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So I have a favorite tweeter from Irish Twitter, he is unbelievably brilliant but prefers to stay anonymous for non-work insights so let's call him the Irish Friend or IF. And he has blown my mind with several of his thoughts but this one most of all.

It's about Jane Austen.
So those of us who love Austen (and I mean really love Austen) know that the biggest heartbreak in her life - and the subject of her two best novels - was Thomas Langlois Lefroy, an Irish Huguenot she met when they were young.

He is by all accounts the model for Mr Darcy.
1) You can even see it in their names. D'Arcy = Darcy which, like Le Froy, is a Huguenot name.

(Huguenots are French Protestants, who were driven out of France en masse after several massacres and then when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes that ensured religious freedom)
Tom Lefroy was Austen's first and most intense and only love.

She died unmarried at 40 (due to Addison's disease, it is assumed, which JFK had too) and other men offered her marriage but she refused them bc she could not feel for them what she felt for Tom Lefroy.
(This decision from Jane Austen - not to marry -- was extraordinarily brave. Remember, women did not have incomes then. Her family was genteel but poor; her brother had been essentially adopted out to rich relatives, who did not share their wealth with the Austens)
In fact, it was Jane Austen's decision not to marry that made her a novelist. In her letters, she is clear that she must write to insure herself some kind of income -- any kind of income.

She absolutely wrote her novels -- which did become acclaimed in her lifetime - for money.
So Tom Lefroy is a matter of literary history this way: He gave us Jane Austen, Novelist.

But he is a tragic sort of footnote as well. Tom Lefroy courted Jane for one Christmas season in 1796 - they danced and talked and their obvious bright chemistry was the talk of the town.
Jane was by all accounts completely and totally smitten with Tom Lefroy. She wrote to her sister Cassandra that his *only* flaw was that his morning coat was too light. When he left the town - where he was visiting an aunt - Jane wrote that she cried copiously.
This was also a time when dancing with someone -- especially repeatedly in public -- was a sign that an engagement would come. Any obvious show of preference like that would imply a future marriage. But Tom Lefroy did not propose to Jane; he disappeared.
In fact, Tom Lefroy disappeared from Austen's life so thoroughly that Jane had no real word of his whereabouts or doings even two years later, when she visited his aunt. She later wrote she was too proud to ask his aunt what Tom was up to.

(No google back then, remember.)
There is a lot of writing about Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen but honestly you can get the gist from Wikipedia. Their connection was so obvious that Lefroy started avoiding Jane because he was getting roasted. (She assumed)

So Jane Austen was, in the parlance of the time, considered almost jilted because Lefroy abandoned her. Given their obvious chemistry, this was a humiliation for a woman of her time, and she carried it -along with, of course, her apparently unreciprocated feelings for Tom Lefroy.
It turned out that it was not unreciprocated, per se. Later in his life, Tom Lefroy admitted to his nephew that he *had* loved Jane Austen

(remember, she had become famous for writing about him and their tendre for each other was an open secret in middle-class circles)
In fact, Tom Lefroy went on to marry someone rich and named one of their daughters "Jane Christmas" -- a beautiful tribute to his young love or the ultimate act of ex-boyfriend fuckery, depending on how you see it.
(Of course Jane Austen didn't know he had loved her; she went to her grave thinking Lefroy never really cared, which is why I vote "fuckery")

Lefroy, under patronage of a rich uncle, went on to practice law and become Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He outlived Jane by 52 years.
So this part, I knew. All big Austen fans knew this -- this central tragedy, this idea of "what if Tom Lefroy had just come through? How might her life and her work be different and how might it have grown?"

It has to be understood as a tragedy, right? It is seen that way.
So this is where Irish Friend comes in. He noted that Lefroy, who was so charming and gentlemanly when young, turned out to be....an actually pretty terrible oppressor as Lord Chief Justice.
In fact, Tom Lefroy was known during his time as Lord Chief Justice for being a huge old racist. He opposed equal rights for Catholics and was so freely anti-Semitic that he was openly mocked for it in Ireland. He saw himself as part of a "Protestant Ascendancy" 😬😬😬
Which means...as my Irish Friend pointed out...that it is actually a *good* thing that Jane did not marry Tom Lefroy and get mixed up in his terrible opinions (which she would have hated).

The central tragedy in her life was actually a blessing.
Anyway this makes a lot more sense. It does make sense that even the astute Jane, blinded by love, would not have seen his obvious flaws beyond good manners. But of course his cowardice in this matter of love was not an anomaly, but predictive of a larger cowardice.
So he definitely did not turn out to be this guy
or this guy
he may have sort of been this guy
but he was definitely That Guy
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk, a 150-year-old late cancellation of Tom Lefroy
Some have questions about why Tom Lefroy ghosted Jane. Well they were both genteel but poor and Tom had 6 siblings, for whom he was the primary hope. Jane was nobody when they met. Like Alexander Hamilton - another penniless man of ambition -- he had to marry rich
Of course he should have had faith in her but there were intimations that his rich uncle -- Langlois, the one who bankrolled his law career -- told Tom to be serious, leave behind young crushes and marry someone who could lift his status.
If you recognize this as the plot of both Pride and Prejudice AND Persuasion, it's because it absolutely is.
Also an everlasting thank-you to my Irish Friend, his ideas have blown my mind on many things but this was perhaps the closest to my heart and it was a total brain revolution.
And you know, on the other side -- besides how Lefroy would have changed Austen's life and art -- perhaps if they had married, Ireland's history would have improved as well, and Lefroy would not have been an oppressor due to her witty and kind influence. We'll never know.
If you want a bit of how heartbroken Jane was by Tom Lefroy's ghosting -- and how determined she was to keep her dignity in the face of the social humiliation -- here is a summary from the Collected Letters of Jane Austen and, uh, Wikipedia
Anyway one lesson of this is to be extremely exacting in who you love, but also instead of getting all emo about your crushes, maybe it's a good idea to consider shooting your shot
A postscript: While I did come here to cancel Tom Lefroy, a few points in defense, because life is messy and ambiguous:

1) he wasn't just worried about being roasted; it was in fact inappropriate at the time for a man to show such attention to a woman he didn't plan to marry
1a) So by ghosting, yes he was protecting his reputation but also he was protecting hers.

2) His absence, while distressing to both of them, was not evidence of coldness. He left Ireland to pay his respects at her funeral, and he bought one of her rejection letters at auction.
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