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Jane Austen's 'Mr Darcy' broke her heart

books Updated: May 27, 2009 16:35 IST
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Jane Austen might have given generations of girls the idea of a perfect man in 'Mr Darcy', her fictional hero in 'Pride and Prejudice' but the author's mystery lover broke her heart, a historian has revealed.

Andrew Norman believes that he has tracked down the identity of Austen's "nameless dateless lover" and says their summer romance bloomed at the seaside in Devon, Daily Mail reported online.

The letters sent between Austen and her elder sister Cassandra, as well as evidence given by relatives lead towards a person --Samuel Blackall, a theology student and fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he says.

Norman, an Oxford graduate who has produced 16 biography and history books, believes that young Blackall first met Austen in the summer of 1798, when he stayed with family friends the Lefroys in Hampshire. Though they were attracted to each other but nothing came out of the meeting.

Austen and Blackall were separated for years, until they met again in Totnes, Devon, and the historian believes that it is here that Austen fell in love.

"Nothing else was heard until Jane and her parents went down to the South Devon coast in 1802. Here we know she met and fell in love with an unknown clergyman, who was visiting his brother who was working in the town as a doctor. I looked all over the place and found a Dr John Blackall registered in Totnes - he turned out to be Samuel's brother," Norman says.

Further evidence to support his theory comes from none other than Austen's own niece Anna's diary.

"It was a while they were so travelling, according to Aunt Cassandra's account many years afterward, that they somehow made acquaintance with a gentleman of the name of Blackall," Anna wrote in her diary.

"He and Aunt Jane mutually attracted each other and such was his charm that even Aunt Cassandra thought him worthy of her sister," she further wrote.

Norman thinks that Austen and Blackall's encounter was the catalyst as it caused a well-document rift between Austen and her sister Cassandra, ending their closeness forever. He also suggests that Austen's sister was somehow responsible in ending her romance with Blackall.

He points out that Austen's reaction upon finding out about Blackall's marriage in 1813 holds the key to her emotions.

"Nothing much is heard until Jane found out that Blackall was getting married many years later, when she wrote a rather sour letter about it that was quite unlike her," Norman said.

"I would wish Miss Lewis to be of a silent turn and rather ignorant," Austen had bitterly commented in a letter to her brother Francis in July 1813, saying she had heard about Blackall's marriage to Susannah Lewis.

The historian believes that the letter was quite unlike of Austen and revealed her disappointment of losing Blackall.