Long story short: he was there to ensure Wickham showed up and held up his end of the wedding. This may be one of the earliest examples of a shotgun wedding, although in this case it is Mr. Darcy who is holding the shotgun rather than an enraged father.
Short story long: it is probably best to read the text for yourself to get a full understanding of Mr. Darcy's involvement with the marriage between Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham. This is very handily captured for us in the letter from Mrs. Gardiner to her niece Elizabeth Bennet.
On the very day of my coming home from Longbourn, your uncle had a most
unexpected visitor. Mr. Darcy called, and was shut up with him several
hours. It was all over before I arrived; so my curiosity was not so
dreadfully racked as _yours_ seems to have been. He came to tell Mr.
Gardiner that he had found out where your sister and Mr. Wickham were,
and that he had seen and talked with them both; Wickham repeatedly,
Lydia once. From what I can collect, he left Derbyshire only one day
after ourselves, and came to town with the resolution of hunting for
them. The motive professed was his conviction of its being owing to
himself that Wickham's worthlessness had not been so well known as to
make it impossible for any young woman of character to love or confide
in him. He generously imputed the whole to his mistaken pride, and
confessed that he had before thought it beneath him to lay his private
actions open to the world. His character was to speak for itself. He
called it, therefore, his duty to step forward, and endeavour to remedy
an evil which had been brought on by himself. If he _had another_
motive, I am sure it would never disgrace him. He had been some days
in town, before he was able to discover them; but he had something to
direct his search, which was more than _we_ had; and the consciousness
of this was another reason for his resolving to follow us.
"There is a lady, it seems, a Mrs. Younge, who was some time ago
governess to Miss Darcy, and was dismissed from her charge on some cause
of disapprobation, though he did not say what. She then took a large
house in Edward-street, and has since maintained herself by letting
lodgings. This Mrs. Younge was, he knew, intimately acquainted with
Wickham; and he went to her for intelligence of him as soon as he got to
town. But it was two or three days before he could get from her what he
wanted. She would not betray her trust, I suppose, without bribery and
corruption, for she really did know where her friend was to be found.
Wickham indeed had gone to her on their first arrival in London, and had
she been able to receive them into her house, they would have taken up
their abode with her. At length, however, our kind friend procured the
wished-for direction. They were in ---- street. He saw Wickham, and
afterwards insisted on seeing Lydia. His first object with her, he
acknowledged, had been to persuade her to quit her present disgraceful
situation, and return to her friends as soon as they could be prevailed
on to receive her, offering his assistance, as far as it would go. But
he found Lydia absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She cared
for none of her friends; she wanted no help of his; she would not hear
of leaving Wickham. She was sure they should be married some time or
other, and it did not much signify when. Since such were her feelings,
it only remained, he thought, to secure and expedite a marriage, which,
in his very first conversation with Wickham, he easily learnt had never
been _his_ design. He confessed himself obliged to leave the regiment,
on account of some debts of honour, which were very pressing; and
scrupled not to lay all the ill-consequences of Lydia's flight on her
own folly alone. He meant to resign his commission immediately; and as
to his future situation, he could conjecture very little about it. He
must go somewhere, but he did not know where, and he knew he should have
nothing to live on.
"Mr. Darcy asked him why he had not married your sister at once. Though
Mr. Bennet was not imagined to be very rich, he would have been able
to do something for him, and his situation must have been benefited by
marriage. But he found, in reply to this question, that Wickham still
cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage in
some other country. Under such circumstances, however, he was not likely
to be proof against the temptation of immediate relief.
"They met several times, for there was much to be discussed. Wickham of
course wanted more than he could get; but at length was reduced to be
"Every thing being settled between _them_, Mr. Darcy's next step was to
make your uncle acquainted with it, and he first called in Gracechurch
street the evening before I came home. But Mr. Gardiner could not be
seen, and Mr. Darcy found, on further inquiry, that your father was
still with him, but would quit town the next morning. He did not judge
your father to be a person whom he could so properly consult as your
uncle, and therefore readily postponed seeing him till after the
departure of the former. He did not leave his name, and till the next
day it was only known that a gentleman had called on business.
