PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.30, NO.2 (Spring 2010)

Fanny Caroline Lefroy: A Feminist Critic in the Austen Family

Alice Marie Villaseñor


Alice Marie Villaseñor (email: is the Director of Humanities Initiatives for the University of Southern California’s Joint Educational Project.  A life member of JASNA, she has served as Co-Vice President of the JASNA Southwest region and as the 2006 JASNA International Visitor.


In the 1860s, Jane Austen’s nephew J. E. Austen-Leigh began in earnest to collect information for his Memoir project.  When composing A Memoir of Jane Austen—first published in 1870 and then expanded in 1871Austen-Leigh turned to his female relatives for access to unpublished manuscripts written by Jane Austen as well as for information about her life.  Those who complied with his requestsincluding Anna Austen Lefroy (1793-1872), Caroline Mary Craven (1805-1880), Cassandra Esten Austen (1808-1897), and Catherine Anne Hubback (1818-1877)also advised Austen-Leigh about what he ought to include, what he ought not to include, and what he ought to revise for public eyes (see esp. Sutherland, Introduction).  Austen-Leigh and his contributors to the Memoir were well aware of the significant effects their project would have on the formation of Jane Austen’s literary reputation.  Theirs was to be the first biographical piece presented to the public since Henry Austen (Jane Austen’s brother) revised and expanded his short 1818 “Biographical Notice” for republication in 1833 at the request of Richard Bentley.


Although Fanny Caroline Lefroy (daughter of Anna Austen Lefroy) was sympathetic to the reasons why her mother’s generation “carefully corrected” aspects of Jane Austen’s life in the Memoir, in her own published work on Jane Austen she decided to strike out against the family.1  In her Family History Manuscript, Lefroy began to reshape Jane Austen’s biography, rewriting her love story and then rereading the novels through these revisions.  After advancing these critical arguments in this safe, feminine genre, Lefroy further developed her theories in three articles for Temple Bar Magazine.


Lefroy’s writing on Jane Austen insists upon the importance of circulating Jane Austen’s letters and private history to the public, arguing that the information is necessary for appreciating Austen’s novels and making her work relevant to contemporary readers.  While the Memoir encouraged reviewers to read Austen’s novels as a reflection of the author’s own limited life experiences, Lefroy argues that Austen’s novels rarely reflect the true passion that she experienced in her own life.  In particular, Lefroy uses Persuasion as an example of the way Jane Austen’s love life illuminates her fiction.  Far from a passionless text written by a passionless woman, Persuasion, she argues, gives readers a glimpse into the true emotions that Jane Austen experienced in her lifetime.  For Lefroy, the genius behind Austen’s novels is not that she was able to write realistic texts despite her limited life experiences, but that she was able to keep the passion she experienced in her own life from overwhelming her stories.


Lefroy mixes several forms as she advances her arguments:  the novel, literary criticism, family history, and biography.  While considering the relationship between Jane Austen’s stories and Jane Austen’s life through these blurred genres, Fanny Caroline Lefroy invents a feminist critical approach to Jane Austen’s work.  Anticipating current scholarship on Austen’s texts, Lefroy’s literary criticism questions the relationship between Austen’s femininity and her literary reputation.  To categorize this work as mere family biography overlooks Lefroy’s innovations and ignores the fact that our current critical practice owes much to her experiments.


Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s Family History Manuscript


Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s Family History Manuscript is a history of the Austen and Lefroy families.2  Although the Hampshire Record Office lists the years of composition as 1880-1885, scholars have yet to come to a consensus on the precise dates Lefroy drafted the text.  For example, Deirdre Le Faye thinks the manuscript could have been started as early as 1872, but Kathryn Sutherland suggests “soon after 1880 seems most likely” (Chronology 692; Textual Lives 100).  My personal working hypothesis is that, at the very least, the bulk of the manuscript was drafted before the publication of Lefroy’s first published Temple Bar article in 1879.  As Sutherland points out, the subject matter of the articles and that of the Family History Manuscript are so closely tied that ideas are often expressed using “identical words” (100).  It seems more likely that Lefroy had her manuscript in front of her while she drafted her 1879 and 1883 Temple Bar articles for their publication rather than the other way around, particularly since the articles read as more polished versions of the manuscript.


