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."
as Lady Susan.- She is delicately fair, with fine
grey eyes & dark eyelashes; & from her appearance
one would not suppose her more than five & twenty,
tho' she must in fact be ten years older.— I was cer:
:tainly not disposed to admire her, tho' always hearing
she was beautiful; but I cannot help feeling that
she possesses an uncommon union of Symmetry,
Brilliancy & Grace. — Her address to me was so
gentle, frank, & even affectionate, that, if I had not
known how much she has always disliked me
for marrying M[r]. Vernon, & that we had never
met before, I should have imagined her an at:
:tached friend. — One is apt I believe to connect
assurance of manner with coquetry, & to expect
that an impudent address will naturally attend
an impudent mind; — at least I was myself pre:
:pared for an improper degree of confidence in Lady
Susan; but her countenance is absolutely sweet, &
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.