View Full Version : Austen's Attempt at Epistolary

Babak Movahed
12-21-2010, 06:00 AM
Austen is a talented writer in many respects, some can even argue that she is amongst the English novelist. However, I don't believe that Lady Susan falls into this discussion, only in the sense that her utilization of the popular eighteenth century novel form was fairly unsuccessful. What the letter form does uniquely is provide the reader with an interesting perspective on the primary letter writer, generally the protagonist. The problem with Lady Susan is that its incorporation of many different character voices in such a short novel, which seemingly blends most of the characters traits together. In a way all the male and female resemble each other, except for Lady Susan herself. It even becomes difficult to distinguish the characters apart, because of how alike their speech and actions are. Lady Susan is the only character with a recognizable voice, and that is merely to serve Austen's plot for the novel. I will even go as far as to conjecture that Austen herself notices this, and remedies this sort of problem by developing free indirect discourse, in which the narrator provides personal insight into a particular character.

Jackson Richardson
11-28-2012, 05:04 PM
I've just read Lady Susan, and it is interesting for a number of reasons - not least because the principal character is presumably having a sexual affaire with a married man (Manwaring).

But what Jane Austen was brilliant at was dialogue, particularly when characters say something, and we know they mean something else. (The last time I read Emma I got the impression there wasn't a single speech when I knew the character was deceiving themselves.)

But in Lady Susan we don't get spoken dialogue, just precis of what was said and speechifying. I suppose someone will say it is very clever for giving different characters' account of an identical conversation, but really that is all a bit abstract. I'm glad to think Jane got it out of her hair and went on to write her six inimitable novels.

10-30-2015, 12:31 PM
Austen supposedly (nobody is certain) wrote Lady Susan when she was 18 -- one year older than Marianne, Fanny, and Catherine. It's not the equal of the great novels, but it's very good indeed.