Lady Susan, czyli "Niebezpieczne związki" według Jane

W twórczości Jane Austen krótka powieść Lady Susan jest dziełem szczególnym. Napisana około 1794 roku, czyli po pierwszych, nastoletnich szkicach w Juweniliach, a przed późniejszymi, opublikowanymi dziełami, od tych pierwszych odróżnia się stylem, od kolejnych - treścią. Tak jak w Juweniliach głównym zainteresowaniem autorki jest niewłaściwe, niemoralne postępowanie, jednak w przeciwieństwie do nich Lady Susan jest dziełem skończonym i dopracowanym, a przy tym wnikliwym w analizie i ocenie zachowania postaci. Główna bohaterka - intrygantka, z urokiem manipulująca wszystkimi ludźmi, jakich spotyka na swojej drodze - nie jest typem kobiety, której czytelnik mógłby się spodziewać w dziele stworzonym przez nieletnią i niezamężną córkę prowincjonalnego pastora.

Inspiracją mogła być kuzynka Jane, Eliza de Feuillide (z domu Hancock). Córka siostry pana Austena, piękna, błyskotliwa i bywała w świecie, była jedną z barwniejszych i najbliższych kobiet w życiu Jane. Urodzona w 1761 roku w Indiach, dokąd jej matka wyruszyła w poszukiwaniu męża, była córką chrzestną i - jak plotkowano - biologiczną Warrena Hastingsa, późniejszego gubernatora Indii Wschodnich. W wieku 18 lat zamieszkała we Francji, gdzie wyszła za mąż za francuskiego arystokratę hrabiego de Feuillide, który został ścięty podczas rewolucji francuskiej. Jeszcze jako mężatka podczas odwiedzin u rodziny Austenów flirtowała z dwójką braci Jane, Henrym i Jamesem, co nastoletnia Jane obserwowała z uwagą i uwieczniła w jednym z Juweniliów. Po wybuchu rewolucji powróciła do Anglii, a wkrótce jako młoda wdowa stała się częstym gościem rodziny Austenów, co - jak uważają niektórzy badacze - nieprzypadkowo zbiegło się z powstaniem Lady Susan. W 1797 roku wyszła za mąż za 10 lat młodszego Henry'ego Austena. Zmarła w 1813 roku.
Powyżej - portret Elizy de Feuillide

Wątpliwe jest jednak, że lady Susan była portretem Elizy, choć mogła ona zainspirować młodą Jane w inny sposób. Nietrudno zauważyć podobieństwa do Niebezpiecznych związków Laclosa - zarówno w formie, jak i treści - a kto mógł zapoznać Jane z tą słynną, skandalizującą powieścią jak nie Eliza? Mało prawdopodobne jest, by Eliza pozwoliła na lekturę swojej niezamężnej kuzynce, jednak mogły o niej dużo rozmawiać. Powstanie powieści mogło być dla młodej Jane próbą zmierzenia się z tematem trudniejszym i poważniejszym niż dotychczas.


Kate Beckinsale jako lady Susan Vernon w pierwszej i jak na razie jedynej ekranizacji, zatytułowanej "Love and Friendship"

Trudno uznać lady Susan - kobietę przebiegłą, uwodzicielkę i złą matkę - za postać pozytywną, jednak została ona ze wszystkich postaci obdarzona największą inteligencją i urokiem osobistym. Szybko dostosowuje się do nowych sytuacji i nawet gdy sprawy przyjmują dla niej zły obrót, nie traci nic z uprzejmości, serdeczności i łagodności. Swojego czaru używa szczególnie na tych, którzy są wobec niej najbardziej uprzedzeni Jak sama wyznaje zaufanej przyjaciółce: "Znajduję niewymowną przyjemność, gdy zuchwała osoba, zdecydowana mnie nie lubić, zostaje przeze mnie pokonana i uznaje moją wyższość". Znajomość zasad panujących w społeczeństwie jest jej największą bronią. Jest świadoma, że tak długo, jak nie ujawnia swoich prawdziwych motywów, nie ma się czego obawiać. Dla osób postronnych pozostaje idealną damą, podręcznikowym wręcz wzorem do naśladowania. Przekaz autorki jest jasny - nie liczą się uczynki, ale pozory; nie charakter, lecz reputacja. Jest to bystra, ale też gorzka obserwacja ze strony młodej dziewczyny, jaką była wtedy Jane.

Pomimo tego, że Lady Susan została napisana bardziej dla wprawy niż do publikacji, pokazuje geniusz drzemiący w młodej pisarce. Geniusz tak wielki, że Jane sama mogła się go przestraszyć. Odłożyła tekst i choć skopiowała go dekadę później, nigdy nie podjęła próby publikacji, do czego też nie zachęcał jej nikt z bliskich. Do czasu Mansfield Park i postaci Mary Crawford nie stworzyła podobnej bohaterki, co może wskazywać, że sama nałożyła cenzurę na tą część swojej wyobraźni, którą interesowała ciemna strona kobiecej natury.

Źródła

  • Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life
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