“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.