Oh, Mr. Wickham, you are a card-carrying member of “Why are the baddies always hot?” club! Jane Austen’s deceptively charming fellow from Pride and Prejudice is introduced as Mr. Darcy’s victim and foil, and, of course, we learn that George Wickham is a scoundrel who has left a trail of sordid love affairs and bad debts in his wake.
Austen shows Wickham in the best possible light when he first meets the Bennet sisters in chapter 15:
Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.
And again, in chapter 16:
The officers of the — — shire were in general a very creditable, gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk, as they were superior to the broad-faced, stuffy uncle Philips, breathing port wine, who followed them into the room.
Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on its being a wet night, and on the probability of a rainy season, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.
He is a charming fellow, isn’t he? Too bad he’s such a terrible rake! But in film and TV adaptions of the novel, it’s important to cast a handsome gent as Mr. Wickham or we won’t fall for him a little like Lizzie does, at first. So let’s enjoy a little bad-boy man candy.
Edward Ashley in Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Peter Settelen in Pride and Prejudice (1980)
Adrian Lukis in Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Rupert Friend in Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Tom Riley in Lost in Austen (2008)
Matthew Goode in Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
Jack Huston in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2016)
Who is your favorite Mr. Wickham on screen?