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This is a quote I got when reading Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth could never address her without feeling that all the comfort of intimacy was over, and though determined not to slacken as a correspondent [of Miss Lucas], it was for the sake of what had been, rather than what was.

I am not good with grammar, and tense. I am confused to to what the part in bold means.

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The story is narrated in the past tense. To refer to a time in Elizabeth's past, earlier than the time of her writing of the letter, the narrator uses the past perfect.

Elizabeth was determined to keep up their correspondence, but her determination was motivated by the relationship they had enjoyed in the past, not by the nature of the relationship at the time of her writing.

The word "it" in the bolded phrase refers to Elizabeth's determination to keep up their relationship: she was "determined not to slacken as a correspondent". The pronoun does not have an explicit noun antecedent here.

Consider:

He drove to the train station despite the blizzard. It was because a friend's car had broken down and he was stranded at the train station and needed a ride.

  • Exactly - in modern parlance, she continued to correspond for "old times' sake" rather than the relationship they have now. – Bamboo Jan 8 '17 at 17:03

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