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Letter 38 – Conclusion
Lady Susan Letter XXXVIII – Conclusion
June 28, 2016
11:32 AM
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Letter XXXVIII

 

Mrs. Johnson to Lady Susan Vernon

Edward Street.

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

ALICIA.

 

Letter XXXIX

 

Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson

Upper Seymour Street.

My dear Alicia,–I yield to the necessity which parts us. Under circumstances you could not act otherwise. Our friendship cannot be impaired by it, and in happier times, when your situation is as independent as mine, it will unite us again in the same intimacy as ever. For this I shall impatiently wait, and meanwhile can safely assure you that I never was more at ease, or better satisfied with myself and everything about me than at the present hour. Your husband I abhor, Reginald I despise, and I am secure of never seeing either again. Have I not reason to rejoice? Mainwaring is more devoted to me than ever; and were we at liberty, I doubt if I could resist even matrimony offered by him. This event, if his wife live with you, it may be in your power to hasten. The violence of her feelings, which must wear her out, may be easily kept in irritation. I rely on your friendship for this. I am now satisfied that I never could have brought myself to marry Reginald, and am equally determined that Frederica never shall. To-morrow, I shall fetch her from Churchhill, and let Maria Mainwaring tremble for the consequence. Frederica shall be Sir James’s wife before she quits my house, and she may whimper, and the Vernons may storm, I regard them not. I am tired of submitting my will to the caprices of others; of resigning my own judgment in deference to those to whom I owe no duty, and for whom I feel no respect. I have given up too much, have been too easily worked on, but Frederica shall now feel the difference. Adieu, dearest of friends; may the next gouty attack be more favourable! and may you always regard me as unalterably yours,

S. VERNON

 

Letter XL

 

Lady De Courcy to Mrs. Vernon

My dear Catherine,–I have charming news for you, and if I had not sent off my letter this morning you might have been spared the vexation of knowing of Reginald’s being gone to London, for he is returned. Reginald is returned, not to ask our consent to his marrying Lady Susan, but to tell us they are parted for ever. He has been only an hour in the house, and I have not been able to learn particulars, for he is so very low that I have not the heart to ask questions, but I hope we shall soon know all. This is the most joyful hour he has ever given us since the day of his birth. Nothing is wanting but to have you here, and it is our particular wish and entreaty that you would come to us as soon as you can. You have owed us a visit many long weeks; I hope nothing will make it inconvenient to Mr. Vernon; and pray bring all my grand-children; and your dear niece is included, of course; I long to see her. It has been a sad, heavy winter hitherto, without Reginald, and seeing nobody from Churchhill. I never found the season so dreary before; but this happy meeting will make us young again. Frederica runs much in my thoughts, and when Reginald has recovered his usual good spirits (as I trust he soon will) we will try to rob him of his heart once more, and I am full of hopes of seeing their hands joined at no great distance.

Your affectionate mother,

C. DE COURCY

 

Letter XLI

 

Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy

Churchhill.

My dear Mother,–Your letter has surprized me beyond measure! Can it be true that they are really separated–and for ever? I should be overjoyed if I dared depend on it, but after all that I have seen how can one be secure? And Reginald really with you! My surprize is the greater because on Wednesday, the very day of his coming to Parklands, we had a most unexpected and unwelcome visit from Lady Susan, looking all cheerfulness and good-humour, and seeming more as if she were to marry him when she got to London than as if parted from him for ever. She stayed nearly two hours, was as affectionate and agreeable as ever, and not a syllable, not a hint was dropped, of any disagreement or coolness between them. I asked her whether she had seen my brother since his arrival in town; not, as you may suppose, with any doubt of the fact, but merely to see how she looked. She immediately answered, without any embarrassment, that he had been kind enough to call on her on Monday; but she believed he had already returned home, which I was very far from crediting. Your kind invitation is accepted by us with pleasure, and on Thursday next we and our little ones will be with you. Pray heaven, Reginald may not be in town again by that time! I wish we could bring dear Frederica too, but I am sorry to say that her mother’s errand hither was to fetch her away; and, miserable as it made the poor girl, it was impossible to detain her. I was thoroughly unwilling to let her go, and so was her uncle; and all that could be urged we did urge; but Lady Susan declared that as she was now about to fix herself in London for several months, she could not be easy if her daughter were not with her for masters, &c. Her manner, to be sure, was very kind and proper, and Mr. Vernon believes that Frederica will now be treated with affection. I wish I could think so too. The poor girl’s heart was almost broke at taking leave of us. I charged her to write to me very often, and to remember that if she were in any distress we should be always her friends. I took care to see her alone, that I might say all this, and I hope made her a little more comfortable; but I shall not be easy till I can go to town and judge of her situation myself. I wish there were a better prospect than now appears of the match which the conclusion of your letter declares your expectations of. At present, it is not very likely.

