Sunday, 1 July 2007

Years 1795 and 1816 in the ‘Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy’

This review is made possible by manuscripts of Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy (1871) provided by Linda and Warren (thanks guys!). On the Preface page ii, Thomas Lefroy (Tom Lefroy’s son) wrote:

‘I have been often asked by friends who only knew him in the later years of his life, at what period his conscience was first awakened to a sense of his own sinfulness and need of a Saviour, or what were the means made directly instrumental in this work of grace. When I began this memoir I was unable to ascertain anything more than the evidence afforded by his letters as to his having a knowledge of the leading principles of religious Truth at an early age ; but since these sheets went to press I accidentally discovered amongst the papers refered to in p. 342, the following interesting memorandum on this subject written by himself under date of 10th Aug., 1822:

“The papers in this parcel were written at different times from the year 1816, when I first began to have any view of God’s true method of salvation for a sinner. I had from the year 1795, more or less, read the Scriptures, but not with faith – nor as a little child – but in the pride of a Socinian spirit, and consequently I remained long in the dark.

As truth began to dawn I was enabled to see many things, but darkly, and therefore in these papers will be observed more or less of error : but I have preserved them, and mention the circumstances, as a testimony to the great benefit of applying with constancy to this source of all truth, and to glorify the long suffering, the tender mercy, and grace of our Lord God, and at the same time to show what it is that hinders us from reaping the blessed fruits with which the Scriptures abound, as soon as we otherwise should do – namely, leaning on our own poor though proud understandings.” ’

Tom Lefroy mentioned two years in his letter: 1795 and 1816. Year 1795… what happened that year? On page 12 of the Memoir, Thomas Lefroy wrote that ‘he [Tom Lefroy] was appointed Auditor, and delivered the opening address of the Session for 1795. In that Session he obtained a fourth medal from the Society.’

I somehow don’t think that obtaining a medal in 1795 would open young Tom Lefroy’s eyes to spirituality. So, how about we take Linda’s opinion… that in 1795, more or less, as we all know, Tom Lefroy met Jane Austen?

In this thread, Linda said that:

'I wish to give Jane and Tom credit for having learning, intelligence and reasoning powers. They weren't your ordinary 'teenagers'. Modern writers have taken bits and pieces to make their case, but have failed to get the big picture, which is as follows. I previously mentioned that in the Memoir, Tom specifically mentions the year 1795 as a turning point – and as I noted it was the year he met Jane. My point being, based on my brief scan of the Memoir, I believe she pointed out to him the difference between 'head' knowledge and 'heart' knowledge of the scriptures. The bits I have seen in the Memoir seem to illustrate his growing influence in the 'heart' area. Now, throw in the problem of his stance on the Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. I know nothing about it, but in the Memoir there are some of his writings that must be closely looked at, at least for me to come to some conclusion about the whys and wherefores. All these areas need to be investigated in order to get into Tom's mind and what Jane saw in him. In other words, the story has not been told yet in its entirety. I can only see the tip of the iceberg at the moment.' [bolded sentence by Icha]

Go Linda! I support her premise that the turning point of Tom’s life in 1795 was triggered by Jane Austen. And what about the other year, 1816?

Thomas Lefroy mentioned page 342 in the preface. Page 342 belongs to Chapter XI about ‘Traits of His Inner Life – His love for the study of Scripture – Extracts from his Portfolio’. On that page, he wrote:

'He [Tom Lefroy] never kept any diary, but he left behind him a large portfolio full of short notes on passages of Scripture and points of doctrine, jotted down from time to time as opportunity offered, and in these we have a clue to the topics which engaged his thoughts in his hours of retirement. From their dates they appear to have been commenced as early as 1816 and were carried on to 1860.'

Got that? As early as 1816; in accordance with what Tom Lefroy said himself in letter 10th Aug., 1822. Now, I don’t know what happened to Tom Lefroy in 1816; my knowledge of him is not that extensive. But I know what happened to Jane Austen in 1816: she began to feel unwell earlier that year (Austen-Leigh 1871; Tomalin 2000). And here’s where I voice my opinion: What if in 1816 Tom somehow found out that Jane’s health was deteriorating? Afterall, the Lefroys and the Austens remained in good contacts for years to come (Anna Austen, JA's niece, even married Ben Lefroy, TL's cousin in 1814). What if Tom Lefroy, through connections between both families, found out that Jane was not feeling well?

Tom Lefroy could not visit her, even just as a friend… so the best other thing he could do was to turn to God and ask for His Guidance. Too far fetched? I use my prerogative here… but who knows if my hunch was right? That one of the factors that drove Tom nearer to Thee in 1816 was also… Jane Austen?

And by the way, it is very interesting to me that both Memoirs of Jane Austen and Chief Justice Lefroy were published in the same year, in 1871. Well, JA's Memoir was a reprint and expanded edition, the first edition was published in December 1869. But, still...


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

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

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

Pic 1: Chief Justice Thomas Langlois Lefroy in 1855, drawing by W.H. Mote

Pic 2: James McAvoy as the young Tom Lefroy

Pic 3: The Right Honorable Thomas Lefroy (I assume this is THE Tom Lefroy, instead of his son). The picture was taken from Ebay, provided by Linda, and it could be taken c1855 or earlier, judging that he looked a bit younger than the first picture with the wig. Thanks a lot, Linda! And I also ask any readers who are familiar with the origin of this picture to contact me, for I would like to learn more details of this new picture.


Rachel said...

Congratulations Icha. I think this is one of the best posts yet! It is so full of insight and in my romantic heart I can believe it is all true! Thanks also to Linda and Warren for providing the information to work with.

Lemon Tree said...

hello,i must leave some words here for you,cos i do think your blog is really great!!!
I searched the Google for "Thomas Lefroy",and then i find here.
it's really really very nice,you know?
I do appriciate what you have done for this!
i like the movie Becoming Jane so much that i even cant help to watch it for 5 times already!!!
I am so glad to get your blog.
i wond if you are Jane's fans too?
how can you manage this?you must spend much time on this.
There's just one pity for i am a Chinese,so my English is in fact not that good.......
so I think it will take me much time and energy to finish reading your entrys haha:)

Icha said...

Hello there, ni hao ma?

Thanks a lot for dropping by, very nice of you! And I think your English is very good, you'll have no significant trouble in reading the entries!

And I watched it about 4 times at the cinema, and many times afterwards, so your action is pardonable, hahaha!

Lemon Tree said...

thanks very much:)I'v got your reply
and, Ni Hao:)
i'm so glad to find you'v did the same silly thing as me,haha:)
I do like your site so much,and i have already linked it.I will visit you now and then:)haha,i'm one of your supporters:)

Lemon Tree said...