Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Male-Voices Reviews: Jane/Tom and Persuasion

Dear BJ lovers,

Following the post about Radovici below, Lindafern from the Potter/Dregston message board directed me to this beautiful review from the late Prof. 'Ashton Dennis' (the name is a pseudoname) about Jane Austen's works, particularly the Tom Lefroy-related Persuasion. And it's an honour to me that Linda let me cite an excerpt from Ashton' e-essay here. Visit the Persuasion summary and comments in this blog for more insights into Persuasion. Visit the Loiterer for overall read of Ashton Dennis' review; the excerpt is quoted here:


O.K., so why didn't Jane Austen marry? I don't know, but I think about that question a lot. She seems so completely heterosexual to me that there can be no simple explanation. Let me examine two possibilities with you.

My other explanation—my more strongly held—is an opinion shared by some others, but one that is far from universally accepted. I strongly suspect that Persuasion is slightly autobiographical and the name of the Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen's own life is Tom Lefroy, and the name of the Lady Russell in Jane Austen's own life is Tom Lefroy's aunt, Madam Lefroy. That story begins in Jane Austen's nineteenth year when Tom Lefroy was in the neighborhood to visit his aunt and uncle. Madam Lefroy was a woman of grace and education and someone who fully recognized the talents of young Jane very early on. This led to a very firm admiration and attachment on Jane's part. The nephew had just taken his first degree at an Irish university and was on his way to London to study the law in preparation for the career that his family had mapped out for him. In my humble opinion, Jane was in love with him, although I readily admit that one must read between the lines of her letters from that period in order to come to that conclusion. I also believe that Tom returned that love but the time wasn't right; there would not have been enough money and his family was depending upon the development of his career to pull the rest of them up with him. The Lefroy family became alarmed at the growing attachment and he was sent away and never invited back again. There was a similar disapprobation in the Austen family—sister Cassandra went so far as to scold Jane (Cassandra always was a bit of a proto-Victorian). As it turned out, Tom had every bit of the talent that his family claimed for him and he had a very successful career, at one point rising to the title of Chief Justice of Ireland.

Jane Austen was dying when she wrote Persuasion, her last completed novel. She was dying prematurely and she knew it. This certainly might have been a time when Jane Austen would feel like making a statement. (In fact, I believe— this is kind of crazy—I believe Jane Austen makes a cameo appearance in Persuasion—you know, the sort of thing Alfred Hitchcock would do.) If you inform yourself about the Lefroy affair, the novel will take on a whole new meaning for you. And if you inform yourself about Addison's disease, the sight of Mrs. Smith will grab your heart; but, that will be nothing compared to your reaction to Anne Elliot's speech about the constancy of a woman's love "after all hope is gone".

Pic: DVD Cover to the 1995 Sony/BBC adaptation of Persuasion, starring Amanda Root (Anne Elliot) and Ciaran Hinds (Capt. Wentworth)

1 comment:

Icha said...

Lindafern just informed me that 'Ashton Dennis' was a pseudoname, thus I put the name in apostrophe. Linda also noted that 'Ashton Dennis' was the pseudoname Jane Austen used when she wrote to a publisher. Well well well... I still am learning a lot, eh? Thanks a lot, Linda!