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."
how much I miss him, how perpetually he is in my
Thoughts. — I found a dismal Letter from him on
my arrival here, full of complaints of his wife & sis:
:ter, & lamentations on the cruelty of his fate. I passed
off the letter as his wife's, to the Vernons, & when
I write to him, it must be under cover to you. —
Yours Ever, S. V.
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.