domingo, 7 de julio de 2013

Article: Tom Lefroy inspired Austen, but not in the way you expect - Hypothesis by Mariela Cavani

Versión española en este link.

This articles has been written by Mariela Cavani from Venezuela. She writes the blog "Cine, Libros y Jane Austen" and Ficción Femenina. We meet her via "twitter" and she's a fantastic and awesome lady, we love you!
She loves the works of Miss Austen, romantic and femenine stories. If you want to know about her relationship with Jane, just click on this page.

Tom Lefroy inspired Austen, but not in the way you expect - Hypothesis

From the beginning of my obsession with Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen and her work, I´ve managed some theory about what inspired Jane to write this intense, exciting and beautiful love story.

Most of her readers –I have read–, think she built this enigmatic gentleman, Mr Darcy, from her romance, or flirting, with Tom Lefroy, a young Irish man who she met between 1.795-1.796 (I guess), while he visited some relatives in Steventon, the small town where Jane grew up. Lefroy is the only admirer we know she had; and we know it because she explicit wrote about him in a letter to her sister Cassandra, that dates of January, 9, 1796.

You scold me so much in the nice long letter which I have this moment received from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together. I can expose myself however, only once more, because he leaves the country soon after next Friday, on which day we are to have a dance at Ashe after all. He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you. But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed at about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago.

Thomas Lefroy was, apparently, gentleman like, agreeable, good looking young man, who Jane met in balls and reunions similar to those she creates in her novel Pride and Prejudice, and whom, she was supposed having a “profligate and shocking” behavior, how she explains in her letter to Cassandra in January 9. Lefroy was a politician and Irish Judge, who lived in Dublin, where he got married and had 8 children.  

Jane Austen never got married, even when she got a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, who, in James Edward Austen-Leigh's words - Jane´s nephew - had a good temper, position and connections in life, except the power of touching her aunt´s heart. Though, instead of the sarcasm, of the melancholy departure of Lefroy, doesn´t seem like Tom was the love of her life either. This is my opinion after my little research of the correspondence between Jane and Cassandra Austen, around this, to hold my hypothesis.
At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this it will be over. My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.


If Jane would have written Darcy inspired in Tom Lefroy, then, why the storyline does not match, Jane with Lefroy and Darcy with Elizabeth´s, what we know is that Lefroy and Jane felt attraction with each other, he stayed with her during the whole ball and, maybe, in reference to the social rules of the time, he dances with her two times in a row; Darcy and Elizabeth barely talk to each other during their first encounter, and he refused to dance with her not two but even one piece. Hum. To me, there´s no parallelism here between what is written to Cassandra and what is exposed in the novel, or there is? Nevertheless, here it is my hypothesis.

Still without knowing if Jane was or not in love with Lefroy, it happens to me that to hers he was barely an illusion of what love could be; Jane, very smart and clever, put this illusion between the characters of Bingley and Jane Bennet! Still to me, if we look closely, is the same storyline of hers and Lefroy, except, perhaps, for that little detail that is the four thousand pounds per year that Bingley make. Bingley courts Jane –it is curious, to me, that this character´s name is also Jane– since he meets her at the Meryton ball, dances with her two times in a row and some other times, stays with her, a sign of preference and interest, and barely talks to other girls. In the path of the novel, Bingley is brought apart of Jane Bennet under the influences of her sisters and his loyal friend Darcy because Jane Bennet was not a rich girl. Jane Austen either. Nevertheless I do not think Jane Austen and Jane Bennet had the same temper, but, maybe, and now this is a conclusion of mine, Austen wanted to leave written in her novel the real procedure of a young girl when is courted. Jane Bennet behavior is always good and careful, well behaved, she doesn´t let other know her feelings for Bingley, she barely gives him a smile, is not sardonic as the authoress and has a good opinion of everyone.

About the similarities between Jane Austen love interest and the main character of Pride and Prejudice, I do not think Thomas Lefroy was a pride man of reserved manners, the way Mr Darcy is; he looks, instead, according to the letters between Jane and Cassandra, sociable and agreeable. We do not know, either, if Lefroy, in that moment, thought of taking Jane in matrimony, even when that is what suggest the storyline of the movie Becoming Jane, based on what inspire Jane to write. Nevertheless, we know society back then had it is own rules to people and their choices about what should be a good marriage. Janes Austen´s feelings are always in fight, in this matter, in her novels: to avoid an inconvinient marriage, economically speaking, and only marry for love. For the good of all her heroines, this happens as it´s supposed to be. There is always a single man, in possession of a huge fortune, in need of a wife.

We can add to my hypothesis the time of the letter and the time of the writing of the novel, Jane met Lefroy, I guess, in 1.795, because the letters she writes to Cassandra, mentioning the flirt between the two of them, dates January 1.796, just when Lefroy is about to leave Steventon. In 1.796 Jane starts the writing of Pride and Prejudice. I guess again that Jane would not expose herself to describe her own romance, so obviously, between the main characters. This made her to create Elizabeth Bennet, the smart, flirty, and self secure girl, and the most important, fantastic and enigmatic gentleman of english literature, Mr Darcy, as the main characters of this precious book, and Jane and Bingley as second characters.

I do not know if other people believe, or share, this hypothesis with me, I have read in internet the connection between Lefroy and Darcy but, in my opinion, the true Jane Austen story and Tom Lefroy is reflected not in Elizabeth but in Jane Bennet.

Thanks Mariela!! :)

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