Tuesday, 31 July 2007

‘Hole in the Wall’ by Purcell!

Oh, be still, my beating heart! Yes, my dearest BJ lovers, Hole in the Wall, written by Henry Purcell in 1695 (published in 1698). I cannot thank you Michelle enough for tipping me the title of the dance song (the second ball in Lady Gresham’s manor) of Becoming Jane… for it is truly there. Ah… just to recall the dance scene where Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy gazed at each other’s deepest souls… I want to see the movie again now!

Apparently, Hole in the Wall (sometimes also called Hornpipe or St. Martin’s Lane) was not only used in the A&E Emma, but also in BBC's Wives and Daughters in a flashback scene between Mr. Preston and Cynthia. Hole in the Wall was so popular that it was issued as a single in the 18th century.

Here’s what the UK Traditional Music wrote about Purcell:

Purcell, Henry (1658-1695) an English court musician who has been called England’s greatest composer. He was familiar with the Playford family (and was first published by them) and so had access to a huge number of traditional tunes. Whether he did any borrowing of any of these is a good question, but if so, he wouldn’t have been the first to cop a good tune from the folk tradition. His fame in general today comes from the arrangement of the Rondo from "Abdelazer, or the Moor’s Revenge" into "The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra" by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). Aside from writing beautiful melodies in his various airs for the theater, his claim to fame in folk music is that the Hornpipe from "Abdelazer" was so popular that it was published as "Hole in the Wall", and then issued as a single in the 18th century! This lovely dance tune was renamed in the sheet music with the appealing title of "St Martin’s Lane". It later passed into the country dancing tradition via the Playford Dancing Master, still with the dreadful title of "Hole in the Wall", under which name it’s played today.

Despite the rather strange title, the particular piece of music really hits me! But then, Mr. Beveridge's Maggot also has a strange name, but it was lovely as well… Oh, and Hole in the Wall also reminds me of Pyramus and Thisbe and the mulberry tree…and the hole in the wall separating the lovers’ houses.

For piano lovers (I wish I was one of you), here’s the pdf arrangement of Hole in the Wall. Play it after you see Becoming Jane, see if you’re not mellow… This is another piano arrangement:


and midi files:





(the last one is my favourite).

Also, read this letter from Marshall Barron about the Hole in the Wall. It is indeed a beautiful arrangement, three-two (3/2) instead of six-eight (6/8).

And watch for this particular post as well, for I’m still looking for Purcell CDs that contains Hole in the Wall. I've found several here. There's one called the Hornpipe in 'Abdelazer; Or, The Moor's Revenge' Z570, in the 3rd disc of Purcell: Complete Ayres for the Theatre, but the beat is too fast. There's another one here, Purcell's Fantasias & Suites in Amazon.com, but no sample track. If you want to listen to the harp version, you might want to buy the Celtic Muse's Merry & Bright (I love the harp version so much!). And Assembly Players has a CD titled A Purcell Ball, with both St. Martin's Lane and Hole in the Wall. I want to order that one... but I want to listen to the sample first.

Pic1: Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) dancing with ‘The Hole in the Wall’, from www.james-mcavoy.net

Pic 2: Henry Purcell, from www.naxos.com

‘Jane’s Marriage’, by Ruyard Kipling

Jane Odiwe (thanks, Jane!) directed me again to the poem of Ruyard Kipling (1865-1936) titled ‘Jane’s Marriage’. Kipling might be one of the first people who understood Jane’s longing for the love of her own. He also detected a subtle autobiographical story of Jane Austen herself in Persuasion. Here’s the poem, taken from the Jane Austen Centre. Thank you, Kipling, for remembering Jane in such a beautiful way.

Jane's Marriage

Jane went to Paradise:
That was only fair.
Good Sir Walter met her first,
And led her up the stair.
Henry and Tobias,
And Miguel of Spain,
Stood with Shakespeare at the top
To welcome Jane --

Then the Three Archangels
Offered out of hand,
Anything in Heaven's gift
That she might command.
Azrael's eyes upon her,
Raphael's wings above,
Michael's sword against her heart,
Jane said: "Love."

Instantly the understanding Seraphim
Laid their fingers on their lips
And went to look for him.
Stole across the Zodiac,
Harnessed Charles's Wain,
And whispered round the Nebulae
"Who loved Jane?"

In a private limbo
Where none had thought to look,
Sat a Hampshire gentleman
Reading of a book.
It was called Persuasion,
And it told the plain
Story of the love between
Him and Jane.

He heard the question
Circle Heaven through --
Closed the book and answered:
"I did -- and do!"
Quietly but speedily
(As Captain Wentworth moved)
Entered into Paradise
The man Jane loved!

The following is the epitaph of the opening of Kipling’s story ‘The Janeites’.

Jane lies in Winchester -- blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made!
And while the stones of Winchester, or Milsom Street, remain,
Glory, love, and honour unto England's Jane!

Hmmm...Kipling also thought that Milsom Street was rather important for Jane. Anyway, back to the first poem: is it not touching?

"Who loved Jane?"

In a private limbo
Where none had thought to look,
Sat a Hampshire gentleman
Reading of a book.
It was called Persuasion,
And it told the plain
Story of the love between
Him and Jane.

