A Soirée with Lady Susan: Choice Bon Mots, Quotes, & Quips from Lady Susan

A Mememoir Of Jane Austen, Edward James Austen-Leigh, 2nd ed (1871)Here is a collection of bon mots, quotes and quips from Lady Susan. Even though Jane Austen wrote this epistolary novella in her late teens, she had already developed a keen eye for language and the witty retort that she would later be famous for in her mature novels. Enjoy! 

I take London in my way to that insupportable spot, a country village. Lady Susan, Letter 2

I am not quite weak enough to suppose a woman who has behaved with inattention, if not with unkindness, to her own child, should be attached to any of mine. Mrs. Vernon, Letter 3 

Where pride and stupidity unite there can be no dissimulation worthy notice. Reginald De Courcy, Letter 4 

It is undoubtedly better to deceive him entirely, and since he will be stubborn he must be tricked. Lady Susan, Letter 5 

Where there is a disposition to dislike, a motive will never be wanting. Lady Susan, Letter 5 

One is apt, I believe, to connect assurance of manner with coquetry, and to expect that an impudent address will naturally attend an impudent mind. Mrs. Vernon, Letter 6 

Education will gain a woman some applause, but will not add one lover to her list–grace and manner, after all, are of the greatest importance. Lady Susan, Letter 7 

There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person predetermined to dislike acknowledge one’s superiority. Lady Susan, Letter 7 

I have never yet found that the advice of a sister could prevent a young man’s being in love if he chose. Lady Susan, Letter 10 

[Y]oung men in general do not admit of any enquiry even from their nearest relations into affairs of the heart. Sir Reginald De Courcy, Letter 12 

[H]ow little the general report of anyone ought to be credited; since no character, however upright, can escape the malevolence of slander. Reginald De Courcy, Letter 14 

She talks vastly well; I am afraid of being ungenerous, or I should say, too well to feel so very deeply. Mrs. Vernon, Letter 15 

Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language as admiration waits on beauty. Lady Susan, Letter 16 

Those women are inexcusable who forget what is due to themselves, and the opinion of the world. Lady Susan, Letter 16 

There are plenty of books, but it is not every girl who has been running wild the first fifteen years of her life, that can or will read. Mrs. Vernon, Letter 17 

In short, when a person is always to deceive, it is impossible to be consistent. Mrs. Vernon, Letter17 

Artlessness will never do in love matters; and that girl is born a simpleton who has it either by nature or affectation. Lady Susan, Letter 19 

I shall ever despise the man who can be gratified by the passion which he never wished to inspire, nor solicited the avowal of. Lady Susan, Letter 22 

[T]hat woman is a fool indeed who, while insulted by accusation, can be worked on by compliments. Lady Susan, Letter 22 

Young men are often hasty in their resolutions, and not more sudden in forming than unsteady in keeping them. Lady Susan, Letter 23 

I left her almost in silence. It was the greatest stretch of forbearance I could practise. Mrs. Vernon, Letter 24 

I ought not to punish him by dismissing him at once after this reconciliation, or by marrying and teazing him for ever. Lady Susan, Letter 25 

Flexibility of mind, a disposition easily biassed by others, is an attribute which you know I am not very desirous of obtaining. Lady Susan, Letter 25 

Silly woman to expect constancy from so charming a man! Mrs. Johnson, Letter 26 

[T]oo old to be agreeable, too young to die. Lady Susan, Letter 29 

That detestable Mrs. Mainwaring, who, for your comfort, has fretted herself thinner and uglier than ever. Mrs. Johnson, Letter 32 

My understanding is at length restored, and teaches no less to abhor the artifices which had subdued me than to despise myself for the weakness on which their strength was founded. Reginald De Courcy, Letter 26 

I dare say you did all for the best, and there is no defying destiny. Mrs. Johnson, Letter 38 

I am tired of submitting my will to the caprices of others; of resigning my own judgment in deference to those to whom I owe no duty, and for whom I feel no respect. Lady Susan, Letter 39 

Whether Lady Susan was or was not happy in her second choice, I do not see how it can ever be ascertained; for who would take her assurance of it on either side of the question? The Narrator, The Conclusion 

