The Daily Mail in London reports that a tiny portrait of Tom LeFroy, a young Jane Austen knew, and who is thought to have inspired Mr. Darcy in her most popular novel Pride And Prejudice is to be exhibited at an antiques fair. The 3 inch watercolour of Thomas Lefroy was painted by the leading English miniaturist George Engleheart of the day in 1798. The movie Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway and the dreamy James McAvoy which came out last year was a highly fictional version of their story.
The basic facts about Jane and Tom's relationship are they met briefly, there might have been an attraction, but it went no further than that. Lefroy's family were not wealthy and they expected him to marry well, which meant a woman with a huge dowry. Lefroy met Austen while visiting his uncle and aunt in Hampshire. They were apparently very taken with one another, talking, dancing and apparently flirting. She referred to him in one of her few letters that survive as 'a gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man' and found only one fault with him - 'his morning coat is a great deal too light'.
Jane was the sixth of seven children born to a Hampshire rector. The family had very little money and she years away from her first literary success, Sense And Sensibility. With no dowry, Jane's marriage prospects were slim. Of course, even though Jane briefly accepted a marriage proposal later on, the truth is that she probably would never have become a novelist if she had married.
The portrait on ivory - on the back of which are several locks of hair - was painted two years after Lefroy's dalliance with Austen. It will be exhibited in London's Grosvenor House Hotel at the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair for a week from Thursday. It is signed with Engleheart's distinctive 'E' monogram, it is one of only two portraits of Lefroy known to exist and has an asking price of around £50,000.
The dealers Judy and Brian Harden, who are selling the miniature, said they had bought it at auction some time ago without realizing its significance.
Wow, £50,000 ($100,000) for a miniature of the man that Jane once danced with. It is a really nice legend, but that is all that the story is. Still, it would be nice to own something that was associated with Jane Austen.