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."
account for her ladyship's conduct. — Langford appeared
so exactly the place for her in every respect, as well from
the elegant & expensive style of living there, as from her
particular attachment to Mrs. Mainwaring, that I was
very far from expecting so speedy a distinction, tho' I
always imagined from her increasing friendship for us
since her husband's death that we should at some fu:
:ture period be obliged to receive her. — Mr. Vernon
I think was a great deal too kind to her, when he was
in Staffordshire. Her behaviour to him, independent
of her general character, has been so inexcusably art:
:ful & ungenerous since our marriage was first in agi:
:tation, that no one less amiable & mild than himself
could have overlooked it all; & tho' as his Brother's
widow & in narrow circumstances it was proper to
render her pecuniary assistance, I cannot help thinking
his pressing invitation to her to visit us at Churchhill
perfectly unnecessary. — Disposed however as he al:
:ways is to think the best of everyone, her display of
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.