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Guest Excerpt: Love & Friendship by Whit Stillman

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Whit Stillman has written a companion novel to the recent Austen movie adaptation, Love & Friendship, which entered theaters in May.

Praise for the movie adaptation:

  • “FLAT-OUT-HILARIOUS. Jane Austen has never been funnier.” – The Telegraph
  • “Whit Stillman and English novelist Jane Austen make for a delightful pairing in this comedy of manners.” – The Star.com
  • “Kate Beckinsale magnetizes the screen.” – Variety

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016About the Book:

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.

Today, we have an excerpt from Stillman’s rendition of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan.

Mr. Reginald DeCourcy, Confounded

Returned early from hunting with the Lymans in Sussex, while shaking off the journey’s chill, Reginald DeCourcy inquired about his sister’s celebrated guest: “Is she as beautiful as they say? I confess to great curiosity to know this Lady and see first-hand her bewitching powers.”

“You worry me, Reginald.”

“No need for worry. It is only that I understand Lady Susan to possess a degree of captivating deceit which might be pleasing to detect.”

“You truly worry me.”

“Good evening!”

Lady Susan, descending the staircase, stopped to greet them, with Mrs. Cross just behind her. Reginald and Catherine looked strangely surprised.

“What charming expressions!”

Catherine recovered first: “Susan, let me introduce my brother, Reginald DeCourcy. Reginald, may I present Frederic Vernon’s widow, Lady Susan, and her friend Mrs. Cross.”

After a polite nod to Mrs. Cross, Reginald addressed Susan: “I am pleased to make your acquaintance — your renown precedes you.”

“I’m afraid the allusion escapes me,” she replied coolly. “Your reputation as an ornament to our Society.”

“That surprises me. Since the great sadness of my husband’s death I have lived in nearly perfect isolation. To better know his family, and further remove myself from Society, I came to Churchill — not to make new acquaintance of a frivolous sort. Though of course I am pleased to know my sister’s relations.”

Lady Susan and the ladies continued to the Gold Room, leaving Reginald free to consider her remarks.

* * * * * * * * *

Over the following weeks and days Lady Susan and Reginald DeCourcy found themselves often in each other’s company, to such a degree that it seemed this might have been their conscious choice. They strolled through the Churchill shrubbery and rode horseback up its downs.

Wherever they were within Catherine Vernon’s vicinity they could count on being spied upon. Every garden walk or chance conversation she monitored with mounting suspicion. In her mind she was only seeking to protect her younger brother’s heart from a wicked temptress. Certainly Reginald DeCourcy was in many ways a callow youth, but did he require his sister’s protection? Those whose malice is most apparent to others are often precisely those most convinced of their own virtue. Their machinations are ever in defence of worthy objectives, or the prevention of The Bad. But, in truth, for the Catherine Vernons of this world, the spreading of worry and discord is their true delight. An expression has it that “misery loves company.” Of its truth I am not certain but “misery-causing” most definitely loves accompaniment. In this spirit — that of sounding alarm and provoking discord — she wrote to her mother at Parklands:

. . . I am, indeed, provoked at the artifice of this unprincipled Woman. What stronger proof of her dangerous abilities can be given than this perversion of Reginald’s judgement, which when he entered the house was so against her? I did not wonder at his being much struck by the gentleness & delicacy of her Manners; but when he mentions her of late it has been in terms of extraordinary praise; & yesterday he actually said that he could not be surprised at any effect produced on the heart of Man by such Loveliness & such Abilities; & when I lamented, in reply, her notorious history, he observed that whatever might have been her errors, they were to be imputed to her neglected Education & early Marriage, & that she was altogether a wonderful Woman…

Mrs. Cross, who also noticed the time Lady Susan and Reginald spent in each other’s company — she sometimes paused from her tasks to observe the two walking in Churchill’s gardens — was not so arrogant as to presume to know their private feelings, let alone cast malicious aspersions.

“I take it you are finding Mr. DeCourcy’s society more pleasurable,” she lightly observed as Lady Susan returned from one such outing.

“To some extent . . . At first his conversation betrayed a sauciness and familiarity which is my aversion — but since I’ve found a quality of callow idealism which rather interests me. When I’ve inspired him with a greater respect than his sister’s kind offices have allowed, he might, in fact, be an agreeable flirt.”

“He’s handsome, isn’t he?”

Susan considered the question.

“Yes, but in a calf-like way — not like Manwaring . . . Yet I must confess that there’s a certain pleasure in making a person, pre-determined to dislike, instead acknowledge one’s superiority . . . How delightful it will be to humble the pride of these pompous DeCourcys!”

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour:

THE LOVE & FRIENDSHIP JANEITE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

  • June 13                  AustenBlog (Interview)
  • June 14                  The Calico Critic (Review)         
  • June 15                  Diary of Eccentric (Excerpt)      
  • June 16                  Laura’s Reviews (Review)
  • June 17                  My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
  • June 17                  Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)        
  • June 20                  Austenesque Reviews (Review)
  • June 20                  Austenprose (Interview)                      
  • June 21                  So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
  • June 21                  Luxury Reading (Review)                    
  • June 22                  Just Jane 1813 (Review)                                         
  • June 23                  Savvy Verse & Wit (Excerpt)                         
  • June 24                  Austenprose (Review) 

GIVEAWAY WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

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  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    I can’t wait to see the movie!

  • dholcomb1

    I had hoped to see the movie, but today is the last day it’s playing in my area. Alas, a road I need to take is closed for a water main break. Grr. Hopefully, it will be available for rent soon.

    denise

  • Caryl Kane

    Thank you for the excerpt! I would love to see the movie.