Friday, 17 August 2007

Tracking Tom Lefroy and his nephew

This post contains two topics, i.e. Tom Lefroy (1776-1869) and his nephew Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy (1815-1887), but I decided to combine them due to the topic’s close association.

Tracking Tom Lefroy in England circa 1818

The de-function Carrigglas website mentioned that Tom Lefroy once visited England after Jane Austen’s death to pay her homage, though did not mention the exact time frame. A very surprising information, of course, and hence in need of further verification, with all due respect to Mr. Jeffrey George Lefroy that used to manage the Carrigglas website (I do hope to get his email so I can contact him about this matter). I have tried to track down Tom Lefroy’s visit to England in or after July 1817 and I may found, though very little, some possibilities of Tom Lefroy's visit to England around 1816/1818. Page 52-53 of Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy says:

To the industry and accuracy of Mr. Lefroy, in conjunction with his friend, John Schoales, Esq., Chairman of the Queen's County, the public are indebted for the valuable collection of cases which has long been received with so much approbation by the Bench and Bar, as well in Westminster Hall as in the Courts in Dublin. In 1816, having then risen high in practice, he was appointed King's counsel. In 1818 he was appointed King's Serjeant, and the circumstance under which this appointment took place are so creditable to him as well as the Irish Government of that day, as they deserve a brief notice. It was well known in the profession that the Lord Lieutenant (Earl Talbot) was pressed with applications for the vacant Serjeantey, from various quarters, by persons of much influence; but desirous to give the preference to the strongest professional claims, His Excellency avails himself or the opportunity of a Privy Council which was attended by the Chancellor, the Chief Justice, and the Attorney-General, to ascertain their sentiments. To them the Lord Lieutenant submitted the names of the several candidates, and the appointment of Mr. Lefroy was the result of their unanimous opinion.

Earl Talbot, by the way, was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1817-1821. The Memoir mentioned that Tom Lefroy was appointed as the King's Serjeant on or before Nov 4, 1818 (page 53-54). He would be inaugurated in Dublin then, I presume. But is it not possible that he travelled to England on that account? After all, he served as the King's Serjeant, meaning that he would liaise with King (George III or IV) in at least one occasion. If so, then he would travel to London and could manage time to visit Winchester somehow.

This is what Wikipedia says about King’s (or Queen’s) Serjeant:

'Until past the middle of the 19th century a limited number of the serjeants were called King's (Queen's) Serjeants (postnominal KS or QS). A serjeant could "take silk" and become a King's Serjeant. They were appointed by letters patent and summoned to parliament.'

There is no mention whether the parliament here refers to the ones in Great Britain, Ireland or Scotland. If the parliament refers to any of them, Tom did not have to go to London, for he would be inaugurated in Ireland. However, it still does not exclude the possibility that he did travel to England at one point after July 1817, circa 1818.

In any case, Tom Lefroy would be too busy as an MP in 1830s and 1840s, especially as the Baron of Exchequer (1841), hence I doubt that he would visit England in the 40s. Thus, our best lead is now to track his activities pre-1830, before he was elected as the Dublin MP, when he presumably had more time and business to travel to England. Unfortunately, no such information is available in the Memoir.

Tom Lefroy and Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy

I also just received Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Letters, and I just learned some interesting facts about Anthony Lefroy, Tom’s brother and father of Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy (TEPL). Here’s what I found from page 545:

Anthony Lefroy (1777-1857) became a Captain in the 65th Regiment, the commission being purchased for him by his Langlois great-uncles. Unfortunately, Anthony married in 1798 Elizabeth Wilkin, who was considered in some way undesirable, and the Langlois family refused to provide any further financial assistance. Tom Lefroy was eventually able to obtain for his brother the position of Barrack-Master, first in Arundel and later in York, where this branch of the family therefore remained. One of their sons, Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy (1815-1887), married in 1846 his cousin Anna-Jemima Lefroy (daughter of Anna Austen and Benjamin Lefroy; see below).

