Should Darcy Stay … or Should He Go?

Should Darcy Stay … or Should He Go?

In the closing paragraphs of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen gave us a few hints about what happened to her beloved characters after she wrote “The End” on the last page of her manuscript. Those tantalizing little breadcrumbs she tossed to us have helped spark many a Jane Austen-inspired sequel!

One of her hints concerned Mr. Darcy and his ongoing relationship with Wickham. Jane Austen wrote:

Though Darcy could never receive [Wickham] at Pemberley, yet, for Elizabeth’s sake, he assisted him further in his profession.

I’ve often wondered what, exactly, Jane Austen meant by that. Was Darcy willing to help Wickham occasionally, but only if he never had to see him again? After he and Elizabeth were married, did Darcy sever all communications with Wickham?

I’d like to know your opinion on the subject. Do you think Darcy was the kind of man who would refuse to step into the same room as Wickham, considering all the grief and havoc the man caused him and the people he loved?

Darcy ensures Wickham marries Lydia Bennet in the 1995 BBC series, Pride and Prejudice.

Those are important questions for me, because I’m working on a Pride and Prejudice sequel where the issue has to be addressed.

Here’s the premise: Kitty is getting married, and Mrs. Bennet’s greatest wish is to have all her daughters together one last time before Kitty—like Jane, Lizzy, and Lydia before her—leaves Longbourn forever to set up a home of her own.

All the Bennet sisters have pledged to attend Kitty’s wedding, except Elizabeth.

While Elizabeth wants very much to attend Kitty’s wedding, she won’t promise to be there because she doesn’t want to put Darcy in the position of having to encounter Wickham, after all the bad blood that passed between them.

Here’s a portion of the scene from my story where Lizzy explains her predicament:

If Elizabeth Bennet Darcy ever needed proof of the depth of her husband’s love and devotion, she was to have it on the occasion of the marriage of her younger sister, Kitty.

The particulars of Kitty’s betrothal had been formally settled in January; since then, Elizabeth sometimes lamented the fact that she resided in Derbyshire—almost one-hundred-fifty miles from her former family home in Hertfordshire—and so far away from all the plans and activities that must attend the promised nuptials. For the first time since her marriage, she heartily wished she were closer that she might share in her sister’s joy.

Kitty wrote with admirable regularity to apprise Elizabeth of her wedding plans and progress. Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, also wrote. Indeed, almost every week since the announcement of Kitty’s betrothal had brought Elizabeth a fresh letter from her mother in which Mrs. Bennet listed her lavish plans for the couple’s nuptials—plans that were not at all in agreement with the simple wedding Kitty initially described.

The first such letter was delivered while Elizabeth was at breakfast with her husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. 

Elizabeth read the letter and looked up at him in astonishment. “Mama plans to petition the bishop to perform the ceremony. She thinks the vicar of Meryton is a very good sort of man, and does well enough for Sunday sermons, but she wants someone with a bit more dash to conduct the marriage ceremony.” She frowned slightly. “Where do you suppose my mother learned such cant? A bit more dash? Who are her influences?”

Mr. Darcy did not answer, choosing instead to concentrate on the contents of his breakfast plate, but Elizabeth was quite certain she saw the corner his mouth twitch, signaling his amusement.

The next week brought another letter in which Mrs. Bennet informed Elizabeth that she had recently read a newspaper article concerning a men’s choir of sixty voices that was touring Derbyshire, and did Elizabeth know any of the particulars? And would Elizabeth take on the task of hunting down the choir’s representatives? For Mrs. Bennet desired the choir quit Derbyshire immediately and travel to Hertfordshire that they might sing at Kitty’s wedding.

Elizabeth read this portion of her mother’s letter aloud to her husband, who uttered “Good God,” in a quiet voice, but said no more.

Similar letters with similar tidings arrived every few days, each containing some morsel of information that bespoke Mrs. Bennet’s grand plans for Kitty’s wedding.

Elizabeth, at times shocked, at times amused by the extent of her mother’s imaginative plans, dutifully read the letters aloud to her husband, until the April day she received yet another missive as she presided over the tea table.

On this occasion she mastered the contents of her mother’s letter with a deepening expression of concern, and would have folded the letter and silently slipped it into the pocket of her gown had not her husband stopped her.

“Bad news?” he asked, in a casual tone, his gaze never wavering from the newspaper he had been reading.

“No, not at all.”

“Who is the letter from?”

“My mother.”

“She and the rest of your family are well, I trust.”

“Yes, quite.”

