A new book – Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love by Andrew Norman – claims that Jane Austen’s insight into love and romance came not only from her relationship with Tom Lefoy, but from her unfulfilled romance with a clergyman called Samuel Bicknall.
Jane first met Samuel in 1798 when she was 23 and he was a 28 year old cleric making a living as a tutor and a librarian at Cambridge University. Samuel’s family had been successful in the church and he hoped to acquire a living in Devon worth £800 a year. The romance looked promising but according to Andrew Norman’s book, it could have been eventually thwarted by Jane’s sister, Cassandra. Some time after the couple supposedly met again while the Austen sisters were on holiday in Devon, Jane and Samuel’s budding romance was cut short when the Austen’s allegedly received a letter claiming Samuel Bicknell was dead. One theory is that a jealous Cassandra forged the letter to sabotage the love affair because Cassandra (who had recently lost her clergyman fiance) liked Bicknell herself. Whatever the truth concerning the origins of the letter, its contents were incorrect. Samuel Bicknell wasn’t dead – he lived a long life and married a Miss Lewis shortly after taking up the living in Devon. Jane only discovered the truth in 1813 when she read in a newspaper about his marriage to Miss Lewis.
It’s certainly an interesting theory about Cassandra interfering in Jane’s love life…
Read the full article at the Daily Mail on line here. Details of Andrew Norman’s book can be found if you scroll down to the bottom of the page.