Monday, February 4, 2013

Tom Lefroy

Jane Austen's only love:

Pretty handsome guy (the white is undoubtedly powder, fashionable at the time). His brief non-courtship of Jane Austen is the subject of Becoming Jane, starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. The real Lefroy married an heiress, had oodles of kids, sat in Parliament, and was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, his native country. He had a good life, it seems.

I'm reading Claire Tomalin's wonderful biography of Jane Austen, and this is what she has to say about Jane's brief and joyful flirtation with Lefroy:

"We can't help knowing that her personal story will not go in the direction she is imagining in the letter; that, as it turned out, it was not Tom Lefroy, or anyone like him, who became her adventure, but the manuscript [Elinor and Marianne*] upstairs. Not marriage but art: and in her art she made this short period in a young woman's life carry such wit and human understanding as few writers have managed to cram into solemn volumes three times the size."

It makes you wonder if the great female writers who are known to have remained single all their lives (I'm thinking of Emily Dickinson here, too) would have managed to produce their art if they had the added demands of marriage and motherhood. Would they have been happier? Maybe, maybe not. Would we? We would be unfortunate in the sense that we would never know what we missed. Imagine all the great works lost -  works that might have been created by men and women who were too burdened by other concerns.

Okay, stop thinking about it. It's too sad.

*Elinor and Marianne was later renamed Sense and Sensibility.

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