“I am glad to hear it.” He looked at her then with an expression of patient sympathy. “You may as well read it aloud. I confess I am curious what words she might have written to cause you to think it a wiser choice to hide the letter rather than read it to me.” Elizabeth unfolded the letter, but still she hesitated, prompting him to ask, “Has she left the Church of England and converted to Catholicism in order that the Pope might perform the wedding ceremony? Or perhaps she has hired a band of jugglers and acrobats to attend the bride down the aisle?”

Elizabeth laughed, at both the absurdity of his suggestions and at his gentle understanding of her mother’s foibles. There had been a time when he had not always been so patient, but the great distance of the Darcy’s home in Derbyshire to the Bennet’s home in Hertfordshire—and, thus, their infrequent meetings—had gone a long way toward softening Mr. Darcy’s opinion of Mrs. Bennet, and hers of him.

“No, there is nothing like that in her letter,” she said, smiling.

“I am glad to hear it. In the past four months I have often thought how different are the simple wedding plans of your sister Kitty compared to those of your mother, who seems determined to impress the entire county. It cannot be comfortable for Kitty to be so much at odds with her.” He turned his attention back to his newspaper, as he asked, “I wonder why your mother is so intent upon making Kitty’s wedding such a lavish affair?”

“If you are asking my opinion, I believe it is because she felt a bit cheated by the simple parish ceremony Jane and I had. Mama did her best to convince us to make the affair much more grand, but Jane and I would have not have it so, for we both thought the spectacle of two sisters marrying two men who were close enough to be brothers was exhibition enough to make the neighborhood tongues wag.”

Elizabeth made a move to tuck the letter into her pocket, as she had tried to do before, but once again her husband stopped her.

“So you’re not going to tell me?”

“Tell you what?” she asked, trying to sound as innocent as possible.

“What your mother wrote to cause you such concern.”

Elizabeth took her time unfolding the letter again, in order that she might choose her words carefully. “There is a question about the guest list.”

“Is that all?”

Briefly, Elizabeth considered how best to answer him, before reminding herself that her husband was a man who appreciated truth above all things.

“I may as well tell you, Kitty wrote to me weeks ago when talk of wedding plans first began. She asked me then if I would be comfortable to have Lydia and her husband at the wedding, considering all the havoc they have caused the family.”

Darcy, his eyes still focused on the newspaper, asked quietly, “And how did you reply?”

“I replied that Lydia is my sister and I love her, and however much I wish to see her again after her long banishment, the decision to invite her is not mine alone. Others must be consulted.”

“And when you say others . . . Of whom do you speak?”

“You, of course. You were just as injured as we were when George Wickham ran off with Lydia, and I am convinced it was you he wished to injure and shame. Given the heartlessness of his conduct, I cannot think you would wish to set foot in the same county as Lydia and her husband, to say nothing of the same room.”

Mr. Darcy did not reply, but he looked at her over the top of his newspaper with an expression on his face that touched her very heart. “Is that what you think?”

“Yes, and so I wrote Kitty, and now she is in a quandary.”

“What kind of quandary?”

“She knows you and I will not attend the wedding if Lydia and Wickham are to be there; yet mama implores her daily to include them among the guests. Mama writes,” and her eyes scanned the letter again, “Kitty has become unnaturally obstinate on the subject, and has even threatened to elope to Scotland because she will not be made to choose one sister over another. Mama is beside herself to think Kitty may actually carry out her threat, for then all mama’s plans to impress the Longs and the Lucases with a grand wedding will count for naught.”

“Kitty has grown into a very determined young woman,” Darcy murmured, as he focused once again on his newspaper.

Elizabeth took encouragement that her husband was willing to continue their conversation, for it had been many months since either of them had spoken the name Wickham aloud. 

“Yes, she has, and I do hate to cause poor Kitty such unhappiness at a time when she should know only joy. But, of course, if Lydia and Wickham will be guests at Longbourn, it is out of the question that we will be there, too!”

“Is it?” Glancing at the clock on the mantle, Darcy laid aside his newspaper and rose from his chair. “Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing the contents of your mother’s letter; but now you must excuse me, for I have some business to attend. It should not take long; no more than an hour, I think.”

“But what is to be done about mama and her wish to see all her daughters and their husbands together again? I cannot think what is the right thing to do.”

“The right thing to do,” he said, stopping beside her chair and bending down to place a tender kiss upon her forehead, “is to make your mother happy.”

The scene continues, but before I share more of it with you, I’d like to know:

What is your opinion of Darcy’s behavior? Knowing Darcy as you do, do  you think he would willingly attend the wedding—and face his nemesis George Wickham—in order to please Elizabeth and her family?

