Over the next two weeks we shall be delving into Lady Susan, one of Jane Austen’s most surprisingly wicked novels. Often overlooked by scholars and readers, Lady Susan has lately become the bonus novel tacked on by publishers eager to entice buyers into purchasing yet another edition of Jane Austen’s Complete Novels, now beefed up from six novels to seven. In comparison to her younger and larger sisters, Lady Susan receives very little notice or praise. Scholars have not helped in its promotion brushing it off as a minor work; an early experiment by an author in the making who would never return to the epistolary format, nor pursue its publication during her lifetime.
If Lady Susan is truly as light-weight and unworthy as the eighty or so pages that it equals, why did Austen transcribe a fair copy in 1805 and keep it safely among her papers? She obviously though it had merit and might return to it for re-write as she did her other early novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Upon first reading, I was struck by the difference in tone to her later works. There is nothing subtle or gently reproving about the plot or characters that she is famous for – yet it is Austen – a younger and less polished version, raw, energetic, outrageous, and I love it!
The next two weeks of my life will be consumed by Lady Susan Vernon. As I entertain the most “accomplished coquette in England” I hope that you will be as enchanted as I by her bewitching powers.
Main Characters in Lady Susan:
- Lady Susan Vernon: Daughter of a peer. A widow of an unnamed Vernon. Age approximately 35. Daughter: Frederica Susanna.
- Miss Frederica Susanna Vernon: Daughter of Lady Susan. Age 16. At school in London.
- Mr. Charles Vernon: of Churchill, Sussex. Younger brother of Lady Susan’s first husband. Married to Catherine De Courcy.
- Mrs. Catherine Vernon: Daughter of Sir Reginald De Courcy of Parklands, Sussex. Married to Charles Vernon. Sister-in-law to Lady Susan. Sister to Reginald De Courcy. Children: Frederick and Catherine, and others in abundance.
- Sir Reginald De Courcy: (elder) Of Parklands, Sussex. Married to C- (Catherine?).
- Lady C. De Courcy: Wife of Sir Reginald De Courcy of Parklands, Sussex. Children: Reginald and Catherine.
- Reginald De Courcy: (younger) Son of Sir Reginald & Lady De Courcy of Parklands, Sussex. Age 23. Brother of Mrs. Catherine Vernon.
- Sir James Martin: A wealthy bachelor.
- Mr. Manwaring: Of Langford. Married, (wife’s name not stated). Brother of Maria Manwaring.
- Miss Maria Manwaring: Sister of Mr. Manwaring of Langford. Unmarried.
- Mr. Johnson: Of Edwards Street, London. Married to Alicia. Guardian of Mrs. Manwaring.
- Mrs. Alicia Johnson: Of Edwards Street, London. Married to Mr. Johnson. Lady Susan’s confidant.
View the complete and expanded character list of Lady Susan. (spoilers ahead)
© 2009, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com.