Persuasions #11, 1989                                                                                                                                                  Page 110-116

What Happened Next? or The Many Husbands of Georgiana Darcy

Edinburgh, Scotland

What happened next?  Of a few things we can be certain.  Kitty Bennet married a clergyman near Pemberley; Mary had to settle for one of Uncle Phillip’s clerks.  Mr. Bingley allowed Jane’s portrait to go on public exhibition; Mr. Darcy kept Elizabeth’s private.  These are inescapable facts because Jane Austen said or wrote them.

But a number of other people have their own ideas, and some have been so rash as to put them in print.  This is to invite comment, and while not, I hope bearing any other resemblance to Lady Catherine de Bourgh I intend to comment with all the sincerity and frankness at my command.  

Let us begin with the books in which characters from Pride and Prejudice appear only in passing or in minor roles and progress to the full-blown sequels.  

       In More Talk of Jane Austen (More about Jane Austen in the U.S. edition) by Sheila Kaye-Smith and G. B. Stern, the latter lady contributes a chapter called “Seven Years After” speculating on possible future developments.  She decides that Mrs. Bennet shall die.  Well, perhaps. Mr. Bennet does remind her of the possibility that he may be the survivor.  But Miss Stern pictures Darcy and Bingley slapping each others’ backs and gloating over their mother-in-law’s demise, before composing themselves to go and break the news to Elizabeth and Jane.  This won’t do.  Bingley is too soft-hearted to behave like this.  Darcy is tougher, but would need to do his rejoicing solo.  Perhaps he found a spare moment – or hour, rather – to slip away to the deepest part of his woods and (after carefully checking he was alone) danced a jig and whooped with delight.  But to return to the widower.  Miss Stern’s next notion is even less acceptable.  I accept that Mr. Bennet was susceptible to female charms in his youth, but in late middle age, with bitter experience behind him, is it likely he would marry another brainless beauty?  With the added complication of her being younger than most of his daughters, and the former intimate friend of the youngest and least favourite – the widowed Mrs. Forster!   I say not. 

      Gambles and Gambols - A visit with Old Friends, by someone who has used the pseudonym “Memoir” probably to avoid the formation of a JASNA lynch mob, is a Mansfield Park sequel with incursions from other novels, a book that I could sum up with one word.  Unfortunately the word is not one suitable to be spoken in any gathering dedicated to Jane Austen.  Please direct your thoughts to a large pile of the waste product from the digestive systems of male bovines, and it will convey the idea.  

I have been moved to wonder if “Memoir” was deliberately trying to include as many mistakes as possible. There are errors in history, sociology, forms of address, agriculture, references to the novels of Jane Austen, and especially in language – the thing is full of Americanisms.  If I had a few hours I could enumerate them all.  As I don’t, suffice it to say that the first mistake is in the title.  English people visit old friends or pay a visit to them, they do not visit with them.  The last mistake is on the penultimate page.  English farmers in the nineteenth century did not grow cranberries.  Not even if they had peculiar apple trees that were still in bloom at strawberry-picking time.  

I am digressing, however.  The main development from Pride and Prejudice is that Wickham, aided by the Industrial Revolution arriving prematurely, has grown rich by playing the stock market.  Now Wickham is not really clever.  He has an animal cunning, but like an animal lives for the present.  He is notably lacking in foresight – he cannot judge the likely consequences of his own actions on the future, much less the likely fluctuations of stocks.  He is also bone idle, and would be incapable of the work involved in assessing new developments and inventions so as to know in what to invest.  

The question of where he got the capital to begin speculating is equally unconvincing.  It is claimed that the money came from Darcy, ostensibly for household expenses.  Nonsense.  Darcy might be prepared to come to the rescue in the case of major debts that couldn’t be met from Elizabeth’s and Jane’s pin-money, but he knows Wickham better than to give him a lump sum.  He would do exactly what he and Mr. Gardiner do when arranging Lydia’s marriage – demand a list of creditors and settle with them direct.  After, I have no doubt, checking that the debts were genuine.  

