Thursday, 31 May 2007

A short but charming review of Becoming Jane in Thread, NZ

Anne Hathaway is becoming as Jane Austen

By Megan Robinson

'Becoming Jane', starring the extremely watchable Anne Hathaway and Tom Lefroy, is a love story of the true romance that shaped Jane Austen's life and work.

The encounter with the handsome Irishman when Austen was twenty never developed and she never married, instead writing works of ideal romance bound by the culture and mores of the day. And so it was for Austen herself; unable to go further with her affair- with parents who want her to marry for money in a class-obsessed England of 1795 and duty to his family.

I found myself getting caught up in the tale and, despite knowing the real life ending- like watching Titanic and hoping it doesn't sink and Romeo and Juliet don't pick up the knife- egging for Tom and Jane to get together.

The actors, Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy, names that would themselves perfectly suit an Austen novel, ignite passion in the chaste love scenes they share, with a real screen chemistry not seen in recent historic romance (see Zellweger and McGregor in Mrs Potter.)

For all lovers of Austen, and lovers of romance, Becoming Jane is a delicate telling of star-crossed lovers destined to fall yet doomed to fail. A little over-long but beautifully played, Becoming Jane captures the sense and sensibility of the time and tale.


Jane's letter to Cassandra from Cork Street

Following Rachel's post below, this is the exact copy of Jane Austen's letter to Cassandra, on 23 August 1796, seven months after the last surviving letter dated January 16, 1796 when Jane talked of her broken heart. I found this in 'Jane Austen's Letters (Chapman, 1979), page 7. No date was found in Chapman's book, only month and year, but Walker's (2007) article suggested that the date was 23 August 1796.

Cork Street: Tuesday morn (August 1796)

My dear Casandra

Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted. We reached Staines yesterday, I do not (know) when, without suffering so much from the heat as I had hoped to do. We set off again this morning at seven o’clock, and had a very pleasant drive, as the morning was cloudy and perfectly cool. I came all the way in the chaise from Hertford Bridge.

Edward and Frank are both gone out to seek their fortunes; the latter is to return soon and help us seek ours. The former we shall never see again. We are to be at Astley’s to-night, which I am glad of. Edward has heard from Henry this morning. He has not been at the races at all, unless his driving Miss Pearson over to Rowling one day can be so called. We shall find him there on Thursday.

I hope you are all alive after our melancholy parting yesterday, and that you pursued your intended avocation with success. God bless you! I must leave off, for we are going out.

Yours very affectionately,
J. Austen

Everybody’s love

Regarding the Cork Street letter, Walker (2007) argued that ‘this letter is the most anxious Jane ever wrote Cassandra. She writes as if she has arrived in the lion’s den, and that what she has dreaded is now upon her. She writes quickly, seemingly upon the moment of arrival, perhaps in the brief respite when she has retired to her room to rid herself of travel dust before making her appearance. If Tom were away, this anxiety certainly couldn’t be caused simply by being in a house redolent of his presence; she had the poise to cope with that.’

Walker also suggested that what Jane dreaded was not Tom, but Judge Langlois, Tom’s uncle. She pointed out that Anne Lefroy, or Tom, or both of them might have persuaded the Judge to meet Jane, the object of Tom’s interest. Walker also noted that ‘Austen’s letter(s) immediately following the one from Cork Street are missing, and the next we have, Letter 4, dated September 1, 1796, apologizes for the “conciseness” in the missing correspondence and promises to provide Cassandra with “elaborate details” when they meet, the phrase a reprise of the mocking tone of her very first letters.’



Chapman, R. W. 1979, Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Walker, L. R. 2007. 'Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy: Stories', Persuasions On-line, vol. 27, no. 1. Available:

Jon Spence on Jane Austen & Tom Lefroy

Below are the notes taken from ‘Becoming Jane Austen’ by Jon Spence, (2003) speculating on the relationship between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy:

