Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman is the collective name given to a trilogy of historical romance novels written by Pamela Aidan. As the title suggests, they are based heavily on Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, and feature many events of the novel as seen from the perspective of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the central male character of Austen's novel.
The trilogy of novels explores Darcy's perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice - in particular focusing on his developing relationship with and feelings for Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist of the earlier novel. However, the novels also explore Darcy's character, life and interests within the social and political world of his time, and introduce in prominent roles characters who only briefly appeared in the earlier work or were not present at all, thus expanding on Darcy's life and character.
As with Pride and Prejudice, the central conflict within Darcy's character in the series is his attempts to reconcile his feelings for Elizabeth Bennet with his own pride and reservations about her social standing and family, and the effect this would have on his own stature.
While Pride and Prejudice does not mention actual dates for its events, the first three novels are set in a period starting in late 1811, based on dates shown in various letters between the characters. They reference historical events including the War of 1812 with the United States of America, the assassination of the British Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, the Luddite raids, and the Ratcliff Highway murders, referred to as having taken place in Wapping. Historical characters also appear, such as Beau Brummel and Lady Caroline Lamb. Austen's own first novel Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811, is obliquely referred to in the second novel, Duty and Desire.
The trilogy is composed of the following works:
- An Assembly Such as This: First published in 2003, the first novel focuses on Darcy's initial visit to Hertfordshire, as depicted in the opening chapters of Pride and Prejudice.
- Duty and Desire: Originally published in 2004, the second novel focuses on the period of time when Darcy is absent from Pride and Prejudice following his departure from Hertfordshire and before he reappears at Rosings Park.
- These Three Remain First published in 2005, the final novel in the trilogy focuses on Darcy as he appeared in the later chapters in Pride and Prejudice from his reappearing in the narrative at Rosings Park.
- Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour Published in 2010, a short story about the Darcy of Aidan's books as a young boy.
As the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman is essentially a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, many of the main characters of the novels appeared previously in Austen's original work. However, as the novels are presented as being from Darcy's point of view, several of these characters are given more prominence and significance within Aiden's novels than they were in the original novel, and events that were not immediately known to the reader of Austen's work are given instant focus and development within Aiden's. The novels also feature several original characters who did not appear in Austen's original works.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is the central character of the novels. A proud, wealthy yet reserved and formal man, the novels focus primary on his developing yet conflicted feelings towards Elizabeth Bennet and his various attempts to either forget her or secure her affections. His romantic dilemma covers a larger struggle between his instilled ideas of acceptable behavior and his true decency of character. Away from his interaction with the Bennets, Darcy is depicted as intelligent and industrious. He willingly attends to his affairs both in London and Derbyshire and sets out to educate Charles Bingley in the management of country estates. His London interests include the shipping of cargo through the docks. At Cambridge Darcy competed with his friend Dyfed Brougham for prizes in mathematics. Darcy was also a champion swordsman at Cambridge, a fact which plays a major role in the second novel.
Elizabeth Bennet is a young and attractive woman of lower social class who (initially at least) holds Darcy in some disdain due to his manners. She is Darcy's romantic interest throughout the novels, and a central theme of the books is Darcy's attempts to reconcile his feelings for her with his qualms about her class and family. She is the central character of Pride and Prejudice, and as with Darcy in the earlier novel, she is absent for long stretches of the overall narrative (and does not appear at all within the second book), but is a central background presence within all of the novels.
Fletcher is Darcy's valet, who does not appear in Pride and Prejudice. He is an intelligent and talented man who is very loyal to Darcy, who clearly appreciates him in return despite his reserved manner and his formal approach to the relationship between master and servant. He is quick to see both his master's feelings for Elizabeth Bennet and the appropriateness of the match, and makes several discreet attempts at matchmaking between the two during the novels - attempts that Darcy does not entirely appreciate. Fletcher has his own interests at stake, including his desire to marry a young girl from Meryton. Fletcher and Darcy quote Shakespeare at each other. It is revealed that Fletcher's knowledge comes from his parents, who were once actors. We also learn, in the third novel, that Fletcher's given name is "Lemuel".
Georgiana Darcy is Darcy's beloved younger sister, who appears in Pride and Prejudice (although her character is fleshed out in more detail within this trilogy). A shy and reserved girl, she recently suffered heartbreak at the hands of George Wickham, Darcy's nemesis, who attempted to elope with her for her vast fortune. A subplot of the trilogy focuses on Georgiana's gradual maturation with the help of the religious teachings of her new governess, Mrs. Annesley, which both pleases and bemuses Darcy.
