Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Jane Bennet/Charles Bingley = Jane Austen/Tom Lefroy?

Firstly, I would like to welcome Michelle as our Associate Researcher/Observer. With that role, she’s tied up with providing us more research materials/information she can obtain. Heheheh… (evil grin). Second, I would like to wish all the best for Rachel that will fly to Dublin on Wednesday morning for our particular ‘Mission to Ireland’. Let the detective work there begin.

Third, this particular post is the result of my discussion with our new AR/O re: Pride & Prejudice, the similarities between Jane/Tom and PP calendar created by Ellen Moody (a truly brilliant work, by the way!). During the discussion, I was struck by my oblivion of Jane Bennet and her Mr. Bingley. I should have known that Jane Austen did not just name her characters ‘Jane’ for nothing. In Emma, for example, I suggested that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill practically symbolised JA herself and Tom Lefroy. Thus, why not Jane Bennet in Pride & Prejudice?

In Volume I chapter III, Charles Bingley was described as ‘good looking and gentlemanlike’ with ‘a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners’ (Hmm…he reminds me of Tom Lefroy). According to Ellen’s website, Jane Bennet first met Mr. Bingley (and his silly hair and proper blue coat) on Thursday, October 10th, 1811. Then, to the amazement of the crowds, they danced four dances at the Meryton Assembly on Monday, October 21st , 1811. Later on, Elizabeth Bennet said to Charlotte (Vol I chapter 6) that though the common practice was ‘of being well married’ and ‘to get a rich husband’, but ‘these are not Jane’s feelings’ and that ‘she is not acting by design.’ In another word, Jane Bennet’s feeling towards Charles Bingley was pure affection.

Come to think of it, the way JA ‘used’ Frank Churchill to address herself (by way of Jane Fairfax), it is very likely that JA was actually using Lizzy to tell the audience about her own heart. That Jane Austen herself also danced quite a few dances with Tom Lefroy, an action that also attracted gossips in Basingstokes and Hampshire, not unlike the gossips in Meryton and Longbourn.

Then, dear smart Lizzy also said in the same chapter, ‘She [Jane] has known him [Bingley] only a fortnight. She danced four dances with him at Meryton; she saw him one morning at his own house, and has since dined in company with him four times.’ Although I see Lizzy’s next sentence (‘This is not quite enough to make her understand his character’) as the way JA balanced the story, I cannot evade the feeling that JA was actually talking of herself here.

Now, Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy for the first time in Christmas holiday 1795. Well, it could be after 25 December, or even beforehand (for Christmas holiday certainly started before the Christmas itself). Say Tom arrived in Ashe a day before Christmas (24 December), hence by the time he danced with Jane in Manydown Park (8 January 1796), that would have been a fortnight. In addition, as Jane was Mrs. Lefroy’s friend, it would be very plausible for her to come to Ashe to visit Madam Lefroy and also her nephew Thomas. By the same token, four times dinner between Jane and Tom was not impossible.

Back to PP: Mrs. Bennet orchestrated Jane to visit Netherfield and, by the help of the timely rain, Jane stayed overnight at Netherfield to avoid heavy avian flu :-D I don’t think Jane Austen herself stayed in Ashe, not in that fashion at least. This part, I should give a toast to JA for her brilliance. But I believe she did take the following analysis from her personal experience:

Came the famous Netherfield ball on Tuesday, November 26th, where Jane Bennet danced happily with Mr. Bingley, glow of happiness from within her. Yet, the growing relationship between Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley (and his ‘amazing’ hair) caused some stirs, not only between the Bingley sisters, but also to Mr. Darcy’s internal peace. As we all know, Mr. Bingley was then persuaded by Mr. Darcy to leave Netherfield for London. Ellen Moody’s calendar for this event was Wednesday, Nov 27th. Poor Miss Bennet was broken hearted.

