Don’t be deceived by this picture of Henry Austen. Henry was definitely more cheerful than his expression here, particularly during his youth. He was charming and quite a good talker, that man. An attractive young lad and the fact that he was a member of
Yes…Henry Austen was Jane’s favourite brother, the was Edward Austen was to Cassandra (Chapman 1949). In the Memoir of Jane Austen, Caroline Austen called Henry as Jane’s ‘especial pride and delight’. Indeed, she acknowledged his mischievousness, but in a loving way. In fact, ‘Oh, what a Henry!’ was her comment on him as she wrote to Cassandra on
Henry Austen was born on
After marrying Eliza, Henry went to Ireland with his regiment in March 1799 (Tomalin 2000). And see this: there was no surviving JA letters after
Let me offer an explanation here: Tom Lefroy married Mary Paul on March 16, 1799 in North Wales, England (Lefroy 1871). The wedding was conducted in England because Ireland at that time was not considered safe, due to the Rebellion in Ireland. Did Jane learn of this marriage, hence the absence of letters for four months?
Also, if Henry indeed met Tom in
We can find Jane’s correspondence later from May 17th to
Henry Austen stayed in
In page 37 of the Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, the young Thomas Lefroy (Tom Lefroy’s son) mentioned that his father (the original Tom Lefroy) loved County Wicklow (Lefroy 1871). Coincidentally, the BJ filmmakers chose it as the BJ location, apparently independent of the knowledge (I might be wrong, but Julian Jarrold would NOT conceal such an important matter). Okay, what does it have to do with Henry Austen?
Now, perhaps Henry still had grudges over Tom for what happened between the Irish lad and his sister. But they were friends after all, and I am sure that both were capable of setting aside the past and at least talked out of respect. And what if (one of) the place(s) was somewhere in Wicklow, when both lads would talk of things… including of Jane? That would be a good reason for Tom to spend time in Wicklow contemplating, especially if Wicklow bore a resemblance with Hampshire (the feeling that Julian Jarrold &c caught more than two hundred years later). For the record, Tom Lefroy indeed wrote many letters to his wife (and I do believe that he loved her... but he still could not forget Jane Austen entirely), but all letters were dated 1810 and beyond. None predated 1810, let alone 1799. It is also interesting to note that Chief Justice Tom Lefroy spent the three last years of his life in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, in a villa of Newcourt he rented in 1866. He died there as well on May 4th, 1869 (Lefroy, 1871, p. 382).
Anyway, Henry apparently enjoyed his stay in Ireland, although he had to occasionally attended the boring parties of the Viceroy (Lord Cornwallis) and Lord Spencer (Nokes 1997; Tomalin 2000). And yes, this Spencer was the ancestor of the late Lady Diana of
A very caring brother, Henry helped Jane a lot with the publications of her books. Henry sold Susan to Crosby & Co in 1803 (for £10). In 1811, Jane stayed with him and Eliza in
Henry Austen died in 1850 without leaving any descendants or any letters between him and his sister Jane. So unfortunate, for I truly believe that we can learn more of Jane Austen (and Tom Lefroy!) from Henry’s letters.
By the way, Becoming Jane has a discrepancy with Eliza’s death, for by the time Jane met Tom Lefroy in
Oh, and I just learned that Becoming Jane was filmed in Killruddery in Bray, County Wicklow! (See also the post from Austenblog). Austenblog also said that BJ was shot in Ardmore Studio, just outside Bray. Bray, the place where the real Tom Lefroy died. Okay, make me a liar, guys... but it's rather spooky! No wonder it rained almost all the time!Reference:
Chapman, R. W. 1949, Jane Austen: Facts and Problems, Oxford University Press, reprint from 1948, Oxford.
Chapman, R. W. 1979, Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Lefroy, T. 1871, Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, Hodges, Foster & Co., Dublin.
Nokes, D. 1997, Jane Austen: A Life, Fourth Estate, London.
Tomalin, C. 2000, Jane Austen: A Life, Penguin Books, London.
Pic 1: Henry Austen, c 1820 (from Memoir of Jane Austen)
Pic 2: Henry's wedding with Eliza de Feullide (Jane Austen Regency World Magazine)
Pic 3: Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) and Henry Austen (Joe Anderson) in 'Becoming Jane'
Pic 4: Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway), Eliza de Feullide (Lucy Cohu) and Henry Austen in 'Becoming Jane'