Lord Dyfed 'Dy' Brougham is a good friend of Darcy's, who does not appear in Pride and Prejudice. An old university friend of Darcy's, he hides a quick-witted intelligence and sensitive nature behind a seemingly foppish exterior and reputation, and is very socially active. Brougham is eventually revealed to be an espionage agent employed by the Home Secretary; he is in many ways reminiscent of Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel. He is close to Darcy and very fond of Georgiana. Dy holds the title "Earl of Westmarch", but refuses to use it out of shame for his father's misdeeds, which were covered up in exchange for Dy becoming a spy.
Charles Bingley is another good friend of Darcy's, who appears in Pride and Prejudice. A good-natured and wealthy young man, he is naive and somewhat easily led, and Darcy is quite fond of and protective of him. He has fallen in love with Elizabeth Bennet's elder sister Jane, but Darcy - conscious of the risks to Bingley's social reputation that the Bennet family presents and ignorant of Jane Bennet's own feelings - attempts to prevent the union. The novel emphasizes the Bingleys' status as nouveau riche, having gained wealth through trade. This makes their social position somewhat precarious. As Charles's friend, Darcy intends to both help them cement that status, by becoming landed gentry like himself, and avoid threats to it from connections with lower-ranking families.
Caroline Bingley is Charles Bingley's sister, who also appears in Pride and Prejudice. A snobbish and proud young woman, she holds the Bennet family and their society in some disdain. She has an unsubtle and unrequited romantic interest towards Darcy, which leads to many displays of jealousy on her part when he begins to show interest in Elizabeth Bennet. Part of her motivation is the position of her family in social circles, the wealth having been recently gained through trade. Wishing to move up in the eyes of society, she sees Darcy as her pathway to greater social status.
George Wickham is Darcy's nemesis, a childhood friend and seemingly charming young man whose true personality is duplicitous and untrustworthy. He attempted an elopement with Georgiana Darcy in order to cheat her out of her inheritance, and later - having joined the local militia - poisoned Elizabeth Bennet against Darcy with lies about Darcy's treatment of him. He is a central character in Pride and Prejudice, and although the character does not appear frequently within the trilogy in person, he is a significant background presence, and the effects of his actions and Darcy's anger towards him are frequently explored throughout the books. When finally located by Darcy in London, Wickham is contemptuous of Lydia Bennett, claiming that she followed him when he left to avoid his gambling debts. Darcy threatens him with debtors' prison to get him to marry Lydia.
Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, who appears as "Colonel Fitzwilliam" in Pride and Prejudice, is depicted as Darcy's first cousin, childhood friend and, to all intents and purposes, younger brother. He is the younger son of the Earl of Matlock and Lady Matlock (the title is blanked in Austen's description). His older brother holds the title of Viscount D'Arcy. Fitzwilliam does not get on with his older brother, remembering his times visiting Pemberley as the best of his life. He is generally in need of money, supplementing his income by playing Darcy at billiards and winning frequently. Fitzwilliam assists Darcy in matters military, such as the matter of obtaining a commission in the regular army for Wickham. In the third novel Darcy meets him at the officer's billet of the Royal Horse Guards regiment.
Mrs. Annesley is Georgiana Darcy's companion, replacing the treacherous Mrs. Younge, who conspired with Wickham. She appears briefly in Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth, Georgiana, and Bingley's sisters await the start of a buffet at Pemberley. Austen describes her as the lady with whom Georgiana lives in London. In these novels Mrs. Annesley is a devout woman who influences Georgiana to embrace religion and charity as a way of forgetting Wickham's deceit. In the last novel it is revealed that she is the widow of the Vicar of St. Dunstan's in London, a church in a poverty-stricken area of the capital. Her husband, and his verger, were part of Dy Brougham's network of informants.
Lady Sylvanie Sayre, later Lady Monmouth, who does not appear in Pride and Prejudice, is a swindler and Irish revolutionary who briefly captivates Darcy. After failing to seduce Darcy into marriage, she forms an alliance with his friend Lord Monmouth. Lady Sylvanie then attempts to trap and blackmail Darcy into supporting her political schemes. Darcy contemplates her hate-blighted life and finds it uncomfortably like his own.
Tyke Tanner is a giant of a man, the sexton at St. Dunstan's church. Dyfed Brougham tells Darcy to contact him while Dyfed is on a secret mission. Tyke turns out to be an old friend of Darcy's valet, Fletcher. Darcy asks him for help in locating Wickham, and later Tanner is Wickham's "escort" to the church where he marries Lydia.