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Jane Austen's Best Friend (Hardback)

The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd

British History P&S History Social History Women of History Georgian Era Biographies 19th Century 18th Century

By Zöe Wheddon
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526763815
Published: 23rd February 2021


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All fans of Jane Austen everywhere believe themselves to be best friends with the beloved author and this book shines a light on what it meant to be exactly that. Jane Austen’s Best Friend; The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd offers a unique insight into Jane’s private inner circle. Through this heart-warming examination of an important and often overlooked person in Jane’s world, we uncover the life changing force of their friendship.

Each chapter details the fascinating facts and friendship forming qualities that tied Jane and Martha together. Within these pages we will relive their shared interests, the hits and misses of their romantic love lives, their passion for shopping and fashion, their family histories, their lucky breaks and their girly chats. This book offers a behind the scenes tour of the shared lives of a fascinating pair and the chance to deepen our own bonds in ‘love and friendship’ with them both.

When reading Jane Austen, sometimes her words feel like you're having a discussion with a best friend about the world around you. The new book by Zoe Wheddon explores the life and influence of Jane's best friend Martha Lloyd. Jane Austen's personal life is often spoken about, but the actual proof and letters are very restricted thanks to her sister Cassandra making sure to burn some of the evidence. This book, however, puts the focus on the oft overlooked Martha Lloyd and her qualities. It explores their common interest, their goals, and in turn reveals quite a bit about Jane Austen in the process.

Jane Austen's Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd is a must read for fans of Jane Austen and those interested in finding out more about the life behind the published pages.

NetGalley, Victoria Irwin

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An engaging and fascinating dive into the patterned and sensory world of female friendship in that era, especially because it takes us to a whole new place we never before envisioned. We see a friendship of a 'second sister' that doesn't quite compete with Jane's relationship with Cassandra, but needlepoints its own design in friendships of the day. I loved it for that rush of novelty, in bringing us into a friendship between women with a notable age difference. And where we are very used to studies of the people around Austen and the Brontes, this one delivers fresh energy. Very enjoyable.

NetGalley, Sharon Toris

As a Jane Austin fan I really enjoyed reading about her friendship with Martha. Learning about Martha’s influence over Jane and their overall relationship really interested me. Well written and researched I will be recommending this book.

NetGalley, Abby Siverman

A book exploring in detail the relationship between Jane Austen and her best friend Martha Lloyd.
The author's research is meticulous and opens up to us a glimpse into the relationship of such close friends and we see the influence Martha had on Jane despite a ten year age difference.
Quick and enjoyable read.

NetGalley, Deanne Patterson

I really did enjoy it! It gets better as it goes. It is very informative. I did enjoy reading about Jane's sense of humor, and also more about Martha, much of which I didn't know previously.

NetGalley, Jennie Webb

In the book under review, Zöe Wheddon has produced a comprehensive and thoughtful biography of Jane Austen’s friend Martha Lloyd (1765-1843). Wheddon has drawn, largely from Austen’s surviving letters, a surprisingly detailed and nuanced portrait of Martha, who comes across as practical, sympathetic, and versatile...

... Overall, Zöe Wheddon has done Austen readers a great service with this book.

Judith Stove, author of Jane Austen’s Inspiration: Beloved Friend Anne Lefroy, Pen & Sword, 2019

As a huge Jane Austen fan I quickly devoured this book to find out more information about Jane's best friend Martha Lloyd. It's very hard to find a new spin or facts that Janeites won't already know but Zoe Wheddon does a cracking job in her fun book recreating Austen's world and the importance of the friendship between the two women. It's light-hearted and heart-warming, featuring their love lives, delight in shopping and shared interests, despite Martha being ten years older than Jane.

NetGalley, Penelope Jenkins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was a good fit for me!!! I really love reading Austen and reading about Austen. I would recommend this one to anyone with similar taste. Love reading Austen's novels? Love reading about Jane Austen? Love the Georgian/Regency time period? Love history? This one may be for you.

NetGalley, Becky Laney

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fans of Jane Austen throughout the world believe themselves to be best friends with the beloved author and this book shines a light on what it meant to be exactly that. Jane Austen’s Best Friend; The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd offers a unique insight into Jane’s private inner circle.

Martha was one of a very minimal number of people who heard and was present at the inception of the unfiltered versions of Jane Austen’s writing, her writing in its purest of forms, saying exactly what she wanted to say, about whom she wanted to say it and using the exact language that she wanted to use.

Every chapter in Jane Austen’s Best Friend details the fascinating facts and friendship forming qualities that tied Jane and Martha together. In these pages we will learn relive their shared interests, the hits and misses of their romantic love lives, their passion for shopping and fashion, their family histories, their lucky breaks and their girly chats.

If you are looking for a behind the scenes tour of the shared lives of a fascinating pair and the chance to deepen our own bonds in ‘love and friendship’ with them both.

Jane and Martha had a friendship that went more than skin-deep. Together they shared hopes, and dreams.

If you are looking for a unique, well researched biography, I’d recommend Jane Austen’s Best Friend!

