I just finished reading Lady Susan as part of my “Austen in August” challenge. I laughed so many times while reading this book that I had to wonder why this particular Jane Austen novel isn’t more popular than it is. It really shows off Jane Austen’s sense of humor in a way her other novels don’t. In Lady Susan, Austen’s wit is bare-faced and has free rein; it isn’t white-washed with charm (as it is in Pride and Prejudice) or coyness (Northanger Abbey).
Lady Susan knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. She uses her sexuality to seduce and control men in her pursuit of a husband who will give her comfort and security. She’s an unabashed coquette.
There are so many clever lines in the book—by characters talking about Lady Susan and by Lady Susan herself—that I can’t help but admire Jane Austen’s skill in creating a mercenary character who is so enjoyable to read about.
Here are some of my favorite descriptions of Lady Susan made by other characters in the novel:
“By all that I can gather Lady Susan possesses a degree of captivating deceit which it must be pleasing to witness and detect.”
“She does not confine herself to that sort of honest flirtation which satisfies most people, but aspires to the more delicious gratification of making a whole family miserable.”
“She is really excessively pretty; however you may choose to question the allurements of a lady no longer young.”
“She is clever and agreeable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, and talks very well, with a happy command of language, which is too often used, I believe, to make black appear white.”
“Her neglect of her husband, her encouragement of other men, her extravagance and dissipation, were so gross and notorious that no one could be ignorant of them.”
“She is poor, and may naturally seek an alliance which must be advantageous to herself.”