In real life, the family and friends of Tom Lefroy were also concerned about his growing relationship with Jane Austen, similar to the family and friends of Charles Bingley on his fondness of Miss Bennet, as Michelle suggested. Like Miss Bennet and Mr. Bingley, instant intimacy also grew rapidly between Jane and Tom. Such a breach of propriety! Hence, on Saturday, 16 January 1796, Tom Lefroy was sent back to London, a day after the ball at Ashe (Friday, 15 January 1796). Neat, eh?

Back to Jane Bennet. We know she went to London for a few months to no avail, for she did not meet Bingley and his hair ^_^ there. But, from Jon Spence and Le Faye, we learned that Jane Austen went to London and very likely stayed with Mr. Benjamin Langlois. In another word, unlike Jane Bennet, JA saw Tom in London. Let’s get back to this later.

After months of suffering, happiness arrived for Jane Bennet. In early August 1812 (Ellen suggested it circa August 5th), Darcy brought Mr. Bingley to Lambton to meet Lizzy Bennet. In Vol III Chapter 2 (Chapter 44), the remorseful Bingley said that it was a very long time since he had the pleasure of seeing her Lizzy. He also said that, ‘It is above eight months. We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing together at Netherfield.’

Switching back to the real Jane (Austen), dear friends. Jon Spence and Deirdre Le Faye (Jane Austen’s Letters, 1997, p. 355) speculated that JA stayed in the house of Tom’s uncle during her stay in London at the end of August 1796. August… the month of Mr. Bingley’s meeting with Lizzy (i.e. Jane’s sister). It is also almost eight months span from 16 January (Tom’s departure) to 23 August (Jane’s Cork Street letter).

Now, of course we know what happened to Jane Bennet then: she met Mr. Bingley again after a year in October 1812. Bingley’s later reunion with Jane Bennet was orchestrated by Darcy, and thus made me think of Spence’s speculation that Mrs. Anne Lefroy actually orchestrated or supported the idea of Jane Austen visiting Benjamin Langlois in London (to gain his blessings for Jane’s relationship with Tom, though to no avail) was conceivable. Like Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Lefroy regretted her decision to send Tom away to London, and hence tried to make it up. Noble thoughts, despite the failure.

We also know that Jane Bennet received the happy ending Jane Austen could not have: she later married Mr. Bingley and hence became Mrs. Bingley. Jane Austen could not be Mrs. Jane Lefroy… but she could pour her dreams in her novels. Pride & Prejudice, one of them.

It also does not hurt to look at Jane Bennet’s character: a shy and calm girl who was good in concealing her feelings, even to her own sister (unless provoked). Bearing in mind that JA often switched genders, is it not plausible to see Jane Bennet as having Tom Lefroy’s character here; i.e. shy and reserved, and hence difficult for people to read and understand? Of course, I also see Tom’s seriousness in Mr. Darcy, and hence Lizzy’s sharp tongue towards him that mirrored JA mocking and teasing Tom Lefroy. And per my discussion with dear Arnie, I agree that Tom actually loved being teased ;-) for Jane Austen provided him freedom of mind he had not allowed himself so far.

Oh, by the way, I ‘sacrifice’ my lunar eclipse observation (well, part of it) to write this article. I hope you’re happy, Michelle! ;-)


Reference:

Austen, J. 1813. Pride and Prejudice (2004 edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Faye, D. L. 1997, Jane Austen's Letters, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Spence, J. 2003, Becoming Jane Austen, 2007, Second edn, Continuum International Publishing Group, London.


Pic 1: Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley by Jane Odiwe

Pic 2: Meryton Assembly, by Jane Odiwe

Pic 3: Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet in Pride & Prejudice 2005, from Darcysaga

Pic 4: Simon Woods as Charles Bingley in Pride & Prejudice 2005, from Darcysaga

Pic 5: Jennifer Ehle (Lizzy Bennet) and Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy) in
Pride & Prejudice 1995, Wikipedia


11 comments:

Michelle said...

Ahh, that last picture is perfection. Dear BBC ...

