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|Tom Lefroy, the End? (Letter 11)
Written by Robbin
(9/1/2005 9:05 a.m.)
“Mrs. Lefroy did come last Wednesday…with whom in spite of interruptions…I was enough alone to hear all that was interesting, which you will easily credit when I tell you that of her nephew (Tom Lefroy) she said nothing at all and of her friend (Reverend Samual Backall) very little…She did not once mention the name of the former to me, and I was too proud to make any enquiries; but on my father’s afterwards asking where he was, I learnt that he was gone back to London in his way to Ireland, where he is called to the Bar and means to practice. She showed me a letter which she had received from her friend a few weeks ago…towards the end of which was a sentence to this effect: “I am very sorry to hear of Mrs. Austen’s illness. I would give me particular pleasure to have an 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. This is rational enough; there is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared before, and I am very well satisfied. It will all go on exceeding well, and decline away in a very reasonable manner. There seems no likelihood of his coming into Hampshire this Christmas, and it is therefore most probable that our indifference will soon be mutual, unless his regard, which appeared to spring from knowing nothing of me at first, is best supported by never seeing me. Mrs. Lefroy made no remarks on the letter, nor did she indeed say anything about him as relative to me. Perhaps she thinks she has said too much already.”
Is the sentence towards the end written by Rev Backall or Tom Lefroy? I would have thought that Rev Backall wrote it (his letter) but JA speaks as if TL said it. Did Rev Backall just put what TL feels and sent it in his own name? I also can not see Tom writing that to his Aunt. Either way it seems a little cowardly of Mrs. Lefroy and Tom, but maybe this is just my modern sensibilities take on it. At that time, maybe this second-hand message was the way to communicate these delicate and unpleasant matters without embarrassment and still maintain a friendship. I find it interesting that JA uses the word “love” which I don’t think she has before and I think she is claiming indifference for herself already. I wish I knew what JA thinks or knows Mrs. Lefroy has said before. I also think she spent a lot of the letter talking of this issue to be very much indifferent because we know that she does curb herself to ensure she can continue to add to the letter as much as she wants before posting—(Letter 10, “I will leave off, or I shall not have room to add a word tomorrow.”)—maybe this is usually to keep the number of pages down (weight) but this time it does not matter.
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