"On Saturday he came again. Your father was gone, your uncle at home,
and, as I said before, they had a great deal of talk together.
"They met again on Sunday, and then _I_ saw him too. It was not all
settled before Monday: as soon as it was, the express was sent off to
Longbourn. But our visitor was very obstinate. I fancy, Lizzy, that
obstinacy is the real defect of his character, after all. He has been
accused of many faults at different times, but _this_ is the true one.
Nothing was to be done that he did not do himself; though I am sure (and
I do not speak it to be thanked, therefore say nothing about it), your
uncle would most readily have settled the whole.
"They battled it together for a long time, which was more than either
the gentleman or lady concerned in it deserved. But at last your uncle
was forced to yield, and instead of being allowed to be of use to his
niece, was forced to put up with only having the probable credit of it,
which went sorely against the grain; and I really believe your letter
this morning gave him great pleasure, because it required an explanation
that would rob him of his borrowed feathers, and give the praise where
it was due. But, Lizzy, this must go no farther than yourself, or Jane
"You know pretty well, I suppose, what has been done for the young
people. His debts are to be paid, amounting, I believe, to considerably
more than a thousand pounds, another thousand in addition to her own
settled upon _her_, and his commission purchased. The reason why all
this was to be done by him alone, was such as I have given above. It
was owing to him, to his reserve and want of proper consideration, that
Wickham's character had been so misunderstood, and consequently that he
had been received and noticed as he was. Perhaps there was some truth
in _this_; though I doubt whether _his_ reserve, or _anybody's_ reserve,
can be answerable for the event. But in spite of all this fine talking,
my dear Lizzy, you may rest perfectly assured that your uncle would
never have yielded, if we had not given him credit for _another
interest_ in the affair.
"When all this was resolved on, he returned again to his friends, who
were still staying at Pemberley; but it was agreed that he should be in
London once more when the wedding took place, and all money matters were
then to receive the last finish.
"I believe I have now told you every thing. It is a relation which
you tell me is to give you great surprise; I hope at least it will not
afford you any displeasure. Lydia came to us; and Wickham had constant
admission to the house. _He_ was exactly what he had been, when I
knew him in Hertfordshire; but I would not tell you how little I was
satisfied with her behaviour while she staid with us, if I had not
perceived, by Jane's letter last Wednesday, that her conduct on coming
home was exactly of a piece with it, and therefore what I now tell
you can give you no fresh pain. I talked to her repeatedly in the most
serious manner, representing to her all the wickedness of what she had
done, and all the unhappiness she had brought on her family. If she
heard me, it was by good luck, for I am sure she did not listen. I was
sometimes quite provoked, but then I recollected my dear Elizabeth and
Jane, and for their sakes had patience with her.
"Mr. Darcy was punctual in his return, and as Lydia informed you,
attended the wedding. He dined with us the next day, and was to leave
town again on Wednesday or Thursday. Will you be very angry with me, my
dear Lizzy, if I take this opportunity of saying (what I was never bold
enough to say before) how much I like him. His behaviour to us has,
in every respect, been as pleasing as when we were in Derbyshire. His
understanding and opinions all please me; he wants nothing but a little
more liveliness, and _that_, if he marry _prudently_, his wife may teach
him. I thought him very sly;--he hardly ever mentioned your name. But
slyness seems the fashion.
"Pray forgive me if I have been very presuming, or at least do not
punish me so far as to exclude me from P. I shall never be quite happy
till I have been all round the park. A low phaeton, with a nice little
pair of ponies, would be the very thing.
"But I must write no more. The children have been wanting me this half
"Yours, very sincerely,
For Pride and Prejudice is a resourceful tool for avid readers to submerge themselves into the realm of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudi...
Pride and Prejudice Screenplay by Deborah Moggach Shooting script 28th June 2004 1 EXT. LONGBOURN HOUSE - DAY. FADE UP ON: A YOUNG WO...
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. In plain, mod...
Jane Bennet: Apart from being renowned as the prettiest of the Bennet sisters, being described as an angel (" as to Miss Bennet, he ...