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Archive for January, 2010

I’ve read Jane Austen’s Persuasion many times, but it was only recently that I read this passage and puzzled over it.

Anne…hastened forward to the White Hart, to see again the friends and companions of the last autumn, with an eagerness of goodwill which many associations contributed to form. They found Mrs. Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves, and Anne had the kindest welcome from each. Henrietta was exactly in that state of recently improved views, of fresh-formed happiness, which made her full of regard and interest for everybody she had ever liked before at all; and Mrs. Musgrove’s real affection had been won by her usefulness when they were in distress. It was a heartiness, and a warmth, and a sincerity which Anne delighted in the more, from the sad want of such blessings at home. She was intreated to give them as much of her time as possible, invited for every day and all day long, or rather claimed as a part of the family; and, in return, she naturally fell into all her wonted ways of attention and assistance, and on Charles’s leaving them together, was listening to Mrs. Musgrove’s history of Louisa, and to Henrietta’s of herself, giving opinions on business, and recommendations to shops; with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.

The part that puzzled me was about the White Hart and the fact that Mary could stand at the window and see the entrance to the Pump Room. The only White Hart I know in Bath is in Widcombe, but nowhere near the Pump Room. After a little further investigation I discovered that there had been a White Hart Coaching Inn situated opposite the Pump Room in Stall Street. It was a major coaching inn – Charles Dickens also makes mention of it in Pickwick Papers.

And at seven o’clock p.m. Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and Mr. Dowler and his wife, respectively retired to their private sitting-rooms at the White Hart Hotel, opposite the Great Pump Room, Bath, the waiters, from their costume, might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destroy the illusion by behaving themselves much better.

Not only was this building eventually demolished but the Grand Pump Room Hotel which replaced it was also pulled down in1958/9 to be replaced by shops. I found this really interesting site with lots of images of Bath from the past Click here to see Bath in Time.

Another wonderful site is Bath360 If you click the link you can see what the Pump Rooms look like today – the White Hart and Grand Hotel are shops today, which can be glimpsed through the colonnade.

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I’ve read Jane Austen’s Persuasion many times, but it was only recently that I read this passage and puzzled over it.

Anne…hastened forward to the White Hart, to see again the friends and companions of the last autumn, with an eagerness of goodwill which many associations contributed to form. They found Mrs. Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves, and Anne had the kindest welcome from each. Henrietta was exactly in that state of recently improved views, of fresh-formed happiness, which made her full of regard and interest for everybody she had ever liked before at all; and Mrs. Musgrove’s real affection had been won by her usefulness when they were in distress. It was a heartiness, and a warmth, and a sincerity which Anne delighted in the more, from the sad want of such blessings at home. She was intreated to give them as much of her time as possible, invited for every day and all day long, or rather claimed as a part of the family; and, in return, she naturally fell into all her wonted ways of attention and assistance, and on Charles’s leaving them together, was listening to Mrs. Musgrove’s history of Louisa, and to Henrietta’s of herself, giving opinions on business, and recommendations to shops; with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.

The part that puzzled me was about the White Hart and the fact that Mary could stand at the window and see the entrance to the Pump Room. The only White Hart I know in Bath is in Widcombe, but nowhere near the Pump Room. After a little further investigation I discovered that there had been a White Hart Coaching Inn situated opposite the Pump Room in Stall Street. It was a major coaching inn – Charles Dickens also makes mention of it in Pickwick Papers.

And at seven o’clock p.m. Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and Mr. Dowler and his wife, respectively retired to their private sitting-rooms at the White Hart Hotel, opposite the Great Pump Room, Bath, the waiters, from their costume, might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destroy the illusion by behaving themselves much better.

Not only was this building eventually demolished but the Grand Pump Room Hotel which replaced it was also pulled down in1958/9 to be replaced by shops. I found this really interesting site with lots of images of Bath from the past Click here to see Bath in Time.

Another wonderful site is Bath360 If you click the link you can see what the Pump Rooms look like today – the White Hart and Grand Hotel are shops today, which can be glimpsed through the colonnade.