As an established author, Lefroy was more willing than her peers to experiment with the genre of family history.  At the time Lefroy began drafting the Family History Manuscript, she had already published short works of juvenile and religious fiction in the 1850s and 1860s.  For Lefroy, writing her family history was an exercise in remembering her mother and in documenting family history for posterity—just as it was for other women in the Austen family.  But Lefroy was also concerned about developing theses about Jane Austen’s writing—ideas that later evolve into articles for Temple Bar Magazine.  Commencing with her family history, Lefroy experiments with critical arguments that progress as she figures out how to best present Jane Austen to her Victorian audience.


Comparing Lefroy’s family history to the history written by her younger sister—Louisa Langlois, the wife of Rev. Septimus Bellas—highlights Lefroy’s editorial decisions and, in particular, her emphasis on Austen’s novels.  Louisa Bellas’s manuscript, known as the Bellas MS (1872), is based on the same source documents as Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s Family History:  material passed down from their mother Anna Austen Lefroy.  In fact, several passages in the siblings’ memoirs read in exactly the same way.  Although Bellas emphasizes Anna Austen Lefroy’s connection to “the novelist Jane Austen” in the introduction, references to Jane Austen’s life and work are extremely rare.  Bellas’s history focuses on her mother’s story; the text clearly reads as a kind of memorial to Anna Austen Lefroy, which makes sense given that the text was composed in 1872, the year of Anna Austen Lefroy’s death.3


In stark contrast to the family history of Louisa Bellas—which does not include any literary analysis of Jane Austen’s novels—Lefroy takes several opportunities to mention Jane Austen’s novel writing.  In fact, Lefroy often describes her family history in terms of Austen’s plots in an effort to comment upon her stories as much as possible.  For example, Lefroy begins a description of her mother’s wedding festivities by quoting her Aunt Caroline, but she then refers to Emma to add details to her Aunt’s report:


Such were the wedding festivities at Steventon in 1814.  That they were something less than usual is probable.  But when Aunt Jane marries Emma Woodhouse she describes a wedding which would not have been very different, and which Mrs Elton (no doubt justly) thought very inferior to her own.  “Very little white Satin.  Very few lace veils, and a most pitiful business.”—Words which aptly describe my mother’s.


Lefroy also includes her mother’s own description of the wedding.  Since that description makes no such connections to Jane Austen’s novels, the link between the wedding in Emma and Anna Austen Lefroy’s wedding is likely to have been completely Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s own invention.  Similarly, when describing the unsuitability of her mother’s first engagement (to a man whom her family did not like), Lefroy turns to Jane Austen’s novels to make her point:  “As a match it would have been about as suitable as one between Lizzie Bennet & Mr Collins; or between Emma Woodhouse and Mr Rushworth had they ever met.”  In this last example, we see Lefroy experimenting with Austen’s novels, shuffling the characters from book to book in a way that anticipates Sybil G. Brinton’s Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen (1913) and numerous sequel-writing successors who imagine characters from various Austen novels meeting each other.  But what is especially important to note is the way in which Lefroy novelizes her mother’s life through Jane Austen’s stories—imaginatively supplementing biographical facts with fictional details.  Here, Lefroy is creating the critical methodology she more fully develops in her Temple Bar articles as she experiments with genre—blending biography with novel writing.


As Lefroy evolves her arguments in her Temple Bar articles, the importance of Jane Austen’s letters and the love story they contain becomes a key theme.  Lefroy’s published analyses focus on the influence Jane Austen’s love life had on her novels.  But before drafting these pieces, Lefroy outlines Austen’s various love interests in her Family History Manuscript, introducing her first story—a possible relationship with Mr. William Digweed—as a potential explanation as to why Jane Austen’s parents decided to uproot themselves and their daughters to Bath.  She also makes much of the well-documented proposal of Harris Bigg-Wither to Jane Austen.  Interestingly, Fanny Caroline Lefroy makes no mention of the youthful flirtation between Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen, a romance that has interested many biographers (for example, Jon Spence, whose study was the basis of the recent biopic Becoming Jane).  This absence from the Family History Manuscript is striking due to the double family connection that should have given her access to both sides of the story:  Fanny Caroline Lefroy was related to Tom Lefroy through her father (Ben Lefroy was Tom’s cousin) as well as to Jane Austen through her mother (Anna Austen Lefroy).


