More successful than Jane’s first love but with a tragic outcome was Jane’s sister Cassandra‘s love affair with Tom Fowle. Tom was a friend of the family having spent time as a pupil in Mr George Austen’s school. In some ways these young adults grew up together. The school was part of the house and George Austen’s pupils joined the Austen family, both the brothers and the sisters in family life.
Cassandra became engaged to Tom in 1792, but there was no money and so rather than a marriage, there was a long engagement – without money the couple could not wed. (Just in the paper yesterday, we hear that research shows that engagements are getting longer today so that couples can save up for their wedding.) But for Tom and Cassandra it was a very long wait. After four years of being a fiancé Tom must have been increasingly impatient. In 1796 he signed himself on as a private chaplain to a relative, Lord Craven, on an arduous sea voyage to the West Indies, to try and make his fortune.
Alas, real life does not follow the Austen rules of true love: the following year Tom was dead from a tropical fever. Tom Fowle, the lover who persevered, who waited for the woman he loved, embarked on the dangerous journey but dies. And Cassandra it seems never fell in love again. For her there were no second attachments often recommended in the Austen Six. She took on the garb of middle age early, wearing her hair in a cap and led a retiring life sharing in the domestic duties with Jane, their mother and their friend Martha.
- Jane Austen ring to stay in UK (bbc.co.uk)