Darcy Saga Characters: The Vernors
Last Monday I began a series (of sorts) delving into the many secondary characters who inhabit the nine novels and one novella comprising The Darcy Saga. With that many novels, there are obviously a huge number of characters! Some characters merely pass through, offering flavor to a scene or two. Even if not quite elevated to the status of a main character, other characters play a continuous and/or pivotal role, thus becoming important to the entire series. It is this latter category of characters I shall be focusing on in the weeks ahead. I will share insights into how and why I created them, and will include excerpts from my novels.
I hope all of you enjoy this peek into my novels as much as I enjoy revisiting my inspirations. The link below is to the introductory blog–
For an overview of the vast number of characters within The Darcy Saga, visit the Characters page for lists for each novel and the extensive family tree I created. Additionally, the Portrait Gallery has images for each principle character.
Expanding upon what I wrote on the previous blog (link above), early into what was initially a frivolous fun storytelling for online Austen fan-fiction forums, my vision of normal life for the newly married Darcys necessitated the action taking place in Derbyshire, at least for a while. As was standard for the era, when a woman married a man (unless he lived in the same town) she would be the one leaving her family and friends to enter her husband’s household and world. This would certainly have been the case with Elizabeth Bennet.
In Pride and Prejudice we are introduced to most, if not all, of her family members, as well as a number of her friends in the Meryton area of Hertfordshire. Conversely, we know very little of Mr. Darcy’s family or circle of friends. In fact, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Bingley, and to a much lesser degree Mr. Wickham, are the only friends to whom we are introduced. Logically, even a taciturn man like Darcy would surely have acquired a few friends along the way, so this seemed like a reasonable place to start creating new characters. Additionally, presuming his male friends would be roughly the same age, there would be some wives too. Maybe even children! Aside from the characters themselves, it was important and realistic to create an established world for Elizabeth to inhabit as Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley.
Gerald and Harriet Vernor
Early in my historical research of Derbyshire, I stumbled across the names of several prominent families. One such family is the Vernon family of Sudbury, a town located near the capital city of Derby, which is approximately 30 miles south of Bakewell (the inspiration for Lambton, assuming Chatsworth is the inspiration for Pemberley). The name was appealing, as were photos of Sudbury Hall, but since writing about a real family might be a bit restrictive or annoying on the off-change a living Vernon picked up my novel, I changed the name to VERNOR and their manor house was renamed Sanburl Hall.
For the sake of establishing a close familial relationship, I rather vaguely placed the Vernor lands further north than their real life historical inspirations, and had the property lines abutting Pemberley estate and the manor house “a mere five miles away.”
Below is the initial description from Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One—
The Vernor family had for generations been the closest to the Darcys, both in physical proximity to their lands and in relationship. Gerald Vernor was only months older than Darcy and the two boys were close all through childhood and well into their adult years, only drifting apart somewhat over the past four years since Vernor’s marriage. As often transpires after matrimony, Gerald began passing more time in Derbyshire with his wife and new son while Darcy tended toward Town. Nonetheless, the two often met, hunted and rode together, and Darcy had hosted Gerald and his wife Harriet at Pemberley numerous times.
The first neighbor Elizabeth meets is Henry Vernor, the above mentioned Gerald’s father. A week into her marriage, during a shopping trip into Lambton, the couple encounter “a distinguished older gentleman” who approaches them “with a broad grin.”
“Why, Mr. Darcy! How fortunate I am to meet you so unexpectedly. This must be the Mrs. Darcy we are all hearing about.” He bowed deeply to Lizzy. He had a very open face and Lizzy found herself liking him immediately.
“Mr. Vernor,” Darcy replied with a happy smile, “you are correct. This is my wife, Mrs. Darcy. Mrs. Darcy may I introduce you to our closest neighbor, Mr. Henry Vernor of Sanburl Hall.”
Lizzy curtseyed. “Mr. Vernor, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Darcy, however I must insist that the pleasure is entirely mine. I am certain that Mr. Darcy has warned you that the rumors of your grace and beauty have preceded your entry into our little community. Now I shall be able to brag to all that I beheld you first and can glowingly proclaim that the rumors pale in comparison to the reality that was before me.”
Lizzy was a bit shocked at Mr. Vernor’s ebullient charm and assumed Darcy would be miffed, so she was further surprised to hear him laugh boomingly. “It sunders my heart to disappoint you, my old friend, but we have just come from the Carriage Inn and I was honored to introduce my lovely wife to a number of the denizens of Lambton. Tell me, Vernor, how much have you scoundrels wagered on who would espy my wife first?”
Mr. Vernor feigned indignation, “Darcy, you wound me, sir! A true gentleman would never wager on such a thing.” His words, however, were denied by the wink he gave to Lizzy and by Darcy’s continued laughter.
