If you have been following the unearthing of Mr Wickham’s journals by his archivist and biographer, Catherine Curzon, you may have noted that in his later years, the self-professed scoundrel seems to have been reconciled to his boyhood companion and brother-in-law, Fitzwilliam Darcy. It seems that the two became somewhat regular correspondants, despite the *ahem* misunderstandings of their youth.
If you missed the first installment of this series, you can read it here. We hope you enjoy these recent findings as much as we did.
-Catherine Curzon and Nicole Clarkston
You will be gratified to know that the mare has sustained no permanent injury, and the saddle was not beyond repair. Mrs Darcy is quite fond of that mare, though she no longer rides the creature herself, and so we should both have been very sorry if she had come to harm. As it is, I am willing to let the matter rest. Well do I remember testing my own skills on my father’s best hunter, and finding the horse more than a match for me. I hope that for young Master Harry as well, it shall be a lesson for which he will be the better.
You are quick to claim the credit of having led Mrs Darcy to think well enough of me to consent to marriage, but I believe I deserve a small measure of gratitude for your own felicity. As I recall, it was I who persuaded you to take the yoke first, just as one dubious pup first pushes its braver litter mate from the basket before venturing on its own. Mrs Wickham appears to have been well matched to you, and I confess myself most impressed by the long and happy union you have both enjoyed. Such a marriage, one satisfactory and suited to the characters of both partners, is the envy of dukes and kings.
I must, in all fairness to Mrs Darcy, disabuse you of the notion that anything but a protracted and unconventional courtship would have sufficed for either of us. I rather enjoy my wife’s quick wit, and it is one of my greatest delights to engage her on some matter of debate. Even now, in the full flower of her maturity, I believe no mortal woman can match her spirit. Had I presented myself to her as a docile and amiable character such as my friend Bingley, I might never have had an opportunity to appreciate the depth of her beauty; and perhaps she might have found me rather dull. My dear wife finds as much enjoyment in provoking me as I do in admiring her, so in retrospect I am quite content that it is she who first humbled me, and no other.
On the subject of racehorses, Mr Harris was pleased to accept your invitation upon his next holidays. At present, he is rather occupied with the business of foaling mares. I have in my stables a former champion filly at Epsom Downs, currently in foal to Navigator. I believe his name ought to recall a particularly dark day to mind for many, when he won a great upset in the Derby some years back. I expect great things from the foal, but I have no interest in campaigning a racehorse myself. I imagine the colt ought to fetch a handsome purse, and lucky will be the man who hangs his silks upon the horse’s back.
Are you quite certain that the account regarding old Judge Talbert was not grossly exaggerated? I believe the infamy enjoyed by the lady in question, if I may call her such, was the chief profit gained by the spreading of such a sordid tale. I have heard some rumour of her doings afterward, but of course I would not deign to verify them. It gives me pause to even commit to writing such notions, but if true, the incidents reported abroad certainly clarify one or two questions raised by his month-long visit to Pemberley when we were yet lads. I seem to recall afterward finding the most curious items in the hedge maze. Nevertheless, here I let the matter rest. The man yet has family in the neighborhood and as you must imagine, such stories are like a wildfire which springs to life even after one has put it out.
I retire this evening to a book and the company of my wife. The grandchildren have all departed now, and though I am eager for their next visit, the peace of a quiet evening with my wife is most welcome to me. I believe we will withdraw early this evening, for the events of the past month have left Mrs Darcy rather fatigued and I would see her rest well. I know that you take as diligent care of Mrs Wickham, for what is a man that he does not look well to his lady?
With regards to your family,
My dear old Darcy,
I can assure you that I shall forever be grateful for the continued sturdiness of your mare and the ongoing integrity of saddle. Tack is one thing and we have rooms stuffed with it but horseflesh, quite another! Yet the gods of equine ability be praised, it shall not come to that and Mrs Darcy’s mare remains safely intact. The matter was rested here long ago, so I am, naturally, happy to read that you too have decided to occupy yourself with other, let us hope more cheery, matters!
Let us not speak further of my bringing you and the fragrant Mrs D together at the altar, for I know that you are a man who prefers to keep his personal affairs close to his heart. It is enough for me that I have your gratitude, and Mrs Darcy’s likewise. Like that hunter you recall from youth, it warms me to know that I was the steed on whom your hopes and dreams were carried to that fair lady’s stable. Long may you warm one another in the hay!
