As we begin this last section of the book, shall we take a quick peek back at the beginning of our story as Lady Susan is introduced to us and early on makes her hidden nature known to us readers while keeping it hidden from the inhabitants of Churchill?
What a woman she must be! I long to see her, and shall certainly accept your kind invitation, that I may form some idea of those bewitching powers which can do so much–engaging at the same time, and in the same house, the affections of two men, who were neither of them at liberty to bestow them–and all this without the charm of youth!
-Reginald De Courcy (Letter 4)
Reginald is aware that the woman coming to Churchill is touted as a homewrecker, but he is curious to see her all the same. She is larger than life in the way she can bend men to her will. This seems to fascinate him so much that he is willing to put himself in a dangerous position.
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.
-Mrs. Vernon (Letter 6)
While the men may fall easily to the schemes of Lady Susan, they are not so hidden from the ladies. Mrs.Vernon early on suspects that Lady Susan is not to be trusted, but she also seems loathe to accept it as reality, at first. The tales of Lady Susan surely must be exaggerated!
it shall be my endeavour to humble the pride of these self important De Courcys still lower, to convince Mrs. Vernon that her sisterly cautions have been bestowed in vain, and to persuade Reginald that she has scandalously belied me.
-Lady Susan (Letter 7)
Lady Susan has little respect for, well, anyone except herself. She feels a need to bend people, to torment them, to make them feel low. There is such a strong desire to have complete control over any man. She does not just want to change Reginald’s opinion of herself. She wishes to make him look at his sister with disdain and reproach for ever having spoken ill of Lady Susan.
Throughout the rest of the letters, as the story unfolds and is shared with us, we see how she strives to do just that. And she nearly succeeds. If it had not been for Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Mainwaring, Reginald would have been duped and destined for a great deal of misery as the husband of such a woman. Although, would Lady Susan have ever really married him? It is hard to say. She seemed to waiver on that fact herself as if she could not decide if she should subject herself to such a fate just to teach a man she care nothing about a lesson.
Happily, Reginald is saved. This pleases his mother and sister greatly! And it gives them opportunity to take up the role of manipulators and convince him of Frederica’s worth as a wife. It seems Reginald is never to be free of the machinations of women. I suppose, we should be glad that his mother and sister seem to have his happiness at heart, right?
So, this is the end. Just a few short letters and a conclusion and the story will be over. Lady Susan’s schemes have fallen apart. Alicia is banned from any contact with her friend. Reginald is returned home. And Frederica, after a good dose of persuasion, is returned to the Churchill and utterly dismissed by her mother.
What are you thoughts on all the characters now that the full story is known? What portions stand out as memorable? What takeaway is there in this story, or is there one at all? I look forward to hearing your final thoughts on this story. The discussion as well as the letters (including the one below to get you started) can be found on the Writer’s Block Forum.
Mrs. Johnson to Lady Susan Vernon
I am grieved, though I cannot be astonished at your rupture with Mr. De Courcy; he has just informed Mr. Johnson of it by letter. He leaves London, he says, to-day. Be assured that I partake in all your feelings, and do not be angry if I say that our intercourse, even by letter, must soon be given up. It makes me miserable; but Mr. Johnson vows that if I persist in the connection, he will settle in the country for the rest of his life, and you know it is impossible to submit to such an extremity while any other alternative remains. You have heard of course that the Mainwarings are to part, and I am afraid Mrs. M. will come home to us again; but she is still so fond of her husband, and frets so much about him, that perhaps she may not live long. Miss Mainwaring is just come to town to be with her aunt, and they say that she declares she will have Sir James Martin before she leaves London again. If I were you, I would certainly get him myself. I had almost forgot to give you my opinion of Mr. De Courcy; I am really delighted with him; he is full as handsome, I think, as Mainwaring, and with such an open, good-humoured countenance, that one cannot help loving him at first sight. Mr. Johnson and he are the greatest friends in the world. Adieu, my dearest Susan, I wish matters did not go so perversely. That unlucky visit to Langford! but I dare say you did all for the best, and there is no defying destiny.
Your sincerely attached
(Is she really hoping the lady dies? Wait until you see what Lady Susan seems to suggest. Oh, my!)