Of all of the romantic escapades outlined by Fanny Caroline Lefroy in the Family History Manuscript, the most significant is Jane Austen’s supposed seaside romance.  As George Holbert Tucker has noted, accounts of this romance recorded by nineteenth-century Austen family members are terribly inconsistent, although they do all agree on the same basic plot:  Jane Austen fell in love with a charming man she met at the seaside (see esp. 60).  Lefroy’s version suggests this aborted romance began during a trip to Devonshire that took place as early as 1798 (and no later than 1802):


It was whilst they were so traveling according to Aunt Cassandra’s account that they somehow made acquaintance with a gentleman of the name of Blackall.  He and Aunt Jane mutually attracted each other, and such were his charms that even aunt Cassandra thought him worthy of her sister.  They parted on the understanding that he was to come to Steventon but instead I know not how long after came a letter from his brother to say that he was dead.  There is no record of Jane’s affliction, but I think the attachment must have been very deep.  Aunt Cassandra herself had so warm a regard for him that some years after her sister’s death and when she herself was an elderly woman, she took a good deal of trouble to find out and see again his brother.


Lefroy’s language (i.e., “they somehow” and “I know not how long”) betrays her uncertainty of the details of the romance, and her acknowledgement that “there is no record of Jane’s affliction” is significant.  And yet, this lack of information allows Lefroy imaginative room to consider what Jane Austen must have felt—for example, by equating the romance with Cassandra’s engagement to Thomas Fowle—and this kind of speculation continues in the Temple Bar articles.


Documents inserted into Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s Family History Manuscript suggest that Lefroy’s family supported her ongoing interest in cultivating her versions of Austen’s love story as recorded in the manuscript and presented to the public in the February 1883 issue of Temple Bar Magazine.  And after Lefroy’s 1885 death, her family members valued the manuscript for the version of Austen’s love life that it told.  Some passages in Lefroy’s Family History related to Jane Austen’s love life have been heavily annotated by a second hand (probably Lefroy’s sister, Louisa Langlois Bellas).  Also of note is a letter inserted into the beginning of the manuscript dated December 20, 1886, written by Louisa Bellas to her Cousin Cholmely Austen-Leigh.4  For her cousin’s benefit, Bellas transcribes an excerpt of a note that Lefroy inserted into her copy of Lord Brabourne’s Letters by Jane Austen about the young clergyman Jane Austen met at the seaside.  Edith Lank’s helpful Persuasions On-Line article listing the annotations in Lefroy’s copy of Brabourne’s Letters, including material surrounding Jane Austen’s suitors, suggests to me that Lefroy’s marginalia showcases her continued interest in Austen’s romances.  Lefroy’s annotations also resonate with her desire to speak back to versions of Jane Austen’s life told by other members of the Austen family.


Fanny Caroline Lefroy and Temple Bar Magazine


Fanny Caroline Lefroy presents a complex argument about the relationship between realism, biography, and Austen’s popularity in three articles published in Temple Bar Magazine:  “Hunting for Snarkes at Lyme Regis” (November 1879), “Is it Just?” (February 1883), and “A Bundle of Letters” (February 1883).  Lefroy’s articles were published alongside serial fiction, poetry, reviews of literary works, and the other kinds of miscellany that regularly appeared in Victorian periodicals.  In these Temple Bar articles, Lefroy suggests that Jane Austen’s reputation is tarnished because Victorian readers believe her to be a loveless prude.  According to Lefroy, these misreadings can be attributed to two main sources:  first, the family’s desire to keep Jane Austen’s love life private (as reflected by the Memoir); second, Jane Austen’s realism, which is so acute that her readers falsely assume that everything in every novel has an actual source and that the novels represent the only real-life experiences Jane Austen had (in other words, if it does not exist in Jane Austen’s novels, then it did not happen to Jane Austen).  Lefroy insists that if the public knew more about Jane Austen’s actual life experiences (particularly her love story), readers would see how truly brilliant her brand of realism is, and, consequently, they would place her in the same category as other revered Victorian writers.


