A (sorta) comedy of letters – “Lady Susan” by Jane Austen
Lady Susan is a recent widow trying desperately to gain a husband for both herself and her daughter, Frederica. Strikingly attractive, Lady Susan is downright mean to her young daughter, calling her “stupid” and a barrage of other names. For Frederica’s part, she’s a sweet and pretty enough girl who forms an attachment to a young man named Reginald De Courcy, who happens to be the very man Lady Susan has set her sights on. Of course, this leads to complications and lies.
Told entirely through letters between Lady Susan and her acquaintences, “Lady Susan” absolutely shows the beginnings of Jane Austen’s unique gift and way of looking at her regency-era life of manners and parlours. It’s not a great work, but it’s full of humor and potential.
For serious fans of Ms. Austen who are interested in everything their hero ever wrote, this is definitely one to check out. For Austen newbies, I’d suggest you look elsewhere – perhaps at the eternally classic “Pride and Prejudice.” There’s a reason certain books are recognized widely and others aren’t.
On a side note, the Melville House Publishing group has put out a series called “The Art of the Novella,” which attempts to preserve and shine light on shorter, often forgotten works such as “Lady Jane.” Among the other authors who have works preserved in this series are Arthur Conan Doyle, Leo Tolstoy, and Kate Chopin. I’m all for book preservation, so I applaud Melville House loudly.
All in all, leave “Lady Susan” for the Austen nerds. Just my two cents.