According to the Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen and A Memoir of Jane Austen (Austen-Leigh 1871), on November 1st 1797 Mr. Austen wrote to publisher Thomas Cadell regarding the publication of Jane Austen’s earlier version of Pride & Prejudice (i.e. First Impression); the offer was rejected via post. Later, Jane revised First Impression into Pride & Prejudice and published it under different publisher in 1813.
Now, let’s jump seventy two years ahead as Caroline Austen (Jane's niece) wrote a letter to James Edward Austen Leigh (JEAL) regarding JEAL’s attempt to write the ‘Memoir of Jane Austen’. This is the excerpt of Caroline’s letter I quoted from the Memoir (Austen-Leigh 1871, p. 185):
My dear Edward
I have lost no time in getting ready all the helps I have to offer for our Aunt’s ‘Life’ – I wish they were more. Memory is treacherous, but I cannot be mistaken in saying that Sense and Sensibility was first written in letters - & so read to her family. Northanger Abbey, under a different name I believe, was the first actually prepared for publication & was sold for (I think 20£) to a publisher – who declared that he had lost the copy – refused to have the loss supplied, and was contented to remain minus his 20£. Afterwards the copyright was purchased back again and it was left, as you know ready for publication at the time of her death – I enclose a copy of Mr. Austen’s letter to Cadell – I do not know which novel he would have sent – The letter does not do much credit to the tact or courtesy of our good Grandfather for Cadell was a great man in his day, and it is not surprising that he should have refused the favour so offered from an unknown – but the circumstance may be worth noting, especially as we have so few incidents to produce. At a sale of Cadell’s papers &c Tom Lefroy picked up the original letter – and Jemima copied it for me –' [bolded sentence by Icha]
Now, let’s focus on the last sentence. ‘Jemima’ was Anna Jemima Lefroy, Anna Lefroy’s eldest daughter who married Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy (TEPL, nephew to the old Tom Lefroy). TEPL would then supply JEAL with the famous letter
But what made TEPL obtain Cadell’s letter? Did he go through such efforts to collect and sort Cadell’s papers to find the particular reference to Jane Austen upon Caroline Austen's request? Or … (this is where my ‘Romance of the Forest’ emerge), because he wanted to know more of the woman his uncle (the original Tom Lefroy) used to love, for by then he definitely had learned of the old Tom Lefroy’s ‘boyish love’ towards Jane Austen from the horse’s mouth. The last idea was more tempting to ruminate on a Saturday night, eh?
PS 1 July 2007:
I forgot that there was another Tom Lefroy after the original Thomas Langlois Lefroy. The second Tom Lefroy was Thomas Paul Lefroy, Tom Lefroy’s son who wrote the Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy in 1871. Just FYI, and I don’t think this was the Tom Lefroy in Caroline’s letter.
Pic 2: Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) in 'Becoming Jane'