Wow Icha! I love the way your mind works! :-0

Bingley’s later reunion with Jane Bennet was orchestrated by Darcy, and thus made me think of Spence’s speculation that Mrs. Anne Lefroy actually orchestrated or supported the idea of Jane Austen visiting Benjamin Langlois in London (to gain his blessings for Jane’s relationship with Tom, though to no avail) was conceivable. Like Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Lefroy regretted her decision to send Tom away to London, and hence tried to make it up. Noble thoughts, despite the failure.

THIS is excellent! I also love your "August" Jane Bennett/Jane Austen speculation. You have developed a scant idea into a fully-fledged provocative post. Well done!

Charles Bingley was described as ‘good looking and gentlemanlike’ with ‘a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners’ (Hmm…he reminds me of Tom Lefroy).

Jane, on Tom Lefroy:

"He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you." - Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 9/10 January 1796.

(Emphasis my own)

The more I think about it, the more I see a similarity between JB/CB and JA/TL. It's quite striking. (The dancing observations/gossip I love).

...Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy for the first time in Christmas holiday 1795. Well, it could be after 25 December, or even beforehand (for Christmas holiday certainly started before the Christmas itself).

I was wondering about this yesterday. In her letter of 9/10 January 1796, Jane writes:

"But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much..."

(Emphasis my own)

This was written 9 January, a Saturday. There had been THREE balls at which TL/JA had met before this date.

For sanity's sake, the Fridays' before were 8th January, 1st January, 25th December, (18th December), etc. (I am using Friday as an example to represent each particular week. Christmas & NY would have thrown routine out of whack, I believe?)

Being the festive season, wouldn't there have been MORE parties/balls than usual? Could this reasoning help us in determine an indication of the length of time they spent together over this first Christmas holiday?


PS: Thank you for the warm welcome. :)

Rachel, good luck in Ireland. Can't wait to hear all about it!!

Icha said...

Michelle babe,

He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you." - Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 9/10 January 1796.

You rock! I knew I've read the phrase somewhere, not in PP. Yes! JA's letters!

And more to your other comments. Me chasing the last bus here.

Hugs!

kdesign23 said...

Capital! Capital!
How wonderful Icha & Michelle! Thank you!

How obvious, as its right there. Excellent observations Ladies.

Now, you see, I cannot help dissecting where our Wickham comes into play.
I am curious as to how much of Wickham is Tom or Jane?

And, could there have been correspondence via letter between Tom & Jane during this point?
Secretly, that is.

: )

tina said...

Can't wait to hear what Rachel finds out in Ireland!

Arnie Perlstein said...

Kari,

When you wrote "I am curious as to how much of Wickham is Tom or Jane?", you are barking up the right tree, but you are chasing, I believe, the wrong bears! ;)

Seriously, I will letcha know, but I am looking very very closely at the question of identifying the real person in Jane's world who she may have had in mind as she wrote the character of Wickham, and I will be sure to let you know when I am sure.

Icha said...

LOL! I believe, Arnie, you have to be quick. We ladies in BJ Fansite turn out to be excellent Lady Detectives... you have to do the homework fast so you're not outdone! :-D

But, in the peaceful spirit of finding the truth behind Jane and Tom, I am very thrilled to see what Kari might come up on her own :-D

kdesign23 said...

I am on the case Icha.

Arnie - I'll look into those "bears" that I am chasing (I always seem to be in the ballpark but never at bat) and I eagerly await any news on your Wickham findings!!
: )

Icha said...

Michelle dear, to enliven my afternoon, here's my overdue comments on your lovely comments.

"But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much..."

This was written 9 January, a Saturday. There had been THREE balls at which TL/JA had met before this date.

For sanity's sake, the Fridays' before were 8th January, 1st January, 25th December, (18th December), etc. (I am using Friday as an example to represent each particular week. Christmas & NY would have thrown routine out of whack, I believe?)


Brilliant, Michelle! Four balls by 15 January, by the time the Manydown ball was held. Lovely, lovely!

Being the festive season, wouldn't there have been MORE parties/balls than usual? Could this reasoning help us in determine an indication of the length of time they spent together over this first Christmas holiday?