Then the information also talked of Benjamin Lefroy, son of George Lefroy and Anne Lefroy. York referred to the city of York in North Yorkshire, England, more than 200 miles north-west of London. It is rather ironic that both Anthony and Tom happened to fall in love with ‘undesirable’ women (Anthony to Elizabeth and Tom to Jane Austen), but that Anthony chose to remain with his heart’s desire and Tom chose another path. I am not judging Tom here, for I don’t know what prompted him not to fight for Jane. But it’s interesting for me that Tom helped Anthony from his financial problems. Would it be possible that Tom somehow wished that he was in Anthony’s place and opted to stay with Jane? That might trigger him to help his brother, in addition to the fact that Tom was a family man who would not leave his family behind.

Anyway, coming back to the York Lefroys. In the Memoir of Jane Austen (p. 186), Caroline Austen warned James Edward Austen Leigh (JEAL) in her letter dated April 1st 1869:

‘against raking up that old story of the still living ‘Chief Justice’ – That there was something in it, is true – but nothing out of the common way – (as I beleive). Nothing to call ill usage, & no very serious sorrow endured. The York Lefroys got up a very strong version of it all, & spread their own notions in the family – but they were for years very angry with their Kinsman, & rather delighted in a proof as they thought, of his early heartlessness. I have my story from my Mother, who was near at the time – It was a disappointment, but Mrs. Lefroy sent the gentleman off at the end of a very few weeks, that no more mischief might be done. If his love had continued a few more years, he might have sought her out again – as he was then making enough to marry on – but who can wonder that he did not? He was settled in Ireland, and he married an Irish lady – who certainly had the convenience of money – there was no engagement, & never had been.

The letter above was then refuted by Anna Austen Lefroy in her letter dated May 24th, 1869, twenty days after Tom Lefroy’s death (Jane Austen: A Family Record, p. 251). Anyway, I just realised that the ‘York Lefroys’ very likely referred to the family of Anthony Lefroy, Tom’s brother. But what Caroline said did not make sense to me. How could Anthony (who received help from Tom Lefroy) and his family spread bad words about Tom, who had helped their family out of poverty?

What I perceived was that Anthony and his family shared a considerable close relationship with Tom Lefroy, and somehow Caroline misinterpreted this, or even shared her own negativity for the York Lefroys for some reasons (with all due respect). Let us recall that JEAL wrote to none other than TEPL to confirm Anna Lefroy’s information on her letter May 24th 1869. JEAL knew that TEPL was close to Tom Lefroy, possibly because of Tom’s generosity to TEPL’s family. In another word, not only that JEAL trusted TEPL, Tom also trusted TEPL. By extension, TEPL’s family (the York branch) would not ‘spread their own notions’ (that Tom Lefroy once shared particular relationship with Jane Austen) with bad intentions.

Coming back further to the hypothesis that Tom Lefroy was the one behind TEPL’s purchase of the Cadell/Austen letter. Reading such information about the York Lefroys, I am more convinced that it was very sensible for Tom to ask for his nephew’s help (TEPL) to obtain the Cadell letter. In 1840s, Tom would be very busy with his schedules in Ireland to travel to England for personal reasons (especially such a vague one as obtaining a letter). Hence, he commissioned his nephew to do the purchase for him.

Just now, I also learned that TEPL was a barrister like his uncle (as a law student of the Middle Temple, he was called to the Bar on June 7, 1844 - see The Jurist), and later became the judge of the county courts. In 1840 TEPL, I assume already a lawyer by then, co-authored a very interesting book about cases against railways and canals in England (Cases Relating to Railways and Canals: Argued and Adjudged in the Courts of Law and Equity), downloadable from Google Book. It meant that Thomas was related to book publishing in 1840, the same year with the Cadell paper sale. His frequent visits to London (or he even resided in London) would then enable him to go to the Cadell sale to obtain the letter for Tom Lefroy, his uncle who had helped his family.

