Darcy's Letter: Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of A Man of Few Words is THE chapter--the one in which Darcy writes the letter to Elizabeth explaining his behavior towards Jane and Wickham.

From the marvelous website
The Republic of Pemberley
Some literary analysts consider this action implausible. I have addressed in another post why I don't agree. To sum up, Darcy is using the letter to say what he would find almost impossible to say face-to-face. My argument is that it is easier for Darcy to write this letter than to go talk to Elizabeth (especially on such heated topics).

Writing the letter is also, for a man of this type, absolutely necessary. Darcy can handle the neighbors not thinking much of him; he doesn't really care. He can handle Wickham spreading lies about him; he cares but the alternative (telling everyone about Georgiana) is worse. He cannot handle a woman that he loves and respects thinking badly of him. So he writes the letter. 200 years later, he'd have written an email.

I used the chapter to convey the thought--and, okay, the angst--that Darcy puts into the letter. As he tells Bingley at the beginning of the book, Darcy takes letter-writing seriously; he wouldn't just scribbled down his thoughts (BTW, i ws thinking of u *:) happy) and immediately press send. The guy wrote several drafts--he was up all night.

But only all night. I read somewhere that Darcy couldn't have written the letter so "fast." Nonsense.The letter is approximately 2000 words long. If we give Darcy 25 words per minute, which is slightly lower than the average, the letter itself could take him about 1-1/2 hours. 

Keep in mind: Darcy is not inventing the letter. It may have taken Austen, his creator, longer than 1-1/2 hours to come up with the idea of the letter (maybe not). But Darcy already knows what he wants to say; what will keep him up all night is saying it in the best way. Speaking personally, I have typed well over 6000 words (70 wpm) in a single night when arguing about an issue about which I already had concrete, strong opinions (and most of my time was taken up in editing). Darcy may have trouble explaining himself in person; that does not mean that he would have trouble once pen hit paper; in fact, the original text makes clear that Darcy is a conscientious and consistent letter-writer. This isn't his first time writing a long letter; he knows the drill.

I postulate that the entire process could take Darcy between five to seven hours; that's writing the first (shorter) draft, ripping it up because it is too angry and doesn't make sense, writing another (longer) draft, editing that draft, proofreading it, then rewriting a clean draft (headed 8 a.m.). The writing itself will only take 4-1/2 hours, the last draft just over an hour; the rest of the time is Darcy pondering Elizabeth's words, getting lost in thought, etc. He hands over the final draft between 10-11 a.m. (Elizabeth goes out after breakfast, around 9:30, and walks about the park, then encounters Darcy.)

Regarding the letters = email analogy: once you start hunting for mentions of letters and letter-writing in Austen, it's amazing how often they crop up! Persuasion, of course, rests on a discussion of writing followed by Anne's reading of Wentworth's letter. In Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Collins is introduced through a letter; Jane's failure to contact Bingley in London is reported to Elizabeth through a letter; the revelation of Wickham's perfidy occurs in a letter. People are writing each other so often, it is rather like email.

Of course, Darcy would send a letter!

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