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."
immense, & much beyond what I can ever attempt
to pay. — Adieu. I will send you a line, as soon as
I arrive in town. — Yours ever,
Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy
My dear Mother
I am very sorry to tell you that it will
not be in our power to keep our promise of spending
the Christmas with you; and we are prevented that
happiness by a circumstance which is not likely to
make us any amends. — Lady Susan, in a letter to her
Brother, has declared her intention of visiting us
almost immediately — & as such a visit is in all
probability merely an affair of convenience, it is
impossible to conjecture it's length. I was by no
means prepared for such an event, nor can I now
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.