It might be just me, but a lawyer in the midst of his career such as Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy would not spend his time lurking around the Cadell papers sale just to get a 'mundane and trivial' Cadell/Austenletter, particularly because he was not engaged yet with Jemima (of an Austen mother) in 1840. TEPL would be prompted to do so, and the only person with such influence was his uncle, Tom Lefroy, who was already an MP for Dublin University that time.

PS 19 August 2007:

I just realised that TEPL's father (Anthony Lefroy) married Miss Elizabeth Wilkin in 1798. I mean, duh, it was in this article. What I'm trying to say is that the Langlois great-uncles (including Benjamin Langlois, I assume?) indeed cut off their financial supports for Anthony, and it was a big matter for the Lefroys. In 1798, Tom had not married Mary Paul yet. Could it be that one of the reasons that prompted Tom to resume his engagement with Mary instead of nursing his feelings towards Jane was Anthony's fate?

If we return to the list of Tom Lefroy’s siblings, we will find out that Anthony was the second son, followed by Benjamin Lefroy (born in 1782), who was merely 16 years old in 1798. The fourth son (Christopher Lefroy) was still 14 years old, and the last son (Henry Lefroy) was still 9 years old; practically a kid. I can better gaze into Tom's mind now. In 1798, he was still in love with Jane, an 'undesirable' woman in Benjamin Langlois' POV. On the other hand, Anthony was also in love with an 'undesirable' woman, Elizabeth Wilkin, and even married her. I suspect that Anthony and Tom were the main hopes for the Lefroys, hence when Anthony was cut off and Tom's second younger brother (Benjamin) was still a teenager, Tom felt the responsibility to save his family fell solely upon him. Hence, the decision to follow his head instead of his heart. Tom should save his family first, and thus chose to leave Jane for good. Legally, at least. It was a relief for Tom that Mary Paul was a kind and loving girl, thus his sacrifice was not without merit.

The more I think about it, the more I can understand Tom Lefroy's closeness with Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy (TEPL) and possibly also the York Lefroys; Tom felt connected with Anthony for what his brother chose to do, something that Tom, as the eldest son, could not afford, and had no luxury to do.


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

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

Faye, D. l., Austen-Leigh, W. & Austen-Leigh, R. A. 1989, Jane Austen: A Family Record, The British Library, London.

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

Sweet, S., Stevens, V., Stevens, R. & Norton, G. S. 1845, The Jurist London, Dublin.

Pic 1: Tom Lefroy circa 1855

Pic 2: Westminster Hall early 19th century, from Wikipedia

Pic 3: Guildhall York Council, York, from Wikipedia

Pic 4: Anna Austen Lefroy, from 'Memoir of Jane Austen'

Pic 5: Tom Lefroy in 1799, by G. Engleheart, from Carrigglas website


Anonymous said...

i am not sure how to post on here but if you could start this topic, it would be a few things.

*Did anyone else notice Jane left Tom in the movie when she noticed they would be penniless, however when they started to run away she knew that they would barely have money?

*If Jane and Tom had lived together/gotten married and had children, what do you think their children's names would be?


I love this site so much!!!

Icha said...

Hi there, thanks for dropping by (what's your name, if you don't mind?).

Your first question:
*Did anyone else notice Jane left Tom in the movie when she noticed they would be penniless, however when they started to run away she knew that they would barely have money?

I believe Jane realised that already. The thing is, she did not realise the full extent of Tom being penniless, that it would also affect his family. The letter provided her the knowledge that Tom's family would suffer if Tom did not resume sending the money to them; which would very likely the case had he ran away with Jane. Tom's brother (Anthony Lefroy) suffered similar case as he married Elizabeth Wilkin - just as I explained in this article.

If Jane and Tom had lived together/gotten married and had children, what do you think their children's names would be?

Hmmm... that's entirely up to them, but I like the name 'Jane Christmas Lefroy. I will still vote for that name, for their eldest daughter. For the boy, that would be Anthony George Lefroy, a tribute to both fathers of Tom and Jane.

