Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Lady Susan (review)

by Jane Austen


Lady Susan Vernon to Mr. Vernon.
Langford, Decr.
My dear Brother I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted, of spending some weeks with you at Churchill, and therefore if quite convenient to you and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a sister, whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with. [incipit]

Epistolary novel that recounts a period in the life of Lady Susan, enterprising and shrewd widow, very nice and very effective-talking, can conquer all with her charm, and hide her meanness, wich she reveals only to her best friend.


Austen scholars established that this novel was written between 1793 and 1795, only to be subsequently revised in 1805, but it was published just a lot after her death: in 1871, by his nephew, who also decided the title.

It's certainly very different from books Austen has accustomed us, not only because it's epistolary, but mostly because the protagonist is a widow with a grown daughter, she belongs to the nobility, and... she's almost totally without morals! How far from Elizabeth's pride, Marianne's sincerity or Elinor's irreproachability!
This does not mean, however, that the character lacks charm, far from it! Lady Susan is a manipulative and duplicitous, and with this gives evidence of uncommon intelligence, and considerable fortitude.
She reminds me a little (obviously) the Marquise de Merteuil from Dangerous Liaisons: in addition to their love for libertinage and for the art of manipulating people, both don't lose their heart even when things go wrong, they know that they'll be perfectly able to deal with everything. But Merteuil makes almost a better figure, because, as I recall, she was perfectly aware of her malice, while Lady Susan, even when she confides without hesitation to her friend Alicia, is often sincerely persuaded to be right: It is undoubtedly better to deceive him entirely; - since he will be stubborn, he must be tricked. (Referring to Mr. Johnson, Alicia's husband).
Even more emblematic this comment about her daughter: Some Mothers would have insisted on their daughter's accepting so great an offer on the first overture, but I could not answer it to myself to force Frederica into a marriage from which her heart revolted; and instead of adopting so harsh a measure, merely propose to make it her own choice by rendering her thoroughly uncomfortable till she does accept him. But enough of this tiresome girl. What a loving and caring mother, you have to admit it! :)
In short, her meanness makes her very different from Austen's heroines, almost always positive (even if not flawless), but it doesn't prevent us to love and admire her anyway!

At the beginning of each letter there are sender, recipient and the place from which they write, but the dates are missing: I would have like them, they would helped me to situate the time of year, and the time elapsed between events! But it is a trifle, the novel is still enjoyable!

The ending is assigned directly to the author's voice, which tells us what happened to the various protagonists.

This novel instilled in me a certain curiosity about the first draft of Sense and Sensibility, which, I discovered, was intended by the author as an epistolary novel! Because Austen came off very well with the genre! The ironic style and psychology of the characters already revealed themselves as typical austen-like, even if in in the ending, when she can talk with her voice, seemed more familiar to me, the dear old Aunt Jane! :)
Remains no doubt that the skill can already be seen, and is even more interesting to find in a novel that the author didn't even want to publish. In other words, if this is a "minor" work, is not surprising then if the most famous novels are by many (including me) called masterpieces! : D

Book Info

Title: Lady Susan
Author: Jane Austen
Italian title: Lady Susan
First publication date: 1871
Publisher: Newton
Italian translation: Daniela Paladini
Pages: 62
Links: ANOBII

Bookmarks: they're both made by me; the one I used during the reading is on the right, the other one was made after I read the book!

Quotes

Not that I am an advocate for the prevailing fashion of acquiring a perfect knowledge in all the Languages Arts and Sciences; - it is throwing time away; - to be Mistress of French, Italian, German, Music, Singing, Drawing, &c will gain a Woman some applause, but will not add one Lover to her list. Grace and Manner after all are of the greatest importance. I do not mean therefore that Frederica's acquirements should be more than superficial, and I flatter myself that she will not remain long enough at school to understand anything thoroughly. - I hope to see her the wife of Sir James within a twelvemonth. Lady Susan to Mrs Johnson

At Bath, his old Aunts would have nursed him, but here it all falls upon me - and he bears pain with such patience that I have not the common excuse for losing my temper. Mrs. Johnson to Lady Susan

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.

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