Elinor was shocked and tried to walk away, but Willoughby asked her to listen to him for just ten minutes. He told her he had business with her, and she told him to be quick. Willoughby asked if Marianne had recovered and was relieved to learn she had. He told Elinor that he hoped to make her hate him less and get some forgiveness from Marianne.
Elinor has solidified her understanding of Willoughby’s wicked character and does not wish to hear whatever he has to say. Willoughby, however, promises to alter at least slightly her idea of him.
Willoughby explained that when he first met the Dashwoods he had no intentions of finding a wife, but greatly enjoyed spending time with Marianne. “Careless of her happiness,” he thought only of his “amusement,” though he had no “design of returning her affection.”
Willoughby had no plans of finding a wife, but couldn’t help his growing love for Marianne.
Elinor asked Willoughby to stop, but he continued explaining his behavior. He said that his fortune was “never large,” so it would have been impossible for him to marry Marianne. He said that he behaved selfishly in leading Marianne on, but didn’t realize “the extent of the injury” because he did not “know what it was to love.”
Willoughby didn’t realize how much he was hurting Marianne, because he didn’t realize until later the power of love. Wealth in a marriage is so important to him that he thought of marrying Marianne as absolutely impossible.
Willoughby said that he became “sincerely fond” of Marianne. But then his aunt Mrs. Smith, from whom he had been expecting to inherit a fortune, was informed of his affair with Eliza (younger). Elinor said she knew about Eliza, but Willoughby said that she had heard a partial version of the story, and that he was not entirely to be blamed for what had happened. He said it wasn’t his intention to abandon Eliza, but he had forgotten to give her information to contact him.
Willoughby claims that Brandon’s story about his affair with Eliza has given an incomplete picture of his character. He attempts to rehabilitate to some degree his former good name with Elinor.
Mrs. Smith disinherited Willoughby, and now his “affection for Marianne” was outweighed by his “dread of poverty.” He felt that he needed to find some way to become wealthy, and he knew that he had to leave Marianne. He said that he deeply regretted “the stupid, rascally folly of my own heart.”
Once Mrs. Smith got a better idea of Willoughby’s deceitful character, she exercised her power in disinheriting Willoughby. Willoughby was now desperate to marry someone wealthy, even though he loved of Marianne.
In London, Willoughby was pained to receive Marianne’s letters. He watched Mrs. Jennings’ house and waited until Marianne was out of the house before visiting and leaving his card. He said that he often watched Elinor and Marianne and just barely avoided running into them around town. He said that he “was forced to play the happy lover to another woman,” even though he loved Marianne.
Willoughby schemed and strategized not to run into Marianne in London. He tries to persuade Elinor that he is a good person and did not intentionally hurt Marianne, whom he really did love. In some ways, he describes himself as the victim, forced to marry for money rather than love.
Willoughby enquired again about Marianne’s health, and then continued his story. Miss Grey had become suspicious of Willoughby’s affection for Marianne, and when he received Marianne’s letter after seeing her at the party, Miss Grey read it. Then, she dictated Willoughby’s reply to him and forced him to send it to Marianne. Willoughby called himself a fool and a scoundrel, but said that Miss Grey’s money “was necessary” to him.
The revelation that the cold, cruel letter Marianne received was not actually composed by Willoughby alters Elinor’s opinion of his character, since its unemotional language was not actually his. He was too attached to the idea of wealth not to marry Miss Grey.
Willoughby said that he and Miss Grey did not love each other. Elinor admitted that she regarded him as slightly less guilty now. He asked her to tell all this to Marianne, and Elinor agreed that she would. Elinor asked how Willoughby had heard of Marianne’s illness and he said that Sir John Middleton had told him, in London, that Marianne was dying.
Willoughby married Miss Grey only for her money, and they do not love each other. He begs Elinor to tell Marianne, so that she might think better of his character. Elinor learns that news of Marianne’s illness has apparently spread through their society in London.
Willoughby now prepared to leave, and Elinor “forgave, pitied, wished him well.” He said that for him “domestic happiness” was “out of the question,” and he was sad that Marianne was lost to him. He said that he dreaded the day that she would marry someone else, and then left.
Elinor has now largely altered her judgment of Willoughby and forgives him. Having not married the woman he loved, Willoughby now has to endure the knowledge that she will marry someone else.