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I’m in Bath today, and whenever I’m here, my thoughts turn to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. My painting of the Pump Room was inspired by Jane Austen’s letters – as a young girl Jane came to Bath and stayed with her aunt and uncle Leigh-Perrot – I feel sure her first reactions to Bath were probably like Catherine Morland’s: Catherine was all eager delight — her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs… Later on when her father retired, she came to live in Bath and from this time many writers have concluded that she was unhappy here because her letters talk of leaving the city with “what happy feelings of Escape”. I am not sure that I entirely agree with this point of view, (it was not in her nature to be so melancholy) although undoubtedly the death of her father and their resulting straitened circumstances would have had their impact. I’m sure she was glad to leave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean her time spent here was completely awful. After all, both heroines from her novels set in Bath find their happy endings here – Catherine and Henry Tilney, and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth fall in love in Bath and I cannot think they would have done so if Jane had disliked Bath so much.
Anyway, here is an extract from Northanger Abbey for your delight. Just one more note – it always amuses me that the flighty Isabella is unimpressed with the book, Sir Charles Grandison. This novel by Samuel Richardson was one of Jane Austen’s favourites – her family all loved and enjoyed it, quoting passages and lines from it, as we might from Pride and Prejudice or any of Jane’s other novels.
The following conversation, which took place between the two friends in the pump–room one morning, after an acquaintance of eight or nine days, is given as a specimen of their very warm attachment, and of the delicacy, discretion, originality of thought, and literary taste which marked the reasonableness of that attachment.

They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address naturally was, “My dearest creature, what can have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!”

“Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in very good time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?”

“Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. But now, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves. I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid it would rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now — very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it. But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly about it.”

“Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?”

“Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter that if he was to tease me all night, I would not dance with him, unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know, and I am determined to show them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is not at all likely, for you are just the kind of girl to be a great favourite with the men.”

“Oh, dear!” cried Catherine, colouring. “How can you say so?”

“I know you very well; you have so much animation, which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants, for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her. Oh! I must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a young man looking at you so earnestly — I am sure he is in love with you.” Catherine coloured, and disclaimed again. Isabella laughed. “It is very true, upon my honour, but I see how it is; you are indifferent to everybody’s admiration, except that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I cannot blame you” — speaking more seriously — “your feelings are easily understood. Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object! I can perfectly comprehend your feelings.”

“But you should not persuade me that I think so very much about Mr. Tilney, for perhaps I may never see him again.”

“Not see him again! My dearest creature, do not talk of it. I am sure you would be miserable if you thought so!”

“No, indeed, I should not. I do not pretend to say that I was not very much pleased with him; but while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sure there must be Laurentina’s skeleton behind it.”

“It is so odd to me, that you should never have read Udolpho before; but I suppose Mrs. Morland objects to novels.”

“No, she does not. She very often reads Sir Charles Grandison herself; but new books do not fall in our way.”

“Sir Charles Grandison! That is an amazing horrid book, is it not? I remember Miss Andrews could not get through the first volume.”

“It is not like Udolpho at all; but yet I think it is very entertaining.”

“Do you indeed! You surprise me; I thought it had not been readable. But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight? I am determined at all events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of that sometimes, you know.”

“But it does not signify if they do,” said Catherine, very innocently.

“Signify! Oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

“Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always behave very well to me.”

“Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! By the by, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what is your favourite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?”

“I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think. Brown — not fair, and — and not very dark.”

“Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney — ‘a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion — do you know — I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description.”

“Betray you! What do you mean?”

“Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop the subject.”

Catherine, in some amazement, complied, and after remaining a few moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina’s skeleton, when her friend prevented her, by saying, “For heaven’s sake! Let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow us there.”

Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it was Catherine’s employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.

“They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will not look up.”

In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the pump–room.

“And which way are they gone?” said Isabella, turning hastily round. “One was a very good–looking young man.”

“They went towards the church–yard.”

“Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it.”

Catherine readily agreed. “Only,” she added, “perhaps we may overtake the two young men.”

“Oh! Never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.”

“But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all.”

