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."
Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
You were mistaken, my dear Alicia, in sup:
:posing me fixed at this place for the rest of the
winter. It grieves me to say how greatly you were
mistaken, for I have seldom spent three months
more agreeably than those which have just flown
away. — At present nothing goes smoothly. — The
Females of the Family are united against me. — You
foretold how it would be when I first came to
Langford; and Mainwaring is so uncommonly pleas:
:ing that I was not without apprehensions myself.
I remember saying to myself as I drove to the
House, "I like this man, pray Heaven no harm
come of it!" — But I was determined to be discreet,
to bear in mind my being only four months a wi:
:dow, & to be as quiet as possible, — and I have been
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.