In Jane’s own life there is ample evidence that women can live a fulfilled and contented life without getting married. As we have seen Jane writes in Emma, “it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible.” As far as we can tell, Jane Austen, herself, lived a contented single life enjoying her family, her friends, her writing and a country lifestyle. Sure she might have liked to marry one of the loves of her life but it was not to be. Like today, a variety of reasons can conspire to leave a woman single. However, Jane certainly knew what love was and her first love was indeed a wonderful experience both in the highs but also in the lows. Her first love was indeed heart wrenching and disappointing like many first loves can be.
Jane certainly fell in love. First, when Jane was twenty-one, there was Tom Lefroy, who she describes in a letter to Cassandra as her ‘Irish friend’. He was a young Irishman visiting a relative who happened to be an older friend of Jane’s, Madame Lefroy. An attachment undoubtedly occurred. How much time Jane actually spent with Tom is open to conjecture. Continue reading