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."
marry him myself, & were he but one degree
less contemptibly weak I certainly should, but
I must own myself rather romantic in that re:
:spect, & that Riches only, will not satisfy me.
The event of all this is very provoking. — Sir James
is gone, Maria highly incensed, & Mrs. Mainwaring
insupportably jealous; — so jealous, in short, & so en:
:raged against me, that in the fury of her temper
I should not be surprized at her appealing to her
Guardian if she had the liberty of addressing him —
but there your husband stands my friend, & the
kindest, most amiable action of his life was his
throwing her off forever on her marriage. — Keep up
his resentment therefore I charge you. — We are
now in a sad state; no house was ever more altered;
the whole party are at war, & Mainwaring scarcely
dares speak to me. It is time for me to be gone;
I have therefore determined on leaving them, & shall
spend I hope a comfortable day with you in Town
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.