Friday, December 26, 2008

Jane Austen: International Woman of Mystery?

Writer, wit, woman ahead of her time. Jane Austen has been called all of those. But what about her private side?

Though her books deal with romance and marriage proposals, Jane never married. That doesn’t mean that she was never in love. Those of you who saw Becoming Jane know that supposedly she had a tendre for young man named Tom Lefroy. A few years older than Jane, Lefroy was the nephew of the family at a rectory near Jane’s home in Steventon. Jane said of him, “He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man.” They had a lovely flirtation over the course of the winter in 1796 when Jane was 20. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, who was at the time up in Berkshire visiting her fiancĂ©’s family, Jane wrote, “Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.” Go, Jane!

But Lefroy wandered out of Jane’s life, and nothing more happened (despite Hollywood’s pretensions). In the next 5 years, Jane received and refused at least one other proposal of marriage. Then, when she was around 25, she and Cassandra spent some time along the seashore. There they met a splendid gentleman, passionate, determined. He and Jane fell madly in love.

And then he disappeared.

Jane and Cassandra heard shortly afterward that he had died. Jane was so upset she stopped writing for several years. She was to receive at least two more proposals of marriage, one of which would have allowed her to live a life of leisure in her beloved hometown. She refused.

So, who was this gentleman? We may never know. The story goes that Cassandra was so worried about Jane’s depression that she cut all mention of the fellow from any letters or materials available to spare her sister’s feelings. Jane’s true love remains shrouded in mystery.

Not so the winner of our Jane extravaganza! Come back Tuesday when Marissa will whip out her trusty Red Sox hat and pull forth the name of the winner. You have until this Sunday at midnight to a post comment to be in the running.

3 comments:

QNPoohBear said...

I got the impression that Jane's comments about Tom LeFroy were kind of said in jest. It sounds like she had affection for him but I guess we'll never know how much. I enjoyed Miss Austen Regrets on PBS despite some inaccuracies and what-ifs.

Liviania said...

I love how Jane's mysterious romantic life is just as interesting as those she wrote.

Addie said...

She certainly was a woman ahead of her time. Very independent.