Put a Ring on it, Mr. Tom Lefroy
Sold! For 152,450 GBP, $236,557
Okay, so the big news is that Jane Austen’s ring sold for more than seven times the estimated price at Sotheby’s in Dublin yesterday. It was reported that “competition was fierce among the eight bidders vying” for it. (According to msn news.)
Go, Jane Austen! Once again, the author, who’s been dead for almost 200 years rocked our modern world–with a pretty cool rock. The ring evidently went to… wait for it… “an anonymous collector.” Well, if we knew who the collector was we’d be knocking on their door, now wouldn’t we? Still, inquiring minds want to know who scored the ring! Do any of you out there know anything? Fill us in!
As you all know from reading our very own Diana Birchell’s fabulous post about the ring here, the ring is not only a gorgeous natural turquoise, but like so many aspects of Austen’s life, the details are sketchy. In truth, there are no details. She owned the ring. It was passed down through the generations. End of story.
Or is it?
Like you, I’ve had a good laugh at the speculations of some of the journalists who’ve covered this story. Note to journalists: if you’re going to write fiction anyway, you can at least be creative with it and not outlandishly stupid.
Did Tom Lefroy really put a ring on it?
I saw one journalist speculating that the ring may have been given to Austen by Tom Lefroy. Please! This is so…wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Tom *A LOT* for a few reasons, firstly because if Austen liked him, he must’ve been worthy. Another good reason to like Tom? He misbehaved with Austen, and I like that in a man, don’t you? Well, Austen did! Here’s what she wrote to Cassandra about Tom:
“I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together…” (January 10, 1796)
Need a few more reasons to like the guy? In the same letter to Cassandra, Austen calls him a “very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man.” The only flaw she could find with him (smile) was the fact that “his morning coat is a great deal too light.” However, the two twenty-year olds really only socialized with each other for less than a fortnight at a couple of balls. Is that enough for a young charmer like Tom to put a ring on it?
Evidently not, because our opinion of him turns as we learn in the very same letter that Tom “is laughed at about me [Austen] at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago.” Don’t like him as much as we used to, do we? His family was steering him away from Austen and toward women with bigger fortunes and he listened.
Austen’s references to him take a sarcastic bent: “…as I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for whom I do not care sixpence.” And we all know that by January 15th, just five days after her “shocking” behavior with Tom, she wrote:
“At length the Day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, & when you receive this it will be over–My tears flow as I write at this melancholy idea.”
I don’t see how anyone could think the ring came from him, do you? He strikes me as nothing more than a young flirt who was easily persuaded by his family to cut all ties with Austen. In my opinion, he singularly failed to put a ring on it and it seems he may have regretted it for the rest of his life, the cad. There, I said it!
Did Henry buy her the ring?
I’d like to think the ring came from someone made of much stronger stuff, and I’d rather not speculate, like some journalists have, that her brother Henry bought it for her. The journalist’s reasoning was that the box the ring came from was from London, and, well, Henry worked in London. Huh?! Everybody worked in London, and most people traveled to and from London all the time, and that included Jane Austen herself!
I’d rather not believe the let-down of a story that her brother bought her the ring. Who wants a ring from their brother?!
As long as we’re fabricating, here’s the story I’m buying into. If Jane Austen didn’t buy the damn ring for herself, which she may well have, I’d like to say she had a secret Italian lover, let’s call him Leonardo…
Leonardo, Jane Austen’s Italian lover bought her the ring.
… and Leonardo was tall, dark, and handsome, and he visited Jane several times a year, often bringing her gifts and books from Italy, France, and London. Leonardo was the perfect mix of intense and snarky, romantic and stand-offish, sensitive and smart, poetic and … punctual. In short, he had all the qualities of an Englishman wrapped in a nice, passionate Italian package.
He really loved the fact that his English lover was a successful authoress and he never married, because he really loved her, and often wrote her letters and poems scented with oregano and roses (he wrote in English with Italian sprinkled in, and Austen loved it). He knew she never really wanted a full-time husband and children, and since he was busy with all the vineyards he owned for most of the year, along with writing his very successful Italian love poetry that functioned as the Hallmark cards of the time. Their arrangement worked out quite well and Jane Austen never told Cassandra a damn thing about it.
So? Does that sound about right? Or what’s the story you’re sticking with?
Who do you think bought Jane Austen the ring?