Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel by Jane Austen, possibly written in 1794 but not published until 1871.

This early complete work that the author never submitted for publication, describes the schemes of the main character (the widowed Lady Susan) as she seeks a new husband for herself, and one for her daughter. Although the theme, together with the focus on character study and moral issues, is close to Austen's published work Sense and Sensibility, its outlook is very different, and the heroine has few parallels in 19th-century literature.

Lady Susan is a selfish, attractive woman, who tries to trap the best possible husband while maintaining a relationship with a married man. She subverts all the standards of the romantic novel: she has an active role, she's not only beautiful but intelligent and witty, and her suitors are significantly younger than her. Although the ending includes a traditional reward for morality, Lady Susan herself is treated much more mildly than the adulteress in Mansfield Park.

Main charactersEdit


  • A stage adaptation by Bonnie Milne Gardner, PhD, the George and Louise Peters University Professor of the Dept. of Theatre & Dance at Ohio Wesleyan University, was performed at OWU during their theatre department's 1998-1999 season. The script is for five women and three men, with minimal staging requirements, and a performance lasts about 90 minutes.
  • A two-woman version of Lady Susan, adapted by Inis Theatre, played at the Dublin fringe festival in 2001-2.
  • An adaptation by Christine U'Ren was performed by Bella Union Theatre Company in Berkeley, CA, in July 2009.
  • Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, a novel-length reconstruction of Lady Susan, was published by Crown Publishing in 2009. Written by mother-and-daughter co-authors Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, the adaptation reinterprets the work to conform closely to Austen's more mature prose style.
  • Whit Stillman, a longtime fan of Jane Austen, adapted and directed the novel as the 2016 film Love & Friendship. He also released a novelization of his adaptation to accompany the film, which included a prose version of the tale as well as the original epistolary form with commentary from his framing narrative.
  • Kate Beckinsalen stars in the 2016 adaption of Lady Susan.
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