To Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, that it contain any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were this evening so disgusting to you, but I must be allowed to defend myself against the charges laid at my door, in particular those relating to Mr. Wickham which, if true, would indeed be grievous, but are wholly without foundation, and which I can only refute by laying before you his connection with my family. Mr Wickham is the son of a very respectable man who had the management of our family estates, and my own father was fond of him, and held him in high esteem. We played together as boys. After his father’s early death, my father supported him at school and afterwards at Cambridge, and hoped he would make the church his profession, but by then George Wickham’s habits were as dissolute as his manners were engaging. My own excellent father died five years ago, and his attachment to Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady that he desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon as it was vacant. Mr Wickham declined any interest in the church as a career but requested, and was granted, the sum of three thousand pounds instead of the living. He expressed an intention of studying the law. I wished, rather than believed, him to be sincere.Being now free from all restraint, his life was one of idleness and dissipation. How he lived, I know not. But last summer our paths crossed again under the most painful circumstances, which I myself would wish to forget. My sister, Georgiana, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of Colonel Fitzwilliam and myself. About a year ago she was taken from school to Ramsgate, and placed in the care of a Mrs. Young, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived, and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design. She was persuaded to believe herself in love and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen years old. A day or two before the intended elopement I joined them unexpectedly. Unable to support the idea of grieving a brother whom she looked up to almost as a father, she acknowledged the whole plan to me at once. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Mr. Wickham left the place immediately. Mr. Wickham relinquished his object which was, of course, my sister’s fortune of thirty thousand pounds. A secondary motive must have been to revenge himself on me. Had he succeeded his revenge would have been complete indeed. This, madam, is a faithful narrative of all my dealings with Mr. Wickham
This, madam, is a faithful narrative of all my dealings with Mr. Wickham, and for its truth I can appeal to the testimony of Colonel Fitzwilliam, who knows every particular of these transactions. I know not under what form of falsehood Mr. Wickham imposed himself on you, but I hope you’ll acquit me of cruelty towards him.
The other charge levelled at me is that, regardless of the sentiments of either party, I detached Mr Bingley from your sister. I have no wish to deny this, nor can I blame myself for any of my actions in this matter. I had not long been in Hertfordshire before I saw that Bingley admired your sister, but it was not until the dance at Netherfield that I suspected a serious attachment. His partiality was clear but, though she received his attentions with pleasure, I did not detect any symptoms of peculiar regard. The serenity of her countenance convinced me that her heart was not likely to be easily touched.
I did not believe her to be indifferent because I wished it, I believed it on impartial conviction.
As to my objections to the marriage: the situation of your family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison with the total want of propriety so frequently betrayed by your mother, your younger sisters and even occasionally your father.
My friend left Netherfield for London on the following day. There I engaged in the office of pointing out to him the certain evils of his choice of your sister as a prospective bride. It was not difficult to convince him of your sister’s indifference to him. I cannot blame myself for having done thus much. There is but one part of my conduct in the affair on which I do not reflect with satisfaction.
That I concealed from him your sister’s being in town. Perhaps this concealment was beneath me. It is done, however, and it is done for the best. On this subject I have nothing more to say, and no other apology to offer-