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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 7

of the peril of many childbirths, of the sentiment and the religion without which it used to be thought women could not endure their sex’s destiny. Over all hangs the unceasing menace of the seducer, who appears in such multitudes that modern readers might think that age one of the most illicit on record if they did not understand that Richardson’s Lovelace is merely being repeated in different colors and proportions. It is true, however, that the two most important novels of this sort, as well as The Power of Sympathy, were based on actual happenings. Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette (1797) recorded the tragic and widely known career of Elizabeth Whitman of Hartford, who, having coquetted with the Reverend Joseph Buckminster, was seduced by a mysterious rake generally identified with Jonathan Edwards’s son Pierrepont, and died in misery at the Old Bell Tavern in Danvers, Massachusetts, in 1788. The Coquette saw thirty editions in forty years, and was known in almost every household of the Connecticut Valley. It has not survived as has Susannah Haswell Rowson’s Charlotte (1794), one of the most popular novels ever published in the United States. Mrs. Rowson, an American only by immigration, had probably written the novel in England (where it seems to have been published in 1790), but Charlotte Temple, to call it by its later title, was thoroughly naturalized and has had its largest circulation here. It has persuaded an increasingly naïve underworld of fiction readers—housemaids and shopgirls—to buy more than a hundred editions and has built up a legend about a not too authentic tomb in Trinity Churchyard, New York, which at least since about 1845 has borne



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