The picture of Wickham as a financial adviser to various other characters cannot but alarm.  He would quite certainly go in for mass embezzlement and they would all be ruined.  It would serve Mr. and Mrs. Elton right, but what about Mrs. Smith?  

I cast about to see if there was anything in this book I could approve, and have to admit that it was rather a happy notion to land Mr. Collins with live expensive sons to rear.  

Jane Fairfax by Naomi Royde-Smith, is a ‘prequel’ to Emma, but also mixes in characters from other novels, not necessarily all by Jane Austen, and from history.  The effect is sometimes rather startling – in a single page there is a mention of Dr. Burney’s having taught Mrs. Campbell music, and the speaker at that moment catches sight of Lord and Lady Orville, the creations of Dr. Burney’s daughter Fanny.  One can’t but feel that only her well-documented refusal to be lionized has spared Miss Jane Austen from an appearance.  

We hear of a number of characters from Pride and Prejudice.  Admiral Crawford’s mistress turns out to be Lydia Wickham.  I would not put this past her.  Her affection for Wickham lasted only “a little longer” than his for her which had “soon” sunk into indifference.  But Wickham is said to have divorced her.  This cannot be.  The English laws at the time were such that only one kind of person could get a full divorce – a man with a good income whose wife had committed adultery and been indiscreet enough that witnesses could be called.  Women and poor men with unfaithful spouses could gain only legal separations.  The only money Wickham has is his army pay – all other income was settled on Lydia, and in any case would he nowhere near enough to finance the Act of Parliament needed for a divorce.  Can anyone imagine Darcy would give, or allow Bingley to give, the necessary money to free Wickham to prey on gullible heiresses again?  

Georgiana Darcy gains a husband – the widowed Mr. Willoughby.  “Mr. Darcy opposed the match at first” says someone in a masterpiece of understatement.  That I can believe – that anything ever reconciled him to it, or that he would have allowed his sister to meet Willoughby in the first place, I can’t.  

Some time ago in Persuasions we had a diverting speculation that Harriet Smith’s mother was Miss Bates.  According to this book Harriet’s father was Sir William Lucas. 

The Wedding at Pemberly, a one-act play by Anne and Arthur Russell, is described by them as a footnote to Pride and Prejudice.  The wedding in question is Georgiana Darcy’s, to a baronet called Sir Robert.  We don’t meet him in person, as the cast is all female.  It’s a very slight piece.

The plot concerns an attempt by Wickham, through Lydia, to blackmail the Darcys with some forged love-letters.  I have described Wickham as not really clever, but he is also not completely stupid.  If Georgiana had indeed been suffering from a “poisoned hand” which made it impossible for her to write a word during her entire sojourn in Ramsgate, he is unlikely to have forgotten it.  All else apart, it would have been quite an inconvenience to his courtship of her.  

In The Ladies – A Shining Constellation of Wit and Beauty by E. Barrington appears the novella The Darcys of Rosings.  No, that is not a mistake.  Anne de Bourgh died before her mother, who left Rosings to Darcy.  Anne’s early death is not too improbable, but Lady Catherine has at least two other nephews (one without an estate of his own) and a niece.  It passes belief that they all married people of whom Lady Catherine disapproved, even more than she did of Elizabeth.  We are also asked to believe that the Darcys now spend more time at Rosings than at Pemberley, to which I can only say that they must he mesmerised by the sight of all the flying pigs.  

The plot is full of melodrama and moralizing.  We meet Willoughby’s illegitimate son, masquerading as his legitimate half-brother.  It should at once be said that this is not Eliza’s child but one of a pair Willoughby (who in this incarnation is definitely not married to Georgiana Darcy) had by a Portuguese female.  The other one is disguised as an Indian servant.  

The soi-disant Willoughby proceeds to abduct the Darcys’ spineless elder daughter, who swoons.  Her sister also swoons, both on hearing of the abduction and the subsequent rescue.  The rescuer is none other than an improbably repentant Wickham.  “I wish to heaven that I could perform if it were the most trifling service to Darcy, to lessen this load of obligation” he declaims to Lydia.  In the one convincing incident in the tale, she is not really listening to him.  

