As I was watching Kate Beckinsale’s Emma just now, I was struck (again) by how many Irish reference are there, and how I could be so blind not to make the connections. Remembering what Radovici wrote in ‘A Youthful Love: Jane Austen & Tom Lefroy?’ (p. 30) that Jane Austen made several Irish references in Emma, I pulled out my copy and skimmed the pages. And, recalling what Arnie said about Jane Austen’s own bread crumbs, I indeed found possible clues Jane left for us regarding her star-crossed love story with Tom Lefroy in Emma.
Now, I might be wrong, but I think Emma is the only Austen novel that has sprinkles of
I think Jane made at least two references of Tom Lefroy in Emma: Mr. Dixon and Frank Churchill. Of course, she mixed them with other characters as well; Frank Churchill was raised by his relatives the way Edward Austen (Knight) was. Mr. Dixon was an Irishman, ‘a most amiable, charming young man’, according to Miss Bates, who also added that ‘Jane [Fairfax] was quite longing to go to Ireland, from his account of things’ for ‘he [Mr. Dixon] had shown them some drawings of the place, views that he had taken himself’ (Emma, Volume II chapter 1). Hmmm, I bet Jane Austen also longed to go to
That was not the only time Mr. Dixon was promoted. Of course the story teller in the chapter was Miss Bates, who loved to chat about anything, thus her promoting the Irishman would not seem so odd. But I counted from my Penguin edition (2003) that Mr. Dixon was praised in at least four pages (149, 150, 155 and 164). That’s quite a lot for an Irishman that never truly appeared in the story.
In page 150 (Volume II chapter 1), Miss Bates continued rattling, ‘He [Mr. Dixon] is a most charming young man… I have been so fond of Mr. Dixon!’ In page 155 (Volume II chapter 2), Mr. Dixon’s charm was mentioned again: ‘Miss Campbell…engaged the affections of Mr. Dixon, a young man, rich and agreeable, almost as soon as they were acquainted; and was eligibly and happily settled, while Jane Fairfax had yet her bread to earn’.
Was Jane Austen talking of Mary Paul as she wrote Miss Campbell, or also of her old self who engaged the affections of Tom Lefroy almost as soon as they were acquainted? It could be both. But the last line (‘Jane Fairfax had yet her bread to earn’) was surely about Jane Austen herself, for by the time Tom married Mary, Jane was barely holding her own financial life.
In page 164 (Volume II chapter 3), Mr. Dixon’s charm was mentioned again by Miss Bates: ‘And Mr. Dixon seems a very charming young man, quite worthy of him.’ This Irish Mr.
And there was Frank Churchill, who pretended to tease Jane Fairfax, but in actually was secretly engaged with her, lest his aunt (Mrs. Churchill) would be mad because he was in love with a woman of no significant rank. Well, Tom Lefroy’s aunt (Mrs. Anne Lefroy) was also a bit cautious of Tom’s unexpected development with Jane Austen. Could it be that Tom and Jane resumed their relationship secretly for a while; at least after January 1796 and before November 1798? (This bread crumb continues in the upcoming post about
I also think that Frank Churchill's benefactor (Mrs. Churchill) might be the equivalent of Benjamin Langlois for Tom Lefroy. Mrs. Churchill and Mr. Langlois were both rich, and with NO offspring. And after all, the Judge was the benefactor of Tom's family, someone Tom should not mess with.
Another Irish reference in Emma that I found most intriguing was of the music. Frank Churchill was a talented singer, ‘he was accused of having a delightful voice, and a perfect knowledge of music…They had sung together once or twice…’ (Volume II chapter 8, p. 212).
My previous post referencing Jane and Tom singing together (taken from the book ‘From Ireland to Western Australia’, Cranfield 1960) had this quote:
He [Tom] had an agreeable tenor voice, while she [Jane] had a light soprano, and also played the pianoforte “with great precision.” They sang duets which included melodies from Handel’s Oratorio, “Susannah”, also Scottish and Irish airs of the popular kind.
In my post on Susanna, Arnie has confirmed that Helen Ashton’s ‘Parson Austen’s Daughter’ has the musical reference, so I think the information provided by Cranfield is valid. So, Frank had a delightful voice… and Tom Lefroy was also a good tenor singer. Both Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax sang duets together while Jane played the pianoforte… and so were Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, singing duets while Jane Austen playing the pianoforte. Interesting.
Arnie also provided info that Jane and Tom sang livelier Scotch and Irish airs, e.g. ‘I have laid a herring in saut’, ‘The Yellow Haired Laddie’, and ‘Robin Adair’, with a note that ‘that last supposedly being his favorite’. I’m still waiting for my copy of Ashton’s book, so I cannot check if Helen Ashton suggested it, or was it your own suggestion, Arnie.
In any case, the suggestion must have been inspired by Emma, for Frank Churchill also teased Jane Fairfax (page 226) by going, ‘And here are a new set of Irish melodies.’ And while Jane was playing the pianoforte, he said to Emma that Jane ‘is playing Robin Adair at this moment – his favourite.’ (Penguin notes that Robin Adair was a popular Gaelic Scottish and Irish music in the 18th century, appearing in the first volume of Irish Melodies, under the title of ‘Eileen Aroon’).
Hmmm… Robin Adair was Mr. Dixon’s favourite, eh? Or was it Frank Churchill’s favourite? Either way, I suspect that Robin Adair was one of Tom Lefroy’s favourites. And the fact that Frank Churchill sang duets with Jane Fairfax a few weeks after Christmas reminded me of the 1795 Christmas holiday where Tom Lefroy sang duets with Jane Austen in Hampshire.
Anyway, as Frank Churchill was supposed to have no interest whatsoever with Miss Fairfax, he joined Emma in teasing Miss Fairfax of Mr. Dixon and anything Irish. So, in chapter 10 (Volume II, p. 225), Frank said to Jane Fairfax, ‘How much your friends in
Earlier, Jane Fairfax had received a lovely pianoforte from Mr. X; Emma immediately gossiped with Frank that Mr. Dixon might be the one who sent the instrument. However, it was Frank Churchill who actually sent the pianoforte for Jane, as ‘an offering of love’. Now, I don’t think that Tom Lefroy sent Jane Austen a pianoforte (not even the second hand one, if ever any), for he would be on budget, too obvious and too early a stage if he did want to buy her one. But there were indeed several Irish songs in Jane Austen’s songbook. Is the speculation that Tom did give Jane the book, after all, correct? That Tom gave Jane an Irish songbook as an offering of love, or fondness, at least? And would he not often, or sometimes, think of Jane playing such music with her pianoforte?
One thing is sure for me: the many references to Irish and Irishman in Emma are too good to be coincidence. That must be Jane Austen leaving her bread crumbs there.
In this post, I also mention a possible reference of
Cranfield, R. E. 1960, From Ireland to Western Australia: The Establishment of a Branch of the Lefroy Family at Walebing, Western Australia, 1842 to 1960, Service Printing Perth.
Radovici, N. 1995, A Youthful Love: Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy?, Merlin Books Devon.
Pic 1: cover to the A&E Emma DVD (1996) from Amazon.com
Pic 2: Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Palthrow) in the movie version of Emma, 1996
Pic 3 & 4: from the Jane Austen Centre, U.K.