  • “In Tom Jones, Henry Fielding plays with being wounded as a metaphor for being in love”. From the preserved letters, Jane talks about Tom Lefroy’s morning coat in a negative fashion, saying that Tom “therefore wears the same coloured clothes, I imagine, which ‘he’ (meaning Tom Jones) did when he was wounded.”
  • Six months after Tom left Steventon, Jane went to Kent with her brother Edward. They spent the first night in Staines and then continued to London, staying in Cork Street. This is known from the heading of a letter that Jane sent Cassandra during their stay. Tom Lefroy was at this time living in Cork Street with his great uncle Benjamin Langlois. “There is no proof that they stayed there but strange coincidence of they did not”. Factors supporting the notion that she stayed with Tom and his uncle in Cork Street:
  1. Cork Street a very short road (not many houses)
  2. Benjamin Langlois is the only rate-payer that the Austen’s would have connection with
  3. No house seems to have originally been a hotel- if this were the case, Jane would have headed the letter sent to Cassandra with the name of the hotel, not simply ‘Cork Street’.
  • There is a connection between Tom Lefroy and Pride and Prejudice. His favourite book, ‘Tom Jones’, contains the name Bennet. Also Jane called the 4th Bennet daughter Kitty and this is the name of Tom’s fourth sister.
  • It is speculated by Spence that Jane did not see herself as Lizzy but she did see Tom Lefroy that way. According to Spence, Jane had previously meddled with gender- Eliza de Feuillide had been the inspiration for Edward Stanley in Catherine (Jane's unpublished juvenilia)

  • “Between 27Oct and 17Nov 1798, Jane and Cassandra were separated- Jane was at home in Steventon and Cassandra was with Edward in Godmersham Park while his wife, Elizabeth, had her 5th child. The letters in this interval have been destroyed- it was during this time that Jane had learned that Tom Lefroy was again expected at Ashe.” Mrs Lefroy came to see Jane ‘alone’ on 14Nov. She told her that Tom had returned to London and would then soon after go back to Ireland to begin his law career.
  • “Tom had ten surviving brothers and sisters and as the eldest son, he was expected to make the whole family’s fortune.”
  • Tom died in 1869 at the age of 93 years. He was asked by one if his nephews if he had been in love with Jane Austen. The reply was that he had but it had been a ‘boyish love’. “Whatever his qualification means, his admission confirms that Jane was not mistaken: Tom Lefroy had been in love with her”.
A question asked by Jon Spence that I really value is why was this question ever asked at all? If Tom’s nephew had asked whether he and JA were acquaintances, this would make sense but the fact that he asked ‘were they in love’ shows that the question had been lingering within the family for over 70 years.

  • The name ‘Willoughby’ is in ‘Tom Jones.’
  • The name ‘Allen’ in Northanger Abbey is also in ‘Tom Jones.’
  • “Even though Mansfield Park in a way belongs to the period of Jane Austen’s life before she met Tom Lefroy, she yet again acknowledges some deep connection between him and her art. It was more that 15 years since she had met and fallen in love with him, and ten years since she had written anything new, but she again gave her sign that she had not forgotten him: Tom Bertram’s friends the ‘Andersons’ take their name from a family in ‘Tom Jones’.”

I personally think that there are two main things that highlight to me the truth in their love. Firstly, that she didn’t write for a period of ten years after she met him and he broke her heart. I know that she had other factors influencing her, e.g. the move to bath and the death of her father, but this must have influenced her decision to stop writing. Secondly, the themes of lost love and second chances in Persuasion. I think that this novel displays her true feelings regarding Tom Lefroy.

Pic1: Cover to 'History of Tom Jones' by Henry Fielding

Pic 2: Jon Spence, author of 'Becoming Jane Austen' (2003)

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

A Short Biography of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire. Her father was a reverend and they consequently lived in the village rectory, making their family popular within the local community. Jane was 7th among 8 siblings, namely; James, George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Frank, and Charles. James and Henry joined the clergy and Francis and Charles pursued careers in the navy. Edward was adopted at a young age and grew up to be the heir to a very large fortune. George, meanwhile, is considered to have been disabled and did not live with the Austen’s throughout his life. The only female offspring; Jane and Cassandra, were very close throughout their entire lives and never lived apart.

At the age of 8, Jane moved to Oxford and then to Southampton to be educated by a relative, Mrs Cawley. There was an outbreak in the town in which they were staying of ‘putrid fever’; probably Typhus. Both Jane and Cassandra fell ill and so returned back to Steventon. By age, 10 Jane had been sent to the Reading Ladies boarding school in the Abbey gatehouse in Reading, Berkshire, where she remained for over one year.

In 1789 she wrote her first novel, Love and Friendship (sic), amongst other very amusing juvenilia. By her early twenties, Jane Austen had written the novels that were much later to be published as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. She also began a novel called The Watsons which was never completed.