I don’t know, will never know perhaps, if Kipling was aware of the failed love story between Jane and Tom Lefroy. The Memoir of Jane Austen had been published by the time Kipling was a teenager. As the Memoir only brushed a very bit of Tom Lefroy, Kipling might not see it. But, even if he did not, he guessed it almost right. Having visited Hampshire several times, the Irish Tom Lefroy could be called ‘a Hampshire gentleman’ as well…

Pic 1: A close up of Revd. Clarke’s sketch of Jane Austen

Pic 2: The Wedding, by scubagrl.net

Pic 3: Ruyard Kipling, from Wikipedia

TMP interview with Julian Jarrold

Lisa Trifone of the Truly Moving Picture Award has recently done an interview with Julian Jarrold, and here's the verbatim copy from the Truly Moving Picture site.

It didn’t take British director Julian Jarrold more than a few moments to name “The Lives of Others,” the 2007 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, as one of his personal Truly Moving Pictures.

“It’s about how relationships were distorted by always having to look over one’s shoulder,” he shared in a recent phone interview. “But it is actually full of fantastic hope and optimism at the end, a truly amazing film.”

Jarrold may be looking to films set in the 20th century for inspiration as a change of pace. His Becoming Jane hits theaters nationwide on June 10, and filming meant spending days in 18th century England with young stars Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. The latest Truly Moving Picture Award winner, Becoming Jane is a sharp-witted, smart and charming portrait of Jane Austen before her novels would make her one of Britain’s most revered authors.

When he made the transition from television to film with 2005’s “Kinky Boots,” Jarrold knew he had Austen in his future.

“I’ve always been interested in Jane Austen, but I was cautious about doing another adaptation of one of her novels,” he confessed. “But this screenplay came along and…it allowed all sorts of little insights into how she wrote her novels.”

Those insights, of course, include exploring the relationship Austen most likely had with a young Irishman named Tom LeFroy. It was a deliberate decision to cover that portion of Austen’s life when, newly twenty years old, her ideals and perspectives that would appear in her later works were just taking shape.

With the script in place, Jarrold and team turned to casting their motion picture.

“We wanted to blow the dust off it a bit and find the real human being,” the director said. “We wanted somebody young and feisty. Annie had such qualities, and happened to be a complete expert on Jane Austen. It wasn’t hard, really, to cast her.”

Anne Hathaway tackles the role of Austen with grace and confidence, and costars James McAvoy as Tom LeFroy, Maggie Smith as Lady Gresham and James Cromwell as the Reverend Austen light up the screen alongside the feisty American.

Austen’s affair with LeFroy was never meant to be, though, and she would go on to live and write as a single woman. Balancing this sense of loss with an optimistic tone proved a personal goal for Jarrold, as he crafted a film that highlighted what Austen ultimately achieved and contributed to literature.

“I hope [the film] enriches their understanding of Jane Austen,” Jarrold offers to the audiences who’ll see the movie in theaters. “I just hope people will go back to the books and read them again and again.”

And if he’s done his job, they’ll return to the film again and again as well. Becoming Jane is in limited release June 3, nationwide June 10. View the trailer or visit the official movie site. To learn more about this and other award winning films, visit www.TrulyMovingPictures.org

Written by Lisa Trifone | Photo Credit: Colm Hogan/Courtesy of Miramax Films

The New York Times extra clip

Thanks a lot to Kari, here's the extra clip from the New York Times. It's from the library scene... and I bet many women would LOVE to have their horizons widened by James McAvoy /Tom Lefroy! :-D


And as most of the screening days are today (July 31), I hope you all have fun, enjoy Becoming Jane, and give our love to Anne, James and the other casts and crews that have done so well and inspired this blog!

James Cromwell (Rev George Austen)

Back to Becoming Jane. I was watching one of my favourite TV shows last night, Six Feet Under, and I thought that James Cromwell (who plays Ruth’s husband George in the show) was an important person to start with when doing brief biographies of the main characters in Becoming Jane. He plays Reverend George Austen in the film and is therefore one of the most fundamental and influential characters in Jane’s life.

James Oliver Cromwell was born on 27th January 1940 in Los Angeles, California but raised in Manhattan, New York. He attended The Hill School, Middlebury College and later Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) for a year. He followed the footsteps of both his parents, actress mother Kay Johnson and film director father John Cromwell, and began acting in plays such as Othello at the American Shakespeare Festival. When he was 31 years old he became noticed in the role of Stretch Cunningham in the popular All in the Family. The next few years involved more TV roles and numerous plays and his film debut in the detective spoof Murder by Death (1976).

He married his first wife Anne Ulvestad with whom he had three children; a daughter Kate (born June 5 1977) and two sons, John Astrup (born August 29 1979) and Colin James (born April 16 1981) but they separated ten years later and he married again, in 1988, this time to Julie Cobb. In recent years he has been attached to Joan MacIntosh.

One of his most famous roles was in 1995 when he starred as Arthur Hoggett in Babe, the film loved by all about the talking pig. He was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Actor in a Supporting Role. This paved the way for the part of a police captain in L.A. Confidential (1997) which many regarded as his best performance. Other notable roles are the banker Charles Keating in The People vs Larry Flint (1996), Judge Fielding in Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), the warden in The Green Mile (1999), an Emmy nomination performance as William Randolph Hearst in RKO 281, the drama about the making of the 1941 classic Citizen Kane, the geologist George Sibley in Six Feet Under (2003-2005), Prince Phillip in The Queen (2006) and more recently the warm-hearted Reverend George Austen in Becoming Jane (2007).

