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|JA and Tom (...long!)
Written by Mary-L
(2/24/2003 12:03 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, M.T.Jane 's lovers-Tom and Sam, penned by Caroline
] There seems to be no doubt that Jane Austen got swept up in "whirlwind romance" with TL, and biographers seem to agree that the Lefroys (or maybe just Mrs Lefroy) were sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of the two penniless young people getting too fond of each other to send Tom packing. There are hints that they disapproved of Tom's raising of impossible hopes, and that he suffered a little because of this. Did he break her heart, do you think?
I think that Tom was JA's first, and perhaps only, love. Wasn't she just about 18 when he appeared in, and then left, her life? Clearly, from her letters to Cassandra, they had a delightful time in their short relationship. But I imagine she realized that there was no real possibility of marriage.
As far as Tom's suffering a little because of his family's disapproval, I believe it was only a couple of years later that
] From reading over the letters, my impression is that that though she really enjoyed the experience, she was not broken-hearted- rather, in her responses to Cassandra, she seems to be enjoying being at the centre of all the drama.
I have a different reaction to her letters to C about Tom. I think she was expressing opinions she did not really believe when she made light of his leaving. I believe she really may have been broken-hearted but was being flippant to hide her real feelings.
I visited Tom's estate in Ireland several years ago, where the guides make much of the JA connection. They had posted a recent Irish newspaper article which described the cataloging of a fair number of Irish songs and hand-transcribed music among JA's belongings. The article questioned whether this showed that JA still pined for Tom for some years, making the point that Irish songs were generally quite popular in England at the time, so her collection may not have had a special meaning to her.
In a visit to Chawton in '99, we were fortunate to be allowed into their "archives" room, where we saw several of her music books, with words and music meticulously copied in JA's hand, so carefully that the music looked printed at first glance. One song was "The Love of an Irishman," with verses about "the turbaned Turk with his mustache curled" and the German count, and others, who no matter how they tried, could never match the love of an Irishman. I'll bet she was thinking of Tom as she copied that song.
] However, it does seem that Mrs Lefroy refrained from talking of him after that- perhaps in deference to Jane's feelings. (Snip)
I recall in one of JA's letters to C, she mentions that she and her father were talking to Madam Lefroy several years after Tom left. JA was hoping to hear news of Tom but didn't want to mention him. Eventually, her father asked Mme L about Tom (perhaps realizing Jane's interest) and they got whatever the latest news was. I imagine that by that time he was married, so it couldn't have been much comfort for Jane!
But JA found in her writing some deep satisfactions that I'm sure she would never have known had she married and raised a family. She called her first printed copy of P&P her "own darling child," and was able to exercise and polish her writing genius in unparalleled ways. She lost Tom but gained a world that I believe fulfilled her in ways that marriage could never have done.
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