Launching on April 1st, Wickham’s Diary, Amanda Grange’s new novella inspired by Jane Austen’s bad boy enters this world on April Fools Day. We promise it is no joke, but indeed a treat. Renowned for her retellings of Austen’s classic stories from the heroes perspective: Mr. Darcy’s Diary (2007), Mr. Knightley’s Diary (2007), Captain Wentworth’s Diary (2008), Edmund Bertram’s Diary (2008), Colonel Brandon’s Diary (2009) and the soon to be released Henry Tilney’s Diary (31 May in the UK & 6 Dec in US), this is Grange’s first novel based on an Austen villain. It promises to be wickedly intriguing!
Jane Austen did not suffer fools gladly. We know by the end of Pride and Prejudice that her rakish cad George Wickham and the selfish, impetuous Lydia Bennet are married and shipped off to a Northumberland exile. Their eventual fate is quickly revealed in the concluding chapter of the novel.
Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference: her’s lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.
Indeed a grim reward for such scandalous behavior. But how did Wickham, who was raised with the honorable Mr. Darcy, become so dissipated? Ms. Grange shares her insights into how she envisioned the events.
This prequel to Pride and Prejudice begins with George Wickham at age 12, handsome and charming but also acutely aware that his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is rich, whilst he is poor. His mother encourages him to exercise his charm on the young Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh in the hopes of establishing a stable of wealthy social connections.
At university, Darcy and Wickham grow apart. Wickham is always drinking and wenching, whilst Darcy, who apparently has everything, is looking for something he cannot find. Wickham runs through the money Darcy gives him and then takes up with the scandalous Belle, a woman after Wickham’s own greedy, black heart.
Here is an exclusive excerpt from Wickham’s Diary selected by the author. Enjoy!
3rd July 1799
Whilst walking through the park today, who should I see but Belle! She was as delighted to see me as I was to see her and we went to an inn together. The day was so hot that we both ordered an ice.
‘And have you married your merchant?’ I asked her, as we began to eat. ‘You were going to find some rich husband and settle down the last time we met.’
‘No, I changed my mind. I couldn’t find anyone to suit me and in the end I decided that, anyway, it would not do. I am not cut out to be a wife. I have taken a salaried position instead.’
‘Ah, so you are some man’s mistress then. He is very lucky. I only wish I had more money, my dear, and I would snap you up myself.’
She laughed at me.
‘Pockets to let as usual, George?’
‘You know me too well,’ I said, turning them out so that she could see how empty they were.
She raised her eyebrows and went back to her ice, but after a minute or two she said seriously, ‘We’re both getting older, George, even you are not as young as you were. You ought to be thinking of settling down. Marriage is easier for a man, not as restraining. With your silver tongue you ought to be looking for an heiress to marry.’
‘I have been thinking in just the same way.’
She turned and looked at me appraisingly.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘Only this. That I am engaged to be a companion—’
‘A companion! I had no idea your salaried position would be so respectable,’ I said. ‘You will never keep it, Belle. You will not be able to hold your tongue when some old harridan starts telling you what to do.’
‘I’m not engaged to be a companion to an old harridan, but to a young girl—’
‘A young girl!’ I exclaimed. ‘You, Belle! Why, who would employ a woman like you to be a companion to a young girl—begging your pardon, but you know what I mean.’
‘Don’t worry, George, I know exactly what you mean. But you see my employer doesn’t know about my history, and who is going to tell him? You?’
‘No, of course not, but how did you come by such a post in the first place?’ I asked curiously, for I could not imagine any way in which it could happen.
She took another spoonful of ice and let it melt slowly on her tongue, then said, ‘I met an old school friend by chance in the circulating library. I went to an elegant seminary, you know, one of the best, a very respectable establishment it was, and frequented by some very good families. My family were respectable, God bless them, when they were alive. But when my parents died, shortly after I left the seminary, I had to fend for myself and—well, you know the rest. Well, I met this friend again, Amelia Campbell, and we exclaimed over the chance and then caught up on all the news, only my version of my history was, as you may well guess, a slightly altered one.’
‘Did she not suspect anything? Had she not heard anything of you in the meantime?’
‘No, not she. She had married a man in the diplomatic corps and so had spent many years abroad, and she and her husband had only just returned to this country. So she had heard nothing of my years in the demimonde. She saw what she expected to see: an old school friend, somewhat shabbily dressed but as respectable as ever. I quickly saw she could be of use to me, and so I spun her a tale about how I had married a wonderful man, how happy we had been until his tragic death in a carriage accident, my brave struggle to manage since his death, and my poor but respectable life. She, bless her, was full of sympathy and said she knew of an excellent position that might suit me, and before the week was out I was employed. So tomorrow I am to take up my new appointment and in a few weeks we are to go to Ramsgate, where my young lady is to spend the summer; her brother thinks it is too hot for her in London and he wants her to have the benefit of sea air.’
‘And you have a plan in mind?’ I asked her.
‘Yes, I have, George. This young woman is an heiress.’
I saw where her thoughts were tending and I began to take more interest in her story.
‘An heiress, under your influence,’ I said thoughtfully. ‘And she is to spend the summer at a seaside resort, where she will not be watched very closely. She will be away from her family?’
‘She will. She will be there alone with me. She is an orphan,’ she said by way of explanation.
‘Better and better. If she is all alone in the world—’
‘Now, George, don’t be mean, I would rather have two.’
‘I will be the one running all the risks,’ I reminded her.
‘What risks?’ she said in derision. ‘There aren’t any risks.’
I pushed the ice away from me and leant forward.
‘Yes there are,’ I said. ‘If her brother finds out what I’m doing and calls me out, then it will be me looking down the wrong end of a pistol, not you, and if he is a good shot then it will be me taking the bullet.’
‘He will have to catch you first.’ She laughed and finished off her ice with one last lick of the spoon. ‘And how will he find out? By the time he learns that anything is amiss you will be halfway to Scotland.’
‘Scotland?’ The word brought me up short. ‘She is under age then?’
‘Yes. She is fifteen.’
‘That is very young,’ I said with a frown.
‘In England, yes, though in Scotland it is thought plenty old enough to be married and no parents’ or guardian’s consent needed, just two people who say they want to be wed. Then it’s a quick ceremony over the anvil and you’re legally man and wife—or perhaps I should say man and fortune!’ she added, laughing.
I joined in her laughter.
‘Man and fortune. I like that,’ I said. Then I became serious. ‘Now, how is the thing to be done?’
She thought. ‘You must meet us casually,’ she said at last. ‘A chance meeting, in the circulating library…’
‘No, not the library; there will be too many people there and too many curious glances. We should meet somewhere less crowded, whilst walking by the sea perhaps, somewhere well away from the main promenade, so that there will be very few people there. Then I can scrape an acquaintance—perhaps we have friends in common, or anyway I can at least pretend we have. What is her name?’
‘Darcy,’ she said.
© Amanda Grange, Wickham’s Diary, Sourcebooks (2011)
About the Author
Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She went on to be a teacher and then managed to fulfill her ambition to become a published writer. Amanda has had eighteen novels published including five (soon to be six!) Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, where she spends half her life in the twenty-first century and the other half in the early nineteenth century.
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