Interesting questions, thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Icha, I thoroughly enjoyed this article. The Anthony Lefroy/Elizabeth Wilkin story is very interesting. It says a lot for Tom Lefroy's character that he accepted them and their situation, when the rest of the family (or the Langlois', at least) shunned them. Wonderful research!

Icha said...

I know... is it not exciting, Michelle? ^_^

I always thought that Tom was not a cruel guy, and all the indications found during our research showed that he was still very fond of Jane even in 1797. And now, we knew what happened that changed the tide: Anthony's marriage in 1798. Did he elope then? If so, that would make Uncle Ben Langlois even more angry.

It says a lot for Tom Lefroy's character that he accepted them and their situation, when the rest of the family (or the Langlois', at least) shunned them.

Indeed. Tom was a good guy. A good brother, a good son.

In any case, the more I think of it, the more I am certain that Anthony's fate was the main reason for Tom to resume his engagement with Mary and leave Jane behind.

So sad, eh?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my questions! I am the anon. person... sorry I just didn't want to give out my name completely!!!!

Icha said...

Oh, that;s okay, Rachel <3

If you want to remain anonymous, that is your right to behold. The thing is, I feel rather awkward calling a friend 'anon', hence it's better for me if readers and friends dropped their comments with a name, even a screen name like Darth Vader or Voldermort will do ^_^

But of course, it's up to you, my friend.

And what do you think of the possible name of Jane and Tom's daughter then? And son?

Anonymous said...

And what do you think of the possible name of Jane and Tom's daughter then? And son?

I was thinking...sort of corny, however 'Elizabeth' for P&P and Bennett for a boy. I know thats odd and probably would never work- however...thats what I thought.

How did you get to go to Hampshire/etc?

Michelle said...

1798! Wow, that is significant. I must confess I read this article very late last night, and completely overlooked the date. I agree with your reasoning. ONE inprudent marriage would have been bad enough, but TWO, including the oldest nephew/son with the highest hopes pinned on him... Wow.

The more I think about it, the more tragic is is - a true "no-win" situation, for some of those involved at least. The denial of self and choosing to honour the family is noble.

Icha said...

Rachel <3, if you don't mind, you can drop me an email at

How did you get to go to Hampshire/etc?

Oh, I did not go. I wish I went... it's my dear friend Rachel (co-admin of this blog) who went there. She's a British girl, living very close to London, hence was able to drive to Hampshire. God I envy her ^_^ in the best sense!

Michelle, yeah, mate, 1798! A year before Tom's wedding with Mary in March 1799. I bet Anthony got married (I tend to think he eloped) before November 1798, before Tom went back to Ireland. Oh, such a sad story, I can cry now... sob!

Speaking of which, Rachel just finished beta-ing my new chapter of Tom and TEPL. Will post it asap this afternoon. Hope you like it. Anthony and Mary also appear, and Jane Christmas as well!

The denial of self and choosing to honour the family is noble.

Indeed, you are SO right!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to find someone who researches things that they feel. I have always felt that Jane Austen would have had a true love in her life. As I have always felt that her books had been very inspired by many true and real things happening. Her writing is almost too in touch and personal to believe otherwise, think you not?

I love and appreciate all your hard work and research on Tom LeFroy. I think that is so important to cast someone that is most likely true and good in that light. Even in today's society a situation like Tom's and his brother's is a tragedy, and causes much introspection and vascillation in terms of committment, so to ponder in the light of 1798 is truly profound.

Icha said...

Thank you Brittany, and welcome to the BJ Fansite! ^_^

Yes, I presume that you have read the latest development that Anthony was very likely the cause of Tom's going to Ireland?

Anyway, there's a debate whether they were in good terms or that Tom only helped Anthony because he had to do so. Personally, I believe Tom loved Anthony and his family that much that he would always step forward to save them. He has too big a sense of responsibility to sit idle or do nothing about it.

And yes, I do believe that JA's works had too much personal colours in there that they would definitely be influenced by her personal experience. Such a genius!