Five out of five star!

Happy Reading!

NetGalley, Michelle Kidwell

It's an enjoyable book for any janeite out there. It's well written and you can start and finish it without even realizing it. I really enjoyed reading about the friendship of this two Regency women, as well as the in depth information provided.

NetGalley, Aure Runya

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Who doesn't like Jane Austen and don't want to learn more about her life and what or who inspired her in her daily life for her writing?
I have watched many documentaries about J.A but her relationship with Martha Lloyed was absent. This book made me discover more about Jane, her character and how much she valued a real good friendship. I have to be honest, I had no idea about who was Martha to Jane. I always believed that her best friend was her sister Cassandra. Through my reading of this book, I discovered Martha and I learnt more about Jane Austen's personality and how she really was in her life. It wasn't that sad maiden who suffered an heartbreak in her prime youth which led to her grief in finding love and to have a second chance or her continual fight for a stable financial life like many portrayed her.

Jane loved Martha and made her life much more interesting. Martha also played an important role in Jane's life as an authoress. We learn that in Jane's life love came really after friendship and family. This book was about how a true friend can have an impact on your life and your dreams. Some people live their whole life through and never find a friend like Martha or Jane.

Martha was Jane's BFF as we call it today and vice versa but they weren't alaways glued to each other, each one respected the privacy, interests and tastes of the other. Martha had a scientific mind with her love for plants and animals. We learn about her well-known recipe for ink which was a real gift for a friend who was an author.

At the end, Martha's life had a beautiful happy ending like the heroines of her best friend's books. Jane, before she died, tryed to help in the fulfilement of a second chance in happiness for her best friend with her brother.

This book was a work of research and hard work. I loved it and I respect the author's efforts. Thank you for this beautiful story about a true friendship.

NetGalley, Misa Wadoud

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wheddon's debut provides a fascinating glimpse into a rarely-explored but key relationship in Jane Austen's life, that of her lifelong friendship with Martha Lloyd. The author brings almost forensic energy to examining the small but pivotal moments, mutual humour and sensibility, and essential candour that define friendship as a whole, and that were critical to the happiness and satisfaction of Austen in particular. Heartfelt, thought-provoking and wise, Jane Austen's Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd is a powerful testament to female friendship, its effect on genius, and the confidance and confidence it can inspire. We might not know of Martha Lloyd today without Jane Austen, but Wheddon makes a very strong case that we wouldn't have the literary genius we know and love without Martha Lloyd.

NetGalley, Natalie Jenner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was fascinating and delightful. I highly recommend this book to any Jane Austen fan!

NetGalley, Jessica Murdock

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

I had a blast reading this! I learned so much and now I want to learn more about Jane Austen's life!

NetGalley, YY Huang

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friendship, beautiful and pure friendship is the main subject of this book. The author discusses what being a best friend really means, one you can share every bit of your life with, hysterical laughter which no one else understands to knowing how to help through sorrow to trust to discussing topics openly without judgement. Jane and Martha had a long and spectacularly close friendship, though Martha was ten years older than Jane. It made no difference whatsoever in their relationship. I have had the pleasure to visit Jane Austen territory and this book confirmed what I thought (and hoped!) of Jane's personality, thankfully, and gave me insight into Martha and her relationship with Jane.

When the two were separated geographically, their friendship grew even deeper. They visited whenever possible and eventually did live with Jane's family after Mr. Austen's death. Martha wasn't an intrusion whatsoever but her stalwart Christian beliefs, lovely personality, kindness and practical side endeared her to everyone. Cassandra and Jane's sister relationship was as close as can be and with Martha had a very tight bond. Martha's encouragement, comfort, ease of laughter and peacefulness contributed to Jane's writing. I did not realize her profound impact! They stuck together through everything, absolutely everything. They both loved many of the same things such as walking, fashion, dancing, nature and chatting but did have differences which meant they maintained their independence. The author goes on to describe both of their lives and those around them, the joys and the pains.

What resonates with me most is the depth of this precious friendship. It's breathtaking. The photographs are interesting, too.

Jane Austen fans will happily devour this different slant of information about our beloved author and dear Martha. We get glimpses into the daily lives of this devoted pair. If you are new to Jane Austen, you will surely enjoy this as well!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

It is a pleasure to read such a well written book. It appears that the author has handpicked every word to suit the sentiment of the sentences. It is a delight to read Zoe Wheddon’s rich expressions, precise sentences and enchanting narrative of people, places and the period. The chapters are well knitted in a sequence of events occurred in the life of Martha Lloyd and flows without effort. The conversations between the characters are a typical of Jane’s literary style and readers can relate to Jane’s expression as she would have said herself. One of the many reasons to read this book will be Zoe’s realistic and beautiful portrayal of Jane & Martha’s friendship.

NetGalley, Shelley Reviews

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I simply adore Jane Austen and all the books based on her or about her and this book did not disappoint - I had read little about Martha before this book but was fascinated to see her influence on Jane.... oh, if Jane had only lived longer and given us more novels. Definitely for Jane fans and book club alike.