Darcy turned to his wife, who was beginning to find the entire encounter extremely amusing. “You see, my love, Lambton offers little in the ways of diversion so the gentlemen frequently resort to petty indulgences to offset the boredom. I know for a fact that there has been a long standing wager as to when I would enter the esteemed state of matrimony and to which society lady it would be. How did those bets turn out, Vernor? Any luck, my friend?”
Vernor assumed a visage of tremendous mourning. “Mr. Creswell won on the age. There was some debate since you were eight and twenty when you became betrothed, but the wager was for age at marriage, so Creswell edged out Sir Cole. Sadly for us all, although undoubtedly happily and wisely for you and Mrs. Darcy,” he bowed again to Lizzy, “you ventured outside London society, a move none of us anticipated.”
Lizzy laughed, “I do not believe my husband anticipated it either, Mr. Vernor. His chagrin was tremendous, let me assure you.” With a twinkle she glanced at her husband. “He fought valiantly against it, but in the end we ladies usually achieve what we want, is that not true, Mr. Vernor?”
“Most definitely, Mrs. Darcy. When it comes to matters of the heart, the fairer sex has the distinct advantage.”
“My wife is far too generous, Vernor. She led me on a merry chase in which I was all too delighted to engage.” He briefly kissed Elizabeth’s hand, saying, “The prize was well worth the effort.” Darcy was beaming and Vernor could not mistake the looks shared with his wife as anything other than the deepest love. Vernor had been a great friend to Darcy’s father, and his son, Gerald, had been a childhood playmate of Darcy’s and was one of his dearest friends still. The families were close so it warmed Vernor’s heart to see the young man finally so happy.
Darcy turned his attention back to Vernor and clapped him on the shoulder. “It brings joy to my heart to know I have disrupted the gaming. By the way, where are you heading? Will you take a glass of wine with me? Gerald is meeting me and would undoubtedly delight in visiting with you, too.”
Darcy nodded. “I am escorting Mrs. Darcy to Madame du Loire’s. Let’s plan soon for a game of billiards at Pemberley?”
Mr. Vernor winced. “I do not think I have quite recovered my pride from your last thrashing at billiards, Darcy.” He addressed Lizzy, “Your husband is the champion billiard player in all of Derbyshire, Mrs. Darcy. Last summer was the first time anyone had beaten him in a decade, and then it took Mr. Hughes, our next best player, to accomplish the feat.”
Darcy scowled and glanced at his wife. “I was distracted most of last summer with personal matters and Hughes caught me on an off day.”
Vernor smiled, completely misapprehending Darcy’s reference. “Yes, I imagine you were distracted, and we now all comprehend the reason. Mrs. Darcy, my wife and the other ladies of Derbyshire are anxious to meet you. As soon as Mr. Darcy is willing to share, you must dine with us.”
“Thank you, Mr. Vernor. I shall look forward to it.”
Due to the busyness of Christmas activities, and newlywed activities, Elizabeth would not meet the other Vernors until the highpoint of the season’s celebration: Sir Cole’s Masque Ball on Twelfth Night. In fact, the ball would be the new Mrs. Darcy’s formal introduction to all of Derbyshire society.
A mild hush fell over the room as nearly every eye in the place fell on the couple, both of them well aware of the scrutiny. Darcy paused theatrically, delighting in the attention for indubitably the only occasion in memory and probably the last. The caesura spanned mere seconds, but the desired effect was obtained. Within minutes the word raced through the manor that the Darcys had arrived.
Sir Cole welcomed the young couple effusively, Lizzy charming him instantly. Lord and Lady Matlock hovered nearby and greeted Lizzy warmly, further causing a stir. If the redoubtable Matlocks so approved of the new Mrs. Darcy, then the rumors of her inappropriateness that had spread throughout the region surely were ungrounded.
“Elizabeth dear, you are breathtaking,” Lady Matlock pronounced with a kiss to Lizzy’s cheek. “Nephew, allow me the honor of introducing Mrs. Darcy to the Vernors. Mr. Vernor, Mrs. Vernor, my niece Mrs. Darcy.”
“Mrs. Darcy, it is a delight to see you again,” Mr. Vernor bowed. “I do trust your first month at Pemberley has been pleasant?”
“Immensely so, Mr. Vernor, thank you for inquiring. Mrs. Vernor, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Darcy had greeted Gerald with enthusiasm and turned to his wife. “My dear, this is Gerald Vernor, an old friend although he did tergiversate and attend Oxford. Mr. Vernor, my wife, Elizabeth Darcy.”
