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Charlotte Lennox
The Lives and Letters of an Eighteenth-Century Circle of Acquaintance. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. p121-144. Rpt. in
Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 263. Detroit, MI: Gale. From Literature Resource Center.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning
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[(essay date 2006) In the following essay, Berg examines the correspondence of Lennox and her friend Julia Clerke to establish Lennox’s attitudes toward women’s place in the social and literary culture of her time. Lennox wrote of her difficulties as a mother and as a writer, in the first instance of protecting “vulnerable young women” from unhappy marriages such as her own and providing adequately for her children; in the second with the trials of authorship, such as dealing with book sellers, contending with copyright infringement, and establishing credibility as a literary scholar.]

… The affair of Miss Bowes is but too true. A wretch who is a member of Parliament & calls himself a Gentleman, sent a man who is a famous pimp at the Cardigans head into this Country to ingratiate himself with Miss Bowes’s footman, & to tell him he shd have a reward of twenty thousand £ if he wd help to carry off the young Lady; that the person who was to marry her was a member of Parliament & wd make a great figure in the H: of Commons this sessions; this footman, you must know, is lover to a Woman who was nurse to the young Lady, & now attends her as a servant. These two persons pondered on this proposal why they did so I can not tell, but however 5 days after it had been made they acquainted Mrs. Bowes with it. She in a fright told her steward, her steward in a fright seized the man of the Cardigan head, & in a fright sent him to the justice the justice in a fright sent him to the house of correction, which I hope may tend to the amendments of this wicked fellows morals but cannot serve any other purpose whatever for he will not confess who sent him into ye Country, nor what he was to do, had this footman been ordered to appear to acquiece, the whole design wd have been unfolded now all they learn from ye letters in his pocket is that Mr. H—is the person who sent him into this Country & ye errand to run away with Miss Bowes by help of her footman, but whither by fraud or violence is not clear. & all that is certainly known is that ye first letter of ye member of Parliaments name is H. It seems there is a Gentleman who is a sort of an adventurer who has been seen in London with this fellow whose name so begins & is also a member of Parliament. It is imagined the servants were to carry this young creature by force, & that ye adventurous lover wd have so married her perhaps abroad, & have trusted to his agrémens & ways of making himself agreable for her submitting to be his wife, but she is a girl of sense & spirit, & I think he wd probably have been hanged for his pains. Mrs. Bowes & Miss Bowes made me a visit since I came hither, she is really a fine girl, lively, sensible, & very civil & goodnatured.Letter from Sarah Scott to Elizabeth Montagu (1763)
Prove, therefore, that the Books which I have hitherto read as Copies of Life, and Models of Conduct, are empty Fictions [proposes Arabella], and from this Hour I deliver them to Moths and Mould; and from this Time consider Their Authors as Wretches who cheated me of those Hours I ought to have dedicated to Application and Improvement, and betrayed me to a Waste of those years in which I might have laid up Knowledge for my future Life.
… It is the Fault of the best Fictions [asserts the Doctor], that they teach young Minds to expect strange Adventures and sudden Vicissitudes, and therefore encourage them often to trust to Chance … the Order of the World is so established, that all human Affairs proceed in a regular Method, and very little Opportunity is left for Sallies or Hazards, for Assault or Rescue; but the Brave and the Coward, the Sprightly and the Dull, suffer themselves to be carried alike down the Stream of Custom.Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote (1752)

