My plots come to me in the strangest ways. Once during the remnants of a hurricane, I was listening to the news telling us not to go out because of downed power lines across the roads, and I thought, “Darcy would not have had that problem during a hurricane!” Thus began Mr. Darcy’s Refuge.
My new book began with a minor character tapping me on the shoulder as I was writing about Elizabeth traveling alone by stage to London. A young gentleman named Mr. Hopewell helps her out. I worked backwards to figure out who he was. Since he was already on the stage when she boarded it, he had come from someplace in the North. Sheffield sounded good, and it was on the stagecoach route. Sheffield was in the midst of a Luddite uprising, so he became a Luddite agitator. Lizzy says goodbye to him when they arrive in London, and all is well and good.
Then Darcy and Elizabeth end up at Rosings in the usual manner, except Darcy is accompanied by his cousin, Lady Frederica Fitzwilliam, who was recently jilted by an old friend of Darcy’s, Sir Anthony Duxbury. And this happens:
Gregory, Lady Catherine’s favorite footman, held out a silver platter to Darcy with a card on it. “A caller, sir.”
Who would be calling on him at Rosings? He read the card, then glanced at Frederica and back at the card. “Frederica,” he said carefully. “Are you perchance expecting a visit from Sir Anthony Duxbury?”
“Of course not. He cannot even bear to be in the same room with me. Why?”
“Because he is here, and I do not know why.” Darcy turned to the footman. “I will see him in the library.”
“No, Gregory; bring him here,” said Frederica, her voice flat.
The footman glanced at Darcy, who nodded. After he left, Darcy said to Frederica, “Are you certain you wish to see him?”
She stuck her chin in the air, every inch an earl’s daughter. “I have nothing to hide. If my presence causes him discomfort, that is his problem, not mine.”
At the door, Gregory announced, “Sir Anthony Duxbury to see Mr. Darcy.”
Duxbury usually exuded energy, but today he looked exhausted. “Darcy, I am glad to have finally run you to ground. I….” He stopped short and grew pale. “Lady Frederica! I did not expect to see you here.”
“Obviously, Sir Anthony,” she said smoothly. “You would not be here otherwise. Do sit down. Gregory, be so kind as to bring some refreshments for our guest.”
“It is not… I needed to speak to Darcy, and he was here.”
She gestured toward Darcy with one hand. “There he is, and you may speak to him as much as you wish. Pray do not allow my presence to disturb you.” Frederica ostentatiously picked up a book and began to turn the pages.
Without asking whether he desired any, Darcy went to the sideboard and poured a glass of wine for Duxbury. He appeared to need it.
Duxbury gave him a grateful glance when he held it out to him. “My thanks.” Frederica’s presence seemed to have flustered him more than Darcy would have expected. Duxbury had been the one to break off their understanding, after all. He was not the injured party.
“So, you have gone to some effort to find me,” Darcy prompted.
His eyes flickered toward Frederica. “Yes. I hoped to speak to you… of the situation in the North – the Luddites and the unrest.”
Darcy blinked. “You came all this way to discuss politics?”
“This is a cause which is very dear to my heart, and I stand in dire need of assistance because of it.”
What sort of help could he need? It could not be a matter of money. Duxbury had plenty of his own.
The footman announced, “Mrs. Collins and Miss Bennet to see Lady Frederica.”
Elizabeth! All thoughts of Duxbury’s mysterious mission fled Darcy’s mind at the sight of her light and pleasing form. He had not seen her since that painful day in the gardens, and her anger had gnawed at him ever since. Had she finally forgiven him? He must know.
Belatedly remembering his manners, he said, “Ladies, will you permit me the honor of introducing…”
Elizabeth stepped past him before he had even finished. “Mr. Hopewell! It is an unexpected pleasure to see you again.”
Darcy looked over his shoulder to see to whom she was speaking, but Duxbury was bowing over her hand.
“Why, if it is not my dear sister Anne!” said Duxbury with a hollow laugh. “Well met, madam.”
Elizabeth must have noted his confusion, for she laughed and said, “I was only a temporary sister. Mr. Hopewell and I were fellow stagecoach passengers, and when our coach was unexpectedly forced to stop for the night, Mr. Hopewell was gallant enough to arrange a room at the inn for me and to tell everyone I was his sister. I am greatly in his debt.” Her smile faded at Darcy’s grim look. “He was a perfect gentleman.”