The bulk of Lefroy’s first article—“Hunting for Snarkes at Lyme Regis” (1879)—reads much like a typical travel diary, often posted on twenty-first century Jane Austen websites, featuring a modern-day pilgrim tracing the real settings of Jane Austen’s fictions.  In these kinds of journals, fact and fiction are often blurred, as pilgrims literally act out scenes from Jane Austen’s novels (for example, mimicking Louisa Musgrove by jumping off of the steps at Lyme).  As author-pilgrim, Lefroy retraces the steps of the characters in Persuasion in order to emphasize the astute descriptions of settings.  In this way, Lefroy’s article reinforces nineteenth-century reviews of Austen’s novels, written by such authors as Sir Walter Scott and G. H. Lewes, that argue that a strength of Austen’s novels is their attention to detail.


Lefroy had already mulled over this aspect of Austen’s realism in her comments on Jane Austen’s letters in the Family History Manuscript.  But here, she includes an extended discussion of Austen’s descriptions of settings as she identifies specific places in Lyme in which scenes from Jane Austen’s Persuasion take place.  For example, Lefroy convinces herself that she is “in the very house which the Harvilles occupied” (392).  But upon further inspection of the staircase, she revises her opinion:


The situation answered precisely.  Captain Benwick must have rushed past its window when flying for the doctor, and Captain Harville must have seen him.  The dining-room, too, was so small, that only “those whose invitations came from the heart” could have supposed it possible to ask their friends to dine in it.  Nothing could fit better, and we counted the bedrooms and arranged the party, and settled which was the chamber to which Louise Musgrave [sic] was carried, when the word “carried” struck us all dumb.  That dreadful staircase; could any man, even though a sailor, have carried any young lady up that dark and crooked ladder?—and not only dark and crooked, but with a projecting beam in the darkest corner, from which one could scarcely save one’s own head.  She might, indeed, have been carried up the steps of the outside of the house and so in at the back door, as our boxes had been, there being no other way of getting them into our rooms; but we dared not suppose so unusual a mode of entrance, and were reluctantly obliged to give up the idea.  (392-93)


Lefroy does not consider that Jane Austen may have taken aspects of different homes in Lyme in order to piece them together into a realistic description of a setting.  Instead she identifies another “small house equally suitable in situation” in which to settle the Harvilles (393).  Here, Lefroy oddly undercuts ideas about Jane Austen’s inventiveness suggested by her title’s reference to Lewis Carroll’s snarks.5


Lefroy dissuades readers from interpreting her article as a mere effusion of Janeite pilgrimage through her reference to Alfred Tennyson’s trip to Lyme:  “We happened also to know that when Mr Tennyson went there, and his friends wanted to show him the precise spot where the Duke of Monmouth landed, he exclaimed with an indignation equally creditable to this own genius and to hers, ‘Don’t talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth. Show me that precise spot where Louise Musgrave [sic] fell’” (391).  By showing Tennyson’s interest in the fictional Louisa Musgrove outweighing that in the actual Duke of Monmouth, Lefroy highlights Austen’s realistic description of details.  Linking Tennyson to Austen in this way also emphasizes Austen’s relevance for important contemporary writers while also stressing the popularity of the novels:  even Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, feels the need to pay homage to Jane Austen’s Persuasion.


Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s two 1883 articles were written in response to a lengthy article on Jane Austen’s works that appeared in the March 1882 issue of Temple Bar.6  The anonymous 1882 piece is favorable to Jane Austen’s work overall, proclaiming, for example, that “before [Jane Austen] was twenty-three she had written two of the best novels in the language” (“Jane Austen” 351).  But the author also claims that Austen (along with Fielding) is only read by a “small circle” (364).  More important for Lefroy, however, is the anonymous author’s claim that Austen’s lack of personal disappointment in her own life led to her characters’ relatively carefree attitudes:


She did not laugh at herself or her friends because there is always a tragedy underlying a comedy, or because she suffered under the burden of a Weltschmerz which must have relief in laughter or tears.  She laughed because she could not help it, and makes those who read her laugh for the same reason.  (358)


Based on this philosophy, the author questions the depth of “even Anne Elliot,” who “provokes a smile” from the reader as her musings about love and constancy “spread purification and perfume” during her walk through Bath:  “Humour such as this, it may be said, does but skim the surface of life.  It takes no heed of the depths of sorrow lying underneath; it fails even to sound the fountains of joy.  It is superficial, and exists only by reason of its superficiality” (359).


