Autograph manuscript, written ca. 1794–95 and transcribed in fair copy soon after 1805
Purchased in 1947
Lady Susan Vernon is the eponymous antihero of Austen's romantic black comedy. Sophisticated, seductive, and amoral, she is characterized by the scholar Marilyn Butler as "a cruising shark in her social goldfish pond." The narrative focuses on the recently widowed Susan's strategic attempts to achieve advantageous marriages for herself and her shy but intractable daughter, Frederica. Her letters, written to multiple recipients, eventually reveal the full extent of her manipulative and duplicitous character. Austen's ironic social observation is sharp and witty and, according to the scholar Christine Alexander, Lady Susan combines "all the free-ranging energy" of Austen's juvenilia "with the polish and sophistication of her later writing."
Miss Vernon is to be placed at a school in Town be:
:fore her Mother comes to us, which I am glad of, for
her sake & my own. It must be to her advantage to
be separated from her Mother; & a girl of sixteen who
has received so wretched an education, would not be
a very desirable companion here. — Reginald has long
wished I know to see the captivating Lady Susan, &
we shall depend on his joining our party soon. —
I am glad to hear that my Father continues so well,
& am, with best love, &c.,
Mr. De Courcy to Mrs. Vernon
My dear Sister
I congratulate you & Mr. Vernon on being
about to receive into your family, the most accom:
:plished coquette in England. — As a very distinguished
Flirt I have always been taught to consider her; but
Images provided by DIAMM on behalf of Jane Austen’s Holograph Fiction MSS: A Digital and Print Edition.
Recording of Lady Susan courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.