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."
Johnson suspected nothing of your engagement the
evening before; it is undoubtedly better to deceive
him entirely;— and since he will be stubborn, he must
be tricked. — I arrived here in safety, & have no
reason to complain of my reception from Mr. Vernon;
but I confess myself not equally satisfied with the
behaviour of his Lady. — She is perfectly well bred indeed,
& has the air of a woman of fashion, but her
manners are not such as can persuade me of her
being prepossessed in my favour. — I wanted her
to be delighted at seeing me. — I was as amiable
as possible on the occasion — but all in vain — She
does not like me. To be sure, when we consider that
I did take some pains to prevent my Brother—in—
law's marrying her, this want of cordiality is not
very surprizing — and yet it shows an illiberal &
vindictive spirit to resent a project which in:
:fluenced me six years ago, and which never suc:
:ceeded at last. — I am sometimes half disposed
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.