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I must have been thirteen or fourteen when I fell in love for the first time – with Elizabeth’s Darcy. Warm feelings that have not greatly changed in the decades that have passed since.

For that reason I couldn’t resist entering last year’s Val Wood challenge (details of which you may have seen in our September blog): to write an imaginary love letter.

I learned in the fullness of time that my effort failed to either win or be shortlisted, though I was able to comfort myself that the ultimate winner had submitted a series of letters, with an unfolding story, which gave her more scope. Undaunted by this, I’m concentrating on the pleasure I had in composing Darcy’s imaginary words and the break that it provided from the hard graft of editing my novel. No writing is wasted. It’s like sketching is for an artist, the exercising of skills.

If you share my soft spot for Fitzwilliam Darcy, you might like to read my effort at putting myself into his shoes, and breeches…

Dearest, Loveliest, Elizabeth, 

You know – who better? – the difficulty I have always had in expressing my feelings. So, I take up my pen again, on this our first anniversary, to try and do better – and to explain how having you as my wife has transformed my life.

To begin with, I am no longer the man I was. Had my mother lived, she might have prevented me from becoming the self-satisfied prig you met at the Assembly Rooms at Meryton. She might have taught me that a living, breathing woman is so much more than a pair of fine eyes (entrancingly fine though yours are) and that knowledge of the fair sex should not be limited by lack of imagination.

When you promised to become my wife, it gave me pleasure to think of all that I could give you. Time, however, has shown me how obtuse that thought was – and what, instead, you have been able to gift to me. For you have become the teacher, and I the pupil.

Jealousy, of Wickham – and even of my excellent cousin, the Colonel, – helped to open my eyes to the value of things not material. And although I began by despising that opportunistic adventurer (an easy mistake, I fear), those feelings have changed to pity, for Wickham has always chosen pinchbeck over silver. Brass over gold. Transitory pleasure over lasting joy.

While you, my dearest, darling Lizzie, have taught me to be a man of sense and sensibility. Have taught me how to laugh. At your perceptive wit. At the nonsensical habits of society. At myself, and the fools we men so often make of ourselves.

When I now consider the marriages of my friends and acquaintances, I see too many wives transferred from the charge of their fathers into that of their husbands. The partnerships seem contented enough. But how blind they are to what might be – an alliance of equals, a communion of souls and bodies, a joint fortress against the vicissitudes of life.

For whenever I have my arms around you, my dearest heart, I am whole. You are the star in my night sky. My birdsong in the morning. And now that the two of us are so soon to become three, I cannot but observe that while my dear friend Bingley habitually smiles, I want to laugh out loud.

Your devoted husband,

Fitzwilliam

If, like the Val Wood judges, you weren’t seduced by my Darcy letter, you may prefer something in a more modern style, as composed by another member of ninevoices…

From: veb@bott.co.uk

To: wbrown@rcomptonchambers.com

29 February 2020 21.34

Superman

That’s what you’ll always be to me. Superman. I don’t suppose any of us would’ve thought that you would grow up to become a human rights lawyer. Getting that awful unelected, manipulative toad convicted was just so brilliant. Superman.

But then to me you were super boy, always taking on the world with your colander tin helmet and wooden sword, righting wrongs. You were the leader. The Outlaws followed wherever you led them. Outlaws, that was ironic, seeing that you became an upholder of the law.

I wanted so desperately to join your gang. I don’t blame you for not letting me. Thanks to Mummy I was never appropriately dressed for games in the woods. You were always kind to me and I like to think that was your genuine good nature and not because I was the brat who threatened to make myself sick by screaming. Actually, I couldn’t. You probably knew that. You were so clever. And obviously you still are.

A human rights lawyer. My hero. You know Hubert Lane is a hedge-fund manager. Fitting. We could’ve forecast that one, but did you know he wanted Daddy to register his company in the Caymans? But Daddy was having none of that. ‘I pay my taxes, he said, ‘besides I have my work cut out planning how to reduce the sugar content in Bott’s Table Sauce.’

I think my early hero worship of you was the basis of what became my love for you. I should be more like your sister Ethel and wait for a man’s proposal. That’s what this is, dearest Willyam – I always think of you like that because that’s how you used to say it. Look at the date, my darling. Please don’t make me wait another four years to take advantage.

Darling, I’m not asking for a ring, a white dress and all that pomp. We’re a modern couple and don’t need it. Sweetheart, isn’t it time that you and I moved in together? You could come to the Mayfair apartment Daddy bought for me. I somehow think that is not for you though. I’d be happy to come to yours in Islington.

What do you say, darling, darling Superman?

Yours for ever, Vi

If any of our followers fancy sending us their imaginary love letter, either for Valentine’s Day or as a celebration of Leap Year – just for the fun of it, no prizes, unfortunately – we’d love to see them. Sometimes we need to be reminded that writing is what we do to enrich and enliven our days. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!