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."
same house the affections of two men, who were neither
of them at liberty to bestow them — & all this, without
the charm of youth. I am glad to find Miss
Vernon does not come with her Mother to Churchhill, as
she has not even manners to recommend her, & accord:
:ing to Mr. Smith's account, is equally dull & proud.
Where Pride & Stupidity unite, there can be no dissi:
:mulation worthy notice, & Miss Vernon shall be con:
:signed to unrelenting contempt; but by all that I can :
gather, Lady Susan possesses a degree of captivating
Deceit which it must be pleasing to witness & detect.
I shall be with you very soon, & am your affec. Brother
R. De Courcy. —
Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
I received your note my dear Alicia, just
before I left Town, & rejoice to be assured that Mr.
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.