Page 101. " Now Aurora, knowing that he father's eye was on her, dared not look towards Felix "
Public DomainAurora - Credit: Herbert Draper

Aurora, who lives up to her mythic inheritance by being as elusive as the dawn, may be based upon an earthly muse.

In 1874, the year of his first published novel, The Scarlet Shawl, Jefferies married Jessie Baden (1853-1926), the proverbial 'girl next door', daughter of a nearby farmer. After living for a few months at Coate Farm, the couple moved to a house in Swindon in 1875 (its current address is 93 Victoria Road); their first child, Richard Harold Jefferies, was born there on 3 May.

One of Jefferies later novels, Amaryllis at the Fair (1887), about the picaresque adventures of a sixteen year old girl, might have been an indirect portrait of his childhood sweetheart. Since it contains a successful portrait of his father, in the figure of Iden, the  thinly disguised autobiographical nature of the book is not altogether improbable.

Whether the heroine of After London is in actuality a romanticised anima – an idealised version of the female, perfect and unattainable – is open to debate. Like many men of Victorian England, inspired to great deeds in the name of Victoria, it seems Felix is more motivated by the idea/ideal rather than the reality – for Aurora shows him scant attention at court. The key romance of the novel could be, after all, a sad case of unrequited love and Felix could be wildly misguided in going upon a quest to win her when her affections may lie elsewhere, e.g. with Lord Durand. This would give the dramatic arc of the novel added poignancy, and make its protagonist even more of a tragic hero. Felix/Jefferies could one of the legion enthralled by what poet Robert Graves called the White Goddess – the Muse of the Poets, sister of Keats' 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci'. Felix's fate seems to mirror the knight in Keats' poem, who is left, after a brief but devastating encounter with an ethereal stunner, 'alone and palely loitering'.