I think that James portrays Jane's father which such tenderness. He is how we imagine Mr Austen would be; kind, warm, approachable and above all, holding complete adoration for his family. His relationship with his wife is fantastic and he has a very relaxed relationship with Jane, whilst maintaining the role of her father. I think James is so perfectly cast for this role and I hope you agree.

Also this year he can be seen as Captain Stacy in Spiderman 3 and Philip Bauer (father to Jack Bauer) in the sixth season of the hit TV show 24. Throughout his 30 year long career, he has made over 130 appearances in various popular TV shows and films. He is going back to the stage later this year when he is playing James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night which is a play by Eugene O’Neill and will be performed in Ireland during the months of September and October.

He is very tall, registering at 6ft 7inches. He is a vegan due to the part he played in the film Babe and its ethical implications. He has since been an active speaker for the organization: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): As I was browsing I came across the site www.savebabe.com/james.php which has a personal pledge, take a look, it is very interesting and gives insight into the type of man that James is. Also in his private life James is somewhat controversial, strongly supporting several liberal causes.

An interesting bit of trivia is that James Cromwell is the only actor to ever have spoken the words "Star Trek": In the film Star Trek: First Contact (1996) his character said to the crew, "...and you're all astronauts, on some kind of....star trek?" He also had parts in two other Star Trek films: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

Furthermore, he has played a US president three times in The West Wing (1999) The Sum of All Fears (2002) and RFK (TV: 2002).

Pic 1: James Cromwell. Taken from Wikipedia. No original source given.

Pic 2: James Cromwell as Rev George Austen with Julie Walters as Mrs Austen. Taken from http://www.annie-hathaway.com/

Pic 3: James Cromwell as Rev George Austen. Taken from http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800018700

Pic 4: James Cromwell and 'Babe'! Taken from http://www.savebabe.com/james.php

Monday, 30 July 2007

Mulberry Tree in Sense & Sensibility

My dear friend Jane Odiwe (yes, the talented artist who produced a series of Austen Effusions) wrote an email last night, throwing an idea of the link between a mulberry tree, Jane and Tom. Whatta-?

Well, as she said, why did Jane write ‘mulberry tree’? Why not apple tree, pear tree, etc that was more… common? In chapter 30 Sense & Sensibility (volume II chapter 8), the kindhearted eternal talker Mrs. Jennings talked of the beauty of Delaford (Brandon’s estate) with ‘such a mulberry tree in one corner!’ Later, in chapter 32 (volume II chapter 10), the tree was mentioned again: ‘The good understanding between the Colonel and Miss Dashwood seemed rather to declare that the honours of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour, would all be made over to her…’

Famous tree, eh? And then, our Jane Odiwe remembered the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, the Babylonian Romeo and Juliet; a tragic romantic tale that involves a particular mulberry tree (speaking of which, the Handel oratorio Susanna that Jane and Tom sang together was also inspired by the story of Susanna of Babylon…). Ah… the tale of star-crossed lovers, the handsome Pyramus and the fair Thisbe… let’s see, shall we? This is the summary of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ that was originally written by the Latin writer Ovid and Hyginus:

'An ancient Babylonian legend tells of Pyramus and Thisbe, a handsome youth and a lovely maiden who had lived in adjoining houses from early childhood. The two always played together and after they grew up, they fell in love. Their parents in the meantime had quarreled bitterly over some trifles and forbade their union.

But the two lovers found a chink in the wall dividing the two houses, and every night when everybody else was asleep, they whispered sweet words to each other through the crack in the wall until dawn.

One night, they agreed to meet on the coming night of the full moon outside the city under a white mulberry tree that stood near a bubbling spring close to the tomb of Ninus, the founder of Nineveh and husband Semiramis.

Thisbe, who arrived first, encountered a lion who had just killed an ox. She fled in terror dropping her veil, which the lion bloodied up while tearing it to pieces. When Pyramus arrived later he found the torn, bloody garment, and believing Thisbe dead, killed himself with his own dagger. The returning Thisbe found her dying lover under the mulberry tree, and in her grief plunged his dagger in her own heart.

The mingling blood of the two unhappy lovers spurted over the mulberry tree, colouring its fruit, and the mulberry tree (Morus rubra) has ever since born blood-red fruit.'

Thus, the meaning of mublerry tree as a symbol of star-crossed love.

Colonel Brandon had his love story with poor Eliza ended when he was in his 20s. When his family learned about his love to the poor girl, Brandon was sent away to India and Eliza was left on her own. The rest, as we know, was Jane Austen’s vivid imagination that made me in love with Colonel Brandon’s sensitive heart. Okay, so the mulberry tree was the symbol of the star-crossed love between the charming Colonel and Eliza. Crystal clear.

However, bearing in mind Jane’s habit of double (or triple) layers of code hidden in her seemingly trivial passages, I tend to see that the mulberry tree also symbolises another thing.

Pyramus and Thisbe were neighbours. We can also say that Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy were practically neighbours, for Tom’s aunt (Madam Lefroy) lived very close to Steventon. Col. Brandon was in his 20s when he was forced to leave his Eliza behind and went to India for duty. Tom Lefroy was also in his 20s when he left (or was forced to leave) Jane Austen and went to London and Ireland... for duty.

And also, the white mulberry in Ovid’s story grew by a bubbling spring. A bubbling spring...

