Monday, November 14, 2016

For Wednesday: Austen, Lady Susan, Letters 16-25

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan in the recent film, "Love and Friendship"
Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Though Lady Susan quickly wins over most of the Vernon household, including the lovelorn Reginald, how does Mrs. Vernon begin to see cracks in Susan's mask? How does she begin to show her true "naked" features?

Q2: In criticizing her own daughter's affection for Reginald, Lady Susan writes that "Artlessness will never do in love matters, and that girl is born a simpleton, who has it either by nature or affection." What does she mean by this? Why does Lady Susan always place 'art' above 'artlessness'? What does she fear her daughter will never understand, that will make her "ridiculed and despised by every man who sees her"?

Q3: Is Lady Susan supposed to be read more as a comedy or a tragedy? Most epistolary novels were tragic in nature, and contained perilous life and death stakes for their characters (The Coquette, Pamela, Clarissa). Is Austen showing us the danger that results when reputation hangs in the balance? Or is she, like Pope, merely making fun of the pretensions and plots of the upper classes? Use a specific scene or letter to illustrate how you read the novel.

Q4: In class on Monday, I suggested that Lady Susan is in competition with ever woman in society--including her own daughter. Where do we see this mother/daughter competition in these letters? Is Frederica aware of the competition herself, or is this simply a byproduct of Lady Susan's vanity and ego? 


  1. 2.) I don't think artlessness means what everyone assumes it means. I think Lady Susan is insinuating that she doesn't have enough "trickery" up her sleeve. Lady Susan is all about getting what she wants, and she's "simply" trying to pass the totem to her daughter. I think she fears that mean are going to see her as someone who wants independence, but can't get to it. And as long as she keeps trying and failing, in her mother's eyes of course, she'll never be taken seriously.

    4.) Lady Susan is in competition with everything, and the fact that she tries to compete with her own daughter is just sad. In the last set of letters, we don't really see an argument, but we see Frederica try to reach out for help by Mr. De Courcy, and Lady Susan shuts that plan down really fast. If I were Frederica, I would just see Lady Susan as someone selfish. I think she knows this, but it doesn't seem, right now, like Frederica is anything like her mom. Maybe that will pay off in the later letters?

  2. Mason Horanzy

    Q3- I feel like Lady Susan is mostly comedy, with a little tragedy mixed in. I think it is largely dependent on the reader whether this is a funny or sad story. Personally, I think this is similar to Pope’s writing. It seems like it can be easily read as a sarcastic jab at the upper class and their pretentious social circles. I don’t know if I can pick a specific scene that manifests this. The entire work has an “attitude” about it. Instead of feeling sorry for these people, I find myself thinking that the entire plot is ridiculous and, for lack of a better word, petty. If I imagine myself in the middle of this ordeal, I actually become annoyed.
    Q4- It seems that Mrs. Vernon is the first to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Lady Susan does not want Frederica to interact with the Vernons. The Vernon’s suspicions are raised when they meet Frederica and learn of Susan’s restrictions. They also notice that Frederica is not as Susan has described her. Lady Susan describes Frederica negatively, however, Frederica is almost the exact opposite. I don’t know if I would call Frederica a “byproduct” as this moment. To me, she seems more like a link in the chain of Lady Susan’s deceptions.

  3. 1. Mrs. Vernon begins to see through Lady Susan’s mask for a number of reasons. First, she notices that Frederica does not match Susan’s description. As opposed to obviously being a problem child, Frederica is quiet, reserved, and she spends most of her time reading in her room. Another reason – a little more straight forward – is that Frederica even approaches Mrs. Vernon and tells her most everything her mother intends for her, including prohibiting her speak to either her aunt or her uncle. Finally, Mrs. Vernon notes in letter 15 that Susan speaks a little too well to feel too deeply about anything. This is to say that everything Lady Susan says seems slightly rehearsed – a little too polished. The way she speaks make it seem as if she is always in performance, saying exactly what ought to be said in any given moment.