But of course, I agree. I bet TL had stayed in Ashe prior to 23 Dec, for 24 Dec was the Christmas night, and he would not want to be in a hurry, eh? At least, he would have stayed in Ashe since 20 Dec.

For Kari:
Welcome to our humble abode :-D of BJ Fansite! I will make the proper announcement once I have another post to upload (which is now still in writing...). Everyone, Kari is now pairing up with Michelle as our new Assoc. Researcher/Observer. Basically, feeding me more info if I'm too lazy to find out more myself :-D

Wonder what Rachel is doing now in Ireland... still sleeping after a day's journey in Dublin?

Mary said...

This is FANTASTIC! I’ve reached the same conclusion few days ago and since then I searched on the internet in high agitation to see if anyone else gave it a though. I think you are the only one and I hope you did not abandoned this theory already… as your comments are posted more than 2 months ago.

I believe that this is the story from all Jane’s books that is matching so well the dates and events from her surviving letters to Cassandra.

In his book, Spence revealed that the name Bennet comes from Tom Lefroy’s favorite novel, Tom Jones. "Perhaps Jane noticed the name Bennet in the first place – it is only mentioned once in the novel – because of its connection with the Leigh family…Sir Bennet Hoskyns, whose wife was the daughter of Sir John Bingley."

As a natural conclusion, it is the love story of Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley that we should give more attention and not the one between Eliza & Mr Darcy. Although, Spence himself has been tricked (as all of us so far), by the appearance of their story being connected to Jane-Tom.

Charles Bingley is the only one described with the same words used in the first letter to Cassandra: "He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you."
Pride and Prejudice: “Mr Bingley was a good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.”

Jane was Bingley’s first choice and danced with her twice “she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time”.
Letters to Cassandra: “Mr.H began with Elizabeth, and afterwards danced with her again; but they do not know how to be particular. I flatter myself, however, that they will profit by the three successive lessons which I have given them.”

The last ball, where Tom-Bingley danced with Jane before leaving the country, takes place at ‘his house': considering Ashe as ‘let’ by Tom during his visit. Also, the invitation has been received by Bennet-Austen from “himself”
Letters to Cassandra: "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...After I had written the above, we received a visit from Mr. Tom Lefroy and his cousin George."
Pride and Prejudice: “The young ladies were summoned from shrubbery where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the very persons of whom they had been speaking; Mr Bingley and his sisters came to give their personal invitation for the long expected ball at Netherfield,”

I do not have any links with her letters, but reading again (how many times!) chapter 10, I’ve started to think there is a possibility that Tom has been asked (by Mrs Lefroy??) to delay his departure.
"When you told Mrs Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved on quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes ... and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, 'Bingley, you had better stay till next week”, you would probably do it, you would probably not go – and, at another word, might stay a month'
...Allowing the case, however, to stand according to your representation, you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favor of its propriety.
To yield readily – easily – to the persuasion of a friend is no merit with you.
To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either.
You appear to me, Mr Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection."

I found the following extremely interesting but I do not now what to think.
Letters to Cassandra: "I look forward with great impatience to it, as I rather expect to receive an offer from my friend in the course of the evening."
Pride and Prejudice: “there was a gentleman ..., so much in love with her, that ...was sure he would make her an offer before we came away. But however he did not.”

Pray tell me, what’s your opinion?

Icha said...

Dear Mary, you're amazing! Your observations are very interesting and I do agree with your deductions that it was possible that someone tried to prevent Tom from leaving. Perhaps not Mrs. Lefroy, but someone close to both Jane and Tom. For Jane liked to juggle genders and positions in her stories.

Anyway, I'm sorry that my comment is very short. I'm leaving for field work in 5 minutes, but I've forwarded your comments to the rest of Team Jane so that they can participate. Keep watching this thread!

hugs,
Icha

Mary said...

Dear Icha, I’m soooo glad that you answered and even more that you are interested in keeping this subject opened for more discussions. I am also in the office right now, but I promise to bring this evening more arguments that will positively sustain our little ‘discovery’ :-)

Thanks for your quick response… with hugs

Mary