Bath, the place where Jane possibly met Tom Lefroy in November-December 1797… is also a city full of bubbling spring. Hot springs, to be precise. Pyramus and Thisbe ended their life under the mulberry tree. Could Tom and Jane lose their hope in Bath, in the city of hot spring? But prior to the faithful Bath episode, could they, like Pyramus and Thisbe, secretly exchange letters and attempted a secret rendezvous in Bath?

Our associate librarian Linda (welcome, Linda!) pointed out that in the book ‘Jane Austen's 'Outlandish Cousin' – The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide’ (Faye 2002), there were several letters of Eliza that confirmed Jane’s presence in Bath, including letter dated December 11, 1797 (‘I have heard very lately from our Cousin Jane who is still at Bath with her Mother & Sister, Mr. Hampson whom I saw yesterday and who enquired after yourself and Family, told me he had heard Cassandra was going to be married but Jane says not a word of it – James Austen has been very near losing his second Wife.’). Thus, we can safely say now that Jane was indeed in Bath in November-December 1797. What we need is the trace of Tom Lefroy.

Page 14 of the Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy (Lefroy 1871) says:

'During his [Tom Lefroy’s] stay in Ireland, in 1797, when he came over from London to be called to the Bar, but only to return again for his further study of the Law, he was engaged to be married to Miss Paul. From that time to their marriage, in March 1799, he was allowed to carry on a correspondence, but all the letters he had written to her during their married life were found preserved with a care which marked them as sacred in the eyes of her who was the chief object of his affection.'

If it was true that Tom was engaged with Mary in 1797 (during Easter term – page 20 – which was around April), and that he should go back again to England for his study, I think he would not stay in Ireland until November. That's too long for a diligent student like him.

Okay, coming back to the mulberry ice cream – I mean, tree. What if after Tom’s journey to Ireland, he returned to England and was still ambivalent about his engagement with Mary? Perhaps his family thought that Mary suited him, and part of him also said that. But there was another part of Tom that still yearned for Jane, who (based on the mulberry tree reference) still held routine correspondence with him?

Then, somehow, Tom and Jane met again in Bath… had a few days of lovely time (strolling Milsom Street, perhaps… talking of bonnets, muslins, and novels…), then somehow Tom reached the conclusion (or forced to reach such conclusion) that his time with Jane would not last long. That sooner or later, he had to choose. And somehow, after the Bath excursion, their love story was ‘formally’ ended (if ever any secret engagement could be formally ended).

Hence, coming back to the death of Pyramus and Thisbe under the mulberry tree that grew by a bubbling spring. The death of a love story in a city of hot springs.

Of course, as Jane Odiwe warned, the mulberry tree might only refer to the ill-fated love between Colonel Brandon and Eliza. But, if the link was so apparent, why did Jane Austen not mention it in her narration? As in pointing out the ‘coincidence’ of Col. Brandon having a mulberry tree in his garden, while at the same time his love was also doomed? I declare, that would be a crispy gossip material for Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Palmer! But no… not even Mrs. Jennings were aware of the mythological meaning of a mulberry tree.

Well, so far I’ve seen so many evidences of Jane Austen’s genius, and her ability and tendencies to hide her message in layers of code. It is very likely that the mulberry tree indeed refers to the doomed love of Brandon and Eliza. But the existence of the second meaning is also possible… that the mulberry tree symbolises the ill-fated love between Jane Austen herself and Tom Lefroy, despite their attempts to resume their relationship secretly (at least, after January 1796 and before November 1798).


Austen, J. 1811, Sense and Sensibility (2003 edition), Penguin, London.

Faye, D. L. 2002, Jane Austen's Outlandish Cousin – The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide, British Library Publishing Division, London.

Lefroy, T. 1871, Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, Hodges, Foster & Co., Dublin.

Pic 1: A white mulberry tree that was planted by George Washington at Mt. Vernon, Virginia

Pic 2: Pyramus and Thisbe by the mulberry tree

Pic 3: Vincent Van Gogh’s mulberry tree

Pic 4: Marianne, Elinor and Col. Brandon, Sense & Sensibility

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Jane and Tom’s Rendezvous in Bath

The title alone suggests that this post is speculative. However, Chapman’s Facts and Problems suggested that Jane, Cassandra and Mrs. Austen were visiting the Leigh-Perrots at Paragon, Bath in Somerset in November 1797 . Tomalin also suggested that in 1797 a young nephew was taken to dinner at the Chute’s by the Lefroys of Ashe (Tomalin 2000). If Tom Lefroy was this young nephew, and he was in Hampshire in 1797, did he also go to Bath as Mrs. Lefroy went there for a holiday? Could Jane have met Tom then?

No JA letters survived for November 1797, or the entire year 1797 for that matter (despite important things such as the death of Thomas Fowle and Henry-Eliza’s wedding), thus we might never know what exactly happened in Bath. But Jane wrote to Cassandra this letter (letter #43, 8 April 1805) from Gay Street, Bath:

‘This morning we have been to see Miss Chamberlayne look hot on horseback. – Seven years & four months ago we went to the same Ridinghouse to see Miss Lefroy’s performance! – What a different set are we now moving in! But seven years I suppose are enough to change every pore of one’s skin, & every feeling of one’s mind.’ [bolded sentence by Icha]

Kathryn Sutherland, editor of Memoir of Jane Austen (1871, 2nd edition), noted that this particular letter was 'heavily edited'. Anyway, other than the fact that Jane Austen used the word ‘hot’ in her letter (!), the bolded sentence intrigued me. Seven years and four months before 8 April 1805 was either November or December 1797. So, Jane and Cassandra went to see Miss Lefroy horse-riding (I assume this Miss Lefroy was Lucy Lefroy, Anne Lefroy’s daughter). I don’t think Jane would write the contemplative last sentence had she not remembered something important that happened in Bath in 1797. Could Tom be there as well… not only to see his cousin riding, but to see Jane?

