Picture of author.

Charlotte Lennox (1730–1804)

Author of The Female Quixote

16+ Works 868 Members 11 Reviews 4 Favorited

About the Author

Includes the names: Charlotte Lenox, Charlotte Lennox

Image credit: Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Works by Charlotte Lennox

Associated Works

Eighteenth Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology (1989) — Contributor — 118 copies
The Penguin Book of Women's Humour (1996) — Contributor — 115 copies
Poems Between Women (1997) — Contributor — 89 copies
Old city manners : a comedy — Reviser — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Lennox, Charlotte
Legal name
Ramsay, Charlotte (born)
Other names
Ramsay, Charlotte (birth name)
Date of death
Burial location
Broad Court Cemetery, London, England, UK
Place of death
London, England, UK
Places of residence
London, England, UK
New York, New York, USA
Johnson, Samuel (friend)
Richardson, Samuel (friend)
Short biography
Charlotte Lennox, née Ramsay (she was christened Barbara), is most famous as the author of The Female Quixote (1752) and for her long association with Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and Samuel Richardson. Very little is known about her early life. She was the daughter of a Scottish-born British officer, James Ramsey, who may have served as Lieutenant-Governor of New York, though she was probably born in Gibraltar. She lived in New York for several years, and after her father’s death around 1743, travelled to England. She may have tried acting before taking up writing to support herself. She published her first collection of verse, Poems on Several Occasions, in 1747 and that same year, married Alexander Lennox, with whom she had two children, though the marriage was unhappy. Her first novel, The Life of Harriot Stuart, appeared in 1749. The Female Quixote, published in 1752, made her one of the most popular and influential novelists of her era. She edited The Lady’s Museum magazine, and produced the first comparative study of William Shakespeare's source material, called Shakespear Illustrated (1753–54), a project in which Dr. Johnson may have assisted. Her play Old City Manners (1775), an adaptation of Ben Jonson's Eastwood Ho!, was produced by David Garrick and successfully performed at the Theatre Royal. Despite her literary fame, Charlotte Lennox earned very little from the sale of her books, and died impoverished.



Group Read, September 2013: The Female Quixote in 1001 Books to read before you die (September 2013)


Bother. I was so hoping that this would prove to be a happy discovery. Instead it was repetitive and dull. This is probably due to the difference in publication process. Getting one chapter a week would spread the silliness thinly. But getting it all at once give you cotton candy.
OutOfTheBestBooks | 8 other reviews | Sep 24, 2021 |
I can't be the only person who didn't see this book as anti-novel reading! This is one of my favorite books ever and to me it makes a point about the lack of female education at the time (Hey, even the value we place on female education now!) and the way that women were often kept totally separate from 'real life'. Like children being moved from one parent to another (father to husband). Of course, since Arabella knows nothing of the world, and her father is not the involved parent of the year, she's going to latch onto the thing that gives her the most pleasure and a look into romantic relationships and adventure.

It is hilarious how she gets so many things wrong, but it's even more interesting that she has the strength of personality to get people to go along with her. They might think she's loony but even her suitors start to learn to read her gestures and play along with how she wants her life to be. The end is pretty disappointing, but until then, Arabella does shape at least part of her own world, like the queens in the books she loves. It's pretty fantastic, really.

I love seeing the influences this book must have had on Northanger Abbey (I can't imagine it didn't) and even Emma, a bit, as well as some influence on the up and coming gothic genre. I'd give this book more stars if I could.
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3 vote
puglibrarian | 8 other reviews | Jul 24, 2019 |
For its time, this is a pretty readable and engaging bit of writing that isn’t overlong and makes clever use of wry humour as it takes a dig at romance novels and their effect on particularly feminine fantasies. It’s kind of like an 18th century version of Cold Comfort Farm.

Arabella is the protagonist who falls under the spell of the masses of romantic literature she plunders from her father’s library. In this, Lennox was parodying the spell that Don Quixote falls under from books of chivalry that turn his brain.

For me, the ludicrous situations that Arabella ends up in as a result of her delusions were as humorous as that of the Don. Through this, Lennox is also able to comment on the influence of literature, just as Cervantes was able to comment on the social mores of his day.

For this, Lennox deserves (and received at the time) great credit, particularly as the 18th century wasn’t the easiest period of literary history for a woman to get herself published.

The plot is well complicated by the fact that, on his deathbed, Arabella’s father insists that the only way to come into her full inheritance is to marry her stable, well balanced and affectionate cousin Glanville. However, his normality is a far cry from her fantasies and this provides for many of the crises throughout the novel.

It all ends reasonably enough though with Arabella regaining her senses and predictably marrying her suitor, but it’s a fairly engaging ride along the way.
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arukiyomi | 8 other reviews | Dec 23, 2015 |
The plot is well summarized in other reviews here. I would add that overall this was entertaining, though the pacing was a bit odd. There was a section in book two with interminable examples of what the French heroines would do and the ending conversion was too quick, but for pure enjoyment, in some ways this was better than Don Quixote because fewer people got hurt and the bathroom humor was absent. Its overall quality and scope does not match Don Quixote, as its intent was smaller. The best part of the book happened in Arabella's seclusion in the country.

As a whole this was fairly simple book, but for a novel from the 1700's I was impressed. It comments that there is a distinction between absurd novels and good fiction. The modern challenge then is for an individual reader to find the "good" fiction, and we have quite a bit more to sort through than Arabella did! An additional truth applicable to modern life is that one cannot disappear from the world, it continually intrudes. I would recommend this book to those who enjoyed Don Quixote or have an interest in the phenomenon of reclusiveness / separation from community life.
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karmiel | 8 other reviews | Aug 11, 2015 |



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