“I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.”

Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men.

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I’m in Bath today, and whenever I’m here, my thoughts turn to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. My painting of the Pump Room was inspired by Jane Austen’s letters – as a young girl Jane came to Bath and stayed with her aunt and uncle Leigh-Perrot – I feel sure her first reactions to Bath were probably like Catherine Morland’s: Catherine was all eager delight — her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs… Later on when her father retired, she came to live in Bath and from this time many writers have concluded that she was unhappy here because her letters talk of leaving the city with “what happy feelings of Escape”. I am not sure that I entirely agree with this point of view, (it was not in her nature to be so melancholy) although undoubtedly the death of her father and their resulting straitened circumstances would have had their impact. I’m sure she was glad to leave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean her time spent here was completely awful. After all, both heroines from her novels set in Bath find their happy endings here – Catherine and Henry Tilney, and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth fall in love in Bath and I cannot think they would have done so if Jane had disliked Bath so much.
Anyway, here is an extract from Northanger Abbey for your delight. Just one more note – it always amuses me that the flighty Isabella is unimpressed with the book, Sir Charles Grandison. This novel by Samuel Richardson was one of Jane Austen’s favourites – her family all loved and enjoyed it, quoting passages and lines from it, as we might from Pride and Prejudice or any of Jane’s other novels.
The following conversation, which took place between the two friends in the pump–room one morning, after an acquaintance of eight or nine days, is given as a specimen of their very warm attachment, and of the delicacy, discretion, originality of thought, and literary taste which marked the reasonableness of that attachment.

They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address naturally was, “My dearest creature, what can have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!”

“Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in very good time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?”

“Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. But now, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves. I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid it would rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now — very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it. But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly about it.”

“Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?”

“Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter that if he was to tease me all night, I would not dance with him, unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know, and I am determined to show them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is not at all likely, for you are just the kind of girl to be a great favourite with the men.”

“Oh, dear!” cried Catherine, colouring. “How can you say so?”

“I know you very well; you have so much animation, which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants, for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her. Oh! I must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a young man looking at you so earnestly — I am sure he is in love with you.” Catherine coloured, and disclaimed again. Isabella laughed. “It is very true, upon my honour, but I see how it is; you are indifferent to everybody’s admiration, except that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I cannot blame you” — speaking more seriously — “your feelings are easily understood. Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object! I can perfectly comprehend your feelings.”

“But you should not persuade me that I think so very much about Mr. Tilney, for perhaps I may never see him again.”

“Not see him again! My dearest creature, do not talk of it. I am sure you would be miserable if you thought so!”

“No, indeed, I should not. I do not pretend to say that I was not very much pleased with him; but while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sure there must be Laurentina’s skeleton behind it.”

“It is so odd to me, that you should never have read Udolpho before; but I suppose Mrs. Morland objects to novels.”

“No, she does not. She very often reads Sir Charles Grandison herself; but new books do not fall in our way.”

“Sir Charles Grandison! That is an amazing horrid book, is it not? I remember Miss Andrews could not get through the first volume.”

“It is not like Udolpho at all; but yet I think it is very entertaining.”

“Do you indeed! You surprise me; I thought it had not been readable. But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight? I am determined at all events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of that sometimes, you know.”

“But it does not signify if they do,” said Catherine, very innocently.

“Signify! Oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

“Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always behave very well to me.”

“Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! By the by, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what is your favourite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?”

“I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think. Brown — not fair, and — and not very dark.”

“Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney — ‘a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion — do you know — I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description.”

“Betray you! What do you mean?”

“Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop the subject.”

Catherine, in some amazement, complied, and after remaining a few moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina’s skeleton, when her friend prevented her, by saying, “For heaven’s sake! Let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow us there.”

Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it was Catherine’s employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.

“They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will not look up.”

In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the pump–room.

“And which way are they gone?” said Isabella, turning hastily round. “One was a very good–looking young man.”

“They went towards the church–yard.”

“Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it.”

Catherine readily agreed. “Only,” she added, “perhaps we may overtake the two young men.”

“Oh! Never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.”

