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."
too much into society for my present situation & state
of mind; & I impatiently look forward to the hour when
I shall be admitted into your delightful retirement.
I long to be made known to your dear little Children,
in whose hearts I shall be very eager to secure an in:
:terest. — I shall soon have occasion for all my for:
:titude, as I am on the point of separation from my
own daughter. The long illness of her dear Father
prevented my paying her that attention which Duty
& affection equally dictated, & I have but too much rea:
:son to fear that the Governess to whose care I con:
:signed her, was unequal to the charge. I have
therefore resolved on placing her at one of the best
Private Schools in Town, where I shall have an op:
:portunity of leaving her myself, in my way to you.
I am determined you see, not to be denied admittance
at Churchhill. It would indeed give me most pain:
:ful sensations to know that it were not in your
power to receive me. — Yr. most obliged & affec: Sister
S. Vernon. —
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.