Coincidence is a funny thing.
Roughly a year and a half ago as I was writing The Trouble With Mr. Darcy and paying careful attention to the timeline for the events taking place in March of the year 1820. Suddenly it occurred to me that maybe Easter was on the horizon. I had to look it up, digging a bit to discover the precise date – April 2 in case you were curious – and luckily that not only fit the timeline nicely but having the Darcys enmeshed in celebratory Easter traditions aided the bigger plot line involving Wickham. Score! I love it when coincidence works to my advantage!
Logically it was unavoidable. Easter has been celebrated for some 2000 years and the citizens of early 19th century England, where the Church was an integral aspect of daily life, would not ignore the numerous customs. Sepulchres, Maundy Thursday, hot cross buns, colored eggs, Morris Dancers, a parade, and lilies are merely a sampling of the Easter details enjoyed by the Darcys. The more I dug into Easter two-hundred years ago the more I uncovered. I tried to sprinkle the week with as many of the historical tidbits as I could since I was fascinated by the unique practices as I always am when it comes to history.
Yet as much fun as that was – and it WAS fun! – I grew increasingly enthused over how the Darcys’ distraction with introducing their son to religious observances and planning a picnic in Hyde Park with all their friends played into the nefarious plans of Wickham. Oh, that bad, bad man!
So for weeks I scoured the internet for Easter minutiae of long ago, enjoying myself thoroughly, and never once did it dawn on me that The Trouble With Mr. Darcy would be released around Easter of 2011. Not once!
Coincidence is indeed a funny thing.
All that Easter knowledge and the list of bookmarked websites pertaining to the topic came in handy this past week when the group of novelist who comprise Austen Author – the group blog Abigail Reynolds and I formed – decided to pay homage to Easter week. I had no problem writing several articles on Easter traditions! We had terrific fun chatting about the holiday so click on over if interested:www.austenauthors.com
For me personally it was a joy to write the Darcys celebrating. Easter is a favorite for me and our family. Our traditions vary from how the English observe today and especially 200 years ago, but the foundation of recognizing the Resurrection of Christ with all the spiritual implications inherent is dear to my heart. Since I have written the Darcy family as faithful members of the Church it was like honoring Jesus’ triumph twice that year!
Today is Easter Monday, a day of importance to many persons of faith with specific traditions associated. First Lady Michelle Obama will initiate the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn as has been done since 1878. So you see, Easter isn’t yet over therefore I believe it is apropos to share a bit of Darcy Easter fun! Here is an excerpt from The Trouble With Mr. Darcy for your reading pleasure and enlightenment!
Carved sepulchers of stone and wood created for Easter commemorations were once a common fixture in ancient churches. Some were simple works of art depicting the burial place of Christ with sleeping soldiers or visiting women carved as a niche in the wall of the church. Other sepulchres, such as this one, were large, elaborate sculptures with the entire story of Christ’s burial and resurrection conveyed in detailed etchings surrounding and on the tombs. Steeped in history and a fair amount of mystery due to lost documents and the ritual being banned during the Reformation, this ceremony was a highlight whenever Darcy managed to be in London for Easter.
Darcy, Alexander, Georgiana, and George joined a large gathering observing the formal rite. Sacred hymns recounting the Passion were sung by the choir as four dark-robed, barefooted monks walked soberly down the aisle carrying a red velvet draped cushion upon which rested a plain wooden cross with an exquisite effigy of Christ in gold. Reverently, the cross was placed beside the candle-encircled sepulchre, the monks falling to their knees and bowing before the image with foreheads touching the floor. Lifting mere inches to bestow a kiss to the sculpted feet, they then crept backwards as the waiting monks lowered to their knees and in the same humble pose approached the cross to kiss.
The assembled clergy completed that part of the ceremony, forming a ring of kneeling worshippers around the cross. It was then that the priest rose from his seat, slowly descended the steps of the chancel and front of the nave until standing with his brothers directly before the cross. With calm deliberation he removed his traditional vestures to reveal an unadorned black cassock, his eyes never leaving the graven face of suffering as he handed the garments to a waiting monk, removed his shoes, and bent to his knees. Crawling forward, he too respectfully kissed the nailed feet of his Savior before rising and lifting the laden cross high above his head for all in the audience to see.
The heavy lid of the wooden tomb was opened and the crucifix placed inside with due pomp. Responsories were sung by the choir, sweet incense burned both inside and around the tomb, the lid closed and sealed with wax, and lastly covered with gold trimmed damask. The priest chose the first two sextons to be given the honor of guarding the sepulchre, a responsibility taken seriously and shared with other clergy in shifts until Easter morning.
“Papa, will Jesus be lonely inside the box?” Alexander asked as they left the church. It was the first words he had uttered since entering St. Sepulchre nearly an hour earlier, the boy studiously attentive to the ceremony throughout. The innocent query, asked with grave concern and a deep frown, brought instant laughter. The lighthearted response of the adults only increased Alexander’s worry and tears welled in his eyes.
“Not at all, sweetling. First off, this Jesus is pretend. It is a statue only, as the real Jesus is in Heaven, right?” Alexander nodded, although not totally convinced. Darcy hugged him tighter, kissing the crease between the toddler’s knitted brows.
Darcy tried to explain the concept of ceremony and symbolism with limited success, but Alexander’s fears were not fully allayed until George said, “Jesus is taking a nap in the box, Alexander. He is tired after being carried about. The nice men will keep him company and open the box in two days once He is rested.”
Darcy opened his mouth to refute that nonsensical explanation, but the cheery expression on Alexander’s face halted him. In the end, he realized there would be plenty of time in the future to give theological lectures!
About the Author:
Sharon Lathan is the author of the bestselling novels Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, My Dearest Mr. Darcy and In The Arms of Mr. Darcy. Sharon also wrote a novella as part of an anthology with Amanda Grange and Carolyn Eberhart, A Darcy Christmas. In addition to her writing, she works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. For more information, please visit www.sharonlathan.net. Come to Austen Authors – www.austenauthors.com where Sharon and twenty other authors of Austen fiction blog together.
Sourcebooks Landmark ISBN 1402237545
Even charmed lives will encounter troubles along the way….
After a time of happiness and strife, Darcy and Elizabeth gather with family and friends in Hertfordshire to celebrate the wedding of Kitty Bennet. Georgiana Darcy returns from a lengthy tour of the Continent with happy secrets to share, accompanied by the newlywed Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Simone, who may have secrets of their own. The stage is set for joy until the party is upset by the arrival of the long absent Mr. and Mrs. Wickham.
Wickham’s jealousy and resentment of Darcy has grown steadily throughout the years and Darcy rightly suspects that Wickham is up to no good. Darcy enlists the aid of Colonel Fitzwilliam to keep an eye on Wickham’s activity, but neither anticipate the extreme measures taken to exact his revenge. Nor do they fathom the layers of deception and persons involved in the scheme.
George Wickham returns to Hertfordshire bent on creating trouble, and Elizabeth and her son are thrown into danger. Knowing that Wickham has nothing left to lose, Darcy and Fitzwilliam rush to the rescue in a race against time. This lushly romantic story takes a turn for the swashbuckling when Mr. Darcy has to confront the villainous Wickham and his own demons at the same time… devoted as he is, what battles within will Mr. Darcy have to face?