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The Coquette by Hannah W. Foster
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The Coquette (1797)

by Hannah W. Foster

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A historically significant, proto-feminist work of early American literature, it stands the test of time and relative obscurity. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jan 15, 2017 |
The Coquette: or, The History of Eliza Wharton by Hannah Webster Foster

Set in 1797, based on the true story of Eliza Wharton.She finds herself falling for two suitors, Reverend Boyer and Major Sanford. Eliza is well liberated for a woman of her time, and the situation she gets herself into is quite scandalous.

She has her friends and Mother who will all be affected by Eliza's actions. Told alternating chapters, in letters written by and to each other, we know exactly how each person feels.

I found the story enjoyable, yet a bit sad (for Eliza) at the way life was back then for women and how they were treated. I highly recommend The Coquette: or, The History of Eliza Wharton to those who love historical stories (based on true life events). ( )
  SheriAWilkinson | Mar 11, 2016 |
This is a frustrating novel, perhaps because I read it for my American Lit class and thus was forced to discuss certain aspects of the book. I found Maj. Sanford very interesting, though certainly villainous. And yet, it must be said that he certainly loved Eliza, in his own way. I mean, he took care of her. In his own way. That said, he's still a douchebag.

Eliza herself is kind of an idiot, and I don't approve at all of her actions, but I also sympathize with her. She didn't really have a lot of choices, and I think she might've been mentally unstable to begin with. In class, we talked a lot about how she didn't want to conform to society's expectations of women, but... Surely there were better ways to rebel than, y'know, THIS?

I love novels in the form of letters, but it also kind of frustrated me because I'll never REALLY know some of the things that went down. I only know what people told each other. ( )
  BrynDahlquis | Mar 1, 2015 |
This is a very interesting book, and Eliza is a very frustrating character. She is always asking for advice, but never heeds it. She is in her 30s but seems much younger due to her carefree attitude.

I read the preface after I finished, and was very surprised to learn who the character of Major Sanford represented. The seducer was identified as none other than Pierpont Edwards, son of the famous Rev. Jonathan Edwards! The book became much more interesting when I found that out.


Some quotes I highlighted (electronically, of course):

Eliza: "The heart of your friend is again besieged. Whether it will surrender to the assailants or not I am unable at present to determine. Sometimes I think of becoming a predestinarian, and submitting implicitly to fate, without any exercise of free will; but, as mine seems to be a wayward one, I would counteract the operations of it, if possible."

Mrs. Richman: "I do not think you [Eliza] seducible; nor was Richardson's Clarissa till she made herself the victim by her own indiscretion."

Mr. Selby: "I now joined in the general topic of conversation, which was politics; Mrs. Richman and Miss Wharton judiciously, yet modestly, bore a part; while the other ladies amused themselves with Major Sanford... General Richman at length observed that we had formed into parties. Major Sanford, upon, this, laid aside his book. Miss Lawrence simpered, and looked as if she was well pleased with being in a party with so fine a man; while her mother replied that she never meddled with politics. 'Miss Wharton and I,' said Mrs. Richman, 'must beg leave to differ from you, madam. We think ourselves interested in the welfare and prosperity of our country; and, consequently, claim the right of inquiring into those affairs which may conduce to or interfere with the common weal. We shall not be called to the senate or the field to assert its privileges and defend its rights, but we shall feel, for the honor and safety of our friends and connections who are thus employed. If the community flourish and enjoy health and freedom, shall we not share in the happy effects? If it be oppressed and disturbed, shall we not endure our proportion of the evil? Why, then, should the love of our country be a masculine passion only? Why should government, which involves the peace and order of the society of which we are a part, be wholly excluded from our observation?' Mrs. Lawrence made some slight reply, and waived the subject. The gentlemen applauded Mrs. Richman's sentiments as truly Roman, and, what was more, they said, truly republican."

Mr. Boyer, on not marrying Eliza: "The more I reflect on her temper and disposition, the more my gratitude is enlivened towards the wise Disposer of all events for enabling me to break asunder the snares of the deluder. I am convinced that the gayety and extravagance of her taste, the frivolous levity of her manners, disqualify her for the station in which I wished to have placed her."

Julia: "She [Eliza] then approached her mamma, fell upon her knees before her, and clasping her hand, said, in broken accents, 'O madam, can you forgive a wretch, who has forfeited your love, your kindness, and your compassion?' 'Surely, Eliza,' said she, 'you are not that being! No, it is impossible! But however great your transgression, be assured of my forgiveness, my compassion, and my continued love.' Saying this, she threw her arms about her daughter's neck, and affectionately kissed her. Eliza struggled from her embrace, and looking at her with wild despair, exclaimed, 'This is too much! O, this unmerited goodness is more than I can bear!'"

Julia: "...but, what was still dearer, the reputation and virtue? of the unfortunate Eliza have fallen victims at the shrine of libertinism. Detested be the epithet. Let it henceforth bear its true signature, and candor itself shall call it lust and brutality."

Eliza: "...for the sake of my sex in general, I wish it engraved upon every heart, that virtue alone, independent of the trappings of wealth, the parade of equipage, and the adulation of gallantry, can secure lasting felicity. From the melancholy story of Eliza Wharton let the American fair learn to reject with disdain every insinuation derogatory to their true dignity and honor. Let them despise and forever banish the man who can glory in the seduction of innocence and the ruin of reputation. To associate is to approve; to approve is to be betrayed." ( )
  kathleen586 | Mar 30, 2013 |
This was pretty good - a quick read and a much better experience than my recent run-ins with epistolary novels. The failures of Eliza Wharton reminded me slightly of Lily Bart from House of Mirth, who is one of my favorite fictional characters. I'd definitely recommend The Coquette for English lit nerds and fans of women writers/stories about the woes of women past (those types seem to go together quite a bit). ( )
  HannahEvans | Oct 25, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Foster, Hannah W.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, Cathy N.Editor, Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195042395, Paperback)

The Coquette tells the much-publicized story of the seduction and death of Elizabeth Whitman, a poet from Hartford, Connecticut.
Written as a series of letters--between the heroine and her friends and lovers--it describes her long, tortuous courtship by two men, neither of whom perfectly suits her. Eliza Wharton (as Whitman is called in the novel) wavers between Major Sanford, a charming but insincere man, and the Reverend Boyer, a bore who wants to marry her. When, in her mid-30s, Wharton finds herself suddenly abandoned when both men marry other women, she willfully enters into an adulterous relationship with Sanford and becomes pregnant. Alone and dejected, she dies in childbirth at a roadside inn. Eliza Wharton, whose real-life counterpart was distantly related to Hannah Foster's husband, was one of the first women in American fiction to emerge as a real person facing a dilemma in her life. In her Introduction, Davidson discusses the parallels between Elizabeth Whitman and the fictional Eliza Wharton. She shows the limitations placed on women in the 18th century and the attempts of one woman to rebel against those limitations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The demise of a respectable but unloved fianc? introduces a sudden and intoxicating freedom into Eliza Wharton's life. Two new beaus vie for her attention: Reverend Boyer, a staid and proper clergyman, and Major Sanford, a dashing libertine. Reluctant to commit to either suitor, Eliza struggles with the conflicts between duty, romance, and her new-found independence. Based on the true story of Eliza Whitman, the much-talked-about focus of America's first tabloid scandal, this 1797 novel both satirizes and pays homage to its sentimental precursors. The tale unfolds from a variety of perspectives, recounted in a series of letters between the heroine and her friends and family. Eliza's situation reflects the limited options available to middle-class women of her era, and her dilemma and its resolution offer fascinating historical, literary, and cultural insights into early American society.… (more)

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