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."
mixture of circumspection & tenderness. Some mo:
:thers would have insisted on their daughter's ac:
:cepting so great an offer on the first overture,
but I could not answer it to myself to force
Frederica into a marriage from which her heart
revolted; & instead of adopting so harsh a mea:
:sure, merely propose to make it her own choice
by rendering her thoroughly uncomfortable till
she does accept him. But enough of this tire:
:some girl. —
You may well wonder how I contrive to
pass my time here — & for the first week, it was
most insufferably dull. Now however, we begin
to mend; our party is enlarged by Mrs. Vernon's
brother, a handsome young man, who promises
me some amusement. There is something about
him that rather interests me, a sort of sauci:
:ness, of familiarity which I shall teach him to
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.