Lady Susan: Group Read Letters 34-41: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day Twelve Giveaway

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Gramercy Books) 2007I write only to bid you farewell, the spell is removed; I see you as you are…You know how I have loved you; you can intimately judge of my present feelings, but I am not so weak as to find indulgence in describing them to a woman who will glory in having excited their anguish, but whose affection they have never been able to gain. Reginald De Courcy (Letter 34)

Quick Synopsis

Reginald De Courcy to Lady Susan severing their relationship. Lady Susan to Reginald De Courcy astonished, requesting an explanation. Reginald De Courcy to Lady Susan irritated, revealing his knowledge of Manwaring. Lady Susan to Reginald De Courcy satisfied, wishing him peace. Mrs. Johnson to Lady Susan grieved but not surprised, revealing she must beak off their friendship. Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson understanding her situation, and happy that Manwaring is more attentive than ever. Lady De Courcy to Mrs. Vernon announcing Reginald’s return and break with Lady Susan forever. She hopes for an alliance for him with Frederica. Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy surprised and suspicious. Lady Susan takes Frederica back to town. The conclusion, Frederica returns to them and Lady Susan marries.


The spell is broken. Reginald knows all about Lady Susan’s antics at Langford, her continued affair with Manwaring during their own romance, and wants nothing more to do with her. He finally acknowledges and understands her true nature. Took him long enough! I’m not sure if his slowness should be attributed to his gullibility or to her “perverted abilities.” Her astonished reaction to his rejection is priceless. “What can you now have heard to stagger your esteem for me? Have I ever had a concealment from you?” This is a turning point in the novel as her lies and manipulations begin to unravel. Her defense is to act innocent and demand more detail. This is a classic chronic liar behavior. Who me? She knows that her power lies in her ability to use persuasive language to change other people’s opinions to her advantage. She also knows that her plight will be so much more affective in person and commands his immediate appearance. Here is a skilled tactician moving in for the kill! In his first assertive action, Reginald wisely resists her command, maintaining his objectivity by responding by letter, distancing himself from her bewitching powers.

After such a discovery as this, you will scarcely affect further wonder at my meaning in bidding you adieu. 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 36)

So, he is beating himself up a bit for being duped. But to chastise himself as much as her? No! He was a victim and she the villain. His male ego is just smarting. No one likes to be deceived, manipulated, and loved all in one breath! I will admit though, that I was quite surprised by her reply to his explanation. Honestly, I thought she would escalate the drama one more notch and show up on his doorstep. Knowing her ego and vindictive nature I expected no less. When she writes back and meekly responds “I am satisfied, and will trouble you no more when these few lines are dismissed” I am astonished, not only by her choice to retreat, but of Austen’s lost opportunity for a great scene of their one last go round. Ah well. It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, but that would be how I would have written it. On the other hand, Mrs. Johnson’s reaction to the news is hilarious and I applaud Austen for her twisted humor.

I am grieved, though I cannot be astonished at your rupture with Mr. De Courcy…Be assured that I partake in all your feelings, and do not be angry if I say that our intercourse, even by letter, must soon be given up. Mrs. Johnson (Letter 38)

Alicia Johnson may be an even more skillful viper than Lady Susan! In one sentence she nonchalantly knocks the wind out of Lady Susan’s sails by not going on and on about her distress over her friend’s loss, and then, severs their association because of her husband’s opinon? When did he every stop her from doing what she wanted behind his back? LOL, and then, she offers up more gossip to throw salt in her friends wounds. Miss Manwaring is back in Town and on the hunt for Sir James Martin so she better hop to and snag him for herself, and, she is delighted with Mr. De Courcy! What? The man who just dumped her best friend?. “One cannot help loving him at first sight.” Too much. What happened to honor among thieves? Lady Susan’s reaction is even more astonishing. She understands her predicament with her friend’s husband completely. Manwaring is more attentive of her than ever, and she has never been happier in her life. Phony!

