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."
so; — my dear Creature, I have admitted no one's atten:
:tions but Mainwaring's. I have avoided all general
flirtation whatever, I have distinguished no Creature
besides, of all the numbers resorting hither, except
Sir James Martin, on whom I bestowed a little notice
in order to detach him from Miss Mainwaring.
But, if the world could know my motive there
they would honour me. — I have been called an un:
:kind mother, but it was the sacred impulse of
maternal affection, it was the advantage of my
Daughter that led me on; & if that Daughter
were not the greatest simpleton on Earth, I might
have been rewarded for my Exertions as I ought. —
Sir James did make proposals to me for Frede:
:rica — but Frederica, who was born to be the
torment of my life, chose to set herself so vio:
:lently against the match that I thought it
better to lay aside the scheme for the present. —
I have more than once repented that I did not
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.