“Mrs. Darcy, it is a joy to meet the woman who captured my wayward friend’s heart.” Lizzy laughed and curtseyed, sensing immediately the same open amiability in the son as in the father. He lightly touched his wife’s elbow, “My wife Harriet Vernor.”
Harriet Vernor was a tall woman, slim but slightly mannish in her build, with an unattractive horsy face but yet startling green eyes. As soon as she spoke, however, her homeliness faded. Her voice was dulcet and rich, and she spoke with an easy humor and pithy wit. Lizzy liked her instantly, and the two fell into an effortless conversation as the group moved into the main hall.
A humorous tidbit added into the Vernor history involves Gerald’s sister Bertha, recounted in these two excerpts from the ball, the second during a dance~
Miss Bertha had fallen in love with her brother’s friend when she was a young girl of sixteen. It was fairly common knowledge to all except for the object of her affection who, not surprisingly, was unbelievably dense about such things and would not have been interested anyway. Still, Miss Bertha pined and hoped, counting on the intimate association between the two families to assist her. Her mother had been devastated by the news of Darcy’s marriage, railing at length to anyone willing to listen, especially her husband and son, both of whom cared too deeply for Darcy to wish for anything but his happiness. If that happiness had been acquired with Bertha, the rejoicing would have been profound, but affairs of the heart could not be controlled.
“I love this dance,” he began.
Lizzy smiled. “Indeed, most invigorating.”
“So many couples.”
“It is an accommodating room.”
“Pemberley’s ballroom is larger, however.”
“Do you intend to talk all through the dance, Mr. Darcy?”
“I have been advised it is proper etiquette to do so … Do you not agree, Mrs. Darcy?”
“Only if one’s partner is worth conversing with.”
“I see … am I classified as worthy or unworthy?”
“I believe I need more evidence to judge … pray continue, Mr. Darcy.”
On and on it went, Darcy never losing his train of inane babble, even when parted for a turn with the next lady in line. Lizzy watched him from the corner of her eye, frequently making contact with his gaze, as they moved through the set. He spoke little to anyone else, except for one young woman approximately Lizzy’s age whom he greeted with a soft smile. She, oddly, was a deep shade of pink and decidedly uncomfortable, puzzling Darcy.
“Who is the young lady in yellow?” Lizzy asked when again engaged with her husband.
“Miss Bertha Vernor, Gerald’s sister,” he replied softly with an edge of bafflement in his voice.
“You unnerved her, it appeared.”
“I cannot imagine how … I have known her all her life … she is like a sister to me.”
Lizzy laughed, “My love, you are impossibly obtuse!”
“I beg your pardon, Madame!”
“I can almost guarantee she does not see you as a brother.” Darcy’s confusion increased for a full minute before he finally grasped her implication, after which he blushed profusely, covering his discomfiture with the Darcy scowl. The dance ended with Lizzy’s tinkling laugh as she took his arm and steered him to the bowl of wassail.
Have no fear, dear readers. Sweet innocent Bertha Vernor’s heart is soon healed by another!
During Sir Cole’s annual ball, Elizabeth would meet a number of significant people. With the exception of one particular person who wasn’t so friendly and will be addressed in a separate blog, most of the others were lovely couples destined to become lifelong friends.
Most of the young women were delightful and, if like Mrs. Samantha Cole they were not overly astute, Lizzy found them genuine and gracious. There were a number who reminded her vividly of Caroline Bingley, but Lizzy had fun with them as well. Three women in particular, Mrs. Alison Fitzherbert, Mrs. Julia Sitwell, and Mrs. Chloe Drury, connected instantly with Lizzy, as had Harriet Vernor. Before the night was over, the four women had arranged a date for tea the following week at Mrs. Fitzherbert’s home, Tillington Hall, near Eyam.
While it is established within The Darcy Saga that Gerald Vernor was Darcy’s closest friend since childhood, the gentlemen married to the ladies named in the excerpt above inhabited significant places within his inner circle. As the novels unfold, these four couples — along with another couple not present at the Masque and the previously introduced Lathrops — appear numerous times. Their involvements vary in importance, but I made every attempt to maintain their participation in the lives of Darcy and Elizabeth. As individual characters, I strived to give them unique personalities, and as couples they were given histories in relation to Darcy, and to Derbyshire. As important secondary characters, the remaining friends will be discussed in future blogs. Something to look forward to!
Returning to the Vernors, none of them hog the spotlight, however they “appear” numerous times throughout the novels, in one way or another. For instance, when writing of Darcy and Lizzy’s holiday to the Norfolk seacoast in My Dearest Mr Darcy, the final destination and some of the activities are thanks to the Vernors.
Yarmouth, or more precisely the hamlet of Caister-on-Sea three miles north, was his ultimate decision thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Vernor. The elder Vernors had vacationed there the summer past and therefore knew the area well. Darcy conferred with Mr. Vernor, trusting in his recommendations, and listened penetratingly to Mrs. Vernor’s gushing narrative, even jotting down her rambling comments.