It is true that my own marriage to the always surprising Mrs Wickham was not one in which some foresaw great things and yet, here we are, having weathered storm and scandal, our ship still on course. Let me assure you, Darcy, as one man can to another, that our ship often stops at the most exotic harbours. Though snow has come to lay upon our roof, the fire burns bright in the hearth, eh?
And I shall not tell Bingley that you wrote of his dullness, you sly old hound! Let us say instead, solid, reliable. All the thing that were never said of George Wickham, for every rural idyll needs its rascals!
Do let your Mr Harris know that he is welcome in my party whenever he might wish, mares and their offspring allowing. Indeed, when I look out and watch Brighton Fancy happy in his dotage, idly chewing the grass and eyeing up the mares, I am reminded that I have much to thank my own stablemen for. Long may we raise a glass to those who know our stock better than we know ourselves, for they made a champion of a mere hobbyist; the House of Wickham would certainly have enjoyed less success without those able gentlemen who understand a horse like no other.
Now, Darcy, shame on you for impugning the good name of Judge Talbert, for I am sure I did not name the gentleman in my own missive on the subject. Have you become a saucy gossip in your autumn years, smearing the name of the judge in letters sent haring across the country? I jest, of course, for I believe we are thinking of the same gentleman. In the matter of the lady in question, I can confirm from my own well-placed sources (otherwise known as Mrs Lydia Wickham) that every word you have heard is true. You are lucky you found only items in the hedge maze, and not the judge himself, if her tales are to be believed and though Lydia is given to drama, she has never been one for untruths.
Now, alas, the time has come for me to close this note for I am called to supper with young Master Harry, who is behaving in a most circumspect manner, you shall be pleased to hear.
Tell me though, what did you discover in the hedge maze? Share the tale, and I might yet let you in on the matter of what the gentleman of the bench got up to in the Highgate tack room.
Until then, adieu!
Let it not be said that I would slander any man’s good name, nor that I knowingly engage in such tittle tattle as would set the fans to waving in a ladies’ salon. I acknowledge no more than is commonly reported. As to Mrs Wickham’s professed knowledge of circumstances, I beg that she would not deign to enlighten me on the subject. Nothing more shall I say on this matter out of respect to the dead man’s son, though he be a great deal like his father is generally represented.
As ever, you delight in turning my words about. Be so good as to allow me the justice of defending both Mr Bingley and my wife. Mrs Darcy finds him one of the most engaging, pleasant gentlemen of her acquaintance, and indeed, I cannot disagree with her. The years have proved agreeable to him and fashioned of him a man of easy temper and liberality, a gracious host and a loyal friend. How could anyone find such a companion dull? No, it is my own person softened with his casual simplicity whom I fear my wife would have found tiresome.
I have not his talent for easily drifting from one occupation to the next or ingratiating myself to persons not known to me. A phlegmatic character such as my own, coupled with the very spontaneity and flexibility which compose such a great part of Mr Bingley’s charm, would certainly render me the most retiring, indifferent fellow; an American acquaintance of mine used the term “milk-toast,” and I cannot think of a better description. Mrs Darcy likes a challenge too well to tolerate such a man, and so I come back to my original point from my last letter.
I am not without my faults, nor can I reflect with perfect satisfaction on each of my actions in those days. Even yet, each moment of my tumultuous acquaintance with my wife, from that first careless remark at the Assembly to the moment I led her from the altar as my own, was hard-won and all the more precious for it. Gladly would I relive each mistake and suffer humility once more at her mercy, if it meant I might live another life with her by my side.
Surely, such a solid and reliable fellow as you claim not to be, but have accidentally become can understand such a sentiment. If by “exotic ports of call” you do not refer to the spiced harbours of India, I shall infer that you and Mrs Wickham similarly enjoy a harmonious marriage. Pray, do not feel compelled to share with me any further assurances of your tender regard for your wife. I shall take the matter on good faith.
I enclose a gift for your Master Harry; the infamous saddle from that now legendary escapade. Would that I could also include the hedge and the billowing ladies’ garments on the laundry line which I suspect were the cause of all the mischief! As you will see, the saddle has been repaired, but the repair has left a permanent mar across the skirt. Let the gift bear bear witness to rash decisions; forgiven and forgotten they may be, but forever altered are all by their passing. While my wife’s fondness for that accursed mare would not permit me to go so far as I might have wished, she has generously invited Master Harry to try her favourite mount again when next he visits. I understand from her correspondence with Mrs Wickham that date is to be sooner than I had anticipated, and shall, in fact, coincide with Mr and Mrs Collins’ proposed visit. I trust you will not find yourself too occupied with your yearlings at the track to accompany your family when they come to stay.
Regards to all in Highgate,