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."
correct. He is lively, & seems clever, & when I have
inspired him with greater respect for me than his
sister's kind offices have implanted, he may be an
agreeable Flirt. — There is exquisite pleasure in sub:
:duing an insolent spirit, in making a person
pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one's superi:
:ority. — I have disconcerted him already by my calm
reserve, & it shall be my endeavour to humble the
Pride of these self important De Courcys still low:
:er, to convince Mrs. Vernon that her sisterly cau:
:tions have been bestowed in vain, & to persuade
Reginald that she has scandalously belied me.
This project will serve at least to amuse me, &
prevent my feeling so acutely this dreadful sepa:
:ration from you & all whom I love. Adieu.
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.