In December 1795/January 1796, Jane Austen met and, possibly, fell in love with an Irishman called Tom Lefroy. He was visiting his aunt and uncle in Ashe, near Steventon, before going to London to study law. During this stay with his family, Tom and Jane met at four balls, enjoying many dances and discussions, particularly about literature. More specifically they discussed the novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. This novel is known to be a favourite of Tom Lefroy and many historians have found strong links between the Tom Jones and Jane Austen’s work, speculating that her memory and love for Tom Lefroy lingered throughout her entire life. The feelings that she had for this man may have acted as an inspiration for some of the characters and feelings she wrote about in her novels. He returned to London and then back to his hometown in Ireland where he later became Lord High Justice of Ireland.

In 1801, Jane moved with her parents and her sister Cassandra to Bath, which provides the setting for many of her novels. Within Bath the family moved many times and it is widely known that Jane did not enjoy her time here. To further contribute to her unhappiness at this time in her life, her beloved father died in 1805. This led to the next big move in the lives of the Austen women when they went to live in Southampton with Jane’s brother Frank and his family. Finally in 1809 they moved back to the country and settled in Chawton, Hampshire. It was at this residence that Jane Austen spent the remainder of her life. She was happy here and resumed writing; she produced her later three novels; Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion in Chawton.

In 1811, six years before her death, her first novel Sense and Sensibility was published, at the expense of her brother Henry. Next, Pride and Prejudice was published and although still anonymous (written "By a Lady"); the work of Jane Austen was gaining a literary reputation.

Jane contracted Addisons Disease, a tubercular disease of the kidneys, and on 18 July 1817 she died at the age of forty-one in the arms of her sister, Cassandra, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

First pic: JA silhouette
Second pic: young Tom Lefroy, possibly sketched by John Warren
Third pic: JA painting by Cassandra

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

'Becoming Jane' fan-fictions

I just want to drop a note that there are currently three Becoming Jane fan-fictions on the (please tell me that I'm wrong, and that there are more!), and I am glad to give the credit to Aspirer for writing the first BJ fan-fiction ever! Her fan-fiction, Tears, was published 1st of April 2007, just a few days after the premiere in Australia.

The second (Countenance So Beloved) and the third (Becoming Jane: the Vignette) are mine, beta-ed (edited) by Rachel Kingston. All the three fanfictions are available in the left side-bar, in the Fan-fiction section.

I will be so glad to receive any information of additional BJ fan-fictions, so that I can put the links here.

Pic: Jane Austen at her writing desk, Jane Austen Society of Buenos Aires

Monday, 28 May 2007

Costumes of Becoming Jane – female characters

Costumes worn by characters in this movie are a mixture of the late Baroque/Rococo (also called Georgian) and Regency styles. Ms. Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh has done a great job at creating gorgeous costumes for Anne Hathaway (Jane Austen) and Lucy Cohu (Eliza de Feullide), and of course fans of James McAvoy would notice how he looked dashing (not that he’s not handsome, duh!) in his Tom Lefroy velvet coat and white cravat (cravat is a very good idea for James!). In this section, we are going to discuss costumes for female characters first. Tom would have to wait later.

The year 1795 was a special year for regency dress, for high empire line began to be a new fashion, and tight corsets were abandoned (yay! The whales were happy!). With the line placed below the breasts, Empire/Regency dresses tried to imitate Greco-Roman styles adorning sculptures and arts of female Greek goddesses and nymphs. Look at Wikipedia for more detailed explanations of the Regency fashion from 1795-1820. It was actually called ‘Directoire’ from 1795-1799, but it did not look so different, so here I just simplified it as ‘Regency’ or 'Empire' dress.

Austen’s first surviving letters to Cassandra was dated 9 January 1796, and it was a day after Tom Lefroy’s birthday (interestingly, James McAvoy was also born in January, 1st January, I guess). We don’t know if Tom had stayed during the Christmas as well or not… but during the first week of 1796 (or since the last weeks of 1795), he had met Jane… and, according to the movie, the girl was very fashionable, for she adopted the new fashion of high-waist line!

But, although 1795 was the beginning of the Regency fashion, many women still wore Rococo/Georgian-style dresses. In the movie, Eliza de Feullide was one of them, and my oh my… we cannot argue that Lucy Cohu looked elegant in her outer jacket and neat hat. Oh, by the way, Anne often wore a hat, or bonnet, to be precise, with ribbons (JA loved ribbons!) and occasionally shawl, for the relatively thin Empire dress materials were not sufficient for the climate of England/Ireland (and so it had been in the late 18th century, when the popularity of shawls increased to accommodate the thin muslins).

