13 August, 2007

Jane's infatuations/beaus

Since my inquiring mind could not rest until I had more information, I picked up a book of Hubster's (a HB copy) from our home library called, Jane Austen, The Woman, by George Holbert Tucker. Tucker is a journalist who spent fifty years on his research for this book. This book was published in 1995 and as my fellow AO members may enjoy this tidbit of a review from one of our HEO authors:

"This book was named "one of the best books of the year" by London critic Paul Johnson. "Fresh insights! Just a superlative book to enjoy!"

I'm going to take a couple of days to post my notes from the chapter "Beaux and a Blighted Romance."

Young Jane Austen was introduced into society in 1792 at the age of seventeen. It is said of her that she had already established herself as a flirtatious young woman of spirit, delighting in lively and sometimes intimidating badinage. We can’t know of her Steventon admirers until 1796, which is when her surviving letters begin. We can find information which does describe her infatuations and any romantic attachments thanks to these letters, with some degree of accuracy.

First “passing fancy” according to Tuckers 50 years of research:

1. Edward Taylor (1774-1843)

~ A year younger than Jane

~ Distant relative of Sir Brook Bridges III off Goodnestone, whose daughter, Elizabeth, had married Jane’s’ brother Edward in 1791.

~She once accompanied her sil on a visit to a Kentish estate…and wrote to her sister Casandra, “We went by Bifrons and I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doted.” Other than that, this relationship seemed not to grow into anything more than a very happy acquaintance, as in 1800, Cassandra reported rumor of his engagement to his cousin Charlotte. Taylor did not marry Charlotte, but instead Louisa, the only child of the Rev. J. C. Beckington of Bourne, Kent. Taylor later became a member of Parliament for Canterbury from 1807-1812.” There is no record from the Taylor side of any of Taylor’s feelings for Jane’s fondness for him.

2. Rev. Edward Bridges (1779-1825) was another Kentish interest, recorded by the Rev.

Edward Bridges himself. This was a younger brother of Jane’s sister-in-law (Elizabeth Austen, Jane’s brother Edward’s wife). She knew him well enough to be his partner when they opened a dance at Goodnestone, and when he later referred to her as “T’other Miss Austen.” Later when writing to her sister Cassandra about a visit where Jane and Bridges were both houseguests of his mother, she wrote, “It is impossible to do justice to the hospitality of his attentions toward me, he made a point of ordering toasted cheese for supper entirely on my account.”

It was another ten years before he proposed to Jane and she turned him down, or possibly he was warned just before asking. He had just become an ordained Anglican priest at this time. This refusal or rebuff evidently left no hard feelings, as they met on later occasions and she noted no change in his manners toward her. Another hint of no bad feelings is reflected when Bridges’ mother later invited Jane’s sister Cassandra to visit her. Bridges had married about one year after his attempt to propose to Jane. It seems that that marriage was but a poor one, according to letters from Jane. She writes about his wife’s poor health ‘episodes’ and says, “she seems to be the sort of woman who gives me the idea of being determined never to be well--& who likes her spasms & nervousness & the consequence they give her, better than anything else.”

There seem to be five Steventon-area admirers (of varying degrees, it seems) in her younger life:

  1. Henry Digweed
  2. Charles Fowle (1771-1806)
  3. an unverifiable(?) “Mr. Heartly”
  4. John Willing Warren (1771?-1830)
  5. The Rev. Charles Powlett (1763-1835)

Next I will share about the romantic episode that took place when she was twenty-one. At the time of Jane’s first surviving letter, this was dated January 9th, 1796 to her sister Cassandra, who was away, visiting the Fowle family. Enter an Irishman who was visiting the Ashe rectory near Steventon for a Christmas visit to his aunt and uncle, when the “flirtation” began with Thomas Lefroy, who later became the chief justice of Ireland.

Hasta maƱana,


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