Aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot (1744-1836)
Jane Cholmeley was born in Barbados, a British colony in the West Indies (the Caribbean). She arrived in England when she was six and later married James Leigh-Perrot, well-to-do brother of Jane Austen’s mother.
Jane Leigh-Perrot at the time of her marriage in 1764
Jane and Cassandra Austen were fond of their aunt but she was a haughty and rather stingy woman who used her wealth to manipulate her relatives with promises---often broken---of gifts, loans and inheritances. With no children, the Leigh-Perrots promised to make sister Cassandra’s family their heirs.
The Austen-Leighs spent their winters at the Paragon in Bath.
Lucky Pieces by Becky Brown
Aunt Jane was a fortunate and fashionable woman who took her nieces shopping with her when they visited Bath.
Silhouette of Jane Austen-Leigh
In 1799, 55-year-old Aunt Jane was arrested in Bath for theft while shopping. She'd purchased lace and was accused of leaving the shop with an additional unpaid-for card of lace in her reticule (handbag). Lace was expensive and the purloined piece was said to be worth £1 (about $100 today).
Fashion plate from 1800
of a woman with a reticule
and expensive lace trim.
In Jane Austen’s England, the penalty for a theft even half that value was cruel and unreasonable. If convicted, Mrs. Leigh-Perrot faced the death penalty. Another option: a sentence of transportation to the penal colony of Botany Bay (Australia) and exile for 14 years. She was jailed without bail for seven months awaiting trial.
The thought of Aunt Jane joining the typical transported prisoners
horrified her family.
Aunt Jane’s luck persisted. During her trial the shopkeeper and two assistants testified against her, but her lawyer caught the assistant in a lie. Others testified they’d been victims of the same scam---an unwarranted accusation of shoplifting with planted evidence followed by extortion to avoid incarceration and trial.
Lucky Pieces by Becky Brown
Jane Leigh-Perrot was found not guilty. Some family members believed she got away with shoplifting, a crime she may have often committed. Others believed her story that she'd been framed with an eye to extortion:
"That these wretches had marked me for somebody timid enough to be Scared and Rich enough to pay handsomely rather than go through the terrible Proceedings of a public Trial nobody doubts."
(From a letter by Jane Leigh Perrot quoted in Deirdre Le Faye's Jane Austen: A Family Record.)
Click here to see a preview of the book:
Block Base #3752b
Lucky Pieces was given the name by the syndicated newspaper column signed Nancy Page in the 1930s. The block is perfect for someone as fortunate as Aunt Jane, but it’s a rather complicated pattern in cutting the parallelograms and sewing the Y-seams, so I suggest you make a variation.
BlockBase # 1140a.
Cutting a 12” Block
A - Cut 12 squares 3-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.
You need 24 triangles.
B– Cut 1 square 7-1/4”. Cut into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts.
You need 4 triangles.
Rajah Quilt, detail, collection of the
National Gallery of Australia
Quilters are most familiar with the sentence of transportation to a penal colony through the 1841 Rajah Quilt, made by transported women in Australia.
See more of the quilt here:
Lucky Pieces by Georgann Eglinski