BORN 1 March 1749 – 16 December 1804
On this day 1 March 1749, Anne Brydges was born in Wootton Court, near Canterbury.
She married Reverend George Lefroy on 28 December 1778 and they took up residence at Ashe Rectory in 1783. She was known locally as Madam Lefroy and became a great friend and mentor to Jane Austen.
They had four children, Jemima Lucy, John Henry George (who succeeded his father at Ashe), Christopher Edward and Benjamin Langlois (who later married James Austen’s daughter Jane Anna).
The Lefroy family were the Austen’s closest neighbours. Anne invited 11 year old Jane to play with her daughter Lucy who was 7 at the time, which is how they met.
Madam Lefroy was known for her sophisticated tastes and manners, and also for writing poems and literature. Anne had two poems published in The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry. This was arranged by her brother Egerton Brydges, who was a famous poet.
Although Anne was 26 years older than Jane and had six children, the two became good friends, sharing a love of writing, literature and poetry. Anne would let Jane access to the extensive Ashe parsonage library.
Anne was attractive and kind, and was known affectionately as Madame Lefroy to the villagers. She loved entertaining and had a wide social circle. She opened a school for poor children and taught them to read, as well as vaccinated people against smallpox
A Famous Aunt
Anne was the aunt of Tom Lefroy who came to visit them in December 1795 after his graduation from Trinity College, Dublin. She organised the ball on evening 15 January 1796 before Tom returned to London.
She was also the one that sent him away after Tom and Jane struck up a flirtation.
An Untimely Death
Anne died some hours after falling heavily from a bolting horse on 16 December 1804. She was only 55 years old. It was Jane’s 29 th Birthday.
She was buried on 21 December, with Jane’s brother James conducting the service.
A Poem to Madam Lefroy
Four years later Jane wrote a long tribute poem to her,
The day returns again, my natal day;
What mix’d emotions with the Though arise!
Beloved friend, four years have pass’d away
Since thou were snatch’d forever from our eyes…