Yours ever, &c.,

C. VERNON

 

Conclusion

 

This correspondence, by a meeting between some of the parties, and a separation between the others, could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued any longer. Very little assistance to the State could be derived from the epistolary intercourse of Mrs. Vernon and her niece; for the former soon perceived, by the style of Frederica’s letters, that they were written under her mother’s inspection! and therefore, deferring all particular enquiry till she could make it personally in London, ceased writing minutely or often. Having learnt enough, in the meanwhile, from her open-hearted brother, of what had passed between him and Lady Susan to sink the latter lower than ever in her opinion, she was proportionably more anxious to get Frederica removed from such a mother, and placed under her own care; and, though with little hope of success, was resolved to leave nothing unattempted that might offer a chance of obtaining her sister-in-law’s consent to it. Her anxiety on the subject made her press for an early visit to London; and Mr. Vernon, who, as it must already have appeared, lived only to do whatever he was desired, soon found some accommodating business to call him thither. With a heart full of the matter, Mrs. Vernon waited on Lady Susan shortly after her arrival in town, and was met with such an easy and cheerful affection, as made her almost turn from her with horror. No remembrance of Reginald, no consciousness of guilt, gave one look of embarrassment; she was in excellent spirits, and seemed eager to show at once by ever possible attention to her brother and sister her sense of their kindness, and her pleasure in their society. Frederica was no more altered than Lady Susan; the same restrained manners, the same timid look in the presence of her mother as heretofore, assured her aunt of her situation being uncomfortable, and confirmed her in the plan of altering it. No unkindness, however, on the part of Lady Susan appeared. Persecution on the subject of Sir James was entirely at an end; his name merely mentioned to say that he was not in London; and indeed, in all her conversation, she was solicitous only for the welfare and improvement of her daughter, acknowledging, in terms of grateful delight, that Frederica was now growing every day more and more what a parent could desire. Mrs. Vernon, surprized and incredulous, knew not what to suspect, and, without any change in her own views, only feared greater difficulty in accomplishing them. The first hope of anything better was derived from Lady Susan’s asking her whether she thought Frederica looked quite as well as she had done at Churchhill, as she must confess herself to have sometimes an anxious doubt of London’s perfectly agreeing with her. Mrs. Vernon, encouraging the doubt, directly proposed her niece’s returning with them into the country. Lady Susan was unable to express her sense of such kindness, yet knew not, from a variety of reasons, how to part with her daughter; and as, though her own plans were not yet wholly fixed, she trusted it would ere long be in her power to take Frederica into the country herself, concluded by declining entirely to profit by such unexampled attention. Mrs. Vernon persevered, however, in the offer of it, and though Lady Susan continued to resist, her resistance in the course of a few days seemed somewhat less formidable. The lucky alarm of an influenza decided what might not have been decided quite so soon. Lady Susan’s maternal fears were then too much awakened for her to think of anything but Frederica’s removal from the risk of infection; above all disorders in the world she most dreaded the influenza for her daughter’s constitution!

Frederica returned to Churchhill with her uncle and aunt; and three weeks afterwards, Lady Susan announced her being married to Sir James Martin. Mrs. Vernon was then convinced of what she had only suspected before, that she might have spared herself all the trouble of urging a removal which Lady Susan had doubtless resolved on from the first. Frederica’s visit was nominally for six weeks, but her mother, though inviting her to return in one or two affectionate letters, was very ready to oblige the whole party by consenting to a prolongation of her stay, and in the course of two months ceased to write of her absence, and in the course of two or more to write to her at all. Frederica was therefore fixed in the family of her uncle and aunt till such time as Reginald De Courcy could be talked, flattered, and finessed into an affection for her which, allowing leisure for the conquest of his attachment to her mother, for his abjuring all future attachments, and detesting the sex, might be reasonably looked for in the course of a twelvemonth. Three months might have done it in general, but Reginald’s feelings were no less lasting than lively. Whether Lady Susan was or was not happy in her second choice, I do not see how it can ever be ascertained; for who would take her assurance of it on either side of the question? The world must judge from probabilities; she had nothing against her but her husband, and her conscience. Sir James may seem to have drawn a harder lot than mere folly merited; I leave him, therefore, to all the pity that anybody can give him. For myself, I confess that I can pity only Miss Mainwaring; who, coming to town, and putting herself to an expense in clothes which impoverished her for two years, on purpose to secure him, was defrauded of her due by a woman ten years older than herself.