I never was more at ease, or better satisfied with myself and everything about me than at the present hour. Your husband I abhor, Reginald I despise, and I am secure of never seeing either again. Lady Susan (Letter 39)

How duplicitous can one be? In the past, Lady Susan had vented all her displeasure and shared her schemes with her confidant Alicia. Now that Alicia has severed their relationship, she is out of the honesty loop, and everything is sunshine and syllabub. And to top it off, she wants to continue the friendship? Impossible! Here is a woman who must have the last power move as she sends Alicia a subliminal warning by admonishment everyone who has gotten in her way. “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.” Oh, and by-the-way, she will always be her friend. Whoa!

Frederica runs much in my thoughts, and when Reginald has recovered his usual good spirits (as I trust he soon will) we will try to rob him of his heart once more, and I am full of hopes of seeing their hands joined at no great distance. Lady De Courcy (Letter 40)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch palatial mansion, Lady De Courcy is overjoyed with Reginald’s return and admission that Lady Susan has been vanquished. There is hope for an alliance with dear Frederica after all. Now the challenge for Catherine Vernon is to get her away from her mother who has taken her back to London on the pretext of more education. In actuality, Lady Susan is determined that she complete the one scheme that is still in play and under her total control. “Frederica shall be Sir James’s wife before she quits my house, and she may whimper, and the Vernon’s may storm, I regard them not.” Frederica regretfully leaves Churchill with her mother, and Mrs. Vernon is not hopeful of a match for her with Reginald. Interestingly, Austen changes format at this point and the denouement is not in letter format, but as a combination of first and third person narrative. A bit confusing, but still affective for me. Scholars have speculated that because of the change of style and format that the ending was written as an afterthought in 1805 when Austen transcribed a copy of the manuscript.

This correspondence, by a meeting between some of the parties, and a separation between the others, could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued any longer.  (The Conclusion)

Regardless, it does rap up the story quite neatly. Determined to get Frederica away from her mother and back to Churchill, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon travel to London for a visit. Catherine’s challenge is to outplay the “Mistress of deceit.” No easy task. Things look bleak since Lady Susan is playing the bountiful mother; only concerned for the welfare and improvement of her daughter. Mrs. Vernon was surprised and incredulous at Lady Susan’s new maternal instincts, fearing greater difficulty in accomplishing her plans, until Lady Susan drops a hint of concern for Frederica’s health. London does not seem to agree with her. Mrs. Vernon proposed her niece’s return to the country which Lady Susan graciously declined. (More posturing here by the master manipulator) Mrs. Vernon perseveres, and Lady Susan continues to resist for several days until the alarm of influenza alters her consent.

Frederica was therefore fixed in the family of her uncle and aunt till such time as Reginald De Courcy could be talked, flattered, and finessed into an affection for her which, allowing leisure for the conquest of his attachment to her mother, for his abjuring all future attachments, and detesting the sex, might be reasonably looked for in the course of a twelvemonth. (The Conclusion)

Three weeks after Frederica’s arrival at Churchill, her mother announces her engagement to Sir James Martin. Lady Susan’s choice of husband was a surprise, but not a bad decision for her financially. We know that Sir James’ personality is amenable and malleable, which will suit her freedom, but she so much admitted that he was a “bit of a rattle.” His money will certainly support her in the style and elegance she craves. On the downside, she is a highly intelligent woman, and he quite dull, so the conversation at dinner will be trying. If Lady Susan was unhappy in her second choice, it would be impossible to know. Would a woman with her power of deception ever admit it? Unlikely not. However, I do agree with the narrator’s conclusion about her new husband.

Sir James may seem to have drawn a harder lot than mere folly merited; I leave him, therefore, to all the pity that anybody can give him. (The Conclusion)

And what of the other two woman who Lady Susan’s dalliances have so injured? Mrs. Manwaring is unhappily separated from her husband and living with her guardian Mr. Johnson and his wife Alicia. I can not think that the arrangement can be too joyful to be in a house with a gouty old man, and Lady Susan’s evil twin. Never-the-less, Miss Manwaring does receive some pity from the narrator after she hotly pursues Sir James spending two years allowance on clothes, only to be “defrauded of her due by a woman ten years older than herself.”