In the movie, Anna Maxwell Martin (playing Cassandra Austen) wore Rococo/Georgian dresses. In the OST cover, I just saw the pink Rococo-ish dress she wore during her walk on the beach with Anne after the latter arrived from London. I also remembered Cassandra's lovely pale blue ribbon during the sombre dinner in Lady Gresham’s manor where Cass heard that her fiancĂ©e (Thomas Fowle) had died in San Domingo, the Caribbean. I can still recall her sorrow…

Anyway, back to the costumes. Of course, the real treat of Regency dress in Becoming Jane is, naturally, Anne Hathaway’s costumes. Let’s see… she wore the lovely thick cotton-ish blue and red dresses, the floral dress she wore in the library (and for the Basingstoke Assembly) and the Belle-like red and white dress (during the cricket play or when she refused Wisley’s proposal… poor guy…) for daily work. She also had this lovely chocolate embroidered dress she wore on her elopement with Tom.

But the haut couture was the pale-green dress (silk-organza perhaps) Jane/Anne wore while dancing with her Mr. Lefroy in the second ball. Ah! I cannot forget their eyes... nor the lovely dress. And the pearl earrings! My God. Where can I get those earrings?! Anne's hair was tucked in Grecian style, by the way, an easy but lovely hairdo, with a lovely pearl-adorned headdress.

Anne also wore a lovely empire-line red coat during her visit in
London and her elopement. Lovely coat for sad events… sobs! I think she wore a straw bonnet with red ribbons for both occasions.

I also recall that Jane was the only woman who constantly wore the empire line dresses, with the exception of the red Belle-like dress. I guess, it served to make Jane (Anne) the centre of attention, not that she really needed that…

As I said earlier, Rococo/Georgian dresses were worn by the rest of female characters. Lucy Lefroy also wore a cream Rococo dress whenever she wanted to charm Tom (didn’t she get it? Tom was a dashing, fashion-up-dated, Londoner. Of course Jane’s chance of capturing his heart was better with new lines of Regency dresses! LOL!). But the feast of Rococo dress was again in Eliza’s. I was particularly interested in her silver white ball gown she wore with Henry Austen. Her wedding dress and the red dress in London were handsome as well. I will try to get the picture later.

Jane Austen House in Chawton currently displays several costumes worn by characters in Becoming Jane, including Jane Austen's pale green ball gown and blue daily dress, Tom Lefroy’s dark green velvet coat (for the second ball), LadyGresham’s purple and black ball gown and Eliza de Feullide’s gorgeous red dress. Anybody got the pictures, send me and I will forever thank you!

For further reading, see History of Western Fashion in Wikipedia, notably the late Baroque/Rococo era (1750-1795) and Regency era (1795-1820). I have posted the edited version of this article in Wikipedia, with the help of Rachel, of course!

Pictures:, except for Jane & Tom dancing (

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Pride and Prejudice

Upon glancing at the first impression of this site, a friend of mine asked if I could also insert synopsis of Jane Austen's books, for she knew little of them. I think this is a good idea; ergo I shall start with Austen's most famous book: Pride and Prejudice. Possible similarities with Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen herself are also explored.

Opening with one of the most famous lines of English literature ('It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.'), Austen originally drafted Pride and Prejudice as First Impression. PP was first published on 28 January 1813, Austen's second book after Sense and Sensibility (1811).

Notable characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Charles Bingley, George Wickham, Lydia Bennet, William Collins, Charlotte Lucas, etc.

Synopsis: Charles Bingley, a very rich and eligible bachelor from London, had just rented Netherfield in the village where Elizabeth and her family lived. Mr. Bingley was then introduced to the Bennet sisters, and danced with the eldest (Jane) in a country dance event. Bingley and Jane developed a mutual attraction and everyone seemed to find the couple very agreeable - with the exception of Mr. Darcy who was not convinced of Jane's affection towards Bingley. Hence, Darcy persuaded Bingley to leave the Netherfield (and Jane) and return to London, leaving the poor girl broken hearted. Once Elizabeth knew that Darcy had been behind her sister's sorrow, she was so naturally angry at Darcy. Unbeknown to Elizabeth, Darcy had begun to develop fond attachment to her, and expressed his utter and ardent love to her as she was about to reprimand him of his very meddlesome behaviour. And of course, our heroine refused Darcy's romantic exclamation, leaving him hurt and fury. But later on, Elizabeth's feeling towards Darcy took an unexpected turn when he explained everything in a letter (including his cold relationship with a George Wickham, friend of the Bennet family) and helped to fix a certain Lydia problem from destroying the Bennet's reputations. Of course, in the end, our hero and heroine admitted their mutual affections to each other... but the whole ups and downs were very well explored. Further explorations of the plots are available in Wikipedia.

