At the end of March, I read the short classic, Lady Susan by Jane Austen, which was the next unread work in a collection of Austen’s short/unfinished works I have. Having already enjoyed the unfinished manuscript of Sanditon from the collection, I tucked myself in bed early one evening with this, hoping for another easy, comforting distraction from the troubling times that were unfolding outside in the world.
This snappy, epistolary novella tells the tale of the beautiful, charming and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon: a terrible flirt whose unwanted visits and blatant manoeuvres in search of an advantageous second marriage for herself, have men tripping over each other, and wives, mothers and sisters beside themselves! All of which is conveyed to us through a series of letters from several senders, full of juicy gossip and salacious accusations, and by which it is hilariously revealed what a piece of work the Lady Susan really is!
While short, Austen still manages to pack in plenty of her trademark wit and ironic observations of people, etiquette and society into this novella, which she started to write in 1794, at the peak of her career, but which was not published until 1871, some fifty-four years after her death. I think it is a shame this was overlooked and almost forgotten really, as it is quite a hidden gem, and Lady Susan is perhaps, I think, one of Austen’s more audacious and brilliant villains not to become famous, or should I say infamous!
Being such a brief read, I daren’t say anymore that might spoil it, other than I thought Lady Susan was a well-crafted, miniature version of Austen’s better known novels of Regency manners and mores, that I think will still delight Austen enthusiasts with its wit and elegant expression. Great read.
I’d love to hear you thoughts: Have you read this? Or have you read any of Jane Austen’s other short works?