Lady Susan
Jane Austen
Novels
2:45 h
Level 8
Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel by Jane Austen, possibly written in 1794 but not published until 1871. Lady Susan Vernon, a beautiful and charming recent widow, visits her brother- and sister-in-law, Charles and Catherine Vernon, with little advance notice at Churchill, their country residence. Catherine is far from pleased, as Lady Susan had tried to prevent her marriage to Charles and her unwanted guest has been described to her as "the most accomplished coquette in England". Among Lady Susan's conquests is the married Mr. Manwaring.

Lady Susan

by
Jane Austen


I

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MR. VERNON

Langford, Dec.

MY DEAR BROTHER, — I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure ofprofiting by your kind invitation when we last parted of spending someweeks with you at Churchhill, and, therefore, if quite convenient to youand Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few daysto be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquaintedwith. My kind friends here are most affectionately urgent with me toprolong my stay, but their hospitable and cheerful dispositions lead themtoo much into society for my present situation and state of mind; and Iimpatiently look forward to the hour when I shall be admitted into yourdelightful retirement.

I long to be made known to your dear little children, in whose hearts Ishall be very eager to secure an interest I shall soon have need for allmy fortitude, as I am on the point of separation from my own daughter. Thelong illness of her dear father prevented my paying her that attentionwhich duty and affection equally dictated, and I have too much reason tofear that the governess to whose care I consigned her was unequal to thecharge. I have therefore resolved on placing her at one of the bestprivate schools in town, where I shall have an opportunity of leaving hermyself in my way to you. I am determined, you see, not to be deniedadmittance at Churchhill. It would indeed give me most painful sensationsto know that it were not in your power to receive me.

Your most obliged and affectionate sister,

S. VERNON.


II

LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON

Langford.

You were mistaken, my dear Alicia, in supposing me fixed at this place forthe rest of the winter: it grieves me to say how greatly you weremistaken, for I have seldom spent three months more agreeably than thosewhich have just flown away. At present, nothing goes smoothly; the femalesof the family are united against me. You foretold how it would be when Ifirst came to Langford, and Mainwaring is so uncommonly pleasing that Iwas not without apprehensions for myself. I remember saying to myself, asI drove to the house, “I like this man, pray Heaven no harm come of it!”But I was determined to be discreet, to bear in mind my being only fourmonths a widow, and to be as quiet as possible: and I have been so, mydear creature; I have admitted no one’s attentions but Mainwaring’s. Ihave avoided all general flirtation whatever; I have distinguished nocreature besides, of all the numbers resorting hither, except Sir JamesMartin, on whom I bestowed a little notice, in order to detach him fromMiss Mainwaring; but, if the world could know my motive THERE they wouldhonour me. I have been called an unkind mother, but it was the sacredimpulse of maternal affection, it was the advantage of my daughter thatled me on; and if that daughter were not the greatest simpleton on earth,I might have been rewarded for my exertions as I ought.

Sir James did make proposals to me for Frederica; but Frederica, who wasborn to be the torment of my life, chose to set herself so violentlyagainst the match that I thought it better to lay aside the scheme for thepresent. I have more than once repented that I did not marry him myself;and were he but one degree less contemptibly weak I certainly should: butI must own myself rather romantic in that respect, and that riches onlywill not satisfy me. The event of all this is very provoking: Sir James isgone, Maria highly incensed, and Mrs. Mainwaring insupportably jealous; sojealous, in short, and so enraged against me, that, in the fury of hertemper, I should not be surprized at her appealing to her guardian, if shehad the liberty of addressing him: but there your husband stands myfriend; and the kindest, most amiable action of his life was his throwingher off for ever on her marriage. Keep up his resentment, therefore, Icharge you. We are now in a sad state; no house was ever more altered; thewhole party are at war, and Mainwaring scarcely dares speak to me. It istime for me to be gone; I have therefore determined on leaving them, andshall spend, I hope, a comfortable day with you in town within this week.If I am as little in favour with Mr. Johnson as ever, you must come to meat 10 Wigmore street; but I hope this may not be the case, for as Mr.Johnson, with all his faults, is a man to whom that great word“respectable” is always given, and I am known to be so intimate with hiswife, his slighting me has an awkward look.

I take London in my way to that insupportable spot, a country village; forI am really going to Churchhill. Forgive me, my dear friend, it is my lastresource. Were there another place in England open to me I would preferit. Charles Vernon is my aversion; and I am afraid of his wife. AtChurchhill, however, I must remain till I have something better in view.My young lady accompanies me to town, where I shall deposit her under thecare of Miss Summers, in Wigmore street, till she becomes a little morereasonable. She will made good connections there, as the girls are all ofthe best families. The price is immense, and much beyond what I can everattempt to pay.

Adieu, I will send you a line as soon as I arrive in town.

Yours ever,