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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jane Austen’s Love Mystery: Part 4

4. Edward Bridges

To this day, mystery surrounds Jane’s relationship with Edward Bridges. You may have seen him as one of Jane’s persistent suitors in Miss Austen Regrets, but in actual fact there is very little that we know about the nature of their relationship.

Mr Bridges played by Hugh Bonneville in Miss Austen Regrets.

Image from

The Reverend Brook Edward Bridges of Goodnestone Farm was Jane’s brother, Edward’s brother-in-law. Son of a baronet, he became a clergyman like his other brothers. Jane became familiar with Edward during her visits to Godmersham in the mid-1790’s and seemed to enjoy his company.

During a visit in 1805, Jane noticed that Edward was being particularly attentive to her. She wrote to Cassandra, "We could not begin dinner till six. We were agreeably surprised by Edward Bridges's company to it. . . . It is impossible to do justice to the hospitality of his attentions towards me; he made a point of ordering toasted cheese for supper entirely on my account". As I wrote before, toasted cheese was a favourite supper of Jane Austen’s.

A few years later, in 1808, Jane wrote to Cassandra from Godmersham, “[Lady Bridges’] son Edward was also looking very well, & with manners as un-altered as hers". In another letter written later that year, Jane mentioned an “invitation” that Edward had made to her: “I wish you may be able to accept Lady Bridges's invitation, though I could not her son Edward's”.

Now whatever this invitation may be, remains a mystery to us. Biographers Deirdre La Faye and the flighty Jon Spence certainly seem convinced that Edward proposed to Jane in 1808 and was politely rejected. If his proposal was indeed turned down, there seems to have been no hard feelings on either side, as the friendship continued after that. When Edward became engaged to Harriet Foote later in the same year, she wished him well.

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