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Letters 25-29
Lady Susan Letters XXV – XXIX
June 14, 2016
8:27 AM
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Letter XXV

Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson

Churchhill.

I call on you, dear Alicia, for congratulations: I am my own self, gay and triumphant! When I wrote to you the other day I was, in truth, in high irritation, and with ample cause. Nay, I know not whether I ought to be quite tranquil now, for I have had more trouble in restoring peace than I ever intended to submit to–­­a spirit, too, resulting from a fancied sense of superior integrity, which is peculiarly insolent! I shall not easily forgive him, I assure you. He was actually on the point of leaving Churchhill! I had scarcely concluded my last, when Wilson brought me word of it. I found, therefore, that something must be done; for I did not choose to leave my character at the mercy of a man whose passions are so violent and so revengeful. It would have been trifling with my reputation to allow of his departing with such an impression in my disfavour; in this light, condescension was necessary. I sent Wilson to say that I desired to speak with him before he went; he came immediately. The angry emotions which had marked every feature when we last parted were partially subdued. He seemed astonished at the summons, and looked as if half wishing and half fearing to be softened by what I might say. If my countenance expressed what I aimed at, it was composed and dignified; and yet, with a degree of pensiveness which might convince him that I was not quite happy. “I beg your pardon, sir, for the liberty I have taken in sending for you,” said I; “but as I have just learnt your intention of leaving this place to­day, I feel it my duty to entreat that you will not on my account shorten your visit here even an hour. I am perfectly aware that after what has passed between us it would ill suit the feelings of either to remain longer in the same house: so very great, so total a change from the intimacy of friendship must render any future intercourse the severest punishment; and your resolution of quitting Churchhill is undoubtedly in unison with our situation, and with those lively feelings which I know you to possess. But, at the same time, it is not for me to suffer such a sacrifice as it must be to leave relations to whom you are so much attached, and are so dear. My remaining here cannot give that pleasure to Mr. and Mrs. Vernon which your society must; and my visit has already perhaps been too long. My removal, therefore, which must, at any rate, take place soon, may, with perfect convenience, be hastened; and I make it my particular request that I may not in any way be instrumental in separating a family so affectionately attached to each other. Where I go is of no consequence to anyone; of very little to myself; but you are of importance to all your connections.” Here I concluded, and I hope you will be satisfied with my speech. Its effect on Reginald justifies some portion of vanity, for it was no less favourable than instantaneous. Oh, how delightful it was to watch the variations of his countenance while I spoke! to see the struggle between returning tenderness and the remains of displeasure. There is something agreeable in feelings so easily worked on; not that I envy him their possession, nor would, for the world, have such myself; but they are very convenient when one wishes to influence the passions of another. And yet this Reginald, whom a very few words from me softened at once into the utmost submission, and rendered more tractable, more attached, more devoted than ever, would have left me in the first angry swelling of his proud heart without deigning to seek an explanation. Humbled as he now is, I cannot forgive him such an instance of pride, and am doubtful whether I ought not to punish him by dismissing him at once after this reconciliation, or by marrying and teazing him for ever. But these measures are each too violent to be adopted without some deliberation; at present my thoughts are fluctuating between various schemes. I have many things to compass: I must punish Frederica, and pretty severely too, for her application to Reginald; I must punish him for receiving it so favourably, and for the rest of his conduct. I must torment my sister-­in-­law for the insolent triumph of her look and manner since Sir James has been dismissed; for, in reconciling Reginald to me, I was not able to save that ill­-fated young man; and I must make myself amends for the humiliation to which I have stooped within these few days. To effect all this I have various plans. I have also an idea of being soon in town; and whatever may be my determination as to the rest, I shall probably put that project in execution; for London will be always the fairest field of action, however my views may be directed; and at any rate I shall there be rewarded by your society, and a little dissipation, for a ten weeks’ penance at Churchhill. I believe I owe it to my character to complete the match between my daughter and Sir James after having so long intended it. Let me know your opinion on this point. Flexibility of mind, a disposition easily biassed by others, is an attribute which you know I am not very desirous of obtaining; nor has Frederica any claim to the indulgence of her notions at the expense of her mother’s inclinations. Her idle love for Reginald, too! It is surely my duty to discourage such romantic nonsense. All things considered, therefore, it seems incumbent on me to take her to town and marry her immediately to Sir James. When my own will is effected contrary to his, I shall have some credit in being on good terms with Reginald, which at present, in fact, I have not; for though he is still in my power, I have given up the very article by which our quarrel was produced, and at best the honour of victory is doubtful. Send me your opinion on all these matters, my dear Alicia, and let me know whether you can get lodgings to suit me within a short distance of you.

