As my longtime readers are aware, I began writing my vision of married life for Darcy and Elizabeth way back in 2006. One short story swiftly evolved into another and then another, the passion taking over so thoroughly that, as I have previously joked, like Mr. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth, “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” The truth is, I had no idea that my fun lark writing Austen fan-fiction for online forums would ever be published, or that my collection of short stories would become The Darcy Saga! The prospect of being a professional author with a legitimate business to manage did not enter my mind for nearly a year. Yet, even when blithely adding to the hundreds of freely offered JAFF stories, I was serious about researching the era and composing a well-crafted entry before posting publicly.
I sum up the origins of my publishing journey on my website — THIS LINK — including my personal quest to present a “happily ever after” series that would follow Darcy and Elizabeth along the days, weeks, months, and eventually years of their married life. While this purpose meant the focus would primarily center upon our favorite lovers, unless stranded on a deserted island, their world must include a plethora of friends, family, servants, and even the occasional adversary. All of us who write Austen literature, however we approach it, have the joy of reimagining the characters created by Jane Austen with our unique twists and perspectives. Depending upon the story, those characters might veer widely from how Austen originally wrote them, but the foundations are set in the classic novels so there will always be some limitations. When creating our own characters there are NO limitations … NO standards … NO foundations. We can go really crazy!
In the case of The Darcy Saga, creating a host of new characters was essential for a well-rounded tale. Before long, I had so expanded upon the family trees and characters introduced that I literally had to include a “Cast of Characters” into each published novel! Eventually I created a detailed family tree graphic (see below), as well as a page on my website for the cast — THIS LINK or click image below — and a PORTRAIT GALLERY for all the characters.
Today’s post on supporting characters in The Darcy Saga will be the first in a series exploring
the origins of my favorite unique characters.
I will share how I came to create these characters, excerpts from the novels, their portraits, and more.
Meet Stephen and Amelia LathropMr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One before I allowed additional people to intrude upon the newlywed’s romantic honeymoon (not counting the servants). Christmas presented the perfect opportunity. Opting for this first holiday season to leave the Bennets in Hertfordshire with the newlywed Bingleys, I kept the Pemberley visitor list small and intimate, mainly so as to give personality to those Pride & Prejudice characters barely mentioned.
Christmas was fast approaching and although Lizzy was delighted at the prospect of spending the holidays with her husband and new family, it would be the first holiday season in her life without her parents and sisters. It was a bittersweet reality, which led to the task before her. She and Darcy had discussed the Christmas plans, and he had embraced the idea of a major celebration. For more than ten years, since his mother had died, Christmas at Pemberley had been a quiet affair. He felt it was time they put past grief behind them and commemorated the season as it deserved to be.
To that end, Lizzy had penned formal invitations. Darcy had insisted on inviting the Gardiners, so one invitation had been written to them. Another had been written to Col. Fitzwilliam and yet another to Lord and Lady Matlock. Georgiana would be returning to Pemberley in a little over a week. Col. Fitzwilliam and his parents, who had been gracious enough to keep Georgiana in Town during these first weeks of the Darcy’s marriage, would be bringing her home when they returned to their estate in Matlock for the winter.
Lizzy had won the affection of the Matlocks while in London during her engagement. It had been a tortuous battle, what with Lady Catherine’s vocal disapproval and attempts to thwart Darcy’s marriage to “the country upstart.” However, eventually Lizzy’s natural charm and wit, along with the obvious love Darcy held for her, had swayed the Matlocks. Lizzy was far from comfortable with them, imposing characters though they were, but she respected them. Mostly, she knew how valuable they were to Darcy, so she had declared they should be invited for Christmas Day as well.
As a bonus, and also, I confess, to test my new-writer skills at created entirely new characters, I invented the first of many friends of Darcy. In the paragraph immediately after the ones quoted above, I introduced the Lathrops.
Lastly, Darcy requested the presence of a friend of his from Leicester, a Mr. Stephen Lathrop, and his young wife Amelia. Darcy had met Mr. Lathrop years ago at Cambridge, and the two had become friendly, being of similar temperaments. Mr. Lathrop owned a small estate in Leicestershire and his father had died this past year, leaving Mr. Lathrop without any family except for his wife of one year. She was Scottish so her family lived quite far away, and Darcy thought it would be a nice gesture to have them join the Pemberley festivities, understanding thoroughly how grief stricken his friend would be this holiday. Lizzy had not met them, but was very pleased to include them.
Bringing life to Stephen and Amelia happened gradually as the holiday events unfolded. This exchange between Lizzy and Lady Matlock happened in the next chapter, giving another hint about the man yet to arrive at Pemberley.
“Georgiana informs me that your uncle and aunt will be celebrating here as well?”
“That is correct. They will arrive three days hence. Also, a gentleman friend of William’s from Leicester, a Mr. Lathrop and his wife are expected the same day. The poor man lost his father this past year, and my husband extended an invitation as a way of cheering him. Plus, I do not think they have visited together for well over a year.”
“I do believe I met Mr. Lathrop a time or two, several years ago. He was at Cambridge with William, correct?”
“Yes. They met there.”