Charlotte Lennox (1729-1804) is, without question, the most famous of the letter writers. Born Charlotte Ramsay in Gibraltar in 1729, she spent 1739 to 1742 in the colony of New York, where her father was stationed.1 In her second letter to Lydia, she marks the death of her father as a turning point in her life: “I have been a wretch since I was thirteen years old when I lost my father—adversity is habitual to me.” Upon her father’s death (in 17422), she was sent to England to live with a rich aunt. However, upon her arrival in London, she learned that her aunt was insane and/or dead. Left unprotected and alone in London, she was patronized by the aristocratic Rockingham/Newcastle/Finch circle and the literary Samuel Johnson/ Thomas Birch circle. Her first book, Poems on Several Occasions, appeared in 1747, the same year in which she married Alexander Lennox. Her first novel, The Life of Harriot Stuart, Written by Herself, appeared in 1751, and her most acclaimed novel, The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella, followed in 1752. Her most controversial work, a critical survey of Shakespeare’s plays in which she found Shakespeare’s revisions inferior to the original romances on which they were based, was Shakespear Illustrated; or The Novels and Histories, on which the Plays of Shakespear are founded Collected and Translated from the Original Authors with Critical Remarks (1753). She also wrote plays, translated memoirs, and edited The Lady’s Museum. Supported in the last years of her life by the Royal Literary Fund, she died penniless on 4 January 1804.

Lennox’s letters provide the story of John and Lydia with its most dramatic moments. John’s letter opens the story with the hero and heroine married and confounded by the exigencies of domestic life. The ensuing letters from Winstanley, Dobson, and Ann and Charles Clerke give us exposition and rising action, humor and pathos. We get a better understanding of the problems—sexual, financial, legal, familial—facing John and Lydia. In Lennox’s letters the narrative comes to a crisis and achieves resolution.

Lennox’s first letter is dated 10 August 1776. Lydia clearly is in deep distress. By the time Lennox sends her second letter, dated 16 June 1777, John Clerke has died (on 11 October 1776) and Lydia has weighed his failings against his virtues and found peace.

