Love Story Friday #4 – Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy

(Profuse apologies for missing last week’s update.  I got temporarily overwhelmed by life.)

Girls who love books fall in love with Mr. Darcy.  I somehow doubt that Jane Austen had any idea this would be true two hundred years after she wrote her most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, but it’s a truth, universally acknowledged, that one of the greatest works of literary fiction spawned one of the greatest love stories of all time…the courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. 

This was not a story of love at first sight.  Rather, upon meeting each other at a county ball, Darcy immediately dismissed Elizabeth on account of the impropriety of her somewhat colorful family, and Elizabeth instantly picked up on that disdain, which did not endear him to her at all.  Their accquaintance was further soured when Darcy encouraged his friend, Mr. Bingley, to not pursue Elizabeth’s sweet sister, Jane, despite their obvious affection for each other. 

Elizabeth:  I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.

But it seemed that everywhere Elizabeth went, Darcy was there, too.  When she found herself attracted to a handsome officer, Wickham, it turned out that he and Darcy were great enemies, as Wickham had once seduced Darcy’s younger sister for her fortune.  When she visited her dear friend Charlotte’s new home, she found out that Charlotte’s husband was patronized by Darcy’s aunt, who wanted him to marry his sickly cousin.  Although their interactions began to thaw over time, Elizabeth still wasn’t willing to let go of her first impression of Darcy.

Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.

Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, during these chance encounters, Darcy found himself growing more and more attracted to Elizabeth, enough so that he was willing to overlook her more embarrassing family members.  Assuming that there was no way she would turn down the chance to marry far above what he considered her station, he abruptly confessed his feelings for her, although his delivery left something to be desired, as he all but admitted that he had tried not to love her. 

(Darcy) sat down for a few moments, and then getting up, walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began: “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC production.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, Elizabeth wasn’t wooed by his words.  She pressed him into admitting his role in keeping Jane and Bingley apart, and she also forced him to confess that he hated Wickham.  Her response to his proposal was swift and clear, and not at all what he’d been expecting. 

Elizabeth:  From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.

That might have been the end of their courtship if not for Elizabeth’s silly, slutty sister, Lydia, who decided to run off with Wickham and nearly brought shame and ruin to the entire family.  Darcy, continuing on with his tradition of always happening to be where Elizabeth was, found out about her sister’s shame at the same time Elizabeth did, and having his own score to settle with Wickham, immediately took action.  Without Elizabeth knowing about it, he paid handsomely to force Wickham to marry Lydia and even bought him a commission in the Army. 

When Elizabeth found out what he had done for her family, she realized that her own pride had kept her from seeing that in spite of his initial prejudices, Darcy was a good, kind man who looked out for his friends (perhaps a bit too much) and genuinely cared about her, even after she rejected his love. 

Darcy:  Such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

What is so wonderful about this story is that love didn’t just warm a cold man or tame a wild woman…it took two people who were caught in the endless riptide of society, propriety and expectation, and elevated them above their own egos and preconceptions to a place where they could be better people together.  That is the true power of love.

It transforms us, sometimes before we’re even aware of it. 

Darcy:  I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden in the 2005 Oscar-nominated adaptation.

Although Jane Austen ended her book before the wedding, many authors have picked the story up where it left off, exploring the marriage and future of this very famous couple.  In particular, I would recommend Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and its sequel, Darcy and Elizabeth.  Although written in a good approximation of Austen’s style, the books do not shy away from the intimate aspects of married life.  In very sexy detail. 

That said, he kissed her neck.  Several times.  This, whilst he began an undulating search for the pins in her hair.  With quiet deliberation, he dropped them one by one to the floor.

“May I undress you?” he bid.

“I feel,” she said, “as though you just did.”

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2 thoughts on “Love Story Friday #4 – Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy

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