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Nora Bartlett

Published On


Page Range

pp. 77-92

Print Length

15 pages

5. Lady Susan

  • Nora Bartlett (author)
Chapter of: Jane Austen: Reflections of a Reader(pp. 77–92)
This chapter examines the distinctive qualities of Jane Austen's Lady Susan—its form, the class of its main character, and the depth of evil presented in the work—compared to her other novels. Lady Susan is compared to other villainesses of eighteenth-century fiction. Bartlett looks at Austen's use of epistolary style and third-person narration. Given is a brief plot summary, as well as background on Lady Susan (including her reputation and irresistibility), her daughter Frederica, and other characters. Bartlett explores the view that Lady Susan is a psychopath. Lady Susan's friend and confidante, Mrs. Johnson, is discussed and compared to her. The closing of Lady Susan is reviewed. There is a look at Mrs. Vernon; her letter-writing; and her views on Lady Susan. Austen's juvenilia are examined, with especial focus on absurdity, hypocrisy, vanity, and selfishness. Bartlett comments on the De Courcy family; the significance of Frederica's letter to Reginald (letter 21); and Lady Susan's extent of hatred and contempt, as well as the character's view of rivals, enemies, and dupes. Bartlett discusses Lady Susan being unforgettable; Austen's likely view of the character; and Lady Susan's intelligence, lack of education, and ability to manipulate others. Lastly, Bartlett takes a look at Lady Susan and convention.


Nora Bartlett