“But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all.”

“I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.”

Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men.

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When Jane Austen was growing up in Steventon, Hampshire, she enjoyed the kind of social gatherings that we are familiar with in her novels. Local families like the Lloyds, the Lefroys and the Bigg-Withers were friends, and at some time all became romantically connected to the Austen family. These families enjoyed a similar position in local society and met at one another’s houses and were also invited into the upper circles where they might attend a ball. The aristocratic families included Lord Portsmouth at Hurstbourne, Lord Bolton of Hackwood and Lord Dorchester of Greywell. Squires included the Portals at Freefolk, Bramstons at Oakley Hall, Jervoises at Herriard, Harwoods at Deane, Terrys at Dummer and the Holders at Ashe Park – all names which can be found amongst Jane Austen’s letters.

The Rev. George Lefroy and his wife Anne who lived at Ashe had a considerable influence upon the Austen sisters. Jane’s relationship with Anne was particularly close even though there was an age gap of over 25 years. The feelings Jane had for her friend are shown in a poem which was written four years after Anne’s death. Tragically, Mrs Lefroy was thrown from a horse and died on Jane’s 29th birthday.

Angelic Woman! past my power to praise
In Language meet, thy Talents, Temper, mind.
Thy solid Worth, they captivating Grace!-
Thou friend and ornament of Humankind!-

But it was Anne’s nephew Thomas who has interested Jane’s admirers ever since. Jane’s letters reveal how much she enjoyed Tom’s company and it is clear that she spent some time flirting and dancing with him at balls and local assemblies whenever the opportunity arose for the few weeks he stayed with his aunt in the Christmas holidays.

You scold me so much in the nice long letter which I have this moment received from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.I can expose myself however, only once more, because he leaves the country soon after next Friday, on which day we are to have a dance at Ashe after all. He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you. But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed at about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago.

Unfortunately, there are only a few teasing references to tell us about this ‘courtship’ and by the 16th January 1796 Jane was writing to her sister to say that Tom Lefroy would shortly be leaving to go home to Ireland. She may not have known at this point that he had probably already decided that he was to marry the sister of his friend, Mary Paul.

It’s hard to know if Jane’s tears really flowed but I think it was most likely with her tongue pressed firmly into her cheek that she wrote the following:

At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this it will be over. My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.

Still, we shall never really know the truth of the matter unless some of those lost letters written between 1796-8 ever surface. In later life, Tom Lefroy did admit he had been in love with Jane Austen, but that it had been a ‘boys love’. Jane may have lost her heart temporarily – perhaps it was Tom Lefroy she was thinking of when she started writing First Impressions soon after, which, in turn later became Pride and Prejudice. It would be rather lovely to think that there had been a romance, but Jane would have known that her prospects for ‘securing’ him would have been slim. He was still training to be a lawyer and she had no money herself, and in those days, well brought up people did not disoblige their families by marrying for love alone, though this was a dictum that Jane seems to have railed against, if only in her books.

I recently read The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner. They show a fascinating picture of life in Hampshire from 1800 -1804

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When Jane Austen was growing up in Steventon, Hampshire, she enjoyed the kind of social gatherings that we are familiar with in her novels. Local families like the Lloyds, the Lefroys and the Bigg-Withers were friends, and at some time all became romantically connected to the Austen family. These families enjoyed a similar position in local society and met at one another’s houses and were also invited into the upper circles where they might attend a ball. The aristocratic families included Lord Portsmouth at Hurstbourne, Lord Bolton of Hackwood and Lord Dorchester of Greywell. Squires included the Portals at Freefolk, Bramstons at Oakley Hall, Jervoises at Herriard, Harwoods at Deane, Terrys at Dummer and the Holders at Ashe Park – all names which can be found amongst Jane Austen’s letters.

The Rev. George Lefroy and his wife Anne who lived at Ashe had a considerable influence upon the Austen sisters. Jane’s relationship with Anne was particularly close even though there was an age gap of over 25 years. The feelings Jane had for her friend are shown in a poem which was written four years after Anne’s death. Tragically, Mrs Lefroy was thrown from a horse and died on Jane’s 29th birthday.