Your most attached

S. VERNON.

Letter XXVI

Mrs. Johnson to Lady Susan

Edward Street.

I am gratified by your reference, and this is my advice: that you come to town yourself, without loss of time, but that you leave Frederica behind. It would surely be much more to the purpose to get yourself well established by marrying Mr. De Courcy, than to irritate him and the rest of his family by making her marry Sir James. You should think more of yourself and less of your daughter. She is not of a disposition to do you credit in the world, and seems precisely in her proper place at Churchhill, with the Vernons. But you are fitted for society, and it is shameful to have you exiled from it. Leave Frederica, therefore, to punish herself for the plague she has given you, by indulging that romantic tender­heartedness which will always ensure her misery enough, and come to London as soon as you can. I have another reason for urging this: Mainwaring came to town last week, and has contrived, in spite of Mr. Johnson, to make opportunities of seeing me. He is absolutely miserable about you, and jealous to such a degree of De Courcy that it would be highly unadvisable for them to meet at present. And yet, if you do not allow him to see you here, I cannot answer for his not committing some great imprudence­­ such as going to Churchhill, for instance, which would be dreadful! Besides, if you take my advice, and resolve to marry De Courcy, it will be indispensably necessary to you to get Mainwaring out of the way; and you only can have influence enough to send him back to his wife. I have still another motive for your coming: Mr. Johnson leaves London next Tuesday; he is going for his health to Bath, where, if the waters are favourable to his constitution and my wishes, he will be laid up with the gout many weeks. During his absence we shall be able to chuse our own society, and to have true enjoyment. I would ask you to Edward Street, but that once he forced from me a kind of promise never to invite you to my house; nothing but my being in the utmost distress for money should have extorted it from me. I can get you, however, a nice drawing-­room apartment in Upper Seymour Street, and we may be always together there or here; for I consider my promise to Mr. Johnson as comprehending only (at least in his absence) your not sleeping in the house. Poor Mainwaring gives me such histories of his wife’s jealousy. Silly woman to expect constancy from so charming a man! but she always was silly­­–intolerably so in marrying him at all, she the heiress of a large fortune and he without a shilling: one title, I know, she might have had, besides baronets. Her folly in forming the connection was so great that, though Mr. Johnson was her guardian, and I do not in general share HIS feelings, I never can forgive her.

Adieu. Yours ever,

ALICIA.

Letter XXVII

Mrs. Vernon to Lady De Courcy

Churchhill.

This letter, my dear Mother, will be brought you by Reginald. His long visit is about to be concluded at last, but I fear the separation takes place too late to do us any good. She is going to London to see her particular friend, Mrs. Johnson. It was at first her intention that Frederica should accompany her, for the benefit of masters, but we overruled her there. Frederica was wretched in the idea of going, and I could not bear to have her at the mercy of her mother; not all the masters in London could compensate for the ruin of her comfort. I should have feared, too, for her health, and for everything but her principles–­­there I believe she is not to be injured by her mother, or her mother’s friends; but with those friends she must have mixed (a very bad set, I doubt not), or have been left in total solitude, and I can hardly tell which would have been worse for her. If she is with her mother, moreover, she must, alas! in all probability be with Reginald, and that would be the greatest evil of all. Here we shall in time be in peace, and our regular employments, our books and conversations, with exercise, the children, and every domestic pleasure in my power to procure her, will, I trust, gradually overcome this youthful attachment. I should not have a doubt of it were she slighted for any other woman in the world than her own mother. How long Lady Susan will be in town, or whether she returns here again, I know not. I could not be cordial in my invitation, but if she chuses to come no want of cordiality on my part will keep her away. I could not help asking Reginald if he intended being in London this winter, as soon as I found her ladyship’s steps would be bent thither; and though he professed himself quite undetermined, there was something in his look and voice as he spoke which contradicted his words. I have done with lamentation; I look upon the event as so far decided that I resign myself to it in despair. If he leaves you soon for London everything will be concluded.

Your affectionate, &c.,

C. VERNON.

Letter XXVIII

Mrs. Johnson to Lady Susan

Edward Street.

