Without further ado, here's the original letter, followed by a response. :)
Dear Period Drama Advice Column,
I find myself in a predicament. Four years ago, I became secretly engaged to a woman named Lucy Steele, the niece of my tutor in Exeter. I thought myself in love, but it was a foolish, idle inclination on my side. I have recently met my sister's sister-in-law, Elinor, and I like her a great deal. I find myself in love with her, but I cannot break my commitment to Lucy. If I were free, I would tell her that my heart is and always will be hers. Her friendship has been the most important of my life. My mother also wants me to marry the rich Miss Morton with 50,000 pounds: all I want, all I've ever wanted is the quiet of a private life, but my mother wants me distinguished. Do you think I am doing the right thing in keeping my promise to Lucy despite all of this?
My dear Edward --
The only question of consequence is, who has the most money? My guess is that Miss Morton would have more than your sister’s sister-in-law or this Miss Steele. Money should be of utmost consideration when you are debating who to marry. A broken engagement…a girl may pity herself and whine for a while, but she will recover. Certainly, break it at once if Miss Morton has the most money! Tutor’s rarely have rich brothers, after all.
You say you want a private life…what a strange man you must be! I have never wished for such a thing, and never will. I am currently living a boring but active life as a soldier. Alas, I missed my chance to become a gentleman of means.
You see, I once tried to marry a young girl named Georgiana Darcy. I am convinced that she loved me, and we were ready to elope together. Her brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy, did not approve of the match, and thus we had to meet in a clandestine manner. However, just as we were ready to go, Darcy turned up unexpectedly, and having “rescued” his sister (as he no doubt will tell you) he ripped my inheritance from me and turned me out on my back.
I was forced to resort to the life of a soldier, which, all things considered, is not so bad as it might be. I found my wife in that way…for yes, I have a wife. Unfortunately, here is the missed chance I spoke of, for her father is a man of meager fortune, and she has four sisters, all older than she. I had only meant to take her to London, where we could hide for a few days, and then return her to her family. However, she was greatly attached to me and would not have left, even had we not been discovered, and forced to marry, by none else than Fitzwilliam Darcy. My life with her is miserable, for she giggles annoyingly, whines often, and spends every cent I make, unless I hide them from her – she hates sewing, so I hide my money in the back of my shirt drawer, in an old shirt full of holes. ‘Tis safe, for I know she’ll never patch it! A word to the wise.
So my advice to you – go for the money. Marrying a poor wife is never worth it, and she will make you miserable just as Lydia has made me.
Do write if you need suggestions for somewhere to take Miss Morton once you elope with her…for I assume you will wish to do that? Gretna Green is a well-known place. Oh, and if you happen to find yourself with an excess of money (which I’ve heard does happen occasionally to the grossly wealthy), do remember me, and the advice that I’ve done my best to give you.
Sincerely, and with the best hopes for your happy future (pray remember me!),