Charvat: "Charlotte’s numerous villains, male and
female, were all Europeans operating on American soil. Their villainies
seemed to ‘come natural’ in the imagination of American readers who were
already beginning to identify the fascinations of sin with Europe. In foreign
When Mathew Carey, the American discoverer and publisher
of 9 editions of Charlotte, was publishing a new edition at 50 cents
each in 1812, he estimated that sales had already exceeded 50,000 copies
In 1818, the leading figures in the novel were exhibited
in a waxworks show in the frontier town of Columbus, Ohio.
According to Cathy Davidson, a grave in Trinity churchyard,
New York City, was supposed to be that of Charlotte Temple and drew crowds
who came to weep over the grave.
Rowson was well known as an actress in Philadelphia-Baltimore
area and was a patriotic American
Her Reuben and Rachel (begun in 1796) is an
historical novel of Columbus and his imaginary descendants down to about
1700, complete with wars and Indians. Before she finished it, she became
a teacher and settled down in Boston.
it was natural that fictional plots should be based
on the pursuit of the female by the "gentleman officer," on lost-and-found
parents, treacherous relatives, and incestuous situations which were the
end product of bastardy."
the individual’s very identification was based on
his place in class and family
the law of primogeniture produced a class of irresponsibles,
frequently army men
property laws made a woman the chattel of the male
a woman had a social existence just to the extent
that she was an ‘under the protection’ of the male
men of the upper classes were condoned in considering
the unprotected female fair game
||The Early Novel and Charlotte:
A Tale of Truth
(Note: This is a highly abbreviated and specific
list. For more information, see especially Ian Watt, The Rise
of the Novel, and Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word).
I. Contemporary Works
1740 Samuel Richardson, Pamela: the first
English book that practially all readers are willing to call a fully realized
1753 Sir Charles Grandison
All three are epistolary novels, novels told through
letters written by one or more of the characters. This allows feelings
and reactions to be presented without authorial intrusion, gives a sense
of immediacy because the letters are written in the thick of the action,
and allows the writer to present multiple points of view.
Sentimental novel or novel of sensibility:
This form reflects the sentimentalism of the eighteenth century as reflected
in sentimental comedy and domestic tragedy. Pamela was the beginning
of the vogue, although Fielding’s more realistic Tom Jones was written
in protest. Examples of the eighteenth-century sentimental novel:
Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield
Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling (1771)
Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1760-67).
Sensibility: A term for reliance on feelings
as guides to truth and not on reason and law. This term is connected with
primitivism, sentimentalism, the nature movement, and other aspects of
romanticism. The high value that the 18th century put on sensibility
was a reaction against the stoicism of the seventeenth century and the
theories advanced by Hobbes and others that human beings were motivated
primarily by self-interest. (See Temple’s conversation with Eldridge on
p. 857) For a good article on this term, see the excerpt from Jerome McGann's
Poetics of Sensibility.
Sentimentalism: Two meanings. 1. Overindulgence
in emotion especially for the pleasure that this feeling provides. 2. Optimistic
overemphasis on the goodness of humanity (sensibility), representing in
part a reaction against Calvinism, which regarded human nature as depraved.
||Comments about Novel Readers in
the Nineteenth Century
(from Nina Baym, Novels, Readers, and Reviewers)
Ladies’ Repository, January 1845: "It is
romance reading, more than everything else put together, that has so universally
corrupted the tasted of the present age. If a man writes a book—a work
of profound study and solid merit, no body will read it."
Southern Literary Messenger, September
1849: Novel readers are "an enormous class, who have neither leisure, nor
inclination, of graver and more solid studies."
Harper’s, June 1853: "Hundreds of readers
who would sleep over a sermon, or drone over an essay, or yield a cold
and barren assent to the deductions of an ethical treatise, will be startled
into reflection, or won to emulation, or roused into effort, by the delineations
they meet with in a tale which they opened only for the amusement of an