2. Dr Samuel Blackall
Image: An unknown young scholar.
There are several references to Dr Samuel Blackall in Austen’s biographies. Dr Blackall was a theology student and fellow of Emmanuel College in Cambridge. Jane and Dr Blackall met in 1798 when he was staying with his family friends, the Lefroys. Despite the Tom Lefroy affair, Jane had remained friends with Mrs Lefroy and was a frequent visitor to Ashe.
At the time, Dr Blackall was believed to be “in want of a wife”, as he was about to give up his fellowship and settle down at a parish. Perhaps Mrs Lefroy thought that Dr Blackall would be a good match for Jane. However, despite several matchmaking efforts, it appears that neither party warmed up to the idea. Mrs Lefroy later showed her a letter from Dr Blackall, of which Jane wrote, “There seems no likelihood of his coming into Hampshire this Christmas, and it is therefore most probable that our indifference will soon be mutual, unless his regard, which appeared to spring from knowing nothing of me at first, is best supported by never seeing me.'
Despite the “mutual indifference” admitted by Jane herself, some people do believe that Dr Blackall was Jane’s one true love. Amongst these was her niece Catherine Hubback who wrote, “if she ever was in love, I believe it was with Dr Blackall whom they met at some watering place…there is no doubt she admired him extremely, and perhaps regretted parting”. We do know that she met someone at a watering place years later, but there is some confusion between the nieces and nephews as to the identity of this person. I will come back to the seaside mystery in Part 5.