“Ah, yes, I do recall. He sojourned at Darcy House one summer while the two men were off term. Agreeable young man, I seem to remember, serious and reserved yet generous and polite.” Lady Matlock laughed softly. “Quite like William, in point of fact! I contemplated at the time whether the two of them ever actually conversed with each other, both being so taciturn.” She glanced pointedly toward the man in question, who was smiling, effusive, and laughed loudly at some anecdote of his cousin’s. “How changed he is now. Perhaps Mr. Lathrop has found the same fount of joy in his marriage as my nephew has.”
Lady Matlock’s speculation regarding Mr. Lathrop proved to be true, as my readers already know. The Lathrops went on to play a very big role in the lives of the Darcys, including future events with their children, but I am getting ahead of myself! The Lathrops arrived a couple of days before Christmas, the first significant conversation revolving around a fun evening of musical entertainment.
The party gathered together again in the music room where Col. Fitzwilliam was induced to accompany Georgiana with the cello. Darcy stood behind the seated Lizzy with his fingers lightly resting on her neck, unaware that Mr. Lathrop stood behind his wife in the identical inadvertent pose.
“Col. Fitzwilliam,” Lizzy declared, “you play beautifully! I am tremendously impressed.”
The Colonel bowed. “Thank you, Mrs. Darcy; you are very kind. I fear I am rather out of practice. The only opportunity I have to indulge my meager musical talent is here at Pemberley.”
“My husband claims to be as poor a proficient on the violin, yet now I begin to speculate he may not have been totally forthright. How would you evaluate his skills, Colonel, as one artist assessing the other?”
Richard smugly appraised his faintly frowning cousin. “Ah, Mrs. Darcy, you place before me an interesting dilemma. If I judge his talents paltry, then we shall all take pity and not wish to embarrass him by prevailing upon him to play, thus depriving us entertainment, but he shall thank me and be in my debt. If, however, I laud his gift, extolling the unsurpassed skill he wields, then all shall beseech him to grace us with a tune to our delight but I shall likely be soundly pummeled once alone.”
They all laughed. Mr. Lathrop chimed in with his soft voice, “I shall save you, Colonel. Darcy has not seen me for many months so would not likely horsewhip me.”
“Do not be too confident, Lathrop,” Darcy interrupted with a growl.
Undeterred, Mr. Lathrop continued with a grin, “Darcy often played at Cambridge and is quite good, although he abhors performing for crowds. Except for that one time, remember, Darcy?”
All eyes were on Darcy, brows raised in question. Richard stifled a chuckle and Mr. Lathrop was grinning broadly. “This is blackmail, old friend.” Darcy said, trying not to smile.
Mr. Lathrop spread his hands innocently, “Simply a reminder of what is possible with the appropriate … influences.”
“What manner of influences, Mr. Darcy, pray tell?” asked Mrs. Lathrop with a dimpled smile. All were staring at Darcy with varying degrees of humor with the exception of Georgiana who was frankly baffled.
Any guesses what those “influences” were? LOL! That story is told later in the novel, but the mystery will remain for this blog post. Gonna have to buy the book!
The Lathrops interacted with the Darcys and guests numerous times during their holiday visitation, including attending Sir Cole’s Twelfth Night Masque Ball in January. By the time of their departure, Lizzy and Amelia were fast friends, so much so that Amelia revealed she was with child. I can honestly say that at this point in my writing I had no clear plan of how often the Lathrops would reappear in the story, and absolutely zero clue that their unborn daughter would feature prominently in the future.
In Loving Mr. Darcy, the Lathrops would again pop up, this time in London for the Season along with several other of Darcy’s married gentlemen friends. Amelia became a frequent shopping and afternoon tea companion, and was present when Mary Bennet met her future mate and when Lady Catherine once again rudely confronted Lizzy. The Lathrops joined in the surprise party for Lizzy’s 21st birthday, accompanied to the opera at the Royal Theatre, and attended the end-of-the-season ball at Darcy House.
Gerald and Harriet Vernor were talking with Stephen and Amelia Lathrop. Amelia was fast approaching the final two months of her pregnancy and planned to return to Leicestershire on the morrow for the remainder of her confinement. Lizzy was already saddened, especially knowing that with her own condition advancing, it would likely be months before they saw each other.
“Ah, Darcy! Excellent timing,” Gerald Vernor said. “The ladies insist on discussing birth and infancy related topics. Lathrop and I are turning green over here, so rescue us before they move on to the riveting issue of swaddling cloths.”
“Yes, by all means,” Lizzy replied with an impish smile and wave of her hand, “move away, feeble men, and discuss something delicate such as hunting or boxing.” Darcy and Lathrop blushed but Vernor winked, guiding the two toward another knot of men seemingly centered on an effervescent George Darcy.
Moving on to Volume 3 of The Darcy Saga, in My Dearest Mr. Darcy the Lathrops again play a brief but significant role. The following exchange between Darcy and a pregnant Elizabeth takes place roughly two months after departing London, while on holiday to the seaside, proving for the millionth time that Darcy is a loving and thoughtful husband.
