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The Coquette (1797)
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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)
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.
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