Anne Lefroy, known as Madam Lefroy, was born in 1749. Anne married the Reverand in 1778 and they lived as Ashe, making them the Austen’s closest neighbours.
Anne and Jane, despite their age difference, formed a friendship that was marked by intelligence and respect. This friendship started when the Lefroy’s invited the 11 year old Jane to play with their 7 year old daughter. Due to a mutual love of literature, Anne and Jane began long literary discussions about novels, poetry and plays. It is believed that Jane shared her writing with Anne who acted as her friend and mentor. She was given free reign of their library at the Ashe parsonage. This must have acted as a important source of self-affirmation for Jane who was a child that was of limited confidence and needed encouragement and support in her early years.
Anne was a woman of charm, intelligence and means and soon became hostess to the neighbourhood. She opened a school for the poor children of the surrounding neighbourhood and taught them to read; this shows her determination and strong will, character traits that Jane would have greatly admired. She also personally vaccinated hundreds of people in her husband’s parish against smallpox. The Lefroy’s had a carriage and Anne would often lend out the carriage to families without, such as the Austen’s. These acts of kindness led her to be named ‘Madam’ Lefroy by all who knew her.
Anne was the aunt of Tom Lefroy who came to visit them in December 1795 after recently graduating from Trinity College in Dublin. It is unclear as to the role she played or her opinion of the loving relationship forming between Tom and Jane.
Anne died prematurely in a riding accident on December 16th 1804, Jane’s 29th birthday, when she was just 55 years old. The few months following Anne’s tragic accident must have been a very difficult time for Jane as her father died a month later on January 21st 1805.
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