From: Charlotte Lennox, Tower Hill
To: Lady Clerke, Buxton
Date: 30 August [1776]
Oh my dearest Lady Clerke what a letter have you wrote me! how shall I comfort you, how shall I comfort my self—I feel I have philosophy only for my own misfortunes—yours depresses me quite—believe me I neither feign, nor exaggerate—I am overwhelmd with your affliction—I can think of nothing but you, and ever since I have received your letter I have not been able to speak a civil Word to any body—peevish, quarrelsome, and out of humour with my self and every thing about me—good god! what a reverse—you have known nothing hitherto but prosperity—how severely must you feel this stroke—I have been a wretch since I was thirteen years old when I lost my father—adversity is habitual to me—but you—oh my dear friend my heart bleeds for you—what an affecting picture do you draw of your present situation—wandering alone—wishing to seclude yourself for ever among the rocks that surround you—but my dear friend you shall not while I have life, live in a cottage alone—I will accompany you in any retirement, I will join my pittance to yours, and your dear society would perhaps make some sparks of genius again and enable me to enlarge our little income by my pen—such is the wish of friendship—oh that Mr. L would allow me some thing yearly that I might put this scheme in execution—that abominable Lord Rochford—what can he say for himself—is he not trustd to finish his own Work—why did he encumber you with a title and why draw you in to impoverish your self to fit out your husband for his fatal expedition—I could stab him—alas! my dear Lady Clerke amidst so many solid causes for affliction, I am likewise tormenting myself about one which indeed compared with the rest is trifling and yet I feel it sensibly—you tell me you are going to your old lodgings because you suppose I have not a spare bed as I did not mention it—Good God! my dear friend, how could you serve me so—I have been utterly ignorant of your motions, I thought you would have told me when you left Leverpool. I knew not that you were at Buxton I was in doubt whether you intended to come to town or not—I have dispatchd My Nurse to Painton Street with directions to find out if you have absolutely engagd the Lodgings, and if you have not, to tell them that it was a mistake—and that you are to be with me—I have likewise ordered her to await your arrival on Friday and to attend you here—could I have hoped that this letter would have reached you at Buxton before you left I would have sent it to the post—but I have but this moment got your letter this is Monday evening; and you are to set on Wednesday, and nurse tells me you would not get my letter in time—Mr. Lennox this moment tells me that if I send my letter now, you will get it before you leave Buxton, I have not a moment to lose—I will send it away—remember my dear Lady Clerke you must come directly here—I shall die with grief if you go to a lodging. For heaven’s sake spare me this mortification—adieu my dearest friend I must not add another word for fear of delay
Yours ever and entire[ly]
[Gr]eat Tower hill CL
[Au]gust 30
From: Charlotte Lennox, Nottingham Street, near Marybon Church
To: Lady Clerke, Gosport
Date: 16 June 1777
My Dear Lady Clerke
Mrs Thornton indulgd me with the perusal of a letter from you on a late melancholly event—I say indulged me, for although my eyes streamd at every line, I would not have exchanged the sweetly painful emotions I felt, for the broadest mirth of unfeeling prosperity. Never did such natural and affecting eloquence flow from your pen before! it is your heart that speaks, and you speak to the heart so powerfully, that I wept as much at the third reading of your letter as I did at the first—I freely confess to you that I have this letter now in my possession. I forced it from Mrs Thornton in order to convert some of the infidels of the other Sex, who maintain that no woman was ever generous enough to forgive certain offences in a husband. That unaffected display of the most tender, the most generous sentiments that ever warmd a human breast, does you so much honour, that they ought not to be conceald, and form the noblest apology for the mistakes of the dear Object of your regrets, since no one can doubt for a moment, that he who could inspire so pure and constant a passion in such a heart as yours, must have possessd many, and great Virtues. And let it be your consolation that he did possess them and that he will now reap the full benefit of them—for he is gone where falsehood, envy, and malice can neither aggravate his failings, nor rob his merits of their just reward. You say your health is impaird, I fear it will be more so my dear friend, if you continue to give way to grief—amiable as that grief is, you ought to suppress it, when its effects are likely to be so fatal—patience under inevitable evils, is not more an act of duty, than necessity—“we are all (says a certain philosopher) born with a heavy log to which we are chaind, but he who takes it up, and carries it, feels less inconvenience than he who drags it along.” I hope this letter will find you on your return from Wales, in better health, disposd to admit company, and to enjoy tranquility, which while you were continually fluctuating between hope, and fear, was not to be expected.
I ought to make you an apology for not letting you know of my removal from Tower hill—I can not palliate, nor disguise the truth, therefore I will honestly own, that not having received any answer to two or three letters which I wrote to you—I thought I owd so much respect to my self as to be silent for the future—I am here at Marybon where I have the greatest part of a pretty house, in a very pleasant situation—Your Harriet is with me, and one maid makes up all my equipage—My dear little boy is always with me from Saturday, till Sunday evening, when he returns to the Academy, of which, young as he is, he is the ornament, and delight—As I have a spare bed chamber Mr Lennox is here, as often as his business will permit—he has an apartment near the Custom house, and for the present supplies my expences—but how long he will be able to do it I cannot tell, for the American War has greatly reduced his income, while it has left him the same habits of expence—My sufferings were so great during the last twelve month that I resided at Tower hill, that I was reduced to a most deplorable state of health, and this added at least ten years to my looks, as every one who saw me could easily perceive.
I thank you my dear Lady Clerke for your subscription, and for what you mention concerning Marmontel’s book—my necessities will I fear oblige me to take up my pen again, but I doubt much whether I can bear any sort of study, my nerves are so much affected by the continual agitation of my mind for so long a time: besides I am likely to be engaged in a War with [the] booksellers—who have venturd in [defi]ance of an act of parliament to prin[t a] new edition of Sully’s Memoirs, [which is] now my sole property—Doct[or Johnson] has been with me on this occa[sion and] pointed out to me what measu[res I need] to pursue—I believe I shall not find it difficult to find Lawyers who will serve me without fees—but Lord Camden is the person who could do me most good, and him, I am afraid I hav[e lost him]. Garrick who brought [Lord Camden] to visit me at Tower hill, [is now] very much disposed to be [angry with me]. I have disobligd Garrick [by not giving] the comedy of Old City Manners to him, as he hopd, and even in an artful way requested I would—he has been my enemy ever since and doubtless will prevent Lord Camden with whom he is very intimate from being of any use to me. Harriet begs I will leave room for her to write a few lines to you whom she truly dotes on—my best compliments wait on Your Mama—I am my Dear Lady Clerke ever
Yours affectionately
C. Lennox
direct for me at No. 7
Nottingham Street, near Marybon Church