Or do you think Darcy would react in a completely different manner?

62 Responses to Should Darcy Stay … or Should He Go?

  1. I think Darcy will attend. But, he will arrange for Lizzy to arrive days earlier than himself so that she can spend time with Lydia, who she has not seen for some time, and Wickham. Then on the eve of the wedding Wickham will be called away (pre arranged by Darcy) only hours before Darcy arrives to join Lizzy at the wedding.

    • Those are all good ideas, Jan! I especially like the idea of Elizabeth spending some time with Lydia, since she is the sister who has been most separated from the others by time and distance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Thank you, Barbara. I think we’ve reached consensus here: 1) Darcy will do anything in his power to please Elizabeth; and 2) Darcy remains (as Carole in Canada reminded us) the very best of men! 🙂

  2. I feel that Darcy will willingly do anything for Elizabeth (even if it displeases him). He would also identify with the sentiment and importance of having all the sisters one last time. He might be there and be civil but he might find himself always going opposite or staying away from Mr Wickham. I f he endured being with Mr Wickham those times before and during his (Wickham’s) wedding and giving him a large amount of money/settlement. I think being in the same place with him in Kitty’s wedding will be just a trivial matter.

    • You make a good point! Wickham has already put Darcy and those he loves through such trouble and turmoil, attending a wedding should be a piece of cake (forgive the pun) for Darcy. But he would probably still remain watchful and on guard; he knows what Wickham is capable of. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  3. What a wonderful excerpt! And what terrific writing! I think Darcy goes to the wedding and stays just long enough to be politely frosty to Wickham. Then he and Elizabeth decamp, but not until after Wickham acts terribly (again) and Elizabeth tells her mother never to expect any of them to be in the same room with him every again.

  4. Excellent excerpt, Nancy. I think Darcy would go, but I imagine he will be on guard to anything Wickham says or does. I don’t doubt he will have a word with George if necessary or even a fleshly reminder to him to behave himself. If Georgiana has not married, I might tend to leave her at home rather than subject her to Wickham’s presence. Look forward to the rest of the book, Nancy. 🙂

    • I agree, Eva, although I think Wickham can always be counted on to cause trouble. Currently the title of the book is Work-In-Progress, but I’ll be announcing a better title soon!

  5. This is very well-written, Nancy. I don’t think there can be any doubt about Darcy’s attendance. He would grant any wish of Elizabeth’s, no matter his own discomfort. What he might do to prevent Wickham’s attendance, from nothing to having him sent to the front lines, is possible. I’d rather see him secure an invitation for Colonel Fitzwillliam, simply to ensure Wickham’s discomfort.

  6. As the others have said, I believe Darcy will attend to make Elizabeth happy but will minimize contact with Wickham. He might also have Col. Fitzwilliam and a few of his colleagues spend a few days in Meryton giving Wickham the evil eye and indicating that no nonsense from Wickham will be tolerated.

  7. I think that the Darcys will attend but not stay under the same roof as the Wickhams. Despite the fact that likely no one except Mrs. Bennet really wants the Wickhams to attend, Darcy will do so for Elizabeth’s sake and for the sake of her family.

    But I wonder if Darcy could have Wickham sent away on an assignment to Paris or somewhere else romantical, a place which Lydia will not want to miss even for her sister’s wedding, and thus provide a socially acceptable excuse for the Wickhams’ absence. And imagine how Mrs. Bennet would brag about the Wickhams’ need to be in Paris to their neighbors! (“Ah, poor Lydia!! We miss her so. But her husband was sent to Paris, you know, and of course she must accompany him. And how important he has become, for the colonel insisted that no one else be sent to Paris but Wickham!”) And Lydia would love to lord it over her sisters! But that’s just my imagination running away with me… 😉

    Thanks for the excerpt!

    Susanne 🙂

  8. I think Darcy would do anything for Lizzy to make her happy; even if, he must be in the same room as Wickham and Lydia. He loves her that much. Look what he did for her when they were not together — finding Wickham and Lydia and making them marry.

  9. Well it’s perfectly obvious from the conversation that Darcy will do anything to make his Elizabeth happy so he will go. If Jane is still at Netherfield I think they will stay there and let the Bennets host Lydia and Wickham (especially as it’s their fault the marriage was required.)
    Or Darcy’s bit of business could be arranging for Wickham to be sent on an urgent assignment at that time and thus Lydia must attend alone.

