Lady Susan by Jane Austen


The last work by Jane Austen I’ll read for Austen in August is Lady Susan, a short epistolary novel where letters written by characters tell the story. The novel was never submitted for publication by Austen and was published posthumously in 1871 as part of her half-brother Edward Austen-Leigh’s book, A Memoir of Jane Austen.


Recently widowed, the beautiful Lady Susan Vernon flees Langford to Churchill, the home of her brother-in-law, Charles Vernon, leaving behind a scandal involving a married man and the beau of the man’s daughter. Fully aware of Lady Susan’s manipulative behaviour, Mrs. Vernon resolves to keep her guard and remains cold to the arriving woman’s attempt at friendship. Curious after hearing rumours about Lady Susan’s antics, Mrs. Vernon’s brother, Reginald, decides to pay a visit and obtain his own impression of the woman. Lady Susan doesn’t hesitate in enchanting the wealthy bachelor and making him fall in love with her much to Mrs. Vernon’s anxiety. Meanwhile, Lady Susan is plotting a marriage for her teenage daughter, Frederica, with Mr. James Martin, the man she left behind in Langford. Catching wind of this plan, Frederica runs away from school, but is quickly found and brought to Churchill after the school refuses to take her back. Frederica falls for Reginald and decides to appeal to him for help, telling him everything about her mother’s scheme. Outraged by Frederica’s betrayal, Lady Susan leaves for town, but her past comes to haunt her with the arrival of Mr. James. Still under her spell, Reginald also follows her to London, but once there learns the whole truth about Lady Susan.

Lady Susan is the kind of villainess you love to hate. She is diabolical and heartless when it comes to trying to get what she wants. Using her beauty and sexual charm, men easily become entangled in her web, but are merely a means to a richer end. Which is why I had mixed feelings about Lady Susan as a character. I thought she was a terrible person, especially because she treated her daughter so horribly, and immensely enjoyed when her schemes fell apart and she had to settle for less. But I also admired how bold she was and didn’t care what people thought of her, a female iconoclast in Regency England. For this reason, Lady Susan will remain a strikingly memorable character for me.

I don’t mind that the novel was a series of letters, but even though each chapter was entitled with the writer and recipient, I had to take a minute or two to figure out who the characters were and that was confusing at times.

I was completely surprised how much I enjoyed Lady Susan, a novel written by Jane Austen when she was only nineteen! Although, very much a soap opera like other Austen works, I thought the epistolary form was unique way of revealing the plot and painting a picture of the ravishing Lady Susan through her thoughts and the observations of others. Why hasn’t this story been made into a movie? Winona Ryder would make an excellent Lady Susan.

4/5 Stars


6 comments on “Lady Susan by Jane Austen

  1. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
    August 28, 2014

    I haven’t heard of this Austen novel! I am trying to read all of her well known works this year, so maybe I’ll have delve into her posthumous ones after. It’s interesting that the main character is the villain, I think I would enjoy this read. And I’m glad to know that you did too! It does sound like it would make a great film!


    • ebookclassics
      August 29, 2014

      The book is very short and easy to read. I think you will like it and look forward to reading your review.


  2. majoringinliterature
    August 30, 2014

    Lady Susan is such a fascinating character! I read the book several years ago, but I definitely want to re-read it now; I love your description of Lady Susan as “a female iconoclast in Regency England”. 🙂


    • ebookclassics
      September 4, 2014

      Thanks! I’ve heard very little about Lady Susan, so it was almost like finding a little hidden gem.


  3. DoingDewey
    September 1, 2014

    I had actually never heard of this book! How exciting to learn about another book by Austen! 🙂


    • ebookclassics
      September 4, 2014

      I also heard very little about Lady Susan and only decided to read the book because it’s so short. It’s a fun story and since she wrote it when she was nineteen, just proves to me Austen was brilliant.


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