I’m thrilled to be part of The Janeite Blog Tour of Love & Friendship, which runs from June 13 to June 24. Today I offer my dear readers an excerpt of the novel, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, which is a companion novel to the new film Love & Friendship and is based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan. Also, there’s a chance to win a copy of the book.
First, the book description:
Whit Stillman has taken Austen’s never-finished epistolary novella, Lady Susan, reimagined it as a straight narrative, and added the hilarious new character of Rufus, Susan’s apologist nephew, who aims to clear Susan’s good name come hell or high water (even if he is doing it from “the ignoble abode” of debtors’ prison ). Despite many indications to the contrary, Rufus insists that Susan is, “the kindest, most delightful woman anyone could know, a shining ornament to our Society and Nation.” Rufus then appends his earnest tale with a collection of his aunt’s letters, which he claims have been altered by Austen to cast the estimable Lady Susan in a bad light.
Impossibly beautiful, disarmingly witty, and completely self-absorbed, Lady Susan Vernon, is both the heart and the thorn of Love & Friendship. Recently widowed, with a daughter who’s coming of age as quickly as their funds are dwindling, Lady Susan makes it her mission to find them wealthy husbands — and fast.
But when her attempts to secure their futures result only in the wrath of a prominent conquest’s wife and the title of “most accomplished coquette in England,” Lady Susan must rethink her strategy.
Unannounced, she arrives at her brother-in-law’s country estate. Here she intends to take refuge — in no less than luxury, of course — from the colorful rumors trailing her, while finding another avenue to “I do.” Before the scandalizing gossip can run its course, though, romantic triangles ensue.
With a devoted Austenian sensibility and absurd theological commentary, filmmaker and writer Whit Stillman ingeniously reimagines and completes one of our greatest writers’ unfinished works. As much homage to its muse’s perennial influence as testament to its author’s brilliance, Love & Friendship is a sharp comedy of manners, and a fiendishly funny treat for Austen and Stillman fans alike.
Love & Friendship brings a healthy helping of scandal, along with lots of laughs, to Georgian and Victorian London. Whit Stillman has also created a film version of Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, which opened in select theaters on May 13th.
An excerpt from Love & Friendship:
“The Grand Affair of Education”
In Lady Susan’s and Charles Vernon’s first meeting with Miss Summers, that lady continued the pretence that her concern was Frederica’s conduct rather than payment for her school’s excessive fees. When Charles insisted on settling whatever fees were owed, Miss Summers refused, pending a decision on Frederica’s continuance at the school — Lady Susan, however, was able to see through this tactic also.
Later, when Lady Susan mentioned her fatigued state to Charles, he reacted swiftly, urging her to return to Churchill; he would remain in town to pursue a more favourable outcome. Would Frederica be allowed to remain at school? Susan vibrated with concern for her daughter’s future. Should Frederica not be allowed to remain at Miss Summers’, where might she go? The ignominy of being “sent home” to Churchill must be avoided at all costs!
The next day, returned to Churchill, Lady Susan unburdened herself of these concerns as she walked with Reginald.
“You cannot know the emotion a mother feels when her child is — or could have been — in danger. We cannot regard our children coolly: Nature won’t permit it. You perhaps see Frederica’s actions as the dangerous egotism of a wilful child; I cannot.”
“But you believe she’s safe?”
“Physically — yes. But I’m frightened by what this reveals of an erratic nature. One loves one’s child dearly, however selfishly she might behave. Can you comprehend that?”
“Yes — but I cannot help seeing in her behaviour a terrible irresponsibility which rather outrages me. Whilst I know that, as a mother, you must see everything she does with maternal softness—”
“Yes: I would never represent my daughter as worse than her actions show her to be.”
Catherine Vernon was passing through the ground floor rooms with a letter for Lady Susan when she saw her and Reginald entering from the garden, Susan looking uncharacteristically fragile.
“Take a seat, rest,” Reginald said as he helped Susan to the nearest sofa.
“Forgive me,” Susan said. Always polite and considerate, Lady Susan felt constrained to apologize even for her faintness, which the heedless conduct of children has ever caused mothers.
“Susan, the afternoon coach brought this note,” Catherine said, handing it to her. “Perhaps Charles has succeeded with Miss Summers.”
Susan, her fingers quite trembling, broke the note’s wax seal and read its first lines.