Famous adaptations: Pride and Prejudice movie 2005 (Keira Knightley & Matthew Macfayden); Pride and Prejudice BBC TV series 1995 (Jennifer Ehle & Colin Firth)

Possible similarities:
Fitzwilliam Darcy - a bit of Tom Lefroy in his initial reluctance to blend with Hampshire

Elizabeth Bennet - Jane Austen in her free-spirited manners and love of books, also her prejudice that Tom was 'the most disagreeable, insolent, arrogant, imprudent, insufferable, impertinent of men'.

However, Jon Spence speculated that Jane did not see herself as Lizzy but she did see Tom Lefroy that way. According to Spence, Jane had previously meddled with gender- Eliza de Feuillide had been the inspiration for Edward Stanley in Catherine (Austen's unpublished juvenilia).

Pic1: Cover to 'Pride and Prejudice', Oxford edition
Pic 2: Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) & Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth), Pride & Prejudice 1995

Books related to 'Becoming Jane'

Well, obviously, the first book to read is Jon Spence's Becoming Jane Austen that can be pre-ordered from (to be released on June 14, 2007). Jon Spence wrote the book in 2003 and became a hit for the premise that Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy shared romance deeper than a teenage fling, as previous biographers often suggested.

The second one, also available online from Amazon and still not yet released, is Becoming Jane: The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen. To be released on July 3, 2007, the book has a very cute cover of Jane (Anne Hathaway) and Tom (James McAvoy), and a must have for me, at least! I don't think that the book covers Tom Lefroy in depth, but still, it is a reference.

Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy academic reviews

Below is the list of academic reviews concerning the relationship between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy:

  • John Halperin (1985): ‘Jane Austen’s Lovers’; discussing JA’s relationship with Tom Lefroy, plus other men who were often, though not as frequent as Lefroy, mentioned to have the potential romance with JA
  • Mary Ann O’Farrell (1994): ‘Austen’s Blush’; discussion of Austen’s tendencies to work with the ‘blush’, possibly derived from her unsuccessful romance with Lefroy, in ‘Pride & Prejudice’
  • Jon Spence (2003): ‘Becoming Jane Austen’ (second edition: 2007); the first Austen biography that explicitly stated the premise that JA and TL had a more serious and long-lasting relationship than many previous biographers have suggested. The book is the base of the ‘Becoming Jane’ movie
  • Linda R. Walker (2005): ‘Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy: Stories’; in-depth discussion of JA and TL relationship, with the coda that One of the great ironies of Austen’s legacy is that so many of the commentaries handed down to us from on high have been written by people named “Lefroy.” She could not bring about a marriage to her Lefroy, but Anna Austen married Ben Lefroy, the son of Anne and George, and in 1846 their daughter Jemima married Tom’s nephew.’


Halperin, J. 1985, 'Jane Austen's Lovers', Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 719-736.

O'Farrell, M. A. 1994, 'Austen's Blush', NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 125-139.

Ray, J. K. 2006, 'The Truth about Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy', Notes and Queries: Oxford Journals, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 311-314.

Spence, J. 2003, Becoming Jane Austen, Continuum International Publishing Group, London.

Walker, L. R. 2005, 'Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy: Stories', Persuasions On-line, vol. 27, no. 1, p. Winter 2005.

Deh vieni, non tardar

Deh vieni, non tardar, o gioja bella
Vieni ove amore per goder t'appella
Finche non splende in ciel notturna face
Finche l'aria e ancor bruna,
E il mondo tace

(Oh, come, don't be late, my beautiful joy
Come where love calls you to enjoyment
Until night's torches no longer shine in the sky
As long as the air is still dark
And the world quiet)

Qui mormora il ruscel, qui scherza l'aura
Che col dolce susurro il cor ristaura
Qui ridono i fioretti e l'erba e fresca
Ai piaceri d'amor qui tutto adesca
Vieni, ben mio, tra queste piante ascose

Vieni, vieni!
Ti vo' la fronte incoronar di rose

(Here the river murmurs and the light plays
That restores the heart with sweet ripples
Here, little flowers laugh and the grass is fresh
Here, everything entices one to love's pleasures
Come, my dear, among these hidden plants

Come, come!
I want to crown you with roses)

Aria: 'Deh vieni, non tardar!' by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Text provided by Lorenzo da Ponte, translated by Naomi Gurt Lind
Scene: Becoming Jane, last scene, twenty years later
Pics were modified from Becoming Jane official sites