NetGalley, Janet Pole Cousineau

As a huge fan of Jane Austen this book was right up my alley. It was a beautiful read that touched my heart and seeing friendships blossom. It was your typical, cute, classic love story between friends. It honestly was good to read something so uplifting that made me smile and feel cosy.

NetGalley, Sammantha Mouat

This book was the perfect escape. It was lovely and fun. It was my first book by this author and I will definitely be on the look out for more!!

NetGalley, Alicia Goeser

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes, when we think to Jane Austen's family, we refer to her parents and her siblings in her youth and to her mother and her sister Cassandra later on, and we tend to forget an active and always present element in Jane's life: her friend Martha Lloyd, who actually was like a second sister to Jane Austen, ten years her senior.

A very interesting study through which we can re-read Jane Austen'a works from a different perspective, maybe catching new details on her characters and her plots, supported by the knowledge of this paramount figure in Jane's life.

NetGalley, Gabriella Parisi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such an interesting and informative read. The author has obviously researched the subject matter thoroughly. This was an in-depth and insightful look at Jane Austens relationship with her very good friend Martha . I actually found it especially enlightening as a lot of biographies concentrate on the relationship between Jane and Cassandra. You get a real sense of the vibrancy of both women's personalities and the vitality of spirit they share.
I actually read this in one sitting and was surprised when I'd actually finished it . It's a very enjoyable read and I thoroughly recommend it.

NetGalley, Ann Jones

What a great book. Learned quite a bit about Jane Austen's BF. Will recommend this to others..

NetGalley, Cyn Farabee

Reading this book is almost like being transported to the time of Jane Austen. Martha must have been a good friend to have stayed close for so long-to Jane. Try this one as it is worth the time.

NetGalley, Brenda Burke

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this book fascinating. It was written in a scholarly but accessible way, immaculately researched and gave lots of insight and detail into the relationship of Jane Austen and her closest friend Martha Lloyd. I enjoyed the way it was structured to look at different aspects of the friends ' relationship through the lens of writing, family, fashion, society and other approaches. Entertaining, illuminating and full of interesting historical information, this was a very enjoyable read.

NetGalley, Nicola Cornick

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My life is richer after reading this thought-provoking book. We have been given a wonderful glimpse into a bygone age through best friends Jane Austen and Martha Lloyd. They shared a friendship that we all wish for in a lifetime. We learn about their intertwined lives which helped mould Jane Austen's personality and writing.. I particularly liked how laughter and wit was part of her and her books..It is still a mystery why Jane was always matchmaking in her fiction but did not manage to find an eligible suitor for herself.. This is an extremely well-researched book and is an excellent best friend for all who study or admire Jane's work.


We’d all love to be Jane Austen’s best friend. Zoe Wheddon’s brilliant new book shows with authority and insight how the position was firmly taken. Martha Lloyd truly comes to life in this excellent biography of Jane Austen’s best friend.

Dr. Paula Byrne, author of The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things.

At last - a delightful book about the often overlooked relationship between Jane Austen and her live-in best friend, Martha Lloyd. Zoe Wheddon cleverly knits fact, fragments from letters and diaries and family lore to paint a fun-loving pair who, with the other Austen ladies, combined their resources to promote each other’s comfort, creative endeavours and well-being. If you wish to know and experience Austen in a whole new way - through the eyes of an intimate friend - then read this book.

Rose Servitova, author of The Longbourn Letters and The Watsons

A glorious celebration of Jane Austen, and a glorious celebration of friendship too. You'll want one copy for yourself and another for your own BFF.

Lucy Worsley, historian, television presenter and author of Jane Austen at Home

This is a very interesting book, about the friendship between Jane and Martha. I learned a lot more about the two of them.

NetGalley, Sheila Treacy

About Zöe Wheddon

A native of Jane Austen's beloved county of Hampshire, I have been married to Matt, (a stationery salesman, who keeps me supplied with post-it notes and gorgeous notebooks) for 30 years. We live in a North Hampshire village, on the outskirts of the town that we both grew up in, with our three grown up children and our cat Princess Leia. 


A perfectly imperfect local historian and aspiring writer, as the writer of my blog I write articles and book reviews on matters relating to friendship, self-compassion and personal development at mrswheddon.wordpress.com. 


When I am not researching or writing I can be found in the classroom teaching Spanish and French or singing ABBA songs loudly in my kitchen.

Death of Martha Lloyd

24th January 1843

Martha Lloyd, friend of Jane Austen, died on 24 January 1843 in Hampshire.

View all anniversaries

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In the first biography of Anne Lefroy, Judith Stove investigates the life of a writer who had was a key influence on the life and works of Jane Austen. As a female writer of both prose and verse, Anne was a source of inspiration to Jane as she developed her own talents. Jane was closer in age to Anne’s children, yet despite their age difference, they developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other over many years. Judith Stove brings a wealth of insight to this illuminating history of a literary friendship. She has uncovered a rich background of information relating to Anne Lefroy’s…

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