As the novel concluded, I too was left almost in silence. “It was the greatest stretch of forbearance I could practise.


Thanks to all who participated in the group read. Your comments added greatly to my enjoyment of this novel and stand as testament of your admiration to a great author and one of her works.


© 2009 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

34 thoughts on “Lady Susan: Group Read Letters 34-41: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day Twelve Giveaway

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  1. Another fantastic review! I enjoyed the conclusion of Lady Susan. I too thought the change in style at the end was puzzling. One wonders what Austen would have done with this novel if she would have had a chance to rework it.

    I also loved Alicia’s letter to Lady Susan where she talks about how wonderful Reginald is after their break-up. Talk about a knife to the back!

    I was glad that Reginald finally saw the light and moved on. I was also happy that he ended up with Frederica. I just wish there would have been more detail on this romance! I just wonder how awkward future family get togethers would be. And if I were Frederica, I wouldn’t really relish the fact that my husband had once been in love with my mother!


    1. Hi Laura’s Reviews, so nice that you could join us for the group read. As always, I learned from your insights. I think you are as romantic as me and like a happy ending. I too wanted Frederica to have a better life and home.

      Cheers, LA


  2. This lady sounds like a most intolerable character.

    One thing I love about Jane Austen is that each of her characters have such distinct, different personalities from each other. One can always identify with at least one of her characters and find your friends’ identities in others. There’s something for everyone in these books!


  3. It would be interesting to see the family dynamics through the years. Is Frederica really truly, deeply in love with Reginald? Does he really care for her? Will these two live happily ever after or not so much? It would be interesting to drop into this family for a visit ten years later.


  4. I wish I had discovered this blog series sooner. It seems I’ve missed a delightful exchange of ideas. Will have to go back over it when I have time and read every entry. Need to read the Austen books I’ve missed.


  5. Even the epilogue of this novella is rather unusual. Lady Susan is bad to the bone – forgive this not very Astenish expression – and she ends up happily married with a well-off younger man. She is not rewarded but not punished either. She does not win but she is not beaten either. Incredible Jane Austen!

    Is there any good in this woman? Not at all. She is one of the most wicked and unscrupulous heroines I’ve ever met in fiction. Never as a protagonist, anyhow, rarely as an antagonist.

    What about the last sensational turn? When she apparently seems worried about her daughter’s health? No way. She is not changing, no motherly affection: she just wants to get rid of Frederica, leave her at her aunt’s and uncle’s, in order to enjoy her marriage to Sir James!

    And how about my hero? Reginald De Courcy. Again, I was quite disappointed. It took him 12 months to propose to Frederica! Was it because he had been pondering the fact that, so doing, he was going to make Lady Susan his mother-in -law? If so , his indecision can be forgiven.

    Thanks for this great experience L.A!


  6. Finally, the light bulb goes off above Reginald’s head! Certainly took him long enough.

    Inasmuch as Alicia’s letter was full of jabs, Lady Susan’s parry was just as lethal:

    Our friendship cannot be impaired by it; and in happier times, when your situation is as independent as mine, it will unite us again in the same Intimacy as ever. For this I shall impatiently wait;… May the next Gouty Attack be more favourable.

    Is there anything Lady Susan doesn’t stoop to? Did she really just wish, in black and white, the the quick demise of her ex-friend’s husband?? I can’t make out if Lady Susan is fearless or obtuse about Alicia’s loyalty. If these two really ever get together again, heaven help the society they descend upon!

    I am quite disappointed that we never get to hear from Federica again, even one letter to Mrs. Vernon that was ‘written under her Mother’s inspection’. I would have enjoyed how Frederica could have duped her mother, in between the lines… =) Frederica and Reginald are very fortunate to have been surrounded by such busy bodies who had their good intentions at heart, or I don’t think they would have ever gotten together. As aforementioned by becky, it does put the depth of their love in questionable light… theirs in not the incandescent love story of the other Austen heroes & heroines.

