Long ago, in the dark ages of 1999, when mastodons and cave men roamed the earth and there were “comparatively” few Jane Austen sequels out there (“comparatively” being a word used cautiously, meaning that there were already a lot of sequels published but certainly fewer than the scores produced annually in recent years), Mary Street’s The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy appeared to soothe the breasts of Darcy-fans craving another fix of their favorite hero. They were satisfied and life was good, except that the book was printed in a small run and became very difficult to find.
The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy is now being reprinted by Berkley Publishing Group for the delight of a new generation of Darcy-lovers. They will not be disappointed—this is a straight-forward retelling of the story from the gentleman’s viewpoint. “I know not how Miss Elizabeth Bennet contrived to bring herself to my notice throughout the course of that evening,” the Confession begins, and from this promising point plunges directly into an engaging exploration of Darcy’s feelings.
Unlike some other P&P retellings from Darcy’s viewpoint, Street’s version does not introduce new characters or plot events; Darcy’s life away from Elizabeth is neither Gothick nor dramatic, and we learn nothing new about his past. But while Street’s work may not break new dramatic ground, she excels in the description of Darcy’s feelings. He “blurts” out his first, disastrous proposal, and only gradually realizes how obnoxious he has been; he is devastated when he reads a letter from his aunt that says that Mr. Collins is to be married to a lady in Hertfordshire and he thinks the bride is Elizabeth: he is so overcome with anguish that, “almost doubled over with nausea,” he seeks sanctuary in the blue saloon and starts chugging down the brandy—a very emotional response for one who is usually so composed! Street’s Darcy ponders more extensively over Jane’s feelings and motivations than other authors have shown him doing, revealing him in a more understandable and less arrogant light than we have often seen him. Her depiction of the meeting at Pemberley is both tender and convincing as Darcy’s gloom gradually yields to hope that Elizabeth’s feelings have changed for the better.
Since 1999, more dramatic or controversial retellings of P&P have appeared; Street’s work seems a little bland by comparison, if comparisons need to be made. Nevertheless, well-crafted and romantically tender, The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy will please many readers. (It has, by the way, the cutest ending scene of any sequel we have yet read.)