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."
in reality have been particularly happy. Your friend
Mr. Smith's story however cannot be quite true, as
she corresponds regularly with Mrs. Mainwaring; at
any rate it must be exaggerated; it is scarcely pos:
:sible that two men should be so grossly deceived
by her at once. — Mrs. &c Cath Vernon.
Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
My dear Alicia
You are very good in taking notice of
Frederica, & I am grateful for it as a mark of your
friendship; but as I cannot have a doubt of the
warmth of that friendship, I am far from exacting
so heavy a sacrifice. She is a stupid girl, & has
nothing to recommend her. I would not, therefore on
any account, have you encumber one moment of
your precious time by sending for her to Edward St,
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.