My dearest Friend,–­­I write in the greatest distress; the most unfortunate event has just taken place. Mr. Johnson has hit on the most effectual manner of plaguing us all. He had heard, I imagine, by some means or other, that you were soon to be in London, and immediately contrived to have such an attack of the gout as must at least delay his journey to Bath, if not wholly prevent it. I am persuaded the gout is brought on or kept off at pleasure; it was the same when I wanted to join the Hamiltons to the Lakes; and three years ago, when I had a fancy for Bath, nothing could induce him to have a gouty symptom. I am pleased to find that my letter had so much effect on you, and that De Courcy is certainly your own. Let me hear from you as soon as you arrive, and in particular tell me what you mean to do with Mainwaring. It is impossible to say when I shall be able to come to you; my confinement must be great. It is such an abominable trick to be ill here instead of at Bath that I can scarcely command myself at all. At Bath his old aunts would have nursed him, but here it all falls upon me; and he bears pain with such patience that I have not the common excuse for losing my temper.

Yours ever,

ALICIA.

Letter XXIX

Lady Susan Vernon to Mrs. Johnson

Upper Seymour Street.

My dear Alicia,­­–There needed not this last fit of the gout to make me detest Mr. Johnson, but now the extent of my aversion is not to be estimated. To have you confined as nurse in his apartment! My dear Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die. I arrived last night about five, had scarcely swallowed my dinner when Mainwaring made his appearance. I will not dissemble what real pleasure his sight afforded me, nor how strongly I felt the contrast between his person and manners and those of Reginald, to the infinite disadvantage of the latter. For an hour or two I was even staggered in my resolution of marrying him, and though this was too idle and nonsensical an idea to remain long on my mind, I do not feel very eager for the conclusion of my marriage, nor look forward with much impatience to the time when Reginald, according to our agreement, is to be in town. I shall probably put off his arrival under some pretence or other. He must not come till Mainwaring is gone. I am still doubtful at times as to marrying; if the old man would die I might not hesitate, but a state of dependance on the caprice of Sir Reginald will not suit the freedom of my spirit; and if I resolve to wait for that event, I shall have excuse enough at present in having been scarcely ten months a widow. I have not given Mainwaring any hint of my intention, or allowed him to consider my acquaintance with Reginald as more than the commonest flirtation, and he is tolerably appeased. Adieu, till we meet; I am enchanted with my lodgings. 

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.

June 15, 2016
9:51 AM
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Ugh. Lady Susan is just vile. If she actually seemed to love Mainwaring, I might manage to feel sorry for her but she’s not concerned about his feelings at all. It’s all about *her.* Poor, poor Frederica. Can you imagine having such a mother? 

And Reginald! I shall not easily forgive him either. Lady Susan and I are of like minds there. Although, I know he is being manipulated by the queen manipulator, but I do hope he manages to make up for it. 

I have no idea what to expect next! My Kindle says the story is 80% over and it feels like there’s so much left to do! I wonder how dear Jane pulls it off!

June 15, 2016
9:54 AM
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Oh! I forgot to say, that I have to at least give Alicia credit for talking her out of continuing to press Sir James on Frederica. It’s for all the wrong reasons, but at least she’s saved that.

June 15, 2016
12:25 PM
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I love that Rose has found some empathy with Lady S in her disdain for Reginald. He is far too malleable. The quote Joana posted in the intro is awesome, for how can one respect a man so easily manipulated?

I know that many of you love Edward Ferrars and Edmund Bertram, but I can’t let go of the similarities I see between those gentlemen and Reginald. I would find both far more satisfying heroes if they weren’t able to be so put upon by the likes of Lucy Steele and Mary Crawford. The admiration I do have for them is almost entirely premised in that of their respective heroines. Elinor and Fanny love them, so I must too. Similarly, any value I find in Reginald is because Catherine tells us he’s worthy and Frederica falls in love with him. His interactions with Lady Susan do not display him in a good light.

What do you think of Alicia Johnson in these letters? What a loving wife! There are so many lines in which she verbally stabs her husband in the back, but this is my favorite: 

At Bath his old aunts would have nursed him, but here it all falls upon me; and he bears pain with such patience that I have not the common excuse for losing my temper.

Other than Sir Reginald, Mr. Johnson is the only man in the book who seems to have his head on straight. Bravo to him for forbidding Lady Susan access to his house! I applaud his well-timed bout of gout. 

June 15, 2016
12:26 PM
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That’s true, Rose. I do appreciate Alicia for protecting Frederica. On the other hand, I hated how she criticized Mrs. Mainwaring for expecting her charming husband to stay faithful.

I can’t remember if we’ve heard much about Mr. Johnson before this, but I love that he won’t allow Lady Susan to stay in his house. I thought Lady Susan’s comment about him was hilarious: “he’s too old to be agreeable, too young to die.” She is so horrible!

