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Charlotte Smith (1) [1749–1806]

This page covers the author of Emmeline, The Orphan Of The Castle.

For other authors named Charlotte Smith, see the disambiguation page.

Charlotte Smith (1) has been aliased into Charlotte Turner Smith.

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Charlotte Turner Smith was born in London, England, the oldest child of a wealthy family. Her mother Anna Towers Turner died when Charlotte was very young, and her father Nicholas Turner travelled abroad. She and her siblings were raised by Lucy Towers, their maternal aunt. Charlotte was educated at schools in Chichester and Kingston and had lessons from private tutors. She began writing poetry at an early age. Her father returned to England, having spent most of his money, and remarried to a wealthy woman. He also arranged a marriage for Charlotte, aged 15, to Benjamin Smith, the son of a well-to-do West Indian merchant. They had 12 children but the marriage was deeply unhappy: her husband was a violent and profligate man. In 1783, he was thrown into King's Bench debtors' prison, where Charlotte joined him and began writing to provide for her family. Her first book, a collection called Elegiac Sonnets and Other Essays (1784), was a success and later went into several editions. She also translated Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost into English. However, fiction promised greater financial rewards, so she wrote 10 novels including Emmeline; or, The Orphan of the Castle (1788), Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake (1789), Desmond (1792), and The Old Manor-House (1793). She obtained a legal separation from her husband in 1787, and although he hid from his creditors in Scotland and France, he often secretly returned to England to claim her book earnings. Her father-in-law Richard Smith attempted in his will to bypass his son entirely and leave the bulk of his estate directly to Charlotte, but this only led to a 30-year legal battle. In 1799, her comedy What Is She? was performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Near the end of her life, she turned to writing instructive books for children, the best being Conversations Introducing Poetry for the Use of Children (1804). A collection of poems in manuscript was published posthumously in 1807 under the title Beachy Head and Other Poems. Her poetic works were praised by Coleridge and Wordsworth, while her novels are credited with influencing the young Dickens. Today she is recognized as an important Romantic writer.

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