A Soirée with Lady Susan: Introduction & List of Characters

Lady Susan Carberry (c1795)Welcome 

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. 

Laurel Ann 


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. 

Lady Susan AvatarUpcoming event posts
Day 02 – Sept 3           LS Group Read: Letters 1-11
Day 03 – Sept 4           On The Trail of Lady Susan
Day 04 – Sept 5           Guest Blog: Vic – Jane Austen’s World
Day 05 – Sept 6           LS Group Read: Letters 12-22

Welcome to ‘A Soirée with Lady Susan’ a Celebration of Jane Austen’s Delightfully Wicked Novella

A Soiree with Lady Susan, September 1-14, 2009


“She is clever and agreeable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, and talks very well, with a happy command of language, which is too often used, I believe, to make black appear white.” 

 Welcome, to ‘A Soirée with Lady Susan’, an in depth look at Jane Austen’s delightfully wicked novella Lady Susan. Please join us September 1st through the 14th, 2009 as we investigate the humor, guile, and artful allurements of one of Jane Austen’s most infamously immoral and dangerously scheming heroines – Lady Susan Vernon. Included will be a group read and discussion, guest bloggers, and plenty of great giveaways. 

Is Lady Susan as fabulously wicked as the  gossips proclaim,

or just an innocent merry widow?  

Event introduction   Group reading schedule   Reading resources 

A Soirée with Lady Susan Group Reading Schedule & Resources

A Soiree with Lady Susan sidebarA Soirée with Lady Susan begins right here on Austenprose on September 1st with an introduction to Jane Austen’s wicked funny novella and list of characters. If you missed the initial announcement of the event, you can read further about this great Austen novella-a-thon posted last week. To prime readers for the group read which starts the next day on Wednesday September 2nd, here is the group reading schedule and some great reading and listening resources for participants. 

Group Reading Schedule 2nd – 12th of September, 2009 

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen 

Wed     02 September Letters I – XI (1-11)

Sat       05 September Letters XII – XXII (12-22)

Wed     09 September Letters XXIII – XXXIII (23-33)

Sat       12 September Letters XXIV – XLI (34-41) 

Online e-text: 

Print editions: 

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen (Dover Classics, 2005)Lady Susan, by Jane Austen 

Unlike most editions of Lady Susan in print, this edition of Jane Austen’s novella is entirely in the spotlight and a book unto itself. Just the right size to slip in your handbag, briefcase, or backpack, the portability of this slim volume means you will never need be without the convenience of quick reference. Publisher’s description: Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match. A magnificently crafted novel of Regency manners and mores that will delight Austen enthusiasts with its wit and elegant expression. 

Dover Publications (2005)
Trade paperback (80) pages
ISBN: 978-0486444079 

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics, 1975)Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon (Penguin Classics), by Jane Austen, introduction by Margaret Drabble 

If the convenience of three of Austen’s minor works in one edition does not convince you to snap up this classic edition, then Margaret Drabble’s excellent introduction will. Publisher’s description: These three short works show Austen experimenting with a variety of different literary styles, from melodrama to satire, and exploring a range of social classes and settings. The early epistolary novel “Lady Susan” depicts an unscrupulous coquette, toying with the affections of several men. In contrast, “The Watsons” is a delightful fragment, whose spirited heroine – Emma – finds her marriage opportunities limited by poverty and pride. Meanwhile “Sanditon“, set in a seaside resort, offers a glorious cast of hypochondriacs and spectators, treated by Austen with both amusement and scepticism. 

Penguin Classics (1975)
Trade paperback (224) pages
ISBN: 978-0140431025 

Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition, by Jane Austen (Oxford World's Classics, 2008)Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon (Oxford World’s Classics), by Jane Austen, introduction by Claudia L. Johnson 

Northanger Abbey might get top billing in this edition, but the other Minor Works make this a unique combination that are often hard to find in such a great value. Claudia L. Johnson’s introduction is stellar. Publisher’s description: Northanger Abbeydepicts the misadventures of Catherine Morland, young, ingenuous, and mettlesome, and an indefatigable reader of Gothic novels. Their romantic excess and dark overstatement feed her imagination, as tyrannical fathers and diabolical villains work their evil on forlorn heroines in isolated settings. What could be more remote from the uneventful securities of life in the midland counties of England? Yet as Austen brilliantly contrasts fiction with reality, ordinary life takes a more sinister turn, and edginess and circumspection are reaffirmed alongside comedy and literary burlesque. Also including Austen’s other short fictions, Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, this valuable new edition shows her to be as innovative at the start of her career as at its close. 

