“We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, not the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”
“You name them. I’ll shoot them.”
Robert J. Avrech: Emmy Award winning screenwriter. Movie fanatic. Helplessly and hopelessly in love with my wife since age nine.
“It is safer to leave people to their own devices… Everybody likes to go their own way—to choose their own time and manner of devotion.”
Harris Bigg-Wither, heir to the great Mandydown House and a large fortune, was the one man we know for certain who proposed marriage to Jane Austen.
Bigg-Wither had three sisters who were close friends of Jane and Cassandra.
Jane wrote to Cassandra, two years before the proposal: “Harris seems still in a poor way, from his bad habit of body; his hand bled again the other day.”
In 1802, when Jane was twenty-seven years old, she and Cassandra visited Mandydown. There, Bigg-Wither, five years her junior, proposed to Jane.
Jane accepted his offer of marriage.
The future seemed bright. Jane would marry into a wealthy family; she would become mistress of a large estate, and she would assure financial security for her entire family.
After approximately twelve hours of excruciating inner turmoil—for she did not love Bigg-Wither— Jane rescinded her acceptance of Bigg-Wither’s offer.
That morning, Jane and Cassandra hastily left Mandydown.
Why Jane rejected Bigg-Wither’s proposal are pure theory. If Jane wrote any letters explaining her choice, they were destroyed.
Big-Withers, two years after Jane refused him, married an heiress. Eventually they had ten children and he lived the life of a country squire.
For Jane, there were other suitors.
The aftermath of war is always messy and often bloody. In the six months ofter the liberation of Paris in 1944, the French killed upward of ten thousand accused collaborators. A dozen years after the fall of communism, electricity and water sputter unreliably in much of the former Soviet Union. A Swedish journalist who visited Germany one and a half years after the end of World War II observed that:
The electricity is still out. People are bitter, disillussioned and hopeless. They express fury at the Allies, especially the English, whom they believe to be sabotoging renewal. Many argue that things are worse than under the old dictatorship. On the streets, foreign correspondents interview barefoot orphans, who clamour for an American visa. Above all, there looms the profound hypocrisy of the occupation itself, and its attempt to eradicate militarism by means of a military regime.
An End to Evil by David Frum & Richard Perle
“All I want in a man is someone who rides bravely, dances beautifully, sings with vigor, reads passionately, and whose taste agrees in every point with my own.”
Jane Austen had a serious flirtation with Tom Lefroy, an Irishman who came to Hampshire to visit an uncle. Jane, twenty-years old at the time, wrote to her sister Cassandra about Lefroy: “I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profiligate 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 afterall. He is very gentlemen-like, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you.”
Jane points out that young Tom does have “One fault… it is that his morning coat is a great deal too light.”
In her very next letter to Cassandra, Jane writes regarding the last ball to be held before Tom Lefroy leaves Hampshire: “I rather expect to receive to receive an offer from my friend in the course of the evening. I shall refuse him, however, unless he promises to give away his white Coat.”
Jane’s forced casual tone—truly heartbreaking—barely conceals her deep desire to accept Lefroy’s offer of marriage.
But that offer never came.
It looks as if Lefroy’s family stepped in and made sure that the handsome young man did not make the mistake of becoming engaged to the impoverished daughter of a rural clergyman.
Jane never saw Tom ever again.
Three years later she wrote to Cassandra that Mrs. Lefroy, Tom’s aunt, had paid a social visit to the Austen home. She did not mention her nephew, and “I was too proud to make any enquiries.”
When Lefroy was an old man and Chief Justice of Ireland, he confessed that he loved Jane Austen, “But that it was only a boy’s love.”
The Jane Austen Season is arriving. ITV Presents: Persuasion, Mansfield Park, & Northanger Abbey. Click here to watch the rather steamy trailer.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
— John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Inaugural Address Friday, Jan 20, 1961