Possibility Of Possible Jane Austen Suitor Possibly Inflames Fans

Illustration for article titled Possibility Of Possible Jane Austen Suitor Possibly Inflames Fans

A new book, Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love claims that Jane Austen might have been in love with a guy who might have been this guy and that she and her sister might have fought over him! Squee!

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Although the terrible-but-somehow-compelling Becoming Jane claimed that the great love of Austen's life was James MacAvoy Tom Lefroy, now a literary historian, Dr Andrew Norman, says the real culprit was a clergyman named Dr Samuel Blackall. As the Telegraph puts it, "Few of Austen's letters between 1801 and 1804 survive, making corroboration of the relationship difficult." But Blackall's correspondence, together with Austen's work from the period and a little sleight-of-geograohgical-timeline, point towards a (possible!) romance.

It's long been thought that this same period saw an estrangement between Jane and her beloved sister Cassandra - and, quite obviously, it was over this clergyman. At any rate, this is what Norman speculates, largely because The Watsons, which Austen wrote around this time, features a love affair doomed by a sister with "no faith, no honour, no scruples, if she can promote her own advantage" and a poem from the period which, read in the right way, supports the theory. Given the hijinx of many of Austen's heroines, it seems taking the biographical approach too far is a slippery slope - but yes! By all means let this be a movie! We recommend Hugh Dancy for the clergyman, and we'd like to direct casting directors' attention to Scarlett and Natalie's unimpeachable record of playing rival sisters who look nothing alike in very poor period pieces.

Mystery Jane Austen Suitor Who Sparked Riff With Sister Named [Telegraph]

DISCUSSION

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Apparently people just can't fathom a woman who wrote about romance and love (not to mention scathing cultural, gender, and class critiques) and was un-married. There MUST be some dark, hidden, tragic love affair.

Meanwhile, if she'd been male, no one would care if she'd been un-married. I hate to play that card, but it's true. Chances are she had lots of reasons for not marrying, some of it possibly having to do with the not so subtle jabs she took at the mercenary nature of it within her time period. Maybe she had no opportunity, maybe she did really believe it should be for love, whatever.

Frankly, I'm in favor of her just deciding that her life had meaning regardless of her marriage status and chose to remain umarried. I like the idea of Austen as content and single woman. I don't know if she was, and she died young (40) but I just hate that we keep trying to force romance on her...as though it's sad if she didn't have any. Because I think she did...as is evidenced in her stories.

As for Becoming Jane...among many of the things to dislike about it (and the even worse Jane Austen Book Club) was that they suggested that ALL of her stories were really ideas that came from the various men in her life. That's...I don't know. I found that weird.