It’s a hard contest, but I think the most unlikely part of this story is the naming of names.  Darcy is presented by the author with a paternal uncle called Lorenzo.  Then there is his elder daughter.  In almost every case in Jane Austen’s novels where the given names of mothers and daughters are known, the first daughter is named for the mother.  Even if Mr. and Mrs. Darcy chose not to follow this custom, the claims of Jane for her dearest sister, Georgiana for his only sister, and Anne for his dead mother should surely all have come before Charlotte.  Would you name a daughter after a friend about whom you had never felt the same since the married your idiotic cousin?  This, however, pales into insignificance beside the younger daughter.  She is called Caroline. 

The Heiress of Rosings is a three-act play by Cedric Wallis.  As can be deduced from the title, Anne de Bourgh is the heroine.  The author shares Mr. Collins’ view that she is destined to be a Duchess, as he gives her as a suitor the dashing young Marquis of Chippenham, heir to the Duke of Wilton.  This gentleman has a terrific amount of delicacy – fearing that Lady Catherine would coerce Anne into marrying him whether she wanted to or not if his true identity was known, he disguises himself as a piano teacher to court her.  

All very pretty, but it gives Anne a sense of humour and sweetness of character for which there is no evidence in Pride and Prejudice.  It also ignores some evidence that is in the book, on the question of Anne’s age.  I have always thought, and was pleased to note from one of her delightful cartoons that Juliet McMaster agrees, that Anne must be about the same age as Darcy.  From Lady Catherine’s own mouth we know they were in their cradles at the same time.  Anne may even be somewhat the elder.  “From his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin,” and Lady Catherine, had her daughter not been already born, would have assumed that she would present Sir Lewis with a male heir.  It was, like it or not, what women of her station wanted to do and would consider themselves something of a failure if they didn’t.  After Anne was born, of course, Lady Catherine would insist she had wanted a girl all along.  The play is set some time after Pride and Prejudice – long enough that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are visiting Rosings, clearly not for the first time as a married couple since Elizabeth and Anne have become good friends in the interim.  We must assume several years have passed.  This would put Darcy, and therefore Anne, in the early 30s – for a woman of today still young, but in the early nineteenth century most decidedly not the age range from which the heir to a dukedom was likely to seek a first wife and mother for his sons.  

There are a number of infelicities of language.  A few quotes from Jane Austen’s Letters are put into Elizabeth’s mouth and she, and others, are sometimes made to use grammar fit only for Lucy Steele.  The Duchess of Wilton, who regards Miss de Bourgh as rather below her son’s touch, expresses herself remarkably like Lady Catherine confronting Elizabeth, except when she is plagiarizing the Duke of Wellington.  

Last, but certainly not least, I must deplore a subplot that has Mr. Collins found in a compromising position and a haystack with the local Scarlet Woman.  Mr. Collins so firmly believes himself to be a good husband that at least in such matters as fidelity, sobriety and refraining from wife-beating he is a good husband.  Besides. Lady Catherine would not tolerate any Scarlet Women on her estate.  She would ship them off to some more suitable clime, like Hertfordshire.

The play was first performed in 1955, and fans of “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” may like to know that when the dashing Lord Chippenham grew to years of maturity he turned into Sir Humphrey Appleby. 

Teverton Hall, a novel by Jane Gillespie, follows the fortunes of the Collins family.  It is an agreeable if lightweight piece, and as it concerns the grown-up Collins children more than anything else has few direct connections to the original.  Such as it does have are all believable.  Mr. Bennet loses his wife again, but on this occasion all it does is give him a new lease of life, so that Mr. Collins sees his inheritance fading into the dim and distant future.  It is quite credible that Lady Catherine, unable to get her hands on the real culprits, would vent her spleen at her nephew’s marriage on Mr. and Mrs. Collins, so that they seek a transfer to another living.  It might perhaps suggest that there is an alarming streak of sadism in Darcy when he arranges for such a transfer to he effected, but as it turns out he has made a judicious choice in the disposing of Mr. Collins.  Mr. Dallow, the proprietor of Teverton Hall, spends most of his time in Asia collecting antiquities and is spared much of Mr. Collins’ attentions.  It is entirely probable that the Collins’ son and daughter, like all children of their period raised to respect their father, should suffer in different ways when they realize how other people regard him.  Ms. Gillespie makes something of a habit of following the careers of minor characters – she has also pursued Maria Rushworth and Anne Steele, and surely must deal with Isabella Thorpe and Penelope Clay or Elizabeth Elliot before too long.  For the life of me I can’t see who can he extracted from Emma but no doubt she can.  

