Saturday, 26 January 2008

Tom Lefroy visiting Ashe in October 1800

I would like to thank Arnie Perlstein for tipping the existence of an excellent book titled ‘The Letters of Mrs. Lefroy: Jane Austen’s Beloved Friend’. And of course, to dearest Rachel for sending one copy to me across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean! And now, whilst I have the rare opportunity to make a post (actually, am rather fed up with daily works… a good alibi!), let me give verbatim citation of the first letter in the book, dated 29 September 1800 from Madam Lefroy to Reverend Edward Lefroy in Warfied Bracknell, Berks. Edward was one of Anne Lefroy’s sons (the other one was Benjamin). The interesting thing is that the letter mentioned a visit plan of Colonel Anthony Peter Lefroy (Tom Lefroy’s father) and a Thomas to Ashe. Arnie and I are very sure that this Thomas was Thomas Langlois Lefroy. The letter, extracted from page 29, is quoted below. It’s better to read it hand in hand with the Jane Austen/Tom Lefroy timeline that I wrote August last year to understand its significance, as it corroborates Arnie’s and my suspicion that Tom Lefroy might still had a contact with Jane on early October 1800. Oh, and mind you, Mrs. Lefroy does not like to use dots. She had only one dot for the full stop in her letter!

Letter 1 [September 29 1800]

My dearest Edward,

Your letter of Friday last gave me great pleasure I feel the separation my beloved Boy as severely as it is possible for you to do but whilst I can reflect upon your disposition & conduct with as much comfort as I now derive from it I will endeavour to bear the unavoidable absences & look forward to the time when we shall meet again with delight you have I trust from your conduct at school [laid up] for yourself a source of comfort thro’ life & I pray to God that you may always pursue in the same manner & that little Ben: may follow your example – we expect your Uncle John on Tuesday I am greatly disappointed at finding he cannot continue to call at Warfield Col:nl Lefroy & Thomas are to come here on Thursday or Friday I believe George will go to Cork St he is not much delighted with the scheme as you may suppose

I must intreat you to accept of the enclosed half guinea I cannot bear your affection for me should so impoverish you & be assured I have derived more pleasure from your kindness than 50 times the sum could have purchased for me in any other we all join in love to you, Ben: & Tom – tell Ben: I hope he will write to me I will send him a letter very soon.

My dearest Boy your affect:te Mother AL

Ashe Sunday Sept:r 29

The ‘Thomas’ in the letter was obviously Thomas Langlois Lefroy, for it was paired up with Colonel Lefroy. The ‘Tom’ in the last paragraph was Ben Lefroy’s cousin, Tom Brydges. The bold sentences are my own emphasise.

I am uncertain of the Cork Street scheme George (was this Mr. George Lefroy? Then why not saying ‘your father’?) had to attend to… but it might not be Jane Austen-related, for Tom Lefroy had married Mary Paul by this date.

However, the probable visit of Tom Lefroy in Ashe in October 1800 might lead to the drama in Mansfield Park where Edmund Bertram asked Fanny Price to give her consent on his involvement in the silly drama. Put it in Jane/Tom perspective, it is plausible that Tom still tried to explain to Jane his behaviours of leaving her for Mary Paul, and it’s possible that the time was on October 1800, in Ashe Hampshire. Otherwise, how would Jane reached an understanding about Tom, albeit belatedly? For to me, Jane clearly effused her comprehension of Tom’s situation in the Wentworth/Anne Elliot interaction in Persuasion where Jane as the narrator clearly understood the reason why Anne left Captain Wentworth; i.e. for her family’s sake.

I still have to double check where Jane was on early October 1800; I hope other Team Jane can help me with this. If she was in Hampshire that month, it was very likely that Jane and Tom truly met again, even just for an explanatory chat. However, on Sunday, 25 October 1800 Jane (in Hampshire) wrote this to Cassandra (in Godmersham)(Faye, 1997):

‘I am not yet able to acknowledge the receipt of any parcel from London, which I suppose will not occasion you much surprise. – I was a little disappointed today, but not more than is perfectly agreable; & I hope to be disappointed again tomorrow, as only one coach comes down on sundays.’