Oxford University Press USA (2008)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN:  978-0199535545 

The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works ()xford Univeristy Press, 1988)The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works (The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen), by Jane Austen, edited, preface and notes by R. W. Chapman 

The recommended choice of The Jane Austen Society of North America, this edition of Jane Austen’s Minor Works is part of a set of six volumes and was first published in 1926. Seventy two years later, it still stands as the best available today. In addition to Lady Susan, readers will enjoy The Watsons, Sandition, Juvenilia, Plan of a Novel, Opinions of Mansfield Park and Emma, Verses and Prayers and editor R. W. Chapmans’s excellent preface, notes, appendixes and some select black and white period illustrations. 

Oxford University Press (1988) reprint of 1954 edition
Hardcover (486) pages
ISBN: 978-0192547064 

Audio Books 

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen, Naxos AudioBooks (2001)Lady Susan (Naxos AudioBooks), by Jane Austen 

The incomparable Harriet Walter as Lady Susan oozes charm and deceit in this outstanding audio book of Jane Austen’s novella. The added bonus is the full cast of actors in each of the parts resulting in a recording of a stage play. Publisher’s description. Lady Susanwas the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be completed. An epistolary novel in eighteenth-century style, it tells the story of the recently widowed Lady Susan Vernon, intelligent but highly manipulative, who is intent on gaining financially secure relationships for both herself and her wayward but shy teenage daughter Frederica. Less known than Austen’s six great later novels, it demonstrates the wit and sharp observations of Jane Austen – and is shown at its best in audio book form, with different actresses presenting real characters as they read their letters. 

Naxos Audiobooks US (2001)
Audio unabridged (2) CD’s 2 hr 30 m
ISBN: 978-9626342282 

Miniature portrait of Lady Susan Carberry (c1795)Lady Susan(LibriVox Audio Books) by Jane Austen 

This audio recording of Lady Susan is not as polished as the Naxos edition, but it is free. Publisher’s description: Jane Austen demonstrated her mastery of the epistolary novel genre in Lady Susan, which she wrote in 1795 but never published. Although the primary focus of this short novel is the selfish behavior of Lady Susan as she engages in affairs and searches for suitable husbands for herself and her young daughter, the actual action shares its importance with Austen’s manipulation of her characters’ behavior by means of their reactions to the letters that they receive. Lady Susan’s character is built by the descriptions of the other letter-writers; but even though their opinions of this heroine coincide with the image that develops from her own letters, Austen demonstrates the subjectivity of the opinions by presenting them – primarily – in the letters of one woman to another, thereby suggesting the established literary motifs of feminine gossip and jealousy. Readers recognize these subjective motifs and examine all of the idiosyncrasies of the characters in order to create their own opinion of Lady Susan – as they would of any real acquaintance. (Summary from Wikipedia) 

LibriVox: free audiobooks
2 hours 27 min 


Sandition and Other Stories, by Jane Austen (Girlebooks)Sandition and other Stories, by Jane Austen 

The Austen elves at Girlebooks have assembled an excellent selection of Jane Austen’s Minor Works, Juvenilia and Letters is their usual thoughtful and well formatted layout for your desk top or eReader, all free for your reading enjoyment. Publisher’s description: Also known as Sand and Sanditon, this unfinished novel was written in 1817, the last year of Jane Austen’s life. The novel ends at Chapter 11, after a promising introduction of the seaside village of Sanditon, a few major characters, and several intriguing minor characters. Also included are The Watsons, Lady Susan, Frederic and Elfrida, Love and Freindship, Lesley Castle, The History of England, A Collection of Letters, and Scraps. 


I am so looking forward to reading everyone’s impressions of Jane Austen’s most wicked heroine Lady Susan Vernon. See you next Tuesday.

Laurel Ann

Announcing ‘A Soirée with Lady Susan’ at Austenprose

A Soiree with Lady Susan, September 1-14, 2009 

You are most cordially invited to 

‘A Soirée with Lady Susan’ 

September 1st- 14th, 2009 at Austenprose 

In honor of Jane Austen’s

divertingly wicked novella 

Lady Susan


Welcome Janeites and classic literature fans. Austenprose is pleased to announce its third Jane Austen novel event, ‘A Soirée with Lady Susan’ beginning on September 1st through September 14th, 2009. Please join us as we investigate Lady Susan, Jane Austen’s early novella with the most infamously immoral and dangerously scheming heroine ever – Susan Vernon. Is she truly as fabulously wicked as the gossip proclaims, or just an innocent merry widow?

Included in the event will be a group read of Lady Susan, discussion of its charms and foibles, historical background on epistolary novels and Regency letter writing, guest bloggers, and plenty of great giveaways. Starting September 1st with an introduction to the event and a list of the great giveaways, don’t miss out on the social event of the season.

The pleasure of your reply is

greatly appreciated!

R.S.V.P by August 31st, or join the party in progress 

A Soiree with Lady Susan has concluded. Read all of the posts in the event archive.