June 29, 2016
11:04 AM
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Hope you enjoyed the ‘Lady Susan’ read-along. I’m still giggling and can’t help feeling this is saucy Austen at her best. Especially the concluding paragraphs. How Frederica would become part of the de Courcy family once Reginald could be ‘talked, flattered and finessed’ into falling in love with her. How normally it would take a young man about 3 months to go through the stages of getting over a failed relationship, vowing never to fall in love again, determined to detest the whole womankind – but it would take Reginald 12 because his feelings were ‘lasing and lively’. Not to mention the wicked humour of Miss Mainwaring splashing on new clothes to secure Sir James, only to be ‘defrauded’ by an older woman. And Sir James left to ‘all the pity anybody could give him’. 

Beautiful, poetic and wicked justice, to have someone of Lady Susan’s calibre – an incisively intelligent woman, however unscrupulous – tied for life to someone as glaringly dull and dumb as Sir James. A fitting end to all her machinations, and as rewarding as the manner in which her schemes were revealed and her duplicity exposed. What a brilliant mind Jane Austen must have had, to concoct all this and deliver it in such a clever fashion at an age when she was expected to know precious little of human nature and relationships. And how she went on to prove her genius time and again. If only she lived as long as her mother and sister, what treasures she would have given us still!

June 29, 2016
11:52 AM
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Shall I start us out with a quick comment?  

Letter 39 — “This event, if his wife live with you, it may be in your power to hasten. The violence of her feelings, which must wear her out, may be easily kept in irritation. I rely on your friendship for this.”  A reference to Alicia’s comment about Mrs. Mainwaring not living long — so Lady Susan is encouraging her friend to hasten the death of the injured wife?  WOW Pretty evil, there, Lady S! 

June 29, 2016
12:35 PM
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I’m relieved that Lady Susan has finally received her due. I’ve always wondered about the friendship between her and Alicia. I know a few people like Lady Susan, and most of them struggle to keep female friendships. Sure enough, Alicia abandons her because she can’t stand the thought of having to live in the country. That part made me laugh, but I find it’s also a typical result for women like Lady Susan. I almost feel sorry for her, but then reading Leenie’s comment, I don’t at all.

June 29, 2016
3:52 PM
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I like the fact that Lady Susan’s schemes fall apart, but I also appreciate that Austen didn’t really punish her as much as she could. She may have a silly husband, but her financial future is now secure. In that the conclusion reflects reality. The Lady Susan’s of the world don’t always reap what they sow.

Did any of you see Love and Friendship? I would love to discuss the alternative ending, but I don’t want to spoil it if you all are still waiting to see it. I think Lady Susan gets off a lot easier in the film. 

June 29, 2016
7:00 PM
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Love and Friendship has not played in our area, so I have not seen it.  And I don’t mind spoilers.  In fact, I like them.  There was a movie a couple of years ago that I was interested in seeing and a friend had seen it. I asked her about the ending, and she refused to tell me about it because she did not want to spoil it.  Guess what? I still have not watched that movie.  Sometimes I just need to know the ending so that I can enjoy the beginning and the middle.  🙂 

I don’t know that a lady such as Lady Susan needs much external punishment. As a former principal use to say about allowing a kid to seemingly “get away” with things “give them enough rope, and they will hang themselves.” Meaning, of course, that although at present there might not be enough evidence to award punishment, eventually, it would be provided.  I think the same is true for Lady Susan. She manipulates for a period of time and then her actions catch up to her and her schemes go awry.  It also seems to me that she was never really happy, and I can’t imagine she will be in the future no matter who her husband is or who her friends are.  Such a lonely, sad existence! 

This is one of JA’s works that was published after her death.  Do you ever wonder why it was not published during her lifetime?  Was there something about the story which held her back?  Was it one that was put aside with a “I should fix that up first” label? Did she just never get around to it? Was her intent only to entertain her family and not the world at large?  Would she be pleased to have us reading it, or would she sigh?  

June 30, 2016
4:57 AM
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I think Austen knew this story wasn’t strong enough for publication. She was something of a perfectionist. She wrote for her family and friends, never even considering publication until persuaded to by her father, and then it was Susan (NA), a much longer and more complex novel. While Lady Susan is the best of her epistolary experiments, the conclusion highlights her frustrations with the limitations of the genre.

This correspondence, by a meeting between some of the parties, and a separation between the others, could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued any longer.

She wrote out a fair copy of the text, so it was certainly finished, but that doesn’t mean Austen was fully satisfied with it. Nevertheless, I find it fascinating as a metric of her development as a writer.   

So, Love & Friendship (SPOILER ALERT!):

The film ends with Lady Susan marrying Sir James and announcing, the next day, that she was pregnant. Mr. Mainwaring becomes a permanent house guest. Would Austen approve of this menage a trois? I don’t really think so.

Reginald, who recovers quite rapidly from his disappointment in Lady Susan. Oh, and she’s the one who breaks it off with him in the film. I found this rather unbelievable. 

Overall, I liked the movie. I just wish (as always) that the screenplay stuck closer to Austen’s story. The best lines were her own. The rest was somewhat disjointed. Beautiful acting and costumes.