Fiction > Susanna Haswell Rowson > Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth
Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762–1824).  Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth.  1905.
The Author’s Preface
 “She was her parents’ only joy:
They had but one—one darling child.”
Romeo and Juliet.  
“Her form was faultless and her mind
      Untainted yet by art,
Was noble, just, humane, and kind,
      And virtue warm’d her heart.
But, ah! the cruel spoiler came—”

          [The above lines, in the original American edition, are given on the title-pages of both volumes. The first two, as shown here, are credited to “Romeo and Juliet,” but they do not appear in that work. Other lines which Mrs. Rowson may have had in mind, and attempted to quote from memory, appear, however, in Act V., Scene V., as follows:
          “But one, poor one, one poor and loving child,
But one thing to rejoice and solace in.”
  The second bit of verse seems to have been written by Mrs. Rowson herself.]

FOR the perusal of the young and thoughtless of the fair sex, this Tale of Truth is designed; and I could wish my fair readers to consider it as not merely the effusion of Fancy, but as a reality. The circumstances on which I have founded this novel were related to me some little time since by an old lady who had personally known Charlotte, though she concealed the real names of the characters, and likewise the place where the unfortunate scenes were acted: yet, as it was impossible to offer a relation to the public in such an imperfect state, I have thrown over the whole a slight veil of fiction, and substituted names and places according to my own fancy. The principal characters in this little tale are now consigned to the silent tomb: it can therefore hurt the feelings of no one, and may, I flatter myself, be of service to some who are so unfortunate as to have neither friends to advise or understanding to direct them through the various and unexpected evils that attend a young and unprotected woman in her first entrance into life.
  While the tear of compassion still trembled in my eye for the fate of the unhappy Charlotte, I may have children of my own, said I, to whom this recital may be of use, and if to your own children, said Benevolence, why not to the many daughters of Misfortune who, deprived of natural friends or spoilt by a mistaken education, are thrown on an unfeeling world without the least power to defend themselves from the snares, not only of the other sex, but from the more dangerous arts of the profligate of their own?  2
  Sensible as I am that a novel writer, at a time when such a variety of works are ushered into the world under that name, stands but a poor chance for fame in the annals of literature, but conscious that I wrote with a mind anxious for the happiness of that sex whose morals and conduct have so powerful an influence on mankind in general; and convinced that I have not wrote [sic] a line that conveys a wrong idea to the head, or a corrupt wish to the heart, I shall rest satisfied in the purity of my own intentions, and if I merit not applause, I feel that I dread not censure.  3
  If the following tale should save one hapless fair one from the errors which ruined poor Charlotte, or rescue from impending misery the heart of one anxious parent, I shall feel a much higher gratification in reflecting on this trifling performance than could possibly result from the applause which might attend the most elegant, finished piece of literature whose tendency might deprave the heart or mislead the understanding.  4

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