Meet the original characters in An Appearance of Goodness
An Appearance of Goodness takes place in Derbyshire after Darcy’s failed proposal during the time when in canon Mrs. Reynolds told Mr. Gardiner, “But we expect him tomorrow, with a large party of friends.” I thought I would introduce you to the original characters making up the “large party” at Pemberley. Aside from Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley, Darcy is traveling with his friend Lewis Balfour, Balfour’s widowed sister Hester Lanyon, and their friend John Utterson.
Mr. Balfour is Darcy’s age and they’ve been friends since around the time Darcy’s father died. Balfour’s father made his money with the East India Company and his mother was from a wealthy and noble Indian family. While he waits to inherit his father’s property in Scotland, Balfour would rather live in London—spending his money. He’s teasing and friendly and a bit of a show off.
His sister Mrs. Lanyon is a year older than him and was widowed three years ago when her husband died in battle. She’s wealthy in her own right and has a different personality from her brother. Balfour is lively, and Mrs. Lanyon is more reserved than Darcy—and for some reason doesn't like Bingley’s sisters.
Mr. Utterson is Balfour’s friend who has only recently come to know Darcy better. He’s the younger son of a baronet who's studying the law... and is bitter that his brother gets the baronetcy. Utterson is impatient with other people and would rather read his letters than make conversation.
Here’s a scene from early in the book with Darcy and his friends on their way to Pemberley. They’re at an inn and Darcy has just learned that Bingley is arriving sooner than expected. Darcy decides to ride ahead to meet Bingley, his new wife Jane, and his sisters. But it’s possible that Darcy hasn’t realized that Bingley counts Elizabeth as one of his sisters now…
The door opened, and Balfour entered with Mrs Lanyon and Utterson. Balfour and his sister both had pleasing countenances and the same black hair and amber eyes. But whilst Balfour was cheerful, affable, and talked a great deal, his sister had a quiet dignity that scarcely made her conversable.
“You were not waiting long, were you?” Balfour cried as he pulled out a chair for his sister. “Hester needed to arrange her hair and change her shoes after we got wet. It is possible her behaviour may arise from vanity.” His voice raised in mock outrage, and he winked at her.
“Lewis, you will give Miss Darcy and Mrs Annesley a poor opinion of me.” Mrs Lanyon’s voice was calm as it ever was. “You should not represent me in such a light.”
“If any of us is vain about their appearance, it is you, Balfour,” Utterson drawled out his words in a long, slow tone. “We might have been down a quarter of an hour ago if not for you.”
Utterson was not an ill-humoured young man, but as their acquaintance furthered, Darcy noticed that Utterson often found other people provoking. A difficult quality for one studying the law. There might be a similarity in their dispositions as he came to know Utterson better, but Balfour was easier to get on with.
“I do wish to appear to my advantage,” Balfour said, smiling to everyone around the table. “You will notice that I added a cravat pin and exchanged my waistcoat for another. One cannot allow travelling and bad weather to prevent a gentleman from taking care of his appearance.”
The servants brought in the meal and Darcy passed out the letters, with Utterson taking his eagerly and ignoring everyone to read them. “When we are finished with dinner,” Darcy said, “I intend to ride ahead to Pemberley tonight.” After hearing everyone’s exclamations of surprise, he explained Bingley’s letter.
Utterson shook his head. “Bingley is too careless for my liking. He has put you to an inconvenience.”
“Perhaps his new wife is a delightful distraction. We ought to make Mr Bingley some allowances,” said Mrs Lanyon. She then turned to Darcy. “Although I shall miss the opportunity to ride with you tomorrow.”
“When the rain has stopped and we are all at Pemberley, you need only name the day.”
Mrs Lanyon thanked him and gave him a contented smile that he returned. She was near his age, widowed, wealthy, and, as Mrs Annesley said, still blooming. But she had little conversation, and nothing in her character that could be described as liveliness. He simply enjoyed riding with a woman who rode well and left him alone to his thoughts.
“You may all take your time in the morning,” Darcy said. “It is only ten miles. If I leave after dinner, I shall be there before eight o’clock.”
Balfour leant closer once everyone resumed eating. “Dinna say you only want to be there to greet Miss Bingley,” he whispered. His vowels were shorter, and a few “ayes” and “naes” crept in occasionally, but in general an Oxford education and London society had stripped Balfour of his Scottish accent, unless he was being particularly mischievous.
Darcy threw him a look that earned him a knowing smile. “I am riding ahead to be a good host to my friend, and whomever he brings with him.”
Darcy pushed his food back and forth on his plate. He had not been a good friend to Bingley, and he had been too full of pride, too capable of being selfish with anybody outside of his circle. He was fortunate he had preserved Bingley’s friendship, and grateful that Jane Bennet had forgiven his friend and they were now happily wed.
What a horrid state of selfish vanity I was in when I proposed to Elizabeth. He had learnt the lesson, but he had learnt it too late to marry a woman he loved.
Going home would be the final restoration of his peace. He would survive his disappointment, especially since Elizabeth thought no more of him, the last man in the world she could be prevailed on to marry. He had done what he could to rectify his errors, and whilst she may not hate him, in the event that they ever met again, he had no reason to believe she would renew their acquaintance.
Balfour brought up a hand to conceal his mouth from the others, and leant nearer to provoke him again. “You want to ride ahead to be certain that Pemberley looks its best for its new mistress? Be sure the grand staircase is polished. Shall you offer your hand to Miss Bingley in a fortnight?”
Darcy scowled. “Spare me from ever offering for Bingley's sister."
Can a Derbyshire meeting lead to love or will Pemberley be plunged into mystery?
In the rainy summer of 1812, Mr Darcy returns to Pemberley with a large party in the hope that coming home will help him recover from his disappointment. He lost Elizabeth Bennet’s good opinion, but Darcy did all he could to rectify his errors. Meanwhile, Elizabeth hopes that travelling with a newly-wed Jane and Bingley will raise her spirits and distract her from thoughts of Darcy.
When a misunderstanding causes the Bingley party and Darcy’s to spend a fortnight together at Pemberley, both Elizabeth and Darcy wonder if the other could love them. When the season’s wet and cold weather causes flooding throughout Derbyshire, Darcy’s attention reluctantly shifts from his guests–and Elizabeth–to managing the tragedy.
But when someone drowns and Darcy refuses to believe their death was an accident from the storm, he and Elizabeth must work together to uncover the truth before his houseguests leave, and before anyone else gets hurt.
An Appearance of Goodness is available in KU, ebook, and paperback.
When you read an Austen variation, do you like to see original characters in the mix?