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Martha Lloyd (1765-1843), daughter of N. Lloyd and Martha Craven,[1] was Jane Austen's dearest friend after Austen's sister Cassandra. Austen considered Martha to be a second sister, as her letter of October 13, 1808, written to Cassandra, shows: "With what true sympathy our feelings are shared by Martha, you need not be told;—she is the friend & Sister under every circumstance."[2]

Martha Craven, daughter of the Royal Governor of South Carolina (Charles Craven), is believed to have met her future husband in Newbury, when she and her sister lived there with an aunt. Mrs Lloyd considered herself fortunate to have married "a beneficed clergyman of respectable character and good position."[3] The Lloyds settled down and had four children. Martha, the oldest daughter, was born in 1765 and her sister Mary in 1771. A few years later, a smallpox epidemic took the life of their brother and left the two older sisters scarred for life, though the youngest, Eliza, seems to have escaped relatively unharmed. When the Rev. Lloyd died in 1789, the Lloyd family lived for two or three years in the parsonage at Deane, a benefice held by Rev. George Austen.[4] During this period, Martha Lloyd and her sister Mary became particular friends of Cassandra and Jane Austen, friendships that lasted as long as they lived.[5]

The Lloyd family had much in common with the Austens and from an early time, visits between the two families were frequent. Though no one knows quite how they met, the Austens and Lloyds shared many mutual friends and when the Rev. Lloyd died in 1789, his widow and her two oldest, single daughters were happy to move into the unused Deane parsonage offered by Rev. Austen. Their time there, only a mile and a half from Steventon, must have been a delight for young Jane, for though she was ten years younger than the oldest Lloyd daughter, Martha, they were, as Jane's cousin Eliza de Feuillide remarked, "very sensible and good-humored."

Three years later, when Jane Austen's brother, James, married and assumed the parish of Deane, it was necessary for the Lloyds to move, this time to a home in Hurstbourne, called Ibthorpe. Though only 15 miles (24 km) from Steventon, this separation must have seemed cruel to Jane, who had few friends nearby and no mode of transportation. It is clear from Jane Austen's correspondence that her friend Martha was privy to her great secret—her writing. An early piece of Juvenilia, Frederick and Elfrida, is dedicated to her As a small testimony of the gratitude I feel for your late generosity to me in finishing my muslin Cloak, I beg leave to offer you this little production of your sincere Friend and later writings prove that she had been allowed to see the manuscript for Love and Friendship, an early edition of Pride and Prejudice and an honor accorded to few.

In 1805 changes abounded for the Austen and Lloyd families. Many years had now passed since James Austen's first wife had died and he had remarried again, choosing the younger Miss Mary Lloyd to be his second wife. With The Rev, George Austen's retirement and his family's to Bath in 1801, James had taken over both the Deane and Steventon, Hampshire holding and his growing family now lived in the Steventon parsonage.

It was while they were living in Bath, Somerset that Mr. Austen finally succumbed to his long illness and not too many months later that Lloyd also died. The women, being in a delicate financial state decided to combine housekeeping and all four (Mrs. Austen, Cassandra, Jane and Martha Lloyd) moved to Southampton to be with Jane's younger brother Frank and his wife, Mary. As an officer in the Navy, Frank was often away from home and this joining of households not only helped him look after his widowed mother, but provided constant companionship for his soon pregnant wife. It seems to have been, by all accounts, an excellent arrangement.

On July 7, 1809, Jane Austen moved to a cottage in Chawton, together with her mother, her sister Cassandra, and their friend Martha Lloyd, at the invitation of her brother Edward Knight, on whose estate it lay. Their new house was a late 17th Century brick building with two sitting rooms, five bedrooms, kitchens, garrets, outbuildings, and about 2 acres (8,100 m2) of grounds. It had once been an inn, and stood at the junction where the Gosport and Winchester roads met and became the main road to London.

The family remained at Chawton Cottage, even after Jane Austen's death in 1817. Martha Lloyd took on many duties as housekeeper for the family, though the work was divided among the three surviving women. Unfortunately for Frank, by now Sir Francis Austen, his happy home was broken up upon the death of his wife in 1823 after the birth of their 11th child. In 1828 he remarried, completing the family circle by this time, wedding Martha Lloyd. At sixty two, Martha was at last a bride, and more than that, Lady Austen.

Martha Lloyd's role as Jane Austen's friend and confidante cannot be overvalued and her contribution to what we know of Austen's life is significant. We have not only letters written by Jane to Martha, but Martha's collection of recipes used at Chawton, which were later compiled into A Jane Austen Household Book by Peggy Hickman, David & Charles, Ltd. 1977, and in The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye, British Museum Press, 1995 (ISBN 0-7141-2769-8).

Martha Lloyd died in 1843.

References

  • Austen-Leigh, William; Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh (1913). Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters—A Family Record. London: Smith, Elder & Co.  
  • Collins, Irene (1994). Jane Austen and the Clergy. London and Rio Grande: The Hambledon Press. ISBN 1-85285-114-7.  
  • Honan, Park (1987). Jane Austen — A Life. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-01451-1.  
  • Le Fay, Deirdre, editor (1995). Jane Austen's Letters. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283297-2.  
  • Ross, Josephine (2003). Jane Austen: A Companion. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-813-53299-X.  

Further Information

Jane Austen's Chawton House Museum which is open to the public and is very much as Jane Austen would have known it.

Further information and photographs can be found at The Jane Austen Centre.

Footnotes

  1. ^ William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters—A Family Record, Smith, Elder & Co., (London 1913), genealogical chart following p. 428.
  2. ^ Deirdre Le Fay, editor, Jane Austen's Letters, Third Edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford 1995) [ISBN 0-19-283297-2], pp. 146-147. This letter was written immediately after the death of Austen's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Knight.
  3. ^ Austen-Leigh and Austen-Leigh, p. 69.
  4. ^ Collins, 129.
  5. ^ Austen-Leigh and Austen-Leigh, p. 69.
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