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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Martha Lloyd and Jane Austen

The Lloyd family held a special place in the Austens' affections. The Revd. Nowys Lloyd became the Rector of Deane (the neighbouring parish) in 1788 and died the following year. He left three daughters - Martha, Eliza and Mary. His widow and two daughters remained for three years in the parsonage at Deane. When Jane's brother, the Revd. James Austen, and his wife Eliza took up residence at the Deane Rectory in 1792, the Lloyd ladies moved not far away to Ibthorpe, near Hurstbourne Tarrant. Jane frequently visited them.

In 1797, Mary Lloyd became the second wife of Jane's clergyman brother James.

Although ten years older than Jane, Martha Lloyd was a beloved friend and eventually became part of the Austen ladies' household. The first allusion to this comes in a letter written five days after the death of Martha's mother in April 1805. The Austens decided to offer Martha a home with themselves. I am quite of your opinion as to the folly of concealing any longer our intended Partnership with Martha, & whenever there has of late been an enquiry on the subject I have always been sincere; & I have sent word of it to the Mediterranean in a letter to Frank. – None of our nearest connections I think will be unprepared for it; & I do not know how to suppose that Martha's have not foreseen it (Letter 44).

After Jane's death, Martha became the second wife of Jane's naval brother Frank (and so – ultimately – Lady Austen).