Henry Vernor was also instrumental in introducing Darcy to Mr. Kinnison, his partner (along with Mr. Schultz) in forming DKS Midlands to mill cotton in Derby. Going further into Darcy family history, a distant familial relationship between Henry Vernor and Baron Oeggl of Austria resulted in the latter’s introduction to Mary Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s aunt. Isn’t that cool? These are merely two examples of many references revealing the deep connection between the Vernor and Darcy families. In the very first chapter of The Passions of Dr. Darcy, set when our beloved Fitzwilliam Darcy is a toddler, there is this exchange between George and James Darcy and their father–
“George, I apologize for being late. Of all the days for my horse to throw a shoe. The ride from Vernor’s ended up a limping walk. How are you, my boy?”
“Well enough, sir. James is doing an admirable job of keeping me entertained.”
Mr. Darcy nodded and paused to pat his son on the shoulder. George did not expect to be enfolded into a warm embrace—that sort of demonstrativeness a rare occurrence even when they were children—but he sensed his father’s concern and recognized the grief buried within his stern eyes. Losing a son had branded the father’s soul as well.
“As I suspected he would.” Mr. Darcy looked at his oldest son and heir, lips lifting in a minuscule smile. “Nevertheless, I am sorry for being detained and could benefit from some of that wine, if you do not mind, James?”
“What news from Sanburl Hall?” James asked while pouring.
“The usual business for the most part. Young Master Gerald is recovering from the croup, as I have already reported to Anne. The boys shall be playing together in no time.”
“That is good news indeed. George’s medicine helped?”
“Well of course it did!” George responded before Mr. Darcy could. “Crushed ma huang and lobelia added to the heated mist in a tent over the boy are far more effective than cold mist alone. Or mercury, which has too many negative effects. Fortunately, it was a moderate case and a tracheotomy was not necessary. As you said, Father, he and William will be terrorizing the nursery ere the month is over.”
“I said they would be playing together,” Mr. Darcy corrected, while James choked on his wine over the thought of his friend’s baby having a hole drilled into his neck. “Fitzwilliam is a behaved boy, and Miss Reese will not allow the nursery to be disorderly.”
“That is because she is a Hun, lacking anything remotely soft and feminine. Why you let Lady Catherine recommend a nurse is beyond my comprehension. I shudder to imagine who she hired to care for her daughter.”
“Anne is beginning to think as you, George,” James interjected. “Miss Reese does her job, though, so we cannot complain at that.”
“A few more hours with young Gerald and that imp Richard Fitzwilliam will break Miss Reese’s iron rod. William is a gentle, mannerly boy as you say, Father, but terror follows in the wake of those other two!”
Mr. Darcy grunted. “Praise to God Master Gerald will be with us to raise some terror, no small thanks to you, Son.”
The various Vernors are mentioned and met a few more times within the pages of Dr. George Darcy’s epic tale. Returning to the period after Darcy and Elizabeth are married, even Miss Bertha Vernor plays a part in the greater tale, albeit unwittingly. At Sir Cole’s Twelfth Night Masquerade Ball the year following Elizabeth’s debut, Bertha’s popularity and wide social connections provide the opening for Georgiana Darcy and Kitty Bennet to broaden their acquaintances. These new relationships lead to an emotional, life-changing summer holiday for the two young ladies. However, since that event does not directly involve any of the Vernors, no excerpt will be shared at this time. Read In the Arms of Mr. Darcy to learn what happens!
Throughout the novels Gerald Vernor pops up dozens of times, usually to hunt with Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, but also along with his wife for numerous dinner parties and London social events. Basically, whenever logically possible, Gerald and Harriet join in the fun with Darcy and Elizabeth. Of all the ladies Lizzy befriends as the new Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley, Harriet Vernor is by far the one Lizzy passes most of her time with. Largely this is due to Sanburl Hall being a short curricle drive away from Pemberley, but the two truly form a deep, abiding friendship.
By the final chapters of The Trouble With Mr. Darcy, the Vernors are assured to be friends for life. Moreover, the generational tradition of Darcys and Vernors establishing childhood friendships destined to last a lifetime is revealed to be well under way yet again. The two young Vernor boys Stuart and Spencer are fast friends with Alexander Darcy, and there is every reason to believe the soon-to-be-born third Vernor child will fit right in with Michael and Noella Darcy.
I hope this glimpse into the Vernor family of Sanburl Hall
in Derbyshire was enjoyable and intriguing.
More blogs to come in the following weeks as there are a TON
of secondary characters in The Darcy Saga!
Who is your favorite from my creations?