Pemberly Shades by Dorothy A. Bonavia-Hunt is the best-written of all the books I have dealt with.  Miss Hunt makes a great effort to catch her original’s style rather than impose her own on Jane Austen’s characters.  She is very careful with her English and I could not catch her in a single anachronism.  She does use “Scotch,” which is incorrect when applied to a Scottish human being, but then so did Jane.  She has read Pride and Prejudice with great care – she gets Anne de Bourgh’s age right – and tries hard to keep everyone in character.  She is not, of course, equal to her model, especially in the irony department.  Who is?  A brave try, though, and an amusing story.

Having said that, and reverting to names again, Jane Austen would never have allowed a character named Horace Carlini to stray into one of her books.  Furthermore, he is yet another illegitimate son, of a peer this time, and is impersonating his half-brother the Honourable Stephen Acworth, a younger son who is a clergyman.  In mitigation, he does not succeed in deceiving any intelligent character when he arrives at Pemberley ostensibly to try out for a living.  (Actually he is fleeing from the Mob.)  Darcy takes one look at his seat on a horse and his manner with chambermaids and writes to Mr. Gardiner to have investigations made.  The ladies of the household see less of him but still detect peculiarities in his manner.  Even Bingley calls him an odd fellow.  Well, the poor creature had a French mother, so it is not to be wondered at that he cannot pass for a gentleman and is addicted to melodrama.  He has also been irrationally infatuated with Elizabeth since catching sight of her as she visited a London theatre, which event can be pinpointed as taking place in Chapter 27 of Pride and Prejudice.  

      Since Elizabeth shows not the least inclination to become irrationally infatuated with him he consoles himself by eloping with Anne de Bourgh’s fortune, necessarily taking her person along.  A highly fortuitous burglary which requires her to hasten to Rosings removes Lady Catherine from the scene to facilitate the elopement.  I don’t think Jane Austen would have let vice triumph to this extent, though it is a moot point whether getting Lady Catherine as a mother-in-law could be called a triumph.

      Miss Hunt cheats over Kitty Bennet’s clergyman, making him a younger son who has inherited the family estate when his brother died; thus he does not practice.  Georgiana Darcy, though, atones for the slight to the profession by marrying the real Mr. Acworth.

      And finally we come to Old Friends and New Fancies by Sibil G. Brinton.  This book is properly a sequel to all the novels, but as the most common viewpoint is that of Georgiana Darcy and more characters appear from Pride and Prejudice than any other novel I am treating it as a Pride and Prejudice sequel.

      This is another brave effort, but rather less thorough than Pemberley Shades.  Miss Brinton is more careless in her language.  She uses the word “nice” very often, and never in the only manner approved by Henry Tilney.  She also has made the mistake of having a number of characters unlearn the lessons of their own books.  Tom Bertram arranges theatricals of a sort, Emma matchmakes as disastrously as ever.  You may wonder why Mr. Knightley doesn't stop her.  I shall only say that the way he is handled is worse than anything done to anyone else including Colonel Brandon, who Miss Brinton has decided should die soon after his marriage.

     I am quite in favour of characters from different novels knowing each other, but Miss Brinton carries it rather far.  I cannot judge it likely that Edward Ferrars and James Morland should end up holding two of Darcy’s livings.  There are three important marriages between characters from different books and some minor possible or actual matches.  Henry Crawford courts Elizabeth Elliot, though we don’t learn the outcome.  Perhaps if the Admiral gets a baronetcy, or a peerage – Captain Frederick Tilney, on his papa’s orders, pays attention to Anne de Bourgh.  Isabella Thorpe succeeds in ensnaring Tom Bertram.  I can't think why Miss Brinton didn’t think of wedding General Tilney to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as this would serve both of them right.

