Cute little epistolary novel about a conniving sociopath who goes to visit her relations. And destroy them. One of Austen's very early writing projects, as evidenced by the epistolary form which is obnoxious and unwieldy. And hard to pull off if a writer has little experience writing voice. (Pride and Prejudice was initially started not long after she wrote Lady Susan as an episolary novel called First Impressions, but was happily rewritten in the form it is today.) One of my favorite things about Austen's writings is her narrators, and though we can find flashes of that snappy snark here, it's dampened by the episolary form. But, still, stuff like this is just priceless:
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.
As Lady Susan says to her friend and enabler. This probably would be better coming from a narrator, as it feels bald from one person to another, no matter how big of bitches they are. But still durn funny.
The whole thing reads like a series of long form Facebook updates which I don't mean as a disparagement, more as a gesture to how all of the social scheming seems pretty fresh despite the gaps in culture and time. Lady Susan even has a tendency to capslock when she's feeling affronted, which is much of the time. The whole round robin of Lady Susan kicking over anthills and destroying marriages, the commentary of everyone about everyone, unfortunately comes to an abrupt halt, with a conclusion relating the bare facts of how it all wraps up feeling very much like a placeholder until Jane could get back to it someday. Alas, she did not.
Oh, and one other thing I dug about this was how most of the major writers were older ladies - Susan herself is the ghastly age of 35 and a widow, and her sister-in-law probably at least late-20s with a house full of kids. Most of Jane's protagonists are young, unmarried women, which is perfectly fine, but it's fun to see the older ladies, especially the older villainous ones, without a filter of the younger girl as focus.
Now get off my lawn.