According to Radovici (1995), before moving to stay in Bath (1801), Jane Austen had visited Bath several times to visit Mrs. Austen’s cousins (the Coopers and the Leigh-Perrots). Her knowledge would rather help her in writing Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and also a bit of Emma. Let’s take a look at Emma first for signs of Bath visit.

Reference of Bath in Emma

Emma was first published in 1815. In volume II, chapter 5 (page 178 of the 2003 Penguin Edition), Harriet Smith asked, ‘Will Mr. Frank Churchill pass through Bath as well Oxford?’

At that time, Harriet and Emma just received news from Mr. Weston that Frank Churchill was about to go to Highbury (Emma’s village in Surrey) from Oxford. Penguin notes that ‘to travel from Oxford to Surrey via Bath would be a somewhat eccentric route and indicates the haziness of Harriet’s topographical knowledge.’ Eccentric indeed…not only because Bath is southwest of Oxford and Surrey is southeast of Oxford, but also that Bath never came up in the conversation before. Harriet just suddenly jumped with the reference of the resort town without anyone mentioning Bath. Oh yes, she thought a bit of Mr. Elton who was in Bath at that time, upon accidentally seeing Mr. Elton’s trunk being lifted to a cart destination White Hart in Bath (picture below). Thus the ‘reason’ to insert Bath in the conversation. But that was still odd.

Frank Churchill was actually engaged with Jane Fairfax in secret, lest his aunt (Mrs. Churchill, rich and childless) would be mad because he was in love with a woman of no significant rank. Well, Tom Lefroy’s great uncle and benefactor (Benjamin Langlois, also wealthy and childless) would not be pleased either if he found out that Tom harboured a secret feeling for Jane Austen. And as I suggested in my earlier post about Tom Lefroy reference in ‘Emma’ that Frank Churchill (and Mr. Dixon) might represent Tom Lefroy (and Jane Fairfax represented a bit of Jane Austen herself), it is possible that the man Harriet was talking about going from Oxford to Highbury via Bath was not only Frank Churchill, but also Tom Lefroy himself. I’m not sure if Frank was an Oxford student, but Tom, being a law student in Trinity College and Lincoln’s Inn, had many reasons to visit Oxford en route Bath. Or Oxford was just a clue here referring to a law school, or a law student, such as Tom.

If it is true that Jane was partially telling a story of Tom Lefroy here, something tells me that she was speaking of the missing year of 1797, where she, her sister Cassandra and her mother went to Bath to visit the Leigh-Perrot. What if Radovici’s suspicion was correct: that Tom was also there at that time? Could it be that Tom and Jane resumed their relationship secretly for a while; at least after January 1796 and before November 1798?

In volume II chapter 1 of Emma, Miss Bates also said that ‘Jane [Fairfax] caught a bad cold, poor thing! So long ago as the 7th of November…and has never been well since.’ Did the real Jane (Austen) catch cold on November 7th, 1797? Or… something else happened around that day? As in… she went to Bath around that date with her mother and sister, and met Tom Lefroy there?

Radovici suggested that Jane’s time shared with Tom in Bath in 1797 were happy days, that later would give birth to Catherine Morland’s infatuation towards Bath. And Jane herself ‘has never been well’ since then… for she kept thinking of Bath as the romantic place where she loved, very likely was loved in return, but then experienced disappointment.

In Emma, it was told that Frank Churchill met Jane Fairfax in Weymouth, Dorset U.K. Volume II chapter 2 (the last paragraph) says: ‘She [Jane Fairfax] and Mr. Frank Churchill had been at Weymouth at the same time’. No, Weymouth is of course not Bath. However, both cities share similarities in being waterfront resort cities (Bath is surrounded by many hot springs), fancy places for tourists to relax. Weymouth is a ‘watering place’ as Jane Fairfax put it. Well, so is Bath. I suspect that Jane Austen changed the setting of Bath (where she presumably met Tom Lefroy in 1797) to Weymouth, but still left the bread crumbs to trace.

In the first paragraph of Volume II chapter 5, Harriet saw a trunk addressed to The Rev. Philip Elton, White-Hart, Bath. Perhaps the White-Hart refers to the White Hart Inn, an old inn in Bath; surely have existed in Jane Austen’s time. Now, in addition to that White Hart, there are several White-Harts in England, one of them is the White-Hart Pub in Weymouth, that has existed since the 17th century (picture 4 above). If Jane Austen could switch the genders in her novels, why not the places? In this case, Weymouth was then actually Bath.

In the last paragraph of Volume II chapter 2, Jane Fairfax actually said, ‘At a watering-place, or in a common London acquaintance, it was difficult to decide on such points’ (The point being ‘a sensible young man or a young man of information’). I have suggested that the ‘watering-place’ might also refer to Bath in addition to Weymouth. The London reference might be anything just put there. Or…Jane Austen might actually referred to the journey in London she took in August 1796 where Jon Spence speculated that she stayed with Tom in his uncle’s house in Cork Street.

