Darcy Saga Characters: The Hughes and the Sitwells
This is now the third post in the series delving into the many secondary characters inhabiting the nine novels and one novella comprising The Darcy Saga. It is fun for me to revisit the plethora of pivotal, important characters interacting with the main characters. Hopefully it is a fun endeavor for all of you too!
These introspective and excerpt laden posts are publishing in order, more or less, of when the characters were introduced in the novels. If the previous two posts were missed, I encourage reading them first.
Darcy Saga Characters: The Lathrops
Darcy Saga Characters: The Vernors
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.
Albert and Marilyn Hughes
As with the Vernors, Elizabeth is introduced to this couple in Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, specifically at Sir Cole’s Twelfth Night Masque. However, we first hear of Mr. Hughes via a conversation with Mr. Henry Vernor while the newlyweds are shopping in Lambton. That conversation was shared in full in the previous blog, the relevant sentences quoted below–
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.”
The hint here of Mr. Hughes being an avid billiards player, and apparently residing close enough to Pemberley to engage in local entertainments, was expanded upon in a later chapter.
Gerald Vernor and Albert Hughes were the two closest friends, dating from Darcy’s youth. These three, along with Richard Fitzwilliam and George Wickham, had been nearly inseparable when young. Darcy and Hughes were avid billiards players and, by the tender age of seventeen, had so mastered the game that no one in all of Derbyshire could supplant them as the county’s champions. Darcy, Vernor, and the future Col. Fitzwilliam had in common a passion for horses. Wickham was younger than the other boys and had shadowed them more than anything, although they had honestly considered him a friend until he went wild as a young man and at University.
At Sir Cole’s Masque, Lizzy briefly met the Hugheses, however, “Marilyn Hughes was currently six months into her first pregnancy and had not felt well at the Ball, prompting an early departure. Fortunately, she felt well enough to attend the Darcy dinner party, and Lizzy found her delightful.” The dinner party referred to was held a week after the Masque, more firmly establishing the friendships between all the couples and particularly Lizzy’s new lady friends.
Creating the gentlemen friends of Darcy, and their wives, involved a mixture of random selection and historical research. In the case of Albert Hughes, I wanted the young Fitzwilliam Darcy to have more than one or two childhood friends. As such, his residence needed to be close enough to Pemberley to reasonably fathom frequent interactions. Derbyshire isn’t that huge, but travel wasn’t as easy as it is today. I looked at several old maps of Derbyshire, one of my favorites being from 1885, which is later than the story is set, but nicely shows the roads and area divisions: Derbyshire 1885. I chose the small hamlet of Baslow north of Chatsworth (Pemberley) for the location of Rymas Park, the ancestral estate of the Hughes family.
Marilyn Hughes lived three and a half miles away, Rymas Park nestled on the edge of Rymas Brook and such a beautifully serene locale with the forest encasing the quaint house that Lizzy delighted in her visits there.
If I had a reason for their names, I no longer recall what it was. More than likely I flipped through lists of common English surnames and first names, latching onto ones that struck my fancy! I did, however, give Albert’s father the name Wentworth Hughes as an homage to Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.
As often as sensible to the story, I would drop mentions of Albert and Marilyn. Typically it was no more than exactly that: a brief mention. For instance, Albert Hughes is noted in several of Darcy’s youthful tales recounted to Elizabeth, including his name etched into the rock inside the Pemberley Cave, proving his special relationship since few were allowed to prove their bravery by camping for the night in the “haunted” cave.
I did not include or expand upon the Hughes family (as I did a bit with the Vernors) other than to introduce Amy Hughes, Albert’s younger sister, as a friend of Georgiana’s. She, along with brother Avery Hughes and Bertha Vernor, aid in Georgiana and Kitty Bennet making acquaintances leading to a significant plot line detailed in In the Arms of Mr. Darcy.
Basically, whenever writing a sequence involving local Derbyshire families, dropping in a Vernor or Hughes seemed logical. I did not count the individual references, but am quite sure that of Darcy’s closest male companions (and their wives), the Vernors and Hugheses are noted the most. I made a point of listing them in any event taking place in Derbyshire, such as Alexander’s christening and Colonel Fitzwilliam’s wedding.
In conclusion, Albert Hughes served the purpose of providing a rich, realistic history for Mr. Darcy. As a couple with two children, the Hugheses contributed to the vision of a full future for the Darcys and their children. Here are two snippets from The Trouble With Mr. Darcy —
“We need to add a few more girls to this generation. Deborah, Claudia, Fiona, and my Abigail are vastly outnumbered.” Marilyn Hughes glanced at the pram where her baby slept. “They are doomed to be ruffians just to survive with all these boys. You two do your best to save our sweet girls from that tragedy!”
She nodded toward the expectant mothers Amelia Lathrop and Harriet Vernor, the latter touching her distended abdomen. “Third time lucky, let us pray. A baby girl would be most welcome to soften up my own ruffians. Stuart and Spencer would benefit from a female touch.”
“I daresay the future will include plenty of opportunities for female babies.”
