It is a lost art, writing a letter – one that few still employ and fewer still undertake by hand – but I do get a thrill upon receiving a personal letter in my mailbox. I’ve never received one the likes of the letter given to one Anne Elliot, however. Direct, raw, honest. Swoon-worthy.
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. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. 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. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W. I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
“Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from.”
Ain’t that the truth, Jane.
To lengthen out or extend any book, letter, or discourse.
If one can write a love letter like Captain Wentworth, extend it as long as you wish, please.
Of course, the other famous letter by dearest Jane is better described as infamous: the letter received by Elizabeth of Mr. Darcy The Morning After THAT Proposal At Huntsford. Direct, raw, sincere … and a little wordy. He had some ‘splainin’ to do though.
Also, that letter was sometimes obnoxious. I mean, it’s a good thing the man was worth £10,000 per annum as he surely had to kill a tree to write to the lady with the fine eyes. The first four words would have caused me to be the exact opposite; not for the renewing of his proposal, but the total Darcy-ness likely to follow. So very different from Captain Wentworth, but the missive no less in importance..
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; and the effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been spared, had not my character required it to be written and read. 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.
Whew. One sentence. You know Elizabeth’s hackles were up. Sidenote: Jennifer Ehle did such a good job with the gamut of emotional responses when reading this entire letter.
Two offenses of a very different nature, and by no means of equal magnitude, you last night laid to my charge…. If, in the explanation of them, which is due to myself, I am under the necessity of relating feelings which may be offensive to yours, I can only say that I am sorry. The necessity must be obeyed, and further apology would be absurd.
Mr. Darcy apologizes, and then gives a passive-aggressive/backhanded “prepare yourself for further things you’d likely wish I’d apologize for but won’t.” Darcy giveth and Darcy taketh away.
But there were other causes of repugnance; causes which, though still existing, and existing to an equal degree in both instances, I had myself endeavoured to forget, because they were not immediately before me. These causes must be stated, though briefly. The situation of your mother’s family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father. Pardon me. 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 elder sister, than it is honourable to the sense and disposition of both. I will only say farther that from what passed that evening, my opinion of all parties was confirmed, and every inducement heightened which could have led me before, to preserve my friend from what I esteemed a most unhappy connection.
Oh, Darcy, you did give further apology, you unknowingly sweet, sweet man.
…I cannot blame myself for having done thus much. There is but one part of my conduct in the whole affair on which I do not reflect with satisfaction; it is that I condescended to adopt the measures of art so far as to conceal from him your sister’s being in town. I knew it myself, as it was known to Miss Bingley; but her brother is even yet ignorant of it. That they might have met without ill consequence is perhaps probable; but his regard did not appear to me enough extinguished for him to see her without some danger. Perhaps this concealment, this disguise was beneath me; it is done, however, and it was done for the best. On this subject I have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer. If I have wounded your sister’s feelings, it was unknowingly done and though the motives which governed me may to you very naturally appear insufficient, I have not yet learnt to condemn them.
Well. Maybe just one sweet man.
With respect to that other, more weighty accusation, of having injured Mr. Wickham, I can only refute it by laying before you the whole of his connection with my family…. His resentment was in proportion to the distress of his circumstances—and he was doubtless as violent in his abuse of me to others as in his reproaches to myself. After this period every appearance of acquaintance was dropped. How he lived I know not. But last summer he was again most painfully obtruded on my notice. 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…. Regard for my sister’s credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham’s chief object was unquestionably my sister’s fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed. This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham. I know not in what manner, under what form of falsehood he had imposed on you; but his success is not perhaps to be wondered at. Ignorant as you previously were of everything concerning either, detection could not be in your power, and suspicion certainly not in your inclination.
I will only add, God bless you.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This last section of his letter breaks me every time. I’ve always felt it’s the key to Darcy’s character. I wonder if he was so aloof and prickly prior to his sister being tampered with; it’s likely he was socially awkward, but I think this attempt on Georgiana pushed him toward distrust of others, a more closed-off feeling toward anyone that might be perceived as seeking something from him or his family through a connection to them. Which is why the Bennets, or at least all but two of them, were easily classified in his mind as suspicious and undesirable.
An interesting topic for a literature thesis. Or at least one I’d enjoy reading.
And now for something completely different
To end with a little levity, what if Mr. Bingley had written letters. Sort of. Along with an homage to Keira Knightley’s teeth. Bless it.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- Read Persuasion by Jane Austen, you troglodyte.
- Mr. Darcy’s letter can be found in Pride and Prejudice, obvs.
- So how did they write letters during the Regency era? Find out at A Touch of Quill and Ink: Regency Letter Writing, Writing letters in Regency times, and Anatomy of a Regency Letter.