If you don't like author/novel intrigues, and/or you haven't read Pride and Prejudice, this post is going to put you to sleep.
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels of all time, but the character of George Wickham has always puzzled me. Wickham starts out well enough in the story as a charming rogue out to better himself, but ends up smashing through the Bennet family like a wrecking ball. Once Darcy revealed some of Wickham's backstory to Elizabeth, Wickham's actions were clear and clearly reprehensible.
Wickham's motives never really worked for me, though. Stupidity doesn't jive; he's not a stupid guy. Jealousy of Darcy didn't fit, either. Wickham was obviously jealous, but why? He and Darcy grew up together, but in those days the classes were sharply divided. Wickham had to know he wasn't entitled to the same life Darcy had.
If George Wickham were Darcy's illegitimate brother, as author Linda Berdoll suggests in her P&P continuation novels, everything makes all kinds of sense.
Darcy's father's being Wickham's "godfather," as well as his affection and financial support for Wickham is explained: guilt and a sense of obligation. George and Darcy playing together as boys, also a little more logical. Darcy might have been assuaging a bit of his own guilt when he paid off Wickham the first time with three thousand pounds instead of the living promised by his father. Or was it hush money? In the book, Wickham runs through the money and goes back asking for the living, which Darcy refuses to give him. Wickham's subsequent attempt to grab a bigger chunk of the Darcy fortune by trying to elope with Darcy's sister Georgina (gross, too, considering she'd be his half-sister) makes more sense, too. Not good enough to be Darcy's brother, right? There is more than one way to get into a family.
Wickham later running off with Lydia also never made sense to me, it was a supremely stupid thing to do. But if he wanted to avenge himself on Elizabeth for giving him the cold shoulder, or to disgrace Elizabeth's family enough to make it nearly impossible for Darcy to marry into it, that would be the next best thing to marrying Georgina.
Another thing about Georgina Darcy's name: it's an eerie echo of George Wickham's. Why would old Mr. Darcy give his daughter a feminine version of his steward's son's name?
Jane Austen may have written Wickham's backstory to be read between the lines, or she wrote only what she wrote and I'm just obsessing about this too much. But it tickles me to think that Jane did sprinkle some clues to the mystery of Wickham in P&P, and Linda Berdoll picked up on them when she was researching the novel. Makes me wonder what else Jane might have hidden in her books.
P&P fans, what do you think?