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Wed
Mar 9 2011 12:00pm

Why Did Jane Austen Never Marry?

Becoming Jane posterIt wasn’t as if she was never asked, or didn’t want to be asked. The teenaged Jane Austen was in fact such a flirt and party animal that one neighbor called her “the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembered.” She was every bit as confident and witty as her creation, Lizzie Bennet, and considerably more mischievous. Take this from a letter she wrote to her sister Cassandra in 1796, when Jane was just 20:

“Tell Mary that I make over Mr. Heartley and all his estate to her for her sole use and benefit in future, and not only him, but all my other admirers into the bargain wherever she can find them, even the kiss which C[harles] Powlett wanted to give me, as I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for whom I do not care sixpence.”

Her crush on “Mr. Tom Lefroy,” the nephew of family friends, was at least half-serious (which is why she was careful to make light of it here), but hardly the full-blooded romance/elopement that the film Becoming Jane tried to depict. Lefroy went back to his family in Ireland without giving Jane any grounds for hope. But she wasn’t heartbroken: It was fun while it lasted, and Tom could dance, unlike stodgy Reverend Samuel Blackall, who dithered around in 1798, hinting that he might be getting ready to pay court, and who only earned Jane’s scorn: “It is most probable that our indifference will soon be mutual,” she wrote crushingly.

[Jane in Real Life . . .]