Bidders jump at the chance of owning Mr Darcy’s sofa

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A sofa believed to have belonged to the man who inspired the character of Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has sold at a Cotswold auction for £2,300 – more than twice the auctioneer’s lower estimate.

Delighted auctioneers at Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester were anticipating bids of between £1,000 and £1,500 when the George III mahogany framed sofa – which was reputedly owned by Thomas Lefroy of Carrigglas Manor in County Longford, Ireland – went under the hammer today (Friday, February 28).

And despite international interest, the sofa will remain in the Cotswolds – selling to a private internet buyer about 20 miles from Regency Bath, where the novelist lived for five years.

Auctioneer Philip Allwood said: “Predictably, there was significant interest in this piece. Commission bids were left, there were lots of potential buyers in the room, and a good number of people bidding live on the internet.”

Thomas Lefroy was a friend and suitor of Jane Austen, and is believed to have been the inspiration for her romantic hero, Mr Darcy.

Austen and Lefroy – who were both 20 – began a whirlwind romance in 1796, the year that Pride and Prejudice was written. The romance ended swiftly when the law student was called to the Bar in Ireland.

In letters to her sister Cassandra, Austen wrote of Lefroy: “He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man…”

Lefroy went on to enjoy an illustrious career in law and politics. He was a privy councillor of Ireland from 1835 to 1869 – the year of his death – and was Lord Chief Justice of Ireland from 1852 until 1866.

In his latter years, Lefroy admitted to his nephew that he had loved Jane Austen, but stated that it was a “boyish love”.

The sofa was upholstered in Art Nouveau style fabric over a fluted show frame on eight tapering legs.

It was narrowly pipped to the accolade of top price of the day by a 19th century brass gorge cased carriage clock by George Moore of London, which made £2,400 against an estimate of £1,000 to 1,500. Another 19th century carriage clock, by Pierre and Alfred Drocourt of Paris, made £1,550.

A circa 1900 Sheraton Revival satinwood bonheur du jour writing desk achieved £2,000 against a £1,000 to £1,500 estimate, while a George III tea table, owned – by repute – by prime minister George Grenville achieved £1,450, exceeding its £300 to £500 estimate.

Silver tableware performed well at the sale: set of six George I Irish three prong table forks in the Hanoverian pattern, with stork and snake motif, possibly by William Archdale, Dublin 1719, made £1,600 – double the £500 to £800 estimate.

A set of eleven George III Irish silver three prong dessert forks by John Pittar, Dublin 1762 sold for £1,550 against a £200 to £300 estimate, and a pair of George II Scottish silver chamber sticks by James Kerr with Hugh Gordon Assay Masters mark, Edinburgh, 1745 achieved £1,500.

And an important painting of Northleach by the renowned artist, landowner, and Sheriff of Gloucestershire William Augustus Rixon will be staying in the Cotswolds, after it was bought by a private collector for £1,500.

‘A View of Northleach’ was painted by W A Rixon – who owned most of the parish of Turkdean in the early 20th century, and was responsible for restoring and remodelling the parish’s two manor houses – in 1925.

Rixon, who painted in the rustic style, was an active exhibitor between 1880 and 1936, showing in London at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and the Society of British Artists.

While many of his paintings are in private collections, several – including A Cotswold Rick; The South Porch, Northleach Church; and Winter at Turkdean – form part of the public collection of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

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