    But then again, Lady Susan is the protagonist, albeit a delightfully evil one. I’m so miffed that Lady Susan didn’t really get her comeuppance! I’m just going to imagine James Martin not just endowed with a dull wit, but also cross-eyed and bucktoothed.


    1. Reginald realizes he was a dupe !.. Admittedly, what a painful acknowlegment by an inexperienced young man both to himself and to Lady Susan- she had never returned his affection. ‘-Langford-Langford’.
      At least he resists her summons to avoid artful Lady Susan sway him by her eloquence. Although Lady S. never had affection for Reginald, I believe she enjoyed power over him.
      Agree, Reginald’s enlightement of LS took ages -and he was already aware of her coquettish reputation. Reginald maybe a nice guy but appears naive. I can’t see him as any hero. ..I still wonder if he had a brief fling with Mrs Johnson to forget Lady Susan; or am I reading too much into the text ? (Letter 38) ; ‘I had almost forgot to give you my opinion of DeCourcy, I am realy delighted with him, he is full as handsome I think as Manwaring…Mr Johnson & he are the greatest friends in the World.’
      In lieu of a narrator, these are only Alicia’s words-and a great chance to remind Lady S she missed a chance of marriage to a rich & Handsome young man !
      When someone annoys Lady Susan- she frequently responds by wishing that person dead. ..She suggests Alicia kill off Mrs M. worrying her to death; ‘I doubt I could resist even matrimony offered by [Manwaring]. This Event, if his wife live with you, it may be in your power to hasten’ (Letter 39)
      I doubt Mrs Johnson is shocked a the idea of hurrying someone’s death. LS may feel she’s doing Alicia a kindness by her final words, wishing Mr Johnson’s next Gouty attack be fatal ?
      Also, Lady Susan may’ve retained a semblance of friendship for Alicia as Mrs. Johnson possessed her letters- dripping with her schemes & remarks on society families; e.g ‘it shall be my endeavour to humble the Pride of these self-important De-Courcies’ (Letter 7). Society may relish reading Her Ladyship’s letters if Mr Johnson ‘accidently’ discovered them, and they went sent to London newspapers to be published on the Society Tattle page ! Well, didn’t we all enjoy her letters ? ;)
      After the De Courcies seperate; I think Lady Susan marries mutton-head Sir James, not only for wealth but to salavage something of her reputation.
      Yes, Lady Susan escapes more easily for her mis-conduct than Mrs Maria Rushworth in MP- imagine LS isolated in a country cottage !
      I also wish we had heard more on Frederica. I think she was too young, and emotionally traumatized for marriage. Cath. Vernon noted Freerica had ‘an affectionate heart’.
      I hope after Reginald was ‘talked, flatterered & finassed’ into an affection, he appreciated Frederica for her constantcy, affection and quiet spirit. (Fanny Price-like virtues ?)

      My impression is most of J.Austen’s novels have rushed endings as her stories revolve around courtships and relations with parents rather than marriages. ..also, if J.Austen wrote the Conclusion in 1805; she may’ve become aware the style of the epislatory novel was out of favour with the reading public.


      1. Exactly Mandy N, you picked up on my comment about Lady Susan being either fearless or obtuse about Alicia’s loyalty! The thought going through my head was that Lady Susan may, in the future, meet the same fate as Marquise de Meteuil in Dangerous Liaisons. Society shuns her when her malicious and vicious correspondence with Vimconte de Valmont was made public by Danceny! With Valmont dead, the Marquise de Merteuil became the sole target of society. Lady Susan is not as depraved as the Marquise, IMHO, but just as vulnerable (and as deserving of a comeuppance). But on the other hand, so is Alicia! So you’re right Mandy N, it will be beneficial for both to pretend a semblance of friendship… until one of them croaks! Or it becomes more beneficial for one to publicly expose the other. Someone should really write a prequel AND sequel about these two!