Reference of Bath in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

Of Jane Austen’s six novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were the only novels truly set in a real place: Bath. Radovici was interested in the ‘coincidence’ and dug deeper. Her conclusions? Not only Persuasion was semi-autobiographical, Northanger Abbey actually also secretly telling Jane’s stories with Tom Lefroy. Both novels were set in Bath, and both had the heroes and heroines falling for each other instantly at first sight (unlike Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy who required at least one semester to realise they loved each other, or Marianne and Col. Brandon, or Emma and Mr. Knightley).

Jane wrote Northanger Abbey circa 1798/99. At that time, she would still have fresh memories of Bath, of her love and disappointment there. Radovici noted how Catherine Morland was very happy with Bath, and with her acquaintance with Henry Tilney (who, like Tom Lefroy, was an accomplished singer as well and who loved gardening, like Tom). But something happened, that ended the love story of Tom and Jane. But not in Jane Austen’s heart…and very likely, not in Tom’s heart either.

In 1816, years after Northanger Abbey, Jane once again used Bath as the real setting for Persuasion. Henry Austen published both novels at the same time in 1818 after Jane’s death in 1817. However, unlike Catherine Morland, the Persuasion heroine Anne Elliot was very reluctant to move to Bath, not unlike Jane when she first learned of her father’s plan to move the family to Bath.

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion shared similar geographical feature in Bath, i.e. Milsom Street. In NA, Milsom St. was the place in which General Tilney and his son and daughter lodged, also the place where Catherine joined the family dinner and breakfast. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot met Frederick Wentworth for the first time after Louisa Musgrove’s engagement to Capt. Benwick (Louisa had been initially ‘designed’ for Wentworth).

Now, Chapman noticed that Jane, Cassandra and Mrs. Austen visited the Leigh-Perrots at Paragon, in Bath. I’m not sure if it’s the same modern Paragon, but there is a Paragon feature very close to Milsom St (less than half a mile away). Could it be that Mrs. Lefroy and her daughter (plus her nephew Tom) resided in Milsom St.? Or that Jane strolled the street with Tom? Anyone going to Bath might need to dig the old records of Milsom St. and Paragon (eyes to Rachel...). Gay Street (the place where Jane wrote Letter#43) is also close to Milsom St. Anyway, as Milsom St. was mentioned in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, I have no doubts that Radovici was correct: that this street and the surroundings were important for Tom and Jane.

What happened in Bath?

Jane Austen harboured mixed feelings towards Bath. It seems that initially she loved the resort town, hence her admiration effused in Northanger Abbey (‘Who can ever be tired of Bath?’). Yet, something went wrong during her visit in 1797 (presumably very related to Tom Lefroy). And later, in 1799, Tom Lefroy married another woman. That’s another blow for Jane that might strengthen her negative feelings towards Bath.

In 1801, Mr. Austen moved his family to Bath where they stayed there until 1806. Spence (2003) noticed that prior to moving to Bath, Mr. and Mrs. Austen already learned of Jane’s discomfort (if not dislike) towards Bath. However, off to Bath they still went.

Trying to cope with the new home, Jane had her bad days and some okay days. However, in 1805, Revd George Austen died in Bath, leaving Jane devastated. His death alone might reduce Jane’s affections towards Bath significantly, hence this sentence mentioned in her letter dated 30 June 1808 (Letter#54) to Cassandra: ‘It will be two years to-morrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape!’

But somehow, with the hints here and there of Tom Lefroy’s presence in Bath in 1797, I tend to think that George Austen’s death was not the only one that triggered Jane’s mixed feelings towards Bath. For in Bath, Jane not only lost her father, but also the very man she longed to live with, albeit years earlier. In Bath, Jane also heard the news of Madam Lefroy's death, taking place on Jane's 24th birthday (December 16, 1804). Jane loved Anne Lefroy, but she might never been able to forget that Mrs. Lefroy was one of the main orchestrators of Tom Lefroy's leaving Steventon. The ambivalent feelings would inevitably create discomfort, and hence, the ‘happy feelings of escape’.

I believe that Bath left such impressions in Jane, for after visiting Bath in 1797, she produced the first draft of Northanger Abbey. But the same town also stopped her writing (she was unproductive during her stay in Bath in 1801-1806), and she only started writing again as she arrived in Chawton in 1809. And I believe, the Bath memories contained not only of her father, but also of the Irish Tom Lefroy.


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

Chapman, R. W. 1949, Jane Austen: Facts and Problems, Oxford University Press, reprint from 1948, Oxford.

Radovici, N. 1995, A Youthful Love: Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy?, Merlin Books Devon.

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

Tomalin, C. 2000, Jane Austen: A Life, Penguin Books, London.

Pic 1: Roman spa in Bath, UK, from Wikipedia

Pic 2: Emma (Gwyneth Palthrow) and Harriet Smith (Toni Collette), from Jane Austen Centre

Pic 3: White Hart Inn in Bath

Pic 4: White Hart pub in Weymouth

Pic 5: Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

Pic 6: Anne Elliot and Capt. Wentworth, Persuasion

Pic 7: Map of Bath, showing Milsom St. and Paragon

Pride and Provocation: Washington Post review

The Washington Post finally has the review of Becoming Jane. The complete article can be found here, and the excerpt is below:

Pride and Provocation

A New Film Imagines Jane Austen in Love. It's Stirring All Sorts of Passions.