     Georgiana Darcy acquires her final husband, at least to date, in the person of William Price.  This is an attractive idea.  William is the only thoroughly likeable character in Mansfield Park.  The main obstacle to such a match, Mr. Price, has been dispatched to the judgment of G-! Cirrhosis of the liver, most likely.  William has prospered in his profession, though I doubt if he could have done so to the extent of making him Georgiana’s equal financially.  Captain Wentworth, senior in rank and with no dependent siblings, was still £5,000 short of Georgiana’s dowry.  Miss Brinton declines to let this consideration interfere with the course of true love.  What does is that Kitty Bennet, ignorant of her clerical destiny, also falls in love with William.  This causes Georgiana to behave in a manner which, if her comments on a similar situation involving Emma Woodhouse, Harriet Smith and Mr. Knightley are any guide, would not meet with Jane Austen’s approval.  They only get themselves sorted out when Kitty is consoled by James Morland.

     At that they behave more sensibly than our third couple, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mary Crawford.  Not an unlikely match – true, he is a younger son but an earl’s younger son is different from the average younger son, worldliness-wise.  Unfortunately, both characters have had their common trait of good-humoured worldliness filleted out of them, along with most of their wits.  They have misunderstandings, mostly pretty silly ones.  She blames him for Lady Catherine’s rudeness, though he wasn’t in the room at the time; he believes a false report that she is going to marry Sir Walter Elliot – it doesn’t seem to occur to him that no notice of the engagement has appeared in the newspapers – and she goes into a decline.  Eventually he is injured in the field – hunting, not battle – and she sends him a tender message which saves his life and brings them together.  Of course it is Darcy who is doing the actual rush to his cousin’s bedside, and he who must convey the message.  I cannot easily forgive Miss Brinton for drawing a veil over the scene where Elizabeth informs him that he is going to have to do so, with Nurse Rooke or one of her sisters standing by, ears a-waggle.

     To conclude, I would like to invite your ideas on a few matters unresolved by any sequelist.

     What is to become of Anne de Bourgh?  I cannot judge it likely that she would marry a future duke or be allowed to marry a fortune-hunter, but if she outlives Lady Catherine she is going to be a sore trial to her cousins.  She has never had to make a decision in her life and is probably incapable of doing so.

     What is to become of Mrs. Bennet?  Mr. Bennet might go first after all, and if he does Mrs. Bennet is bound to expect to be offered a home by one of her married daughters.  Why else do you suppose she was so anxious to get them married?  Can Jane and Bingley, the logical choices, be saved?

     And if they can be saved from Mrs. Bennet what about Miss Bingley?  If Miss Bingley does not marry, she is going to become the worst sort of maiden aunt.  She will come to stay often, she will interfere in the running of the household, she will alternately spoil and bully the children.  No, she must marry.  As she is not unhandsome and has an excellent dowry, she can marry.  But do we know anyone whom she deserves to marry – and who deserves her?

     I have my own theories, of course.  May I now have yours? 


Barrington, E.  The Ladies.  Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1922. 

Bonavia-Hunt, Dorothy A.  Pemberley Shades.  London: Allan Wingate, 1949.   

Brinton, Sybil G. Old Friends and New Fancies. London: Holden and Hardingham, n.d. [1913].

Gillespie, Jane.  Treverton Hall.  London: Robert Hale, 1983. 

Kaye-Smith, Sheila and Gladys Bronwen Stern.  More about Jane Austen.  New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1949. 

“Memoir.”  Gambles and Gambols.  Shelter Cover, 1983. 

Royde-Smith, Naomi.  Jane Fairfax.  London: MacMillan and Co. Ltd., 1940. 

Russell, Anne and Arthur Russell.  The Wedding at Pemberley.  London: H. F. W. Deane and Sons, Ltd.; Boston, Mass.:  The Walter H. Baker Co., 1949. 

Wallis, Cedric.  The Heiress of Rosings.  London: Samuel French Limited, 1956.

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