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."
Lady Susan Vernon to Mr. Vernon.
My dear Brother
I can no longer refuse myself the
pleasure of profitting by your kind invitation when
we last parted, of spending some weeks with you
at Churchill, & therefore if quite convenient to
you & Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present I
shall hope within a few days to be introduced
to a sister, whom I have so long desired to be ac:
:quainted with. — My kind friends here are most
affectionately urgent with me to prolong my stay,
but their hospitable & cheerful dispositions lead them
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.