For Monday: Austen, Lady Susan, Letters 1-15
* NOTE: Be sure to pay attention to who is writing the letter and who is receiving it. This would be important in real life, and is very important in figuring out how to read the letter (and the letter-writer’s intentions).
CHARACTERS (all of whom write one or more letters):
- Lady Susan Vernon: a widow, sister-in-law to Mrs. Vernon (she married her husband's brother). Has a daughter, Frederica, she is trying to get married to Sir James Martin.
- Miss Vernon: Frederica, Lady Susan’s daughter.
- Mrs. Johnson: Lady Susan’s intimate friend, with whom she shares her secret plans and love affairs. Her husband thinks Lady Susan a bad influence.
- Mrs. Vernon: Married to Lady Susan’s brother; lives at Churchill where Lady Susan stays after being ejected from the Manwaring’s house. Her mother is Lady de Courcy and her brother is Mr. de Courcy.
- Mr. de Courcy (Reginald): Mrs. Vernon’s brother, is anxious to meet Lady Susan after all the rumors he’s heard of her.
- Sir Reginald de Courcy: Mr. de Courcy's and Mrs. Vernon's father.
- Lady de Courcy: Sir Reginald's wife.
Answer TWO of the following:
Q1: In “To a Lady,” Pope writes, “artists! who can paint or write,/
To draw the naked is your true delight.” How might the letter-writing format allow Austen to depict the women in her novel “naked,” or without the masks they often wear in society? As a woman, is she also trying to shame women into acting better/more morally, or does she have a different agenda?
Q2: Lady Susan writes of her daughter, “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” (Letter 7). According to the book (so far), what qualities, talents, and behavior make an “educated” (or cultured) woman? Is Lady Susan herself educated? Related to this, what kind of education does she want for her daughter?
Q3: Is Lady Susan the antagonist of Lady Susan or a kind of anti-hero? Are we supposed to like her or loathe her? Does she come across as a Belinda or a Clarissa? Consider a passage such as this one: “There is an exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority” (Letter 7).
Q4: According to the letters of Mrs. Vernon and Mr. de Courcy, how has Lady Susan earned a bad reputation in society? What is she accused of doing, and can we tell whether or not any of this is true, or just gossipy slander? What might justifiably make Mrs. Vernon reluctant to welcome her into her home?