Darcy looked at Duxbury, who was even paler than before. “A perfect gentleman? Except for one little matter of the truth. His name is Sir Anthony Duxbury, not Hopewell.”
Elizabeth glanced back and forth between the two men. “I do not understand.”
“Nor do I,” said Darcy pointedly.
Duxbury tugged at his cravat. “It is a long and complicated story, though not unrelated to the one I came to tell you.”
From the doorway Richard said, “Then you had best get started in telling it, Duxbury.”
“So you are here as well, Fitzwilliam? The question is where to begin.” Duxbury dropped into one of an armchair and rubbed his forehead. “These are not the circumstances I would have chosen for this discussion.”
Frederica said sharply, “The beginning is usually considered a good place to start.”
Duxbury looked at her for a long minute, then turned to Darcy. “You are well acquainted with Sir Anthony Duxbury, gentleman about town, a moderate Whig who occasionally flirts with philosophical radicalism. That is nothing but a façade. My true beliefs are different, and have been since I returned from the Continent — views too dangerous for Sir Anthony Duxbury to espouse, much less act upon. That is where Mr. Hopewell comes in. He is a Radical who travels among the Luddites, writing pamphlets in favor of giving them the vote and the same rights you and I possess, speaking at their meetings, and helping to garner support for their cause. Sedition, resisting arrest, hiding fugitives – you name it, Hopewell has done it, and then come back to London as Duxbury and played the role of a dilettante.”
Talk about hijacking the plot!
Apparently my muse had decided the Luddites, who were supposed to be just a bit of verisimilitude in one minor scene, were going to play a big role in this book whether I liked it or not. So off I went down the research rabbit hole learning about the unrest in the Northern manufacturing region, including Derbyshire. Houses being torched, people murdered, arms depots raided, and even plans for an armed rebellion to attack London.
But wait a minute! Doesn’t Jane Austen tells us the Gardiners took a pleasure trip to Derbyshire in the summer of 1812? But no one in their right mind would have traveled to Derbyshire or anywhere near it then! Well, that’s what happens when you take a book you wrote in 1796-7, rewrite it in 1811 and set in 1812.¹ Ah, the dangers of writing about a time period before it occurs!
But how could a red-blooded writer of Pride & Prejudice variations resist taking Jane Austen’s characters and putting them in the political situation that actually existed in 1812? I couldn’t, and the result is Mr. Darcy’s Journey. The title has a double meaning – the metaphorical journey of self-discovery he takes as a result of meeting Elizabeth, and the literal and life-changing journey they take on a rescue mission to Sheffield.
Did I mention this book was originally supposed to be about Wickham? Well, he made it into the first scene and was never seen again. The best laid plots…
Mr. Darcy’s Journey will be released on June 10, 2016 – unless somebody else hijacks it!
Mr. Darcy is at his wits’ end. Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he can’t live without, overhears him insulting her family. Now she won’t even listen to his apologies. Then his old friend Sir Anthony Duxbury tells him two of their friends are in terrible danger. If Darcy wants to help them, they have to leave for Yorkshire immediately.
But something doesn’t add up. Elizabeth claims to know Sir Anthony, too – but by a different name. What game is his old friend playing? And is it dangerous?
Even Sir Anthony says the trip is dangerous. The Luddite rebels are on the verge of armed revolt – and he should know, because he’s one of them. Darcy’s cousin Lady Frederica decides she’s going with them anyway, and insists on bringing Elizabeth. Could this be Darcy’s chance to earn Elizabeth’s forgiveness and her love?
Elizabeth would rather face a squad of Napoleon’s soldiers than spend three days trapped in a carriage with Darcy and his headstrong cousin, but she has her own reason for agreeing to come. If she can just manage to keep her temper, she may be able to rescue her uncle from financial ruin.
But when a Luddite riot erupts around them, it’s Darcy and Elizabeth who need rescuing – from each other.
- The 1811-1812 dates are generally, but not universally, agreed upon by scholars. More details on the chronology are here.
So, what do you think?