense of dignity get in the way of your sisters’ future happiness. Furthermore, as I stated before, nothing I do or say will ever stop that man. So, instead, I have decided to allow him to take on the taxing responsibility of my family, while I take credit for his generosity.

However, with you I must be honest, Lizzy. You need to know the worth of the man you have decided to marry and to know what he is willing to do for you. I am, as you predicted, quite impressed with Mr. Darcy and am looking forward to having him as my son, for I am persuaded he would make any father proud.

I still resent him for taking you far away from me, Lizzy. However, knowing the kind of man he is, and knowing that you will be happy with him lessens the pain of losing you, slightly. I have to admit that his open invitation to his well-stocked library at Pemberley did not hurt his case either.

By the way, you and your sister are to stay in London longer than previously planned. I am sure you can guess whose decision it was to prolong your stay in London. Enjoy yourself my child, and do not be intimidated by the ton. I have decided to withhold the news of your engagement from your mother for as long as possible. We will have no peace in Longbourn when she finds out that her headstrong daughter has found herself engaged to one of England’s richest men.

I will await your return impatiently, my child.

Your loving father,

B.

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Responses to Of Love Letters and Letters of Love

  1. I am seeing Darcy’s letter in a whole new light. Man… you really deconstructed that letter and made viable points of it being a love letter. Oh-My-Goodness… you really touched me with your comments. Yes, I can see his heart as he writes this letter. As I continued to read… I nearly cried. Aahhh!

    I have always been enamored by Wentworth’s letter, but now… it is Darcy all the way. Thanks for the excerpt of Elizabeth’s letter to her father and her father’s letter to her. Yes, I could see their exchange of wit and the love they have for each other. Well done…

    • Yes, I really think Darcy’s letter is a window to his feelings for Lizzy. His letter is so like him, harsh but honest. One has to look closer and deeper to really see him between his lines. But once we see him, no one else compares!

  2. Darcy’s letter proves his love and respect for a woman whose good opinion he must have, even in the pain of her rejection.

    As to Wentworth’s letter, my students (the girls in the my class) always found it swoon worthy. I would time the reading aloud of Wentworth’s letter so my AP Language class would hear that particular passage of “Persuasion” right before the bell rang for lunch. The girls in the class would linger and sigh. The boys would look on in confusion. Every year, one of males would says something stupid—something similar to, “Aren’t you coming to lunch?” And then the girls would all take him on professing how much like a neanderthal he was. It was a classic scene—both in the book and in the life of teenagers. After lunch, they would return to class, still chattering about the scene. As my Advanced Placement class was “Language,” not “Literature,” it provide us time to discuss how Austen’s craft was indicative of the growing romantic period. It also provided us time to speculate on Austen’s wish to have been on the receiving end of such a profession of love when she was so close to death.

    • I agree. Wentworth’s letter is everything a love letter should be. There’s so much emotion and desperation in it. Every time I read it, I fall in love with Austen’s work all over again.

  3. Love this post and these two letters but I do prefer Darcy’s letter. As you say he loves her utterly and completely to so trust her integrity.
    I also love the two letters from your book and will definitely move it up my getting longer by the minute wish list. I think my biggest wish would be more hours in the day to read them all.

  4. Hi Paisley,

    Live your two letters and yes,I think they captured the essence of both characters.

    Like others have mentioned, Capt.
    Wentworth’s letter of one of love and hope mixed with a pinch of desperation, so urgent does he feel the need to express himself to her at such a point in time. I love it! To think that a such a brave and strong military man would lay bare such emotions in a quickly penned letter makes it all the more romantic and sigh enducing…..lucky Anne!

    Darcy’s letter,on the other hand,is one written by a man in love with a woman whose opinion he highly respects,one whom he trusts implicitly.
    Strange that he should divulge his deepest,darkest secrets to her,yet it illustrates the earnestness of his desires and wishes.
    While it may not be a love letter in the guise of Capt.Webtworth’s,a love letter it clearly is,revealing Darcy’s regard and protectiveness for and towards Elizabeth.

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for such food for thought!

    • Thank you, Mary! Captain Wentworth and Mr. Darcy are my two favourite gentlemen out of all the Austen men. They are very different in temperament and background, and yet, there is something endearing about both of them and that is how the humble themselves for the woman they love. Their letters, though very different in nature and content, are very similar in sentiment. One is a love letter and the other a letter of love.

  5. You make interesting points. I don’t consider Darcy’s letter a love letter, but a letter from a man who is in love with a woman he respects. Your analysis has persuaded me that Darcy’s letter is romantic. I had not thought of it in those terms before.

    I liked the two letters from your novel.

    • Thank you, Renata!
      Yes, Like himself, Darcy’s letter doesn’t strike one as a romantic love letter. But it is very touching and very true to who he really is. He is very honest, to the point of being rude, but he is also fair and just. He has so much integrity and that is one of the reasons I love him.

  6. Paisley, I like that your novel includes letters among characters.

    I agree with your assessment of Darcy’s letter. It shows the trust that is needed in a relationship – which will carry a couple much farther down life’s path than romantic words ever would.

    That being said, I do love romantic letters – I included a fair share in my own debut novel in between the written correspondence of various characters. 🙂

    • I love romantic letters too. I think Darcy’s letter appeals to the modern woman in me. I appreciate his honesty and his respect for Elizabeth’s character and judgment. For a man who has been so harshly rejected to write a letter like that says a lot for his love and respect for her.

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