By Monica Hesse

"Becoming Jane," starring Anne Hathaway, is a romantic dramedy based on the life of the author herself. To which fans might say: Holy Mr. Darcy's wet smock! And to which Jane Austen scholars are saying: Uh-oh.

The press materials released with the movie hedge any bets: The film "spins the few known facts" of a "seemingly brief" and "apparently rapid" romance into a "boldly imagined" love story about Austen and the man who "perhaps, might have stolen her heart" and "awakened" her talent.

It is this definitive love story that inspires such consternation.


Foils, fabrications and fudging aside, we're rooting for the doomed couple, but why ? We're perfectly able to handle the writerly miseries of other artists -- Shakespeare losing Viola or, more realistically, Hemingway drowning in drink -- so why the burning need for Jane to find love?

Because Jane loved love. Emma Woodhouse and the Dashwood sisters did not just find good matches, they found wildly perfect soul mates. We want Jane to find love because thinking of her living without it makes us feel sad, and vaguely guilty for reveling in those fictional romances.

And because Jane played by the rules. She did not abandon her family (Shakespeare), act promiscuously (Wilde), or become an alcoholic (HemingwayFaulknerFitzgeraldSteinbeck). She was the type of well-behaved person our meritocratic society believes deserves happiness. A loveless Jane Austen? How Dickensian.

These fanciful wishes for Austen might explain why the British press was mostly kind to the film: The Daily Mirror called it "delightful and nicely made"; the Times deemed it "giddy as champagne bubbles" despite the "few liberties" taken.

And there are some Austen scholars who welcome the movie.

Leading the pack is Spence, who was tsk-tsked for suggesting in his book a deeper romance between Austen and Lefroy than had previous scholars. (Not nearly, however, as passionate as the film implies; read: Frenching in the courtyard!) "The film captures Jane Austen's spirit and her values," Spence says. "I think she would have rather liked it. Besides, could you really make a movie where Jane flirts with a man and then never sees him again? What kind of a movie is that?"

Movie quality aside, there is also the likelihood that the film will draw popular attention to Austen -- the woman, not just her work. "Yes, it's a blend of fact and fiction," says Marsha Huff, president of the Jane Austen Society of North America. "But hopefully some people will be inspired to dig a little deeper and find out which parts are true."

Therein lies a quandary. When your entire career is spent toiling in relative obscurity, studying the life and slim six novels of a dead writer, how do you react to your one moment in the spotlight? Do you quibble about factual liberties taken? Or do you excuse its foibles in the name of "Please, oh please allow Jane one clandestine affair!"

Jarrold not surprisingly insists that it's possible to do both. "We have this image of Jane Austen as a middle-aged spinster," the director says. "But there was a time when she was young and vibrant." Veracity aside, he says, "in terms of human relationships, [the story line is] true." In some ways the idea of a stoically teary-eyed Jane makes us appreciate the happy-ended worlds of her heroines even more.

Even the doubting Le Faye hopes some good can come from the film. But, says the author: "It still ought to be marketed with a health warning."

Pic: Jane Austen writing, www.annie-hathaway.com

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Laurie's take on 'Becoming Jane'

I keep thinking about “Becoming Jane,” which I saw last night at a special screening for JASNA-Southwest. Sure, it took liberties with chronology and no doubt fashioned characters and events out of pure imagination. Sure, it may not be everyone’s idea of who Jane Austen was or what she would have done. But who cares? Who could possibly claim to know who Jane Austen really was? Not the most scrupulous biographer, not the most accomplished Austen scholar, not the family members who wrote about her, not we who read her surviving letters and her six great novels and her juvenilia.

Even if we possessed every letter she wrote—and it is well known that Jane’s beloved sister Cassandra Austen made sure that would not happen (though A.S. Byatt’s Possession is still my fondest Janeite fantasy)—we would still have only those snapshots of her life. We can only guess at who the author is, who any author is, by reading her letters and reading her books and stories. I always smile when I read and hear heated debates as to who of Jane Austen’s heroines most closely resembles Miss Austen herself. How about all of them? Is not each of us a myriad of identities and concepts of ourselves, from what we think we are to what various people around us conjecture? Would each of our friends and relations provide the same description of our character, or even our appearance? So yes, “Becoming Jane” is fiction based on fact. Once one is comfortable with that notion, one can truly sit back and enjoy this lovely film. It's a compelling story with stellar performances by all.

For me, the most enchanting thing about it was seeing how the filmmakers portrayed the process of creation, how we would hear the words rushing through Jane Austen’s head, flowing out of her pen, considered, rejected, crossed out, and replaced with something even more brilliant; and yes, how the people around her spouted lines from her books, because that is what writers do, they listen and store away and then use whatever they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of why authors might choose, as a service to themselves and their readers, to give their protagonists happy endings.

For me the most gratifying thing about this film was seeing Jane Austen portrayed as a passionate, independent, empowered, and sexually awakened women who made staggeringly courageous choices in her life, including the choice to be a novelist and the choice not to marry. This is a refreshing change from the caricature of the sweet-tempered virgin writing fluffy romances, an image that was born with the “Memoir” of Jane Austen written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh (see Emily Auerbach’s excellent book, Searching for Jane Austen, for a fascinating analysis of our misconceptions about Jane Austen).

The only thing I didn’t appreciate was the closing line written on the screen, which stated that neither Jane nor her sister Cassandra ever married. That seemed unnecessary (and perhaps unintentionaly sexist) after the previous lines, which stated that Austen wrote six of the greatest novels in the English language; and that Tom Lefroy became Chief Justice of Ireland. I think the filmmakers should have left it at that.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this film. Bring tissues.

