Of all of Austen<&trade>s works, Lady Susan tends to stand alone in style and character development. The titular character of the novella in particular presents a literary conundrum for critics and readers of Austen. In an attempt to understand the character and why Austen wrote her, Lady Susan has been considered as a œmerry widow (Lane), a Machiavellian power figure (Mulvihill), and an indication of Austen<&trade>s familiarity with gossip and adultery (Russell). Despite these varied and colorful readings, critics have failed to fully resolve the differences between Lady Susan and Austen<&trade>s more beloved, maidenly heroines such as Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Elliott.This paper delves into one explanation that has hitherto been overlooked”Lady Susan<&trade>s relationship to the Restoration rake character trope. In light of Lady Susan<&trade>s philandering, independent, and mercenary ways, as well as her likeable yet reprehensible personality, the connection to the Restoration rake is readily apparent. Reading Lady Susan as a rake better informs critical understanding of this character and sheds new light on Jane Austen<&trade>s own perspectives on gender, while also forming a dialectic for critics and audiences for their own perspectives on gender, gender roles, and acceptable behavior. To accomplish this task, this paper explores Austen<&trade>s own early experiences with theatre and her predilection for theatrical allusions, the rake character<&trade>s genealogy and influence on literature, and a close reading of the novella in context of Restoration comedies.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Teerlink, Amanda, "The Wicked Widow: Reading Jane Austen<&trade>s Lady Susan as a Restoration Rake" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 7100.
Jane Austen, Lady Susan, rake, Restoration drama, theatre, Romantic literature