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.

Musings

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.

THE END

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.

Further reading

A Soirée with Lady Susan: Day 12 Giveaway

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels, (Gramercy Books) Illustrated by Hugh Thomson (2007) including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan.

Leave a comment by September 13th to qualify for the free drawing on September 14th for one copy of the Gramercy Books edition of Jane Austen: The Complete Novels  (US residents only)

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© 2009 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose