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|Madam Lefroy & Lady Russell
Written by Robbin
(10/9/2005 5:56 p.m.)
“Such confidence, powerful in its own warmth, and bewitching in the wit which often expressed it, must have been enough for Anne; but Lady Russell saw it very differently. His sanguine temper, and fearlessness of mind, operated very differently on her. She saw in it but an aggravation of the evil. It only added a dangerous character to himself. He was brilliant, he was headstrong. Lady Russell had little taste for wit, and of any thing approaching to imprudence a horror. She deprecated the connexion in every light…Such opposition, as these feelings produced, was more than Anne could combat. Young and gentle as she was, it might yet have been possible to withstand her father's ill-will, though unsoftened by one kind word or look on the part of her sister; but Lady Russell, whom she had always loved and relied on, could not, with such steadiness of opinion, and such tenderness of manner, be continually advising her in vain. She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing -- indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it. But it was not a merely selfish caution, under which she acted, in putting an end to it.” (Persuasion, Volume 1, Chapter 4)
I continue to look for items to connect JA’s letters with the novel. There are some similarities between JA’s friend Madam Lefroy and Lady Russell. I cannot take credit for noticing this as it was pointed out by the inestimable JulieW during the group read last August. However, I would like to say that Madam Lefroy and Lady Russell are similar in three ways: First, that they were great friends; second, she seems to have had some input against a potential attachment between JA and her nephew Tom Lefroy but not anything so radical as in Persuasion; third, that she seemed to have recommend JA to a particular gentleman (Samual Backall) of whom JA was absolutely not interested in just as Anne is not interested in Charles Musgrove. The following is an excerpt from JA’s letters concerning a visit from Madam Lefroy after Tom has left the area and apparently after Reverend Backall has been the recipient of favorable intelligence describing JA.
“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 (Samual Backall) 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.” (Letter 11, November 1798, JA’s Letters, LeFaye)
Some information on the Lefroys follows from “Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels, by Deirdre Le Faye.”
Beyond Deane was the parish of Ashe, where the wealthy Revd Mr. George Lefroy was the rector. Mr. Lefroy had several young children, and an elegant and intellectual wife, known to the neighbourhood as Madam Lefroy; they had arrived in Hampshire only in 1783, but had soon become very friendly with the Austens. (page 14)
There had been a short and intense flirtation in the winter of 1795-96 with Tom Lefroy, a visiting nephew of the Reverend George Lefroy of Ashe; but the senior Lefroys had taken fright at the ideas of a formal engagement between such a young and penniless couple, and sent Tom off to London before he could commit himself. How deeply Jane’s feelings may have been involved is not known; but even if she did shed some tears at hearing of Tom’s sudden departure for London, only a few months later she started writing First Impressions, which is certainly not the product of a broken heart. Family tradition, however, recalled that she had been very upset when told by her parents of their impending departure from Steventon. (Page 26, 27)
Jane Austen’s great friend Madam Lefroy of Ashe was killed in 1804 when she threw herself off a runaway horse. (page 60)
JulieW submitted this information on Samuel Blackall from Jane Austen: A Family Record by Le Faye:
This Christmas of 1797 might have proved a romantic one for Jane as well, for Madam Lefroy - perhaps trying to make amends for nipping in the bud the flirtation with Tom Lefroy the previous year- had been doing a little matchmaking for her friend with amore eligible gentleman. This year she invited the Revd Samuel Blackall a tall learned young Fellow of Emmanuel College Cambridge- older than Tom and with every expectation of acquiring a rich college living in the not too distant future. There is no evidence as to what she told Jane about him before hand but she seemed to have assured Mr. Blackall that Mr. Austen's younger daughter was well worth his consideration as a suitable wife. Unfortunately although Mr. Blackall was basically good-humored and kind-hearted...he was unskilled at courtship and his pompous manner and loud didactic conversation so far from attracting Jane seems to have reduced her to stunned silence.
If anyone is further interested in Jane, Tom and Madam Lefroy, some of the posts from the August group read are below. Read them at your own risk as I did not review the entire thread and there may be Persuasion spoilers in some, although I do not remember any.
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