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."
especially as every visit is so many hours deducted
from the grand affair of Education, which I really
wish to be attended to while she remains with
Miss Summers's. — I want her to play & sing with
some portion of Taste & a good deal of assurance,
as she has my hand & arm & a tolerable voice.
I was so much indulged in my infant years that
I was never obliged to attend to anything, & conse:
:quently am without those accomplishments which
are now necessary to finish a pretty woman. Not
that I am an advocate for the prevailing fashion
of acquiring a perfect knowledge in all Languages
Arts & Sciences;— it is throwing time away;— to
be mistress of French, Italian, German, Music,
Singing, Drawing &c., will gain a Woman some
applause, but will not add one Lover to her list.
Grace & Manner after all are of the greatest im:
:portance. I do not mean therefore that Frederica's
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.