Saturday, 30 June 2007

Cadell, ‘First Impression’ and Tom Lefroy

According to the Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen and A Memoir of Jane Austen (Austen-Leigh 1871), on November 1st 1797 Mr. Austen wrote to publisher Thomas Cadell regarding the publication of Jane Austen’s earlier version of Pride & Prejudice (i.e. First Impression); the offer was rejected via post. Later, Jane revised First Impression into Pride & Prejudice and published it under different publisher in 1813.

Now, let’s jump seventy two years ahead as Caroline Austen (Jane's niece) wrote a letter to James Edward Austen Leigh (JEAL) regarding JEAL’s attempt to write the ‘Memoir of Jane Austen’. This is the excerpt of Caroline’s letter I quoted from the Memoir (Austen-Leigh 1871, p. 185):

'April 1st [1869?]

My dear Edward

I have lost no time in getting ready all the helps I have to offer for our Aunt’s ‘Life’ – I wish they were more. Memory is treacherous, but I cannot be mistaken in saying that Sense and Sensibility was first written in letters - & so read to her family. Northanger Abbey, under a different name I believe, was the first actually prepared for publication & was sold for (I think 20£) to a publisher – who declared that he had lost the copy – refused to have the loss supplied, and was contented to remain minus his 20£. Afterwards the copyright was purchased back again and it was left, as you know ready for publication at the time of her death – I enclose a copy of Mr. Austen’s letter to Cadell – I do not know which novel he would have sent – The letter does not do much credit to the tact or courtesy of our good Grandfather for Cadell was a great man in his day, and it is not surprising that he should have refused the favour so offered from an unknown – but the circumstance may be worth noting, especially as we have so few incidents to produce. At a sale of Cadell’s papers &c Tom Lefroy picked up the original letter – and Jemima copied it for me –' [bolded sentence by Icha]

Now, let’s focus on the last sentence. ‘Jemima’ was Anna Jemima Lefroy, Anna Lefroy’s eldest daughter who married Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy (TEPL, nephew to the old Tom Lefroy). TEPL would then supply JEAL with the famous letter 16 August 1869 regarding the old Tom Lefroy’s ‘confession’ about his feelings towards Jane Austen. Anna Lefroy (nee Austen), by the way, was Jane Austen’s niece who married Benjamin Lefroy, Tom Lefroy’s cousin from Ashe. Clear as crystal.

Oxford editor Kathryn Sutherland explained that TEPL was the ‘Tom Lefroy’ Caroline mentioned in her letter. TEPL purchased the original letter of Cadell’s refusal and later let Jemima, his wife, copy the letter for Caroline's reference. I think Sutherland was correct, for later in the same letter Caroline Austen used another term to describe the old Tom Lefroy, i.e. ‘the still living ‘Chief Justice’’ (not quoted here).

But what made TEPL obtain Cadell’s letter? Did he go through such efforts to collect and sort Cadell’s papers to find the particular reference to Jane Austen upon Caroline Austen's request? Or … (this is where my ‘Romance of the Forest’ emerge), because he wanted to know more of the woman his uncle (the original Tom Lefroy) used to love, for by then he definitely had learned of the old Tom Lefroy’s ‘boyish love’ towards Jane Austen from the horse’s mouth. The last idea was more tempting to ruminate on a Saturday night, eh?


Austen-Leigh, J. E. 1871, A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections (2002 Oxford edition), Oxford World's Classics, Oxford.

PS 1 July 2007:
I forgot that there was another Tom Lefroy after the original Thomas Langlois Lefroy. The second Tom Lefroy was Thomas Paul Lefroy, Tom Lefroy’s son who wrote the Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy in 1871. Just FYI, and I don’t think this was the Tom Lefroy in Caroline’s letter.

Pic 1: Cover to 'Memoir of Jane Austen' by James Edward Austen-Leigh
Pic 2: Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) in 'Becoming Jane'


Arnie Perlstein said...


You're doing some good sleuthing here, putting pieces together in a fruitful way. My sense is that the root of all the actions taken which ultimately resulted in getting an acknowledgment from the very aged Tom Lefroy of his youthful attachment to Jane Austen was Anna Austen and her descendants. Anna was the keeper of the flame, I think. My guess is that JEAL and Catherine followed Anna's lead.

Icha said...

Thank you so much, Arnie. Coming from a JA detective like yourself, it meant a lot. And I think your opinion re: Anna Austen was pretty valid... although she was a bit defensive in justifying why Mrs. Anne Lefroy separated Tom from Jane. I have to read the biographies more to understand Anna Austen.

By the way, I don't wanna be rude :-D but if you can give me more hints about Henry Austen's visit to Ireland? Thanks pal!

Arnie Perlstein said...

Icha, I could have sworn that I did write you everything I knew about Henry going to Ireland, but now that I browse around your blog, I don't see that I did, so I musta forgot to do it. Here is what I found:

In Nokes's bio of JA, at Ppg. 231-2: Henry "was away on army business in Dublin, dancing attendance on the Lord Lieutenant", spending "his evenings with such dull fellows as Lord Charles Spencer." I think Nokes was quoting from a letter from Henry Austen to his wife Eliza.

Lord Charles Spencer was the son of the third Duke of Marlborough (the first duke was John CHURCHILL, the war hero for whom Blenheim Palace was built 100 years before JA wrote her novels, and who was one of the allusive sources for the character of Frank Churchill, by the way), so he must have been a "player".

And of course this is the same Spencer family which more recently gave the world Lady Di.

That's all I've got, for now, if you find more, please let ME know! ;)

Icha said...

Woooow! Thanks a LOT, Arnie!

No, I didn't receive your possible previous comment, so I thank you again for going through all the troubles in re-writing it.

I will definitely look at Noke's bio more... and perhaps also other books. You're the detective here, but I;m learning. And will let YOU know about anything that I find, of course.

Speaking of which, what do you think of my two latest posts (Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy and Wicklow)?