Angelic Woman! past my power to praise
In Language meet, thy Talents, Temper, mind.
Thy solid Worth, they captivating Grace!-
Thou friend and ornament of Humankind!-

But it was Anne’s nephew Thomas who has interested Jane’s admirers ever since. Jane’s letters reveal how much she enjoyed Tom’s company and it is clear that she spent some time flirting and dancing with him at balls and local assemblies whenever the opportunity arose for the few weeks he stayed with his aunt in the Christmas holidays.

You scold me so much in the nice long letter which I have this moment received from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.I can expose myself however, only once more, because he leaves the country soon after next Friday, on which day we are to have a dance at Ashe after all. He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you. But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed at about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago.

Unfortunately, there are only a few teasing references to tell us about this ‘courtship’ and by the 16th January 1796 Jane was writing to her sister to say that Tom Lefroy would shortly be leaving to go home to Ireland. She may not have known at this point that he had probably already decided that he was to marry the sister of his friend, Mary Paul.

It’s hard to know if Jane’s tears really flowed but I think it was most likely with her tongue pressed firmly into her cheek that she wrote the following:

At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this it will be over. My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.

Still, we shall never really know the truth of the matter unless some of those lost letters written between 1796-8 ever surface. In later life, Tom Lefroy did admit he had been in love with Jane Austen, but that it had been a ‘boys love’. Jane may have lost her heart temporarily – perhaps it was Tom Lefroy she was thinking of when she started writing First Impressions soon after, which, in turn later became Pride and Prejudice. It would be rather lovely to think that there had been a romance, but Jane would have known that her prospects for ‘securing’ him would have been slim. He was still training to be a lawyer and she had no money herself, and in those days, well brought up people did not disoblige their families by marrying for love alone, though this was a dictum that Jane seems to have railed against, if only in her books.

I recently read The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend, edited by Helen Lefroy and Gavin Turner. They show a fascinating picture of life in Hampshire from 1800 -1804

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Here’s a review for Willoughby’s Return from the Jane Austen Centre online magazine!

Set four years after the close of Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby’s Return starts off apace with a surprise visitor (no, not that one…) plans for a ball and mounting tension in the Brandon household. Marianne Brandon wonders if she has lost that part of herself that used to be so wildly impetuous and romantic. Has marriage and motherhood irrevocably changed the girl that her husband fell in love with… or was he ever in love with her at all? It is possible that he only married her because of her resemblance to his lost love? While their marriage seems outwardly happy, Colonel Brandon’s many extended visits to Eliza Williams and her daughter cause Marianne to wonder if he might find her, so very like her mother, to be his true heart’s home.

Meanwhile, at Barton Cottage, Margaret Dashwood prepares for her first grand ball—and an introduction to one on whom all her hopes of future happiness depend. Mrs. Jennings, ever a convenient source of gossip is full of the news of Mrs. Smith’s imminent demise and the return of the Willoughbys to claim Allenham as their own.

It is impossible that all should not meet, that relationships and passions once lost should not be rekindled, for Willoughby, too, has not been unaffected by the passing years. Realizing the mistakes of his youth, how he had valued the demands of his pocketbook above those of his heart. Is it too late for true love? Can the past be undone? Are future generations doomed to repeat his mistakes?

Fans of Sense and Sensibility will rejoice to find all their old familiar friends (Middletons, Steels, Ferrars and more) once more in “all the old familiar places”. From cozy scenes at Delaford and Barton Cottage to the hectic rush of a Season in London, author Jane Odiwe constructs a compelling tale of love in all its forms. Appealing to all ages, fans of happy endings will be delighted with how the author spins her story, weaving suspense and intrigue into a well-crafted tale that manages to answer the many questions left by the original.

True love does conquer all!

There’s lots of information on the Jane Austen Centre’s fabulous website for interested Janeites and they have a sale on at the moment in their gift shop! Becca, the shop manager has recently joined Twitter – you can follow her tweets by clicking here!

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