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
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
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
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
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
Back to Jane Bennet. We know she went to
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
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
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! ;-)
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 DarcysagaPic 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