    4. In letter 22, Susan rights to Mrs. Johnson that she has learned Frederica has communicated with Reginald De Courcy her true desires concerning Sir James Martin and her mother. Susan writes, “I have not a doubt but that the girl took this opportunity of making downright love to him. I am convinced of it from the manner in which he spoke of her.” There is an air of jealousy from Susan in this passage, but in Frederica’s letter, she never mentions her intentions with Reginald. We don’t even know if she has any intentions with him at all! Yet, Susan would be damned if there wasn’t any romanticism between her daughter and Mr. De Courcy as that is precisely what her vanity and ego would demand. Frederica must be her competition as long as she is young and beautiful and those qualities are fleeting Lady Susan.

  4. Q#3
    I think that Lady Susan should be read as a tragedy. Lady Susan is in competition with her daughter. That should never happen. Frederica never had the love of a mother as she grew up. Lady Susan is probably scarred from her own childhood and I think she has kept her mask on in the sense that we never see her true self until Susan writes to Mrs. Johnson. I think Austen is portraying this as a tragedy to get people to see that this way that women live is not okay.

    I think Lady Susan fears that her child will not be passed down the traits of her mom. She will not be cunning and witty. I think that for the artlessness that Susan talks about is who she is. She is afraid that Frederica won't obtain that. She seems to be independent, Susan I mean, but I wonder if she feels that Frederica will branch off to be her own style of independence and not take after her mom

  5. Question 1) Mrs. Vernon can see the flaw in Lady Susan’s mask for two reasons. One, she has now met Frederica for herself and sees she is the exact opposite of what her mother described. Frederica was quite, polite, and so well behaved it was as though Mrs. Vernon was meeting a different person. Also, as we discussed in class, Lady Susan is too rehearsed in the way she talks of her personal problems. She has thought a reply to every direction the conversation could go. A genuine person would not have been able to do that, nor be able to deliver the lined so composed and seamless.
    Question 2) Lady Susan believes her daughter lived in a fantasy made up world where men are nice and seek no harm upon women. She lives in the world she painted in her own mind. She lives in art. Unfortunately, Lady Susan believes this is not the world and men truly are. Because of this her daughter will be chewed up and spat out. She will be ridiculed and failure. To Lady Susan love has not true place in the world, there is only appearance and control. Whoever looks the best and controls more people, men in particular, will go far, and other, such as Frederica, will be left behind.

  6. q2) In my opinion I think that Lady Susan does not think her daughter as the "Art" of treating and acting like she does. I think that Lady Susan would like her daughter to be similar to herself and she just simply does not have the same edge on her that her mother does. This is why Lady Susan thinks men will be despised by her.

    q4) I think that Lady Susan is very worried about her ego and vanity. She is a very selfish person. Lady Susan seems like she is one of those woman that Pope would write about, only caring about materialistic things. At first I am not so sure that Frederica catches on to her mother being in competition with her, however as time goes on I think that she begins to catch on to how her mother truly is and what she is really doing.

  7. Q3: I think that Lady Susan is a comedy disguised and dressed up as a tragedy, while also leaning back and forth between tragedy and comedy. The only character that it facing an ongoing tragic demise, is Lady Susan’s daughter, Frederica. I think that Austen is showing how a person’s reputation and how other perceive them is very dangerous when it is held to be so important and detrimental. For example, Lady Susan gets upset with her daughter even just giving a letter to Reginald and sees it as flirtation and competition. And the thing is, Lady Susan had even said that she was just flirting with him to get him to change his perception of her and to use him and everyone else to boost her reputation through word of mouth.

    Q4: I think from just reading the letter from Frederica to Reginald, is obvious that Frederica doesn’t understand her mother’s thoughts and behavior and knew that Reginald was the only person that her Mother would probably listen to, but as we saw later that the idea to give a letter was a bad idea n would be seen by Lady Susan as manipulative behavior, just like her own. I think that Lady Susan, while she seems so confident in who she is, is projecting her own insecurities and guilt for her manipulative behavior onto her daughter.