        Reginald having a possible brief fling with Alicia… I never thought of that! My interpretation of the quote you mentioned was that it was Alicia’s jab to Lady Susan having lost another lover as handsome as Manwaring. ‘Killing’ two lovers with one stone! But in the next breath, intimates that Reginald and Mr Johnson are the greatest of friends… perhaps Alicia will try her hand at flirting with Reginald in the future! She’s just as bad… Oooh… certainly food for thought, Mandy N! =)


  7. I too was a bit puzzled, the ending seems hurried to me. I don’t know. Almost like she got tired of telling the story so rushed it all into the conclusion.


  8. An interesting observation on Lady Susan’s apparent acceptance of Reginald’s explaination ( Letter 37). It seems a tame response, out of charecter for Lady Susan to give up Reginald without any chance of speaking to him.
    I wonder if the Mistress of Deceit simply shifts ground ? She quickly fetches Frederica. She is determined to marry her to Sir James- but maybe intends Frederica to be a lure ?
    At Churchill, Lady S. mentions nothing of the quarrel with Reginald to Cat. Vernon. (Letter 41) Lady S may’ve hoped Cath. Vernon sends her brother to see if Frederica is content. Obliging him to visit her at Upper Seymour St.
    I find it difficult to tell what’s happening in final scenes without the narrator or even Lady Susan’s letters to a confidante.
    Just a few thoughts to wrap up my share of the gossip. ;-)


    1. Good points… Lady Susan is certainly a chess player, isn’t she? She makes a countermove, without really revealing her true intentions to her opponents. And before anyone can tell what’s what, checkmate! She’s married James Martin. And yes, without Lady Susan’s direct voice, we are left in the dark. But I do love your conjectures!


        1. Thanks, Laurel Ann! It was really a fortuitous day when I stumbled onto your blog site.

          I will most definitely be back for your next book read. Just keep us posted!



    2. Mandy N., thank you for your wonderful comments – I learned so much from you as I am sure others did too. I really appreciated your quoting from the text and adding the letter number. Great reference and research. Please join us again soon.

      Cheers, LA


      1. Laurel Ann, thanks for your kindly words, & please pardon my wilder speculations…. As you and Joanna mention; Lady Susan appears to bear similarity to villains of C18th novels.
        Cheers to Joanna Go for being in the Lady Susan Soiree !!!
        Joanna, I’d put my money on you foiling Lady Susan & Alica by figure out Lady Susan’s next move on the society chess board long before checkmate. :-)
        Great chatting with you.

        I am so pleased to have particpated in a Lady Susan Gossip erh, Group Read ;)… Actually, gossip may be in spirit of Regency London and drama queens like Lady Susan; okay, group read is over !
        Laurel Ann, if you’ll have me, I’ll be happy to join in the next book read. Keep me posted too !


        1. Thanks Mandy N! And cheers to you as well! Thanks for humoring my questions and speculations. Learned so much from your answers and insights. =)

          Truly delighted in gossiping with you — flapping fans, wild speculations, and all! ;)

          Until the next book read…


  9. I loved Lady Susan’s last correspondences with Reginald and Alicia! Her answers to Reginald struck me as particularly thought-out, further proof that she is all about control rather than passion. And she actually wishes for the deaths of Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Mainwaring! Clearly she has a double standard about “the caprices of others,” for she has no problem causing submission of the will.

    The conclusion seemed unsatisfactory, however; it makes sense that this was written later, perhaps as an outline for a plan to go back and revise the novel. Frederica and Reginald seem to have almost no development and are really still like children; they lack the depth and emotional maturity of Austen’s later characters. Even naive Catherine Morland seemed stronger in love!

    Laurel Ann, thanks so much for hosting this. I’ve really enjoyed reading your reviews as well as all the thoughtful comments!


  10. This section contained the best part of LS, and not just because things come to a climax. I love the exchanges between Lady Susan and Alicia Johnson. They are so catty with one another and as I think you said, Laurel Ann, vipers! The sparks that flew in their letters was something else–wishing the quick demise of Mr. Johnson and the sort of laugh/you had it coming remark from Alicia. Wowsas! Imagine if Dear Jane had put similar characters like these two in other novels (more prevalently)?!


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