“It’s as I feared . . . Miss Summers refuses to keep Frederica — she says she must think of her school’s reputation—”
“Preposterous!” Reginald exclaimed. “I have never heard of her school!”
Not long thereafter the sound of horses and carriage echoed from the Churchill forecourt.
“Could that be them?” Reginald asked. “What, Frederica? Here? Already?”
Lady Susan rose to see Charles and Frederica coming from the front hall in their traveling attire.
“Hullo, hullo. Well, here we are,” Charles Vernon announced pertinently.
“Is this Frederica?” Catherine asked.
“Yes,” Charles said. “Allow me to introduce our niece — charming girl — Miss Frederica Vernon.”
“Welcome, Frederica! We have longed to know you . . . My brother, Reginald DeCourcy.”
“Hullo,” Reginald nodded. “Pleased to meet you.” A certain coolness could be detected; he had already heard much in Frederica’s disfavour.
Frederica was left facing her mother. “Good afternoon, Frederica.”
“Good afternoon, Mother.”
Suddenly Frederica burst into tears and ran from the room. All looked startled except Lady Susan, who maintained an exemplary composure:
“It is as I had feared . . . Excuse me, I must go to my daughter.”
Lady Susan — patient, graceful, compassionate — left to find her child.
“What was that?” Reginald asked. “Extraordinary.”
“Poor Frederica,” Catherine said, already her ally.
“Poor mother of Frederica!” Reginald replied.
“The daughter is, I understand, a . . . troubled girl.”
“I only saw fear.”
The tension between brother and sister had grown like a black cloud from which, at any moment, lightning might strike. Wherever Lady Susan was concerned, opinions clashed — neither thought the other reasonable. This often happens when people disagree.
“Frederica hasn’t had tea,” Charles said. “It could be lack of nourishment.”
Catherine left to have a second tea service prepared.
“Charming girl — though quiet,” Charles said when he and Reginald were left alone. “Have always appreciated that. Gives one the chance to think.”
Valuing Friendship Highly
Frederica’s arrival posed another conundrum: Where was she to stay? Mrs. Cross already occupied the logical spot, the small room connected to Lady Susan’s suite. The castle’s South and East wings were still in disrepair, leaving the servants’ wing the only practical alternative. The Brown Room there, though small, was actually quite pleasant, and Lady Susan considered it entirely adequate for Frederica’s comfort, while recognizing that such decisions were properly the Vernons’.
Years later an aged Churchill retainer described to me the “ashen look on Mrs. Cross’ face” as she and her small trunk were removed to the new location. (When I visited Churchill I was myself lodged in the Brown Room and am certain no slight or disrespect was intended.)
The worry over the rooms turned out to have been needless. Within the fortnight Mrs. Cross would depart Churchill. Lady Susan stood at the window of Churchill’s great hall watching as Mrs. Cross’ small trunk was carried to the carriage. One can imagine the poignancy of her feelings as her friend and confidante departed. Charles Vernon joined her there as the carriage pulled off.
“Poor Mrs. Cross has been obliged to accept a paying position in Buckinghamshire,” Lady Susan lamented. “As there was an element of friendship involved I realized that the paying of wages would be offensive to us both.”
“You value friendship highly,” Charles remarked.
“Yes. I hope I was of some help to her.”
Find Love & Friendship:
About the author:
Whit Stillman was born in Washington, D.C., and attended Harvard, where he was an editor of the Harvard Crimson before working in book and magazine publishing. He has written and directed five films, including the award-winning Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco, and Damsels in Distress, as well as the TV show The Cosmopolitans. His first novel, The Last Days of Disco, won the 2014 Prix Fitzgerald. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, Harper’s, The Guardian, Vogue, and other publications. Visit his unofficial website for updates on this latest Amazon series The Cosmopolitans, and follow him on Twitter as @WhitStillman and on Facebook.
In celebration of the release of Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, Mr. Stillman’s publisher, Little, Brown & Co, has kindly offered a chance to win one of three hardcover copies of the book!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the The Love & Friendship Janeite Blog Tour starting June 13, 2016, through 11:59 pm PT, June 30, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Austenprose on July 1, 2016. Winners have until July 7, 2016, to claim their prize. Shipment is to U.S. addresses. Good luck to all!
To follow the Love & Friendship blog tour, click the banner below.
© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.