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."
acquirements should be more than superficial, & I
flatter myself that she will not remain long enough
at school to understand anything thoroughly. I
hope to see her the wife of Sir James within a
twelvemonth. — You know on what I ground my
hope, & it is certainly a good foundation, for school
must be very humiliating to a girl of Frederica's
age; & by the by, you had better not invite her
any more on that account, as I wish her to
find her situation as unpleasant as possible. — I am
sure of Sir James at any time, & could make him
renew his application by a Line. — I shall trouble
you meanwhile to prevent his forming any other
attachment when he comes to Town;— ask him
to your House occasionally, & talk to him about
Frederica that he may not forget her.
Upon the whole, I commend my own conduct
in this affair extremely, & regard it as a very happy
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.