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."
to repent that I did not let Charles buy Vernon Castle
when we were obliged to sell it, but it was a trying
circumstance, especially as the sale took place exactly
at the time of his marriage — & everybody ought to
respect the delicacy of those feelings, which could not
endure that my Husband's Dignity should be lessened
by his younger brother's having possession of the family
Estate. — Could matters have been so arranged as to pre:
:vent the necessity of our leaving the Castle, could we
have lived with Charles & kept him single, I should
have been very far from persuading my husband to
dispose of it elsewhere; — but Charles was on
the point of marrying Miss De Courcy, & the event
has justified me. Here are children in abundance,
& what benefit could have accrued to me from his
purchasing Vernon? — My having prevented it, may
perhaps have given his wife an unfavourable im:
:pression — but where there is a disposition to dislike
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.