Madam Anne Lefroy

Anne Lefroy, known as Madam Lefroy, was born in 1749 to the Brydges family at Wootton Court, near Canterbury.

When George Austen was made rector at Deane by his Uncle Francis, Francis also sold his assets in Ashe to a wealthy man, Benjamin Langlois, so that ten years later in 1783, he could also reward his own nephew, the Reverand Isaac Peter George Lefroy, by giving him the living of Ashe. The very attractive and cultivated Anne married the Reverand in 1778 and they lived as Ashe, making them the Austen’s closest neighbours. They had four surviving children; the eldest Lucy and three sons; John Henry George (who succeeded his father at Ashe), Christopher Edward and Benjamin Langlois (who later married James Austen’s daughter Jane).

Anne was a keen poet and her brother, Egerton Brydges, thought highly enough of her work to get two of her poems published before her marriage. In The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry, there are two poems by a Miss Brydges (Spence, 2003). The poems are considered witty and contain issues suited to the feminine mind such as masculine pretension. They show that she was at ease with herself and her feelings.

Anne and Jane, despite their age difference, formed a friendship that was marked by intelligence and respect. This friendship started when the Lefroy’s invited the 11 year old Jane to play with their 7 year old daughter. Due to a mutual love of literature, Anne and Jane began long literary discussions about novels, poetry and plays. It is believed that Jane shared her writing with Anne who acted as her friend and mentor. She was given free reign of their library at the Ashe parsonage. This must have acted as a important source of self-affirmation for Jane who was a child that was of limited confidence and needed encouragement and support in her early years.

Anne was a woman of charm, intelligence and means and soon became hostess to the neighbourhood. She opened a school for the poor children of the surrounding neighbourhood and taught them to read; this shows her determination and strong will, character traits that Jane would have greatly admired. She also personally vaccinated hundreds of people in her husband’s parish against smallpox (Ray, 2006). The Lefroy’s had a carriage and Anne would often lend out the carriage to families without, such as the Austen’s. These acts of kindness led her to be named ‘Madam’ Lefroy by all who knew her.

Anne was the aunt of Tom Lefroy who came to visit them in December 1795 after recently graduating from Trinity College in Dublin. It is unclear as to the role she played or her opinion of the loving relationship forming between Tom and Jane. She did organise a ball the Friday evening (15th January 1796) before Tom was to return to London but we are unsure as to what happened at Ashe on this evening. Jane did not receive any proposal, perhaps as she was expecting, or even some kind of assurance of a continued attachment between the two lovers. It has been speculated that Madam Lefroy became aware of the relationship that was forming between her nephew and Jane and promptly packed him off back to London before any more harm could be done. If this was the situation that it can be questioned why she encouraged the friendship between them and organised this ball before he left.

Perhaps out of some kind of guilt or duty to Jane, Madam Lefroy remained very interested in her matrimonial prospects. In the winter 1797 a Reverand Samuel Blackall was invited to stay at Ashe and became acquainted with Jane. Even after he had left, letters support that Anne Lefroy reported of events at Steventon, particularly mentioning Jane. His response ‘It would give me particular pleasure to have the opportunity of improving my acquaintance with that family- with a hope of creating to myself a nearer interest. But at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.’ Nothing was to develop between Jane and the Reverand and she heard no more about him. Although she was probably not upset over his later indifference, it is sure to have dented her pride as it would any woman’s.

Anne died prematurely in a riding accident on December 16th 1804, Jane’s 29th birthday, when she was just 55 years old. The few months following Anne’s tragic accident must have been a very difficult time for Jane as her father died a month later on January 21st 1805. Jane was mid-way through writing The Watsons which she terminated and this only serves to represent the devastation she was experiencing.

Four years later Jane wrote a poem entitled ‘To the Memory of Mrs Lefroy’ which begins with the acknowledgment that her friend died on her own birthday. She expresses her feelings towards, and opinions of ‘Madam’ Anne Lefroy’s character. Here is a poignant extract:

“I see her here with all her smiles benign
Her voice of eager love, her accents sweet;
That voice and countenance almost devine;
Expression, harmony , alike complete.

Listen: ‘tis not sound alone- ‘tis sense,
’Tis genius, taste and tenderness of soul:
‘Tis genuine warmth of heart without pretence,
And purity of mind that crowns the whole.”

The whole piece can be found at http://home.earthlink.net/~lfdean/austen/poetry/lefroy.html
Although Anne Lefroy was clearly a dedicated wife and mother, it is clear that she was a very interesting lady who had a sense of independence in her mind and spirit.



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

Shields, C. 2001. Jane Austen. Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Collins, I. 1998. Jane Austen. A Parson's Daughter. Published by The Hambledon Press

Ray, J.K. 2006. Jane Austen for Dummies. Published by Wiley Publishing Inc.

Pic 1: Madam Lefroy. Taken from www.austenblog.com/.../03/Madame%20Lefroy.jpg
Pic 2: Ashe Rectory. Drawn by E. Hill, 1901. Taken from www.jasa.net.au/japeople/img/ashe.gif

Update 20 September 2008:

The Jane Austen Center in Bath has adopted this excellent article for their Austen family/friends biography. Thanks a lot Laura Boyle of the JA Center and also to Rachel for the great bio! Here's the link.