In her back-to-back articles, Lefroy refutes the notion that heroines such as Anne Elliot personify their creators’ own untroubled existence.  Despite Austen’s popularity, Lefroy contends, her “fame” has been injured due to the misreadings of her novels that have resulted from the lack of available biographical information (270). With this logic, Lefroy blames family members of Austen’s own generation for the recent attacks on the novelist’s reputation even while she defends the family’s desire to keep the details of Jane Austen’s love life private.  For example, speaking of Cassandra’s decision to burn her sister’s letters, Lefroy writes the following:  “Was she right or wrong?  We feel ourselves aggrieved that we have lost so much, but if Jane Austen had been asked, she would undoubtedly have approved of her sister’s conduct.  We cannot therefore condemn it” (271).


Even as she endorses the earlier generations’ decisions, Lefroy defends her own move to break the family confidence.  She rationalizes that the first generation could not have predicted the ways in which their dealings would damage Austen’s reputation:


But the destruction of Miss Austen’s letters has we think hurt, not so much her literary fame, as the loveableness of her character as shown to us.  This her family could not have foreseen, and would not have desired.  It could not have been their wish that she should be esteemed by any of her readers and critics, hard and shallow-hearted.  Let us try to remedy this injustice.  We think a careful study of such scraps as have come down to us will show that the manner of her writing certainly did not arise from any such cause.  (271-72)


Fanny Caroline Lefroy conveys details about Jane Austen’s love life in order to encourage readers to think about Austen novels in a new light.  As she does in her Family History Manuscript, Lefroy emphasizes Jane Austen’s supposed romantic attachment to the gentleman at the seaside:


We are told that neither in Miss Austen’s letters nor her books do we find any traces of a spirit ill at ease and restless, and dissatisfied with its lot, and it is therefore inferred that she had never had any “serious attachment,” or met with any disappointment.  If by disappointment be meant the having loved without meeting any return, that is undoubtedly true.  No such trouble befell her.  But does the absence of restlessness and discontent imply that no “serious attachment” has ever been felt?  What if the love had ended in the grave?  (275)


Here it is important to pause to lay out the argument Lefroy is building towards.  Readers have assumed that Jane Austen’s novels reflect her entire life experiences; however, they cannot know what these life experiences are because they do not have the letters to confirm their ideas.  Jane Austen’s letters, which Lefroy has read, reveal a life that was far from tranquil.  Once readers understand the true story of Jane Austen’s love life, they will appreciate her books even more because they will understand that they do not include every detail of her life.  In other words, the letters highlight Austen’s restraint:  her uncanny ability to pick and chose enough realistic details from her life experiences without including every personal detail.  With this logic in mind, it becomes clear why Persuasion is such a key text for Lefroy to address.


Only in Persuasion, argues Lefroy, does the reader get a brief glance at the torment Jane Austen suffered in her personal romantic life.  Lefroy briefly relates the tale of the death of Austen’s potential seaside-gentleman suitor.  As in the Family History Manuscript, the story of Cassandra’s dead fiancée is woven in with Jane’s love story, thereby making Jane’s supposed relationship appear to be as serious as the relationship between Cassandra and Thomas Fowle (see esp. 276-77).  But, argues Lefroy, these “graver” personal thoughts were never “mixed up” in Austen’s stories—with the exception of one incident:


The most touching conversation between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville in which Anne cries, “All the privilege I claim for my sex, and it is not a very enviable one is that of loving longest when hope is gone.”  The ring of deep and true feelings make these words beautiful, even in the ears of those who know nothing of the private history of the writer; but read by the light of her own romantic story, how pathetic they grow!  How impossible it seems that they should have been anything less than the very truth from her own heart.  (279)


Lefroy directly relates Jane Austen’s love story to Persuasion and to Jane Austen’s letters:


It has been said that Jane Austen’s books are wanting in pathos.7  It is true they have none of the hysterical sentimentality, none of the morbid love of all that is painful, which are so common in the novels of the present day.  Yet it can scarcely be denied that the character of Anne in ‘Persuasion’ is treated with a great tenderness, and drawn by a very delicate hand.  This character is all the more touching for its reticence, for its modest self-control, and Anne is as womanly in her yieldingness as she is in her constancy.  There has been a conjecture that Anne is Jane Austen herself, and that the story of the heroine was possibly that of the writer—only with a different ending.  It is easy to believe that this may be true, although proofs are wanting.  We find in Miss Austen’s own letters to her family the same sweet traits, the same gentle affection, the same quiet depth of feeling that we have loved in the heroine of ‘Persuasion;’ and towards the end, when her health failed her, we read between the lines still more clearly, her pure unselfish nature.  (“Bundle” 286, emphasis mine)


Thus, Lefroy concludes her three-article sequence by attempting to convince readers that the more information the public has about Jane Austen’s life, the more they will appreciate the “modest self-control” elucidated in her novels.  Here, Lefroy once again insists upon the complex connections between Jane Austen’s letters, novels, and personal history that she began to identify in her Family History Manuscript.


New Directions for Austen Family History Manuscripts


Many second-wave feminist readings of Jane Austen’s fiction echo the claims Lefroy makes about Austen’s restraint in her final Temple Bar Article.  Consider, for example, the uncanny similarities between Lefroy’s emphasis on “modest self-control” and Gilbert and Gubar’s reading of “Jane Austen’s Cover Story.”  Tellingly, this chapter of The Madwoman in the Attic begins with a biographical declaration:  “Jane Austen was not alone in experiencing the tensions inherent in being a ‘lady’ writer” (146).  It is also revealing that Gilbert and Gubar end their chapter on Austen’s cover story by directly connecting Jane Austen with her characters:  “Neither fainting into silence nor self-destructing into verbosity, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot echo their creator in their duplicitous ability to speak with the tact that saves them from suicidal somnambulism on the one hand and contaminating vulgarity on the other, as they exploit the evasions and reservations of feminine gentility” (183, emphasis mine).  The mention of Anne Elliot in connection with the basic idea that Austen’s characters are reflections of their creator, of course, very explicitly echoes Lefroy’s own conclusions.  And we see a similar method (that is, equating Anne Elliot with Jane Austen) in more recent criticism of Austen written by women.  For example, Adela Pinch (1996) suggests that the moment in which Captain Wentworth drops his pen upon hearing Anne Elliot argue with Benwick about male writers’ biases against women’s constancy is actually about Jane Austen herself:  “Austen also calls our attention to herself as a writer, and as a woman writer, here” (158).


The details of Austen’s love life, or lack thereof, were critical points debated by the Austen family throughout the nineteenth century—especially during the drafting of the Memoir.  Writing after the publication of the Memoir, Lefroy’s insistence upon the importance of considering Austen’s biography alongside the novels was especially timely in that it struck a chord with other Victorians’ debates about biography.  As we contemplate the new directions in Austen studies that are to guide our research, I suggest we think about Austen family archives in a new light.  These are not just works from which to pillage biographical information about Jane Austen to bolster our own readings of the novels.  They are also germinal texts documenting new critical approaches to Austen’s work.





This piece is excerpted from my dissertation on “Women Readers and the Victorian Jane Austen,” and I would like to thank Hilary Schor for her guidance as I drafted my chapter on Fanny Caroline Lefroy.  Thank you also to Susan Allen Ford and Gillian Dow for their excellent revision notes.  I am grateful to the private individuals and institutions who allowed me to quote from their manuscripts, which I studied under the auspices of the Jane Austen Society Travel Bursary Program.


1. In an 1862 letter to her brother regarding preparing Jane Austen’s manuscripts for publication, Anna Austen Lefroy writes:


Now let us look at the matter the other way; the publishing way.  One ought to do in this case what the authoress would have done for herself—slightly alter and very carefully correct—and though I should be sorry in such a business to trust solely to my own small knowledge of composition, it certainly might be done.  (qtd. in Hopkinson Ch. 8, 4-5)


2. The pages are, unfortunately, not numbered, but the text is divided into chapters.  Another hand has made revisions to some of the sections in pencil; however, I always quote from what I interpret to be Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s last amendments.


