Jane Anna Elizabeth Lefroy was born in 1793, the first daughter of James Austen and Anne Mathew. After Anna’s mother passed away in 1795, James married Mary Lloyd (1797) and fathered James Edward Austen-Leigh (JEAL) and Caroline Austen. JEAL later wrote A Memoir of Jane Austen.
As a child, Anna was very close to her aunt, Jane Austen and stayed with Jane and Cassandra for two years at Steventon before her father (James) remarried. Anna often wrote to her aunt Jane, and received numerous letters, advice and love in return. Reading letters between these two women, one gets the sense that Anna was special to Jane and vice versa. Austen’s humorousMock Panegyric on a Young Friend declare’s Anna’s virtues for all to see.
It has been said that Anna Lefroy was the prime orchestrator for flaming the ember of old love between Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen. In the Memoir, JEAL was very careful not to mention more than a paragraph of the brief interaction between his aunt and the Chief Justice of Ireland. In writing the book, Caroline warned her brother:
‘against raking up that old story of the still living ‘Chief Justice’ – That there was something in it, is true – but nothing out of the common way – (as I beleive). Nothing to call ill usage, & no very serious sorrow endured.
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