The Coquette; or, the History of Eliza Wharton: a Novel: Founded on Fact. By a Lady of Massachusetts. Hannah Webster Foster.
The Coquette; or, the History of Eliza Wharton: a Novel: Founded on Fact. By a Lady of Massachusetts.
The Coquette; or, the History of Eliza Wharton: a Novel: Founded on Fact. By a Lady of Massachusetts.

The Coquette; or, the History of Eliza Wharton: a Novel: Founded on Fact. By a Lady of Massachusetts.

Charleston: Printed by Samuel Etheridge for E. and S. Larkin, 1802. Second edition. First published in 1797. The first edition is rare in commerce, last appearing at auction in 1954. The second edition is rare as well and last appeared at auction in 1982. Rubbing to extremities. Rectangular segment cut from front free endpaper (seemingly to excise an ink signature). Ink gift signature to first page: “Love, Folger. January 11 1832. Ruth Pinkham.” Foxing and toning throughout. A good, tight copy of an early American novel, one of the most popular novels of its day, and a work that shaped decades of fiction by and about women. Contemporary brown tree calf with red morocco spine label. Twelvemo. 261, [1] pp. Item #17236

The present work is one of the most important examples of early fiction by women in the United States. Hannah Webster Foster (1758 – 1840) and Susanna Rowson were the two bestselling novelists of the 1790s (ANB) in the United States. New editions of The Coquette were published regularly until 1874. In “The Voice of the Preceptress,” Shelley Jarenski called it one of the two “canonical representations of seduction novels by women,” with Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1791); it was also an “instant bestseller” (ANB) that acted as both an affirmation of and sly challenge to the notion that novels would degrade the morals of young women.

Hannah Webster Foster (1758 – 1840) based the present work on Elizabeth Whitman, a wealthy young woman whose tragic story had gripped the press a decade previous when she eloped with an unsuitable bachelor and died during childbirth. Whitman’s death was repeatedly invoked as the result of novel-reading, which corrupted her character and led her into suffering. Foster retells Whitman’s life loosely: she focuses the fictional Eliza Wharton’s story on her flighty, romantic character and the negative influences that prompted her poor decision-making. One of these influences, of course, is Wharton’s novel-reading: in Founded in Fiction, Thomas Koenigs calls The Coquette “a tale about the profound effect that novels can have on female conduct.” Koenigs also notes that a crucial aspect of Foster’s novel is that it differentiates between the purely fictional, corruptive novels read by women like Eliza Wharton and the honest, “founded on fact” novel that Foster wrote. This dichotomy shaped the landscape of American fiction and conversations about the propriety of novel-reading well into the nineteenth century.Cherniavsky, Eva. In the American National Biography.Jarenski, Shelley. “The Voice of the Preceptress: Female Education in and as the Seduction Novel,” in The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, vol. 37, no. 1 (2004), p. 59.
Koenigs, Thomas. Founded in Fiction: The Uses of Fiction in the Early United States (Princeton UP, 2021), p. 41.Wright I, 986 (first edition).

Price: $1,500.00

See all items by