In the Christmas holidays of 1795-96, a young Irishman named Thomas Lefroy left his legal studies in London to visit some relatives who lived in the countryside. While staying with them, he attended a series of provincial balls that also happened to be attended by the Austens, including the 20-year-old Jane Austen. “I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved,” Jane later wrote to her sister Cassandra. “Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking.” What transpired between these two young people? How did it end? And could it have been the inspiration for Pride and Prejudice, the novel that famously introduced a charming young woman to a mysterious outsider at just such a ball? In this episode, Jacke takes a look at what we know – and what we tantalizingly don’t – about the young Jane Austen and her dalliance with Thomas Lefroy.
In 1813, a young author named Jane Austen built on the success of her popular novel Sense and Sensibility with a new novel about the emotional life of an appealing protagonist named Elizabeth Bennet, who overcomes her mistaken first impressions and finds true love with the enigmatic and ultimately appealing Mr. Darcy. The novel was called Pride and Prejudice, and for more than 200 years it’s been celebrated as one of the great pinnacles in the history of novels – and indeed, in all of literature. What was Jane Austen’s background, and how did she come to write such a marvelous novel? What accounts for the book’s success? And what lessons can we take from it today? Host Jacke Wilson takes a look at one of the most beloved works in literary history – and tells a story of his own youthful efforts to avoid being part of someone else’s Austen-influenced plot.
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