3. Louisa Bellas begins her family history, which is significantly shorter than Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s version, by declaring that the narrative will be limited to detailing her mother’s experiences:  “This book contains letters & extracts from diaries &c of Jane Anna Elizabeth Austen eldest daughter of Red James Austen of Steventon Hants.  She married Benjamin Lefroy in 1814.  She was a favourite niece of the novelist Jane Austen.”


4. This is the same letter recently referenced in Edith Lank’s Persuasions article on the marginalia in Lefroy’s copy of Lord Brabourne’s Letters (82).


5. The title of Lefroy’s article is a reference to the mythical snarks first featured in Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem in Through the Looking Glass (1871) and in his later poem The Hunting of the Snark (1876).


6. Lefroy begins the first 1883 article with a specific reference to the March 1882 piece:


“Had Miss Austen felt more deeply, she would have written differently.”


These words in a recent number of ‘Temple Bar’ are the reason why this paper is written.  They are, in whatever point of view we look at them, very wide of the truth, and are not the only error their author has fallen into, nor is he the only person who thus misjudges her.  It is, notwithstanding all the praise bestowed, becoming the fashion to accuse her of being shallow and cold-hearted, and her heroines of being prudish; and undoubtedly there is not to be found in her novels those highly-spiced love scenes with which we are all so familiar, but which, while requiring little genius to write, only deprave the taste and imagining of the reader.  (270)


7. In reference to Persuasion, the anonymous author of the March 1882 article wrote, “In no other is the interest more sustained, the characters more striking or exact, the incidents more fresh and unconventional; in no other is pathos so largely blended with humour” (362).



Works Cited


Austen, Henry.  “Biographical Notice of the Author.”  A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections.  Ed. Kathryn Sutherland.  Oxford: OUP, 2002.  135-44.

Austen, Jane.  The Novels of Jane Austen.  Ed. R. W. Chapman.  3rd ed.  5 vols.  Oxford: OUP, 1988.

Austen-Leigh, James Edward.  Memoir of Jane Austen: By Her Nephew. A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections.  Ed. Kathryn Sutherland.  Oxford: OUP, 2002.  1-134.

Becoming Jane.  Dir. Julian Jarrold.  Miramax, 2007.

Bellas, Louisa Langlois.  Bellas MS.  Octavo notebook, 1872.  Miss Helen Lefroy.

Brinton, Sybil G.  Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen.  London: Holden, 1913.

Carroll, Lewis.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.  New York: Penguin, 2003.

_____.  The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits.  New York: Macmillan, 1898.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar.  The Madwoman in the Attic.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1984.

Hopkinson, Diana, and David Hopkinson.  The Hubback Family History Manuscript.  Looseleaf, ts.  Jane Austen Memorial Trust, Chawton, UK.

“Jane Austen.”  Temple Bar 64 (Mar. 1882): 350-65.

Lank, Edith.  “Family and Scholarly Annotations in Lord Brabourne’s Letters: Adventures of an Amateur Academic.”  Persuasions 30 (2008): 76-87.

_____.  “List of Annotations in the Bellas copy of Lord Brabourne’s Letters of Jane Austen.”  Persuasions On-Line 29.1 (2008).

Le Faye, Deirdre.  A Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family.  New York: Cambridge UP, 2006.

Lefroy, Fanny Caroline.  [Anon.].  “A Bundle of Letters.”  Temple Bar 67 (1883): 285-88.

_____.  Family History MS.  Quarto leather-bound album, 1880-1885.  Austen-Leigh Papers 2-23M93/85/2.  Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, UK.

_____.  [F.C.L.].  “Hunting for Snarkes at Lyme Regis.”  Temple Bar 57 (1879): 391-97.

_____.  [Anon.].  “Is it Just?”  Temple Bar 67 (1883): 270-84.

Pinch, Adela.  Strange Fits of Passion: Epistemologies of Emotion, Hume to Austen.  Stanford: SUP, 1996.

Spence, Jon.  Becoming Jane Austen.  Oxford: Hambledon, 2003.

Sutherland, Kathryn.  Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood.  Oxford: OUP, 2007.

_____.  Notes, Introduction, Appendix.  A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections.  Ed. Kathryn Sutherland.  Oxford: OUP, 2002.

Tucker, George Holbert.  Jane Austen the Woman: Some Biographical Insights.  New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.


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