36 free quilt blocks, one a week with a guide to Jane Austen's England and posts about the people in her life.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Block 23: Old Maid’s Puzzle for Tom LeFroy

23 Old Maid’s Puzzle for Tom LeFroy by Becky Brown

Tom LeFroy (1776-1869) by George Englehart

Jane Austen’s surviving letters tell us about a short romance with Anne LeFroy’s nephew Tom over the Christmas season in 1795. The two, both about twenty, met when Tom visited his Aunt at Ashe Rectory. The couple set tongues wagging with their attentions to each other at the holiday balls.

The end of the short story was common in Jane Austen’s England. Tom, eldest son of an Irish soldier, had no money, few prospects and Jane had no dowry. This marriage of equals would have been unwise. Tom returned to London where he was studying law and became engaged to Mary Paul within the new year.

Mr. Knightley proposing to Emma, illustration by 
Charles E. Brock, 1898

Many Janeites speculate about Jane’s relationship with Tom LeFroy. Although we know very little, we cannot help but imagine a serious affair of the heart. The romantics among us cannot stifle the wish that Jane Austen had somehow found Tom Lefroy again at a time when he had the income and position to support a wife.
Portrait of a Lady with Cupid by Francis Cotes.
Jane Austen’s novels have shaped the modern 
romantic view of marriage.

Now, whose fault is it that we see “a marriage plot” with bride and groom enjoying a misty, happy ending? It wasn’t Georgian novelist Susannah Rowson whose Charlotte Temple ends with the heroine’s death or Mary Hays whose 1796 fiction Memoirs of Emma Courtney includes Emma’s unhappy marriage and the death of her long-lost love.  

"Charlotte Temple...and her misfortunes and painful suffering."

Old Maid's Puzzle by Becky Brown

Our romantic hearts prefer to recall Jane Austen’s characters Lizzie Bennet, Anne Eliot and Elinor Dashwood, all of whom are finally and happily united with their soul mates.

Old Maid's Puzzle by Georgann Eglinski

Thomas Langlois LeFroy in later life

In reality Tom LeFroy returned to Ireland after law school, married Mary Paul and eventually became Chief Justice of Ireland.  He and Mary had nine children.
 (Novels unlikely to have been written in that household.)

Carrigglas Manor, Tom and Mary LeFroy’s home in Ireland.

BlockBase #1689a

To remember Tom LeFroy and also Jane’s choice to remain unmarried (for whatever reasons) we have several blocks called Old Maid’s Puzzle. This nine-patch was given the name in 1895 by the American Farmer magazine.
Cutting a 12” Block

A – Cut 6 squares 4-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles. 

You need 12  triangles.

B – Cut 3 squares 4-1/2”.

Join the strips.

Read more about Tom LeFroy and Jane at Jane Austen.co.uk


  1. Is it terribly, terribly selfish to be glad Jane didn't marry, to believe she didn't really want that life for herself? As you suggest, if she'd married she'd have had baby after baby (or died even earlier) and all those obligations and wouldn't have written a thing in the short life span that was her destiny. Thank you Jane got preferring to give your time to US! (That doesn't mean she didn't fall in love).