Mr. Hughes continued. “Darcy, as soon as we return home for the summer I need to bring Christopher to Pemberley. He is anxious to transition from pony to stallion, and I will have him ride none but your thoroughbreds. Marilyn would prefer a colt, but I think I can sway her to accept a smaller stallion.”
George laughed. “Sway her, you say. I am not married, mind you, but that does not seem like an enviable proposition. I wish you well in that endeavor, Mr. Hughes.”
Rory and Julia Sitwell
Rory Sitwell had become acquainted with Darcy at Cambridge. Neither man had met the other before, so it was a pleasant coincidence to establish a mutual friendship with someone from home. Sitwell’s personality was similar to Darcy’s and Lathrop’s: reserved, taciturn, serious, dry witted, and aloof. Vernor, Hughes, and Col. Fitzwilliam inclined toward affability, jocularity, and gaiety. They were an odd group by all outward appearances, but like Darcy and Bingley, their opposite natures blended. Among the many traits the men did have in common were moral uprightness and fierce loyalty to their families and community.
In numerous novel passages covering his pre-Elizabeth years, I wrote Fitzwilliam Darcy as a quiet, serious young man with a tight circle of friends. I purposely did not create a wide array of friends (or acquaintances, for that matter). It made including these secondary characters a bit easier, I confess, if there weren’t a horde of them, although that was not the main reason for only creating two university friends (Stephen Lathrop being the other).
In my debut novel, Rory and Julia Sitwell are barely mentioned. Introduced at Sir Cole’s Masque and in attendance at the holiday dinner at Pemberley, the couple make no further appearance. Through the bulk of Loving Mr. Darcy they are no more than names present at London Society events and dinners at Darcy House.
At this point in my writing of The Darcy Saga I had no idea if or when they would play a vital part. The name Sitwell was chosen at random, and Julia is a common English name during that period. Rory is uncommon, hence why I like it, particularly during the Georgian Era. Not unheard of, thankfully, and not everyone in England was named George or Charles, so why not toss in Rory?
Regardless of the names themselves, once established, I opened my mind to bringing them more to life and incorporating into the story beyond a few casual mentions. The opportunity came during the last few chapters of Loving Mr. Darcy when Darcy takes Elizabeth on a tour of Derbyshire. As a Cambridge connection opposed to a childhood friend, Rory Sitwell could live anywhere in Derbyshire. As I poured over old maps to plot the route taken by the Darcys and the adventures ensued, it all came together.
The home estate of the Sitwells was named Reniswahl, located near the small town of Stavely a handful of miles away from Chesterfield.
Lizzy’s eyes brightened with excitement and Darcy laughed, squeezing her hand. “Before you leap for joy and rap your head on the ceiling, allow me to explain. I have plotted a circuitous route through the Ilkeston district to Chesterfield today. The town is second to Derby in size, so we can shop if you are not yet weary of the activity.” He paused with a grin, halting her sharp retort with a kiss.
“We can tarry there for a couple of days, shop, see the local attractions, and visit the Sitwells, if you wish it, as Reniswahl Manor is nearby. Then we can travel to Castleton to view Peak Cavern before returning to Pemberley. It is merely the lower edge of the Peak, but it will provide a taste of what to expect at a later date.”
Lizzy was practically bouncing in her seat with enthusiasm. “William, you are brilliant! This is a perfect end to our holiday!” She threw her arms about his neck, hugging his shoulders and kissing his face.
“It is from the Sitwells,” he declared, handing the letter to Lizzy and promptly resuming his interrupted task. Darcy spoke French endearments, Lizzy reading Julia Sitwell’s letter with a giggle. “Julia insists we visit tomorrow afternoon and stay for dinner. She even enclosed a sketch map with noted interesting sights between here and there. She says Mr. Sitwell is already chalking his cue, determined to triumph over you.”
Darcy snorted. “Highly unlikely that. Rory has never been proficient at billiards. I taught him when we were at Cambridge, but he never readily grasped the game. His hand to eye coordination is horrendous. Now, give the man a deck of cards or dice and a genius emerges. His tactic is to mellow me by gracefully losing several billiard sets then roping me into faro and emptying my money clip.”
Those who have read Loving Mr. Darcy know that the final leg of their journey does not end pleasantly. A traumatic, violent confrontation with bandits on the way back from touring Bolsover Castle leaves both Darcy and Elizabeth in desperate need of a homey place to rest and recuperate. And, while not the original intent, several days alone with Julia Sitwell as a constant companion cemented their friendship.
Throughout the novels, the Sitwells are around in one way or another. Living further north, they were not frequent visitors to Pemberley but would make the drive for special events and the occasional holiday. The London seasons brought all the friends together, of course, allowing for a multitude of interactions, some detailed in the novels and others occurring off-screen, so to speak. By the end of The Troubles With Mr. Darcy, Rory and Julia Sitwell, along with their four sons, are clearly bonded friends of the Darcys for life.
More to come! Be sure to check back each Monday for another character study.
I have to get more of the Darcy Saga books so I can learn about these interesting characters!