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|JA says that his change was serious:
Written by Graciela.
(7/12/2013 10:00 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Fit in spirits, penned by Therese
There was comfort also in Tom, who gradually regained his health, without regaining the thoughtlessness and selfishness of his previous habits. He was the better for ever for his illness. He had suffered, and he had learned to think: two advantages that he had never known before; and the self–reproach arising from the deplorable event in Wimpole Street, to which he felt himself accessory by all the dangerous intimacy of his unjustifiable theatre, made an impression on his mind which, at the age of six–and–twenty, with no want of sense or good companions, was durable in its happy effects. He became what he ought to be: useful to his father, steady and quiet, and not living merely for himself. (Ch. 48)
About the difference in age, Susan is fourteen at this time, so there is twelve years between she and Tom, which is less than the difference between the couples that you have mentioned and some others in Austen's novels.
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