My favorite phrase from the first letter is: “a fancied sense of superior integrity”. I think it says so much about Lady Susan’s twisted values because to me, integrity has nothing to do with showing off or fancying.

June 15, 2016
12:32 PM
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Ha ha! Rebecca and I were lauding Mr. Johnson simultaneously! He deserves it. What a wife!

Quick thought – I’m not sure I’d describe Alicia Johnson as “protecting” Frederica. It kind of works out that way, but her intention is to unburden Lady Susan from her daughter. I find this line most telling: 

You should think more of yourself and less of your daughter.

Not a problem.

June 15, 2016
1:53 PM
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Oh, so many thoughts as I read this one!  Lady Susan is very vile…the depths of which are seemingly unfathomable! And everyone who did not please her was on her “hit list”! They must all be punished! Oh, my! I am glad to see her gone from Churchill! But I am upset at Reginald…he seemed uncertain if he would go to town or not and yet, according to Lady Susan, they have a plan that he will. Now, we are only seeing it from her point of view. It could be her plan, and perhaps he really is unsure about whether he will go or not and perhaps he was not lying to his sister. If we take the Jane Bennet approach I am sure that is what it is. 😉  

He is malleable! Which is exactly opposite of what he believes himself to be at the beginning of this story.  He is sure that he could not be swayed by a woman and yet, he is swayed time and time again.  What I have trouble “forgiving” him for is his lack of character. He makes a decision but then reneges on it.  He takes a position on one side of an issue and then promptly crosses the floor and takes an opposing position.  To me that is a lack of character.  And that is quite different from Edmund or Edward.  Full disclosure: Edmund is one of my favourites…right up there with Darcy…but setting that aside as much as I am able…Edmund and Edward do fall under the spell of a woman, but not as Reginald has.  Edward does not shift positions.  He has pledged himself to Lucy and although he later regrets it, has the type of character that will abide by his promise.  He has integrity and will suffer the fate of a poor choice rather than be dishonourable.  Edmund is similar.  He is swayed by Mary and he seems to go back and forth on if he will marry her or not. I believe this is because he knows that she is not for him. There are things about her that are not “right,” but she is also pretty and charming. However, when her character is revealed in such a way as it cannot be denied, he does not turn from her only to be drawn back as Reginald did.  Edmund takes a stand and is not moved from it. This brings me to another thought I had as I was reading today.  Lady Susan says “Silly woman to expect constancy from so charming a man!” about

This brings me to another thought I had as I was reading today.  Lady Susan says “Silly woman to expect constancy from so charming a man!” about Mrs. Mainwaring. I think that is a concept we see over and over again in Jane Austen’s books. How many of the “charming” characters — be they ladies or gents — are inconstant or downright manipulators with very little good intent.  To name just a few: Willoughby, Wickham, Lady Susan, Mary Crawford, Henry Crawford, — I hate to do it, but — I think Bingley to some extent can be put here (he should not have been so easily swayed by Darcy), Frederick Tilney, Isabella Thorpe….etc. 

I will also mention again something in this story that brings Mansfield Park to mind. There is the seeming contrast of town and country, of one being a harbour of pleasure and loose living and the other being less so…almost more “safe.” Kind of like a good vs evil.  There is a feeling that those of the country are more “innocent” and not as “worldly” as those who are in town. Perhaps this is why Frederica should stay in the country with the more “backwards” less forward thinking people. 

Well, those were just some of my thoughts as I listened and then read the discussion.  I probably had more, but I got interrupted by having to pick up my son from his exams. 🙂 

June 15, 2016
4:22 PM
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Reginald is so gullible! He’s beyond belief. I really found him at his weakest and most contemptible at this stage. It really looked like Frederica got through to him and opened his eyes, but he was so eager to close them again. And Alicia and Lady Susan, awful women, as bad as one another. I’m warming up to the Mr Johnson character, although I think that seeing Stephen Fry play him in the adaptation had something to do with it 🙂 But it’s rather adorable how he directs his wife – only to have Lady Susan describe him behind his back as ‘too old to be agreeable, too young to die’. They used that line in the film too, beautifully delivered.

I’m glad that Alicia sought to take Lady Susan’s mind off her scheme regarding Sir James and Frederica. I don’t really think she cared about the poor girl, just advised Lady Susan to look after #1. Like you said, Alexa, no problem there 😀

Thanks for this, great fun as usual!