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The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox
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The Female Quixote (1752)

by Charlotte Lennox

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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494920,689 (3.6)1 / 83
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The premise of The Female Quixote is easily discerned from its title. Arabella is an English girl--17 years old when the novel begins--who has been raised in the secluded luxury of her father's country estate to which he retired in self-imposed exile after falling politically out of favor. Arabella's mother died young, leaving her daughter little but a collection of French romance novels of the previous century in bad English translations. Having no contact with the outside world, and being largely neglected by her father, Arabella has filled her head with romances of chivalry which she believes to be a faithful depiction of the world outside her estate. (Her favorite writer is Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701), whose novel Artamène ou Le Grand Cyrus, at 2 million words, is considered the longest ever published.)

When Arabella's father suddenly dies, she is pushed into contact with the real world. Being both exquisitely beautiful and extremely rich, she is set upon by suitors both sincere and opportunistic. But her code of honor, that of a world that never was, demands that no man may speak to her of love until he has vanquished armies, slain his challengers, and appeared at her feet oozing the last drops of his blood in her honor as he awaits the word from her lips that will let him live. Her imagination also sees threats to her chastity in every direction. When a young man applies for work as an assistant gardener, she sees him as a prince in disguise trying to infiltrate her castle. Imagining that he is plotting to abduct and ravish her, she flees desperately into the night.

Arabella's uncle and cousins are hard-pressed to understand, much less correct, her extravagant and often bloodthirsty view of the world. Eventually they decide to remove her to Bath and then London, hoping that exposure to society will cure her of her delusions. But Arabella only continues to see the world through the lens of her reading, and causes a sensation by her outrageous ideas and behavior.

The Female Quixote is hilarious from beginning to end. Just when you think the joke has played out, Lennox comes up with yet another twist to the story to keep it fresh. There is nothing like the depth of Don Quixote, but Lennox effectively satirizes the shallow, insipid society of her time by contrasting it with the heroism and passion of Arabella's imaginary world. The novel also shows how empty were the lives of young, upper class women when they had little to fill their time but primping and gossip.

I would recommend The Female Quixote for anyone with a strong interest in 18th century English literature, especially women's writing. The novel was very popular in its day and earned praise from contemporary writers such as Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. ( )
3 vote StevenTX | Jul 13, 2015 |
A deliciously funny mediation on the potentially damaging effects of taking novel romances too seriously, published in 1750 - an important topic even today, as far too many of us search in vain for Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff or any number of tall, dark and handsome Mills and Boon heroes. Apart from the fact that Lennox, who was encouraged by Dr. Johnson and Richardson, is an excellent writer, this is a very interesting book from the point of view of the history of women, showing the dangers of the lack of activities for intelligent women. The delightful heroine, Arabella, who as Margaret Anne Doody points out in her excellent and thought-provoking introduction, actually manages to exert her will very successfully while she is under the influence of French romances, eventually comes to accept her cousin's proposal, and despite his faithfulness through most embarrassing scenes, we cannot help but feel that her future life will be diminished. So - perhaps it is better to live in the imagination, after all! ( )
  Roseredlee | Jun 24, 2015 |
This book was a struggle to get through. While I loved the writing, pretty much everything else about the book I disliked, a lot. I get it was a satire, but the book never clicked right with me. Arabella is a very disagreeable character, and because she's the main book, it made me dislike the book even more.

I found it to be very repetitive, after a while even the small amount of humour I got from Arabella's antics got boring, not to mention gave me the urge to give her a smack upside the head. I didn't like the way it ended either, for a book that took it's time to give the story, the ending felt rushed and it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story.

Like with many books from this time, I do like the intimate feeling the book has with the reader. The author addresses the reader, so it has a different feel to it, when it's written this way. I can't explain it, but I just love when the book is written like this. The writing was lovely, it was a bit off putting having random capitalized letters in the middle of sentences, but it was kept close to its original form, and although it took some time to get use to, I eventually forgot about it.

Overall, it wasn't the best read, while I loved the writing, the rest of the book was just a bit of a dud.

Also found on my book review blog Jules Book Reviews - The Female Quixote: or The Adventures of Arabella ( )
  bookwormjules | Dec 1, 2013 |
This novel was written in the 1750s and is a satire of Don Quixote. The main character, Arabella, is a beautiful, charming, wealthy woman who unfortunately grows up very isolated and therefore reads too many French historical romances about ancient Greece and Rome which she believes in completely. This leads to many humorous situations as she is courted by her cousin who her father intends for her to marry. I really enjoyed the first third of the book, but after a while the humor started to be the same over and over and got a little old. All the men in the book think she's crazy but don't care because she's beautiful and wealthy. I think this is worth reading, especially as an example of women writing in the 1700s. It's genuinely funny and entertaining. It was also obviously an example to Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, a book I love. ( )
  japaul22 | Oct 14, 2013 |
Charlotte Lennox's "The Female Quixote, or The Aventures of Arabella" is a somewhat amusing tale of a woman who lets her romantic notions rule the day with disastrous results.

The heroine of the novel, Arabella, has lived a reclusive life and has been fed a steady diet of romantic French novels, which she comes to believe are factual illustrations of love. When she comes of age to marry, she mistakenly believes that most men are out to steal her away and ravish her. Her ardent suitor Glanville is apparently the most patient man on the planet and willing to put up with this since Arabella is pretty.

I liked the book overall-- at times it felt a little tedious. It was hard to believe anyone would be interested Arabella because she was so completely idiotic at times. I found the book got more amusing as it went on (perhaps because I was finally getting used to the style it was written in.) Glad I read this one (though I liked Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" which has a similar premise a lot better.) ( )
  amerynth | Sep 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Upon the whole, I do very earnestly recommend it, as a most extraordinary and most excellent Performance.
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charlotte Lennoxprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dalziel, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The Female Quixote parodies the ideas and themes in Cervantes' 17th-century novel Don Quixote. Critics mark Charlotte Lennox’s work as one of the defining novels of the 18th century, and one of the first novels by an American-born woman.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192835726, Paperback)

The Female Quixote, a vivacious and ironical novel parodying the style of Cervantes, portrays Arabella, the beautiful daughter of a marquis, whose passion for reading romances colors her approach to her own life and causes many comical and melodramatic misunderstandings among her relatives and admirers. Both Joseph Fielding and Samuel Johnson greatly admired Lennox, and this novel established her as one of the most successful practitioners of the "Novel of Sentiment."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:11 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Beautiful and independent, Arabella has been brought up in rural seclusion by her widowed father. Devoted to reading French romances, the sheltered young woman imagines all sorts of misadventures that can befall a heroine such as herself. As she makes forays into fashionable society in Bath and London, many scrapes and mortifications ensue - all men seem like predators wishing to ravish her, she mistakes a cross-dressing prostitute for a distressed gentlewoman, and she risks her life by throwing herself into the Thames to avoid a potential seducer. Can Arabella be cured of her romantic delusions? An immediate success when it first appeared in 1752, The Female Quixote is a wonderfully high-spirited parody of the style of Cervantes, and a telling and comic depiction of eighteenth-century English society.… (more)

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