“Letters from home,” he murmured. “Mr. Keith with updates. A letter from Georgie, one from Bingley, your mother, and Mrs. Lathrop.” The latter two were taken by Lizzy, who opened Amelia’s first.
Minutes passed in silent reading, Lizzy breaking the quiet first with a happy shout.
“Amelia delivered a girl!”
“Oh, how wonderful!” Darcy smiled with true feelings of joy, instantly thinking of Stephen while simultaneously imagining his own emotions when the time came. “Did all proceed smoothly? Mrs. Lathrop is well?”
“The baby was born three weeks ago now. They named her Fiona Heather. Amelia says she resembles Stephen, but has her green eyes. Oh, what a wonder!” Lizzy sighed, reading on with a smile.
“The birth… Does she speak of it?”
Lizzy glanced over to see him serious with a hint of anxiety in his pale eyes. She squeezed his hand, smiling tenderly. “She is well, love. The birth was long, she writes, as is expected, but there were no complications. Do not worry so, William. Everything will be fine, I promise.”
He pressed his lips tightly together, jaw clenching, but he nodded and returned to his letter. At odd moments as the weeks advanced, Darcy would find his thoughts dwelling on the final birth process and possible emergencies. Lizzy was healthy and very strong, as was their child by all indications, but he knew well from stories and family traumas how horribly wrong it could end. The thought of losing their baby terrified him, but not nearly as much as losing Elizabeth.
A deep sigh from his wife interrupted the threatening stabs of fear. “I miss Amelia. I wish I could see her and the baby. Who knows when we will be able to travel again between winter and infants to care for?”
“We could visit on our way home, if you wish. Leicestershire is not far out of the way, and I am certain they would not mind.”
“Could we? Oh, William! That would be so wonderful! You are brilliant and far too good to me.”
He laughed and shook his head. “Thank you, dear, but I was only thinking of myself as Lathrop is the best billiard player after Hughes that I know.” He picked up Mr. Keith’s missive, feigning indifference while Lizzy chuckled.
Soon thereafter, the Darcys arrived at Stonecrest Hall in Leicestershire, the ancestral home of the Lathrops. For an entire chapter the foursome visited, enjoying all sorts of entertainments and conversations, but the highlight, of course, was the baby. This excerpt will be the final one for this post since it is so sweet (if I say so myself).
The women joined the reclining men in the parlor. Amelia held the baby, Darcy’s eyes instantly alighting on the swaddled bundle. Lizzy recalled with a smile that her husband had never actually beheld a very young infant. His careful regulation was slipping rapidly as they approached. The gentlemen rose, Stephen quickly crossing to assist his still sore wife to a comfortable chair. Lizzy squeezed Darcy’s arm, eyes meeting with tender communication before he turned his gaze back to Amelia and the baby.
“Mrs. Lathrop, you appear well. Congratulations on your blessing.”
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I am quite well, all considered. Now sit down and relax. My arms are frankly aching. Dearest,” she looked to her husband with a wink, “perhaps you can assist me? Mr. Darcy, could I trouble you to hold the baby while my husband fetches Elizabeth and me some tea? Elizabeth, could you be a dear and plump up this pillow for me?”
With smoothly manipulated orders, Amelia fulfilled Darcy’s wish without him needing to ask, which he likely would never have had the nerve to do. Fairly before he could take a breath, he found his arms blissfully encumbered with the blanketed, softly squirming baby. He sat stiffly, afraid to move an inch or even breathe lest he disturb the peaceful bundle or, heaven forbid, drop her. Heart pounding and inhaling shallowly, Darcy studied the diminutive life form in his rigid arms. She was so small! Every feature dainty in the extreme, wisps of pale hair, cheeks so round and pink, and incredibly light. Gradually he relaxed, sinking comfortably into the sofa and cuddling her close to his chest.
It was absolutely amazing. Never had he seen anything so tiny. Still, she seemed too large to actually reside inside another human being and with a sudden flash of insight he completely understood his wife’s aches and complaints as their son intruded on internal organs and placed stress on muscles. Lizzy joined him on the sofa, reaching to gently pull the blanket away from Fiona’s chest to unveil a petite hand.
“Easy, Elizabeth, do not wake her,” Darcy chided in a whisper.
“Her stomach is full, love. A full marching band could troop through and she would sleep on. Here,” she grasped his hand, “touch her cheek. She is so soft.”
Darcy did, holding his breath and trembling slightly. “Unbelievable. I have never felt anything like it.” He looked up at Stephen, who was grinning broadly where he stood next to Darcy, gazing at his daughter with insurmountable pride and bewitchment. “Lathrop, she is beautiful. An absolute miracle.”
“Soon, my old friend, it shall be your turn. Nothing on earth quite compares, I assure you.”
In the following novels of The Darcy Saga, the Lathrops appear many times and will remain fast friends forever. *Hint: More than friends, as it happens. Frankly, their importance was a surprise to me! I never anticipated these friends of Darcy becoming so central to the plot. Funny how that happens!
I hope y’all enjoyed meeting the Lathrops.
Comments are very welcome!
Come back next month for a closer look at more Darcy Saga supporting characters.