Arnie suggested that Jane’s disappointment might be Tom-related, and I second his opinion. Hence, it is plausible that Jane was in Hampshire in early October 1800, and she met Tom again there, presumably having the long-delayed explanatory talk.


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

Lefroy, A., Lefroy, H. & Turner, G. 2007, The Letters of Mrs Lefroy: Jane Austen's Beloved Friend, The Jane Austen Society, Winchester.


Arnie Perlstein said...


I am glad you are having a nice time reading those letters, I did as well! They are a giant window into the heart, mind and soul of Madam Lefroy, and that is something every Janeite must be interested in exploring--enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Based on this chronology that I found on Wikipedia, Jane must have been at Steventon in early October, 1800. You have to agree that it’s less possible for her to be away from home at the end of September- beginning of October and then leave again at the end of November.
“October - Edward Austen visits Steventon and takes Cassandra back to Godmersham with him via Chawton and London.
End of November–mid-December - Jane Austen visits the Lloyds at Ibthorpe.”

The way she begins her first surviving letter from that year, it’s confirming your supposition and the link with Mrs Lefroy’s letter: I believe George will go to Cork St he is not much delighted with the scheme as you may suppose”.

My opinion is that George was Mrs. Lefroy’s eldest son (John Henry George 1782-1823), and not her husband, as you very well noted: “Then why not saying ‘your father’?” George must be Tom’s cousin who visited Jane at Steventon in that memorable year, 1796, after Manydown ball… and he’s probable the one sending “parcel from London”.

I'm soooo happy, dearest Icha, that you're back with such wonderful postings.

Thanks & Hugs

Rachel said...

I completely agree with you Mariana, it is most likely that Jane was in Steventon early October 1800 if we know she wrote to Cassandra from there 25 October. Just for the logistics of travelling, they could not plan too many trips within a short time span

mamma jakeline said...

Oh dear me! that is very interesting news! :-)

Mariana, dearie, I chose Mansfield park! I have read a 100 pages today! (remember, English is not my native tongue)

btw part 7 of I remember love is up. I am changing history as we speak! ;)

Lots of love from Maria in Sweden

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear Icha, I’m afraid that I have to disappoint you and your dear friend, Arnie.
I’ve just finished re-reading Jane’s letters from year 1800 (Oct-Nov) and I concluded that Jane’s disappointment for not receiving “any parcel from London” is not Tom-related.

Here’s what she wrote in the same letter but 2 days later:
“Monday. I am glad I had no means of sending this yesterday, as I am now able to thank you for executing my Commissions so well. I like the Gown very much & my mother thinks it very ugly. I like the Stockings also very much & greatly prefer having only two pair of that quality to three of an inferior sort. The Combs are very pretty, & I am much obliged to you for your present; but am sorry you should make me so many. The Pink Shoes are not particularly beautiful, but they fit me very well-the others are faultless. I am glad that I have still my Cloak to expect. Among my other obligations, I must not omit to number your writing me so long a letter in a time of such hurry.”

And then she wrote in the next letter (Saturday Nov.1st): “You have written I am sure, tho' I have received no letter from you since your leaving London; the Post, & not yourself must have been unpunctual.”

So, the “parcel” has to be the package with gowns, stockings and shoes that Cassandra sent from London. Believe me dear friends, I am "a little disappointed" too.

Maria dearest, I understand you perfectly, ‘cause English is the second language for me as well … and we don’t have to mention that it’s even more difficult to understand some time that 18th century language flavour : -))

Love and lots of hugs

Icha said...

Mariana, thanks a lot for your wonderful analysis (re: George and Jane's letter). I think you are correct, Jane's disappointment in that letter might not be Tom-related. However, as I caught that Jane slowly but steadily understood and forgave Tom anyway, she would need an event to make her understand Tom's situation. And what with her signals in Mansfield Park most importantly, I feel that Tom indeed met Jane again at least once after his marriage to Mary. And it's very likely that it was during the early October 1800 visit. Bear with me as I write another post re: this matter, I'm a bit fed up with proposal writing at the moment...