  10. Great excerpt! I absolutely think Darcy would attend the wedding. This is his wife’s family, and we all know how much he loves his wife. He’d do anything for her, even put up with Wickham for a short time.

  11. I agree with other commenters that Darcy will go in order to please Elizabeth, but he will make sure he can handle and/or avoid Wickham, come what may.
    Good luck on the story!

  12. I love the excerpt and got a bit choked up. Not only because Darcy will go, but he has some plans to put in place to make it happen with minimum exposure to the Wickhams. La…not sure how well that will go though! He does it for Elizabeth alone knowing how much she wants to be there and seeing how Kitty’s happiness would be impacted. Yes, he is the best of men…

  13. Darcy will definitely attend the wedding to please his Elizabeth. I think maybe Darcy will pay for a room in Meryton for the Wickhams. After all, they are “outsiders”” so to speak and should be barred from staying at Longbourn.

  14. Wonderful excerpt 🙂 I think the business he has to attend to has something to do with the upcoming wedding 🙂

  15. Good for you on tackling a sticky subject. Darcy would accompany Lizzy, and would cast aside personal grievance in the presence of others. What transpired between Georgiana and Wickham Darcy foiled, as he foiled Wickham’s intended abandonment of Lydia. As with all family and sour events, with time anger dissipates and men of reason are more inclined to accommodate peace rather than perpetuate warlike notions of never, never will I look that man in the eye again, for that is the cowardly way out, and at best, Wickam is a brazen. Good luck, it sounds like a wonderful plot, and you’re right, Jane Austen did afford valuable insight to what transpired post wedding nuptials of Darcy & Elizabeth.

  16. Wow, what a dilemma. Poor Darcy. Dang! Once again Wickham is causing trouble just by his mere presence. Perhaps he could send Lydia and not attend, duty calls, you could say. Yet, given his proclivities, he would attend just to cause mischief. While Darcy, the better man, would endure anything to please Lizzy.

  17. I believe Darcy would absolutely attend, Wickham or not. I also suspect he would make it monetarily possible for the Wickham’s to travel for Kitty’s wedding as the cost might be an unmanageable burden for them. However, he would not stay at longbourn with the Wickham’s! If the Bingleys have already left Netherfield it is my opinion Darcy would rent a house for he, Elizabeth and the Bingleys to share to be “out of the way” for the Bennet’s. Perhaps Purvis Lodge as those dreadful attics would not be such a burden lol

  18. I think it is less a matter of what Darcy wants to do to please his wife and more a matter of what is expected of him as the master of Pemberley. He thinks of his position in all things, and would it be a great scandal all round for him to “receive” the Wickhams due to their scandal? For Darcy, I think it would less of a personal decision and more of a social one.

    • You summed up my dilemma nicely, Maggie. Darcy does want to please Elizabeth, but he is also very conscious of what society expects of a man of his position. Based on his reaction when Mr. Collin’s impertinently introduced himself to Darcy, we know he follows a strict social code. Perhaps his compromise is that he won’t receive the Wickhams at Pemberley but he is willing to travel to Longbourn; I hope that’s a compromise readers will accept, because what would a Bennet wedding be without Mr. Darcy?

      • This was more in line with my thoughts–because he is not hosting the Wickhams but just happens to be invited to the same event, it should be fine. The shame of the connection is already known, if we’re talking about society, and we know Darcy will limit his exposure to the Wickhams. I see him attending the wedding and the breakfast and maybe a dinner, but not much else if the Wickhams are there. But I do see him going. I think it’s only realistic, though, to show him very stressed out about it when the time comes, no matter how well he hides it.

        • I agree with you Melanie; Darcy would be stressed and very much on guard. He knows better than anyone what Wickham is capable of. By the way, my sister is also named Melanie. It’s a beautiful name!

  19. Well it seems to me, Darcy is willing to bend. I can imagine all kinds of “tensions” for the “reunion.” I wonder if either GW or Lydia have been humbled. Probably not so I suspect there might be some fun scenes lurking about.

  20. What a wonderful excerpt. I think the answer lies with the original. “If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

    • You went right to the heart of the matter, Bronwen! I also think Darcy would go, for Elizabeth’s sake. By the way, that lovely quote is one of my favorites. Thanks for commenting!

  21. He would at least acconpany Elizabeth to the area, neither of them staying at Longbourn. That way if he does attend the wedding he can leave at any time, he doesn’t have to acknowledge Wickham

  22. I think he would go. After all, Longbourn is not Pemberley. I wouldn’t be surprised if he found somewhere else for them to stay, though.

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