The world must judge from probabilities; she had nothing against her but her husband, and her conscience. The Narrator, The Conclusion

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14 thoughts on “A Soirée with Lady Susan: Choice Bon Mots, Quotes, & Quips from Lady Susan

  1. I enjoy this quote which reveals Lady Susan’s exravagence ; ‘ But they do not know what to do with their fortune, keep very little company, & never go to town but on business’. (Letter 5)
    Alicia’s words reveals her as very crass e.g her criticism of Mrs Manwaring; ‘fretted herself thinner and uglier than ever’ (Letter 32); fondly reminds me of Caroline B.- ‘her teeth are tolerable, I suppose’. ;-)
    Thankyou for compiling these letter quotes; LA ! They build up a vivid tapestry of Lady Susan’s conspiracy…I’m enjoying everyone’s posts on this GR.

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    • Mandy – I like the one you mention about not knowing what to do with their fortune!

      Alicia was a piece of work!

      Thanks for joining in the soiree Mandy. You have been a wonderful addition to the party.

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  2. I must second Mandy N… this is my first ever Cyber Reading Group and it’s been such a delightful experience! I’ve learned so much from Laurel Ann’s posts and everybody else’s insights.

    These choice quotes, Laurel Ann, are marvelous, but the one that stood out for me was the one from Letter 7:

    Education will gain a woman some applause, but will not add one lover to her list–grace and manner, after all, are of the greatest importance. Lady Susan.

    How very anti-feminist, but sadly still true, in my experience… =P

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  3. ~~The world must judge from probabilities; she had nothing against her but her husband, and her conscience. The Narrator, The Conclusion~~

    My favorite! I wonder how may women through history have suffered from the same!

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  4. Fantastic quotes! I agree with Joanna b. about the one from Letter 7, sad, but still true. I also love the quote

    “I have never yet found that the advice of a sister could prevent a young man’s being in love if he chose.” Lady Susan, Letter 10

    So true! I’m sure the advice of a sister against a young man’s love probably increases it.

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  5. The one that got me was:

    It is well known that Miss M. is absolutely on the catch for a husband, and no one therefore can pity her for losing, buy the superior attractions of another woman, the chance of being able to make a worthy man completely wretched.

    Reginald De Courcy, Letter 14

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  6. How well this sums up Lady Susan

    “Whether Lady Susan was or was not happy in her second choice, I do not see how it can ever be ascertained; for who would take her assurance of it on either side of the question?” The Narrator, The Conclusion

    Don’t bother asking her because you can never know if it is the truth.

    Perhaps Lady Susan doesn’t know herself either.

    Am I sounding sympathetic to lady Susan.. mm I think I am.

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  7. ‘Here we shall be at peace. Our regular employments, our Books & conversation, with Excercise, the Children, & every domestic pleasure in my power…’ Mrs Vernon (Letter27)

    ‘Mr Johnson has hit on the most effectual manner of plaguing us all…contrived to have such an attack of the Gout, as must at least delay his journey to Bath if not wholly prevent it.’ Mrs Johnson (Letter 28)

    What a contrast in domestic attitudes between these two ladies !
    I also wonder if Alicia is wishing for some fun- she mentions both de Courcy and Manwaring and bewails, ‘My confinement must be great’…’I can scarcely command myself at all’..how I do run on. ;)

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  8. What wonderful lines. Even though she was young and just starting her “trade”, she shows the same style and wit found in her later works.

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  9. Consider the flamboyant style and energy of Lady Susan’s letters to Alicia when she unreservedly confides her schemes. Words fairly leap up at the reader;

    ‘This is insufferable! My dearest friend, Iwas never so enraged before, & must relieve my feelings by writing…who should come on Tuesday but Sir James Martin ? Guess my astonishment & vexation…I could have poisoned him;’ (Letter 22)

    ‘I shall always detest them both..I am eqaully confounded at her Impudence & his Creduality. How dared he believe what she told him in my disfavour!’ (Letter 22- jealous, mama ?)

    Alicia on her own husband ;
    ‘[Mr Johnson] is going for his health to Bath, where if the waters are favourable to his constitution & my wishes he will be laid up with the gout many weeks’. (Letter 26)

    …a little gem of malice. ;)

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