Paper #1: Unsent Letters – Miss Summers To Lady Susan Concerning Miss Vernon


Audience and Tone assignment: Unsent letters.


For one of the peripheral characters in Lady Susan, write two versions of the same letter, one in Regency style and one in a contemporary digital method (i.e., an online video rant, a “Twitter war” or a series of Facebook postings. NB: Facebook now deletes fake character accounts, so you will have to write it in a word document using a Facebook bot program to make it look authentic.)

Note: Lady Susan, Mrs. Catherine Vernon, Frederica, Reginald de Courcy and Mrs. Alicia Johnson are not peripheral characters, so do not write as them.

Minor Characters:

Mr. Manwaring

Mrs. Manwaring

Miss Maria Manwaring

Mr. Johnson

Mr. Smith (man who reveals Lady Susan’s character to Reginald)

Mr. Johnson’s Aunts who live in Bath

Sir James Martin

Charles Vernon        

Miss Summers, the headmistress of Frederica’s school

Wilson, the servant                                       

You choice should be character who has something important to convey, and should not repeat exact information found in existing letters.

One of the letters will be true to the period (the novel was written circa 1798, and published in 1871, but is set a bit earlier, circa 1790).   Your character should use appropriate modes of address and diction. The second is an update in which your character, while still sounding like the person in the novel, will speak in modern terms.

“Letter” two is not really a letter, but a modern exchange via Twitter; video weblog; Facebook Messenger; IM; Humans of New York Posting, Instagram, Yik Yak, Snapchat, etc. of two characters, who are recognizable from the book yet updated for contemporary context. One voice can (and should) dominate, but the second voice should appear occasionally to signal the faster exchange of information in our modern times. You may also impersonate other characters, strangers, or contemporary celebrities weighing on the debate, as is common in internet exchanges on public forum. If Mr. Manwaring is being indicted as a two-timing husband, perhaps some notable cheater in the public sphere will defend him (“Player, play on.”)

Element sought Strengths in this area Improvement needed in Points Awarded
Global assessment     30%
Professionalism: worked on drafts during class time, was on task and not wasting time. 5%
Correct submission:   saved under author’s last name; submitted to dropbox; in a compatible format I can open and comment in 5%
Citation method:

Citations provided for the source novel, lecture materials, and any other sources consulted in the writing of this paper

Peer Review:   attended review, brought drafts, provided good feedback. 10%
Letter One: Period Document     35% total values
At least 250 words of clear, error-free prose with historically appropriate language and expressions 10%
Qualities, history, circumstances of the character from the novel exemplified. Imaginative extensions of character into new document. 10%
Decorum, social customs and manners of the time period exemplified 10%
Audience for letter correctly addressed 5%
“Letter” 2: Contemporary Technological Exchange 35% possible
Appropriate and realistic extension of character traits into modern personalities. If the character is secretive, dramatic, scientific, cruel, loving or emotional, s/he should still be those things in the new incarnation. 10%
At least 250 words of   exchanges with contemporary language and expressions

Appropriate and realistic use of platform. If it’s Twitter, messages must be 140 characters (and you multiples) or less and may include emoticons, pictures, acronyms and hashtags; if it’s an Instagram exchange, it could be all photographs conveying the history of the relationship. If it’s HONY, the subject should answer the usual questions.

Creativity and imagination in conveying the message in a new forum. 10%
Audience for letter correctly addressed, differentiated from private audience of period letter 5%

Appendix A: A break-up letter, 19th century style.

  • MY DEAR MADAM, — I have just had the honour of receiving your letter, for which I beg to return my sincere acknowledgments. I am much concerned to find there was anything in my behaviour last night that did not meet your approbation; and though I am quite at a loss to discover in what point I could be so unfortunate as to offend you, I entreat your forgiveness of what I can assure you to have been perfectly unintentional. I shall never reflect on my former acquaintance with your family in Devonshire without the most grateful pleasure, and flatter myself it will not be broken by any mistake or misapprehension of my actions. My esteem for your whole family is very sincere; but if I have been so unfortunate as to give rise to a belief of more than I felt, or meant to express, I shall reproach myself for not having been more guarded in my professions of that esteem. That I should ever have meant more you will allow to be impossible, when you understand that my affections have been long engaged elsewhere, and it will not be many weeks, I believe, before this engagement is fulfilled. It is with great regret that I obey your commands of returning the letters, with which I have been honoured from you, and the lock of hair, which you so obligingly bestowed on me.
  •     I am, dear Madam,
  •     Your most obedient
  •     humble Servant,

Source: Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, ed. Tony Tanner. London: Penguin Books, 2009.

Text Message Break-up, 2013

Note: Frank is the girl (“Just Call Me Frank: My Endeavor at Being Honest”) and TDF (Third Date Flunkie) is the guy

Actual Texting Transcript:

Frank: “I’ll be honest, I’m just not interested in seeing you again”

TDF (Third Date Flunky): “wow…can I ask why”

Frank: “You can ask, but you might not like the answer”

TDF: “was it one reason? The sex lol”

Frank: “it was that and everything after”

TDF: “OK I knew something was a bit off…the cab ride? were u mad I didn’t drive u? I’m sorry for that”

“did you somehow feel cheapened? if so I am sooo sorry”

Frank: “It was that, and asking me what it takes to “give me pleasure” *(offensive term replaced), which I found offensive in the way you made me feel, the turning on of the television and yes, the cab ride home that I paid for…I didn’t feel cheapened…I felt offended.”

TDF: “Can u call me? Please? So I can straighten this out…please?”

“I need to explain”

“This is quite the misunderstanding that I need to clarify”

Frank: “No explanation needed”

TDF: “It is needed. I understand why u are upset…please let me explain and apologize. Let me make it up to u

“I really need to talk to u”

Frank: “No, I don’t feel I need you to explain” [I stopped responding to his texts after this]

TDF: “I need to. u have it all wrong as anything u perceived was not done intentionally. I need to explain. I am very upset about this. I am very upset I disappointed you!”

“when u hear my explanation hopefully u will forgive me”

“please allow me this much”

“please don’t shut me out…”

“let me make it up to you”

“If you are going to break things off please at least allow myself a chance to make amends. If I didn’t think you were worth it I’d walk away”

“Please [insert my real name here]. All I ask for is 5 minutes of your time”

“Let me buy u dinner tonight…a movie….starbucks (pumpkin flavour) whatever. I am not a monster and I do very much respect you…please hear my side”