[Harriet’s message to Lady Clerke is written on the back of her mother’s letters; brackets indicate holes in the paper and possible missing words:]

My Dear Lady Clerke
My ma[ma tells me]
to say I love you but not to [say how much]
that would require a whole [page and not]
leave space enough for me [to sign myself]
[Your F]aithful
Henrietta-Holles Lennox

Charlotte and Lydia

In Lennox’s first letter, we learn that John has suffered a devastating financial mishap. Lydia fears penury. Lamenting John’s “fatal expedition,” Lennox insists Lydia come to her and take up residence in her house so that they might live together and support one another emotionally and financially. By the time Lennox writes the second letter, John is dead and Lydia is no longer in danger of impoverishment. As her will explains, she received a substantial sum from a Nabob. She now has the wherewithal to purchase a subscription from Lennox. Not only has she arranged her financial affairs but her emotional affairs are also in order. In a letter to Mrs. Thornton, Lydia has reflected on her marriage, summed up John’s virtues and vices, and, in the purity of her passion, forgiven him much. Charlotte has read this letter, admired it, and “forced it from Mrs Thornton in order to convert some of the infidels of the other Sex, who maintain that no woman was ever generous enough to forgive certain offences in a husband.” Because Lennox writes indirectly, we cannot know for sure what is the unforgivable offence in a husband Lydia now forgives, but with Susannah Dobson’s epistolary innuendoes in mind it seems likely that the transgression was sexual.

Lennox’s concern for Lydia is unaffected and touching, her sympathy spontaneous and moving. Perhaps she expresses herself so candidly because she sees her own domestic situation mirrored in Lydia’s. Both women were married to improvident men, and there was very little they could do to protect their financial security, for even their own money was not their own. Although in her second letter Lennox speaks of Sully’s Memoirs as “my sole property,” it was actually her husband’s. Under eighteenth-century coverture (and until passage of the Married Women’s Property Acts in the nineteenth century), a woman’s earnings were her husband’s property. Not only is she unable to spend even her own earnings without her husband’s consent, but she must watch helplessly as he wastes his own. Lennox knows from bitter experience the helplessness of Lydia’s position, and her epistolary eloquence is real and passionate.

Charlotte and Lydia not only shared the insecurities of volatile domestic situations, but each also sought the consolations of female friendship to ease the pains of her predicament. The existence of the Lydia Clerke collection proves just how completely Lydia depended on her women friends. While she enjoyed receiving and rereading letters from the men she knew (as witness the existence and preservation of letters from her husband, Thomas Winstanley, and Charles Clerke), clearly it was letters from women like Ann Clerke and Sylvia Brathwaite (whose letters outnumber those of anyone else in the circle) that she most treasured. Female friendship was also vitally important to Charlotte Lennox. Although Janet Todd praises Clarissa as “the century’s most acute analysis of female friendship,”3 the accolade might just as fairly go to Euphemia, Lennox’s last novel.

Euphemia portrays a relationship between two women, Maria and Euphemia, that is not only heart-felt and enduring but exemplary in its sororal parity. Moreover, the two heroines (already a significant deviation from the usual pattern of a single and singular heroine) are very like Lydia Clerke and Sylvia Brathwaite. One heroine, Euphemia, is, like Lydia, older and married, sadder but wiser. She writes to the younger woman, Maria, who, like Sylvia, seeks guidance in her choice of a husband.

Euphemia not only reflects the relationship of Lydia Clerke and Sylvia Brathwaite; it also reflects that of Lydia Clerke and Charlotte Lennox. Like Euphemia and Maria, Lydia and Charlotte support one another. While Lennox offers philosophical advice and emotional support, Lydia offers literary advice and monetary encouragement. In an intervening letter that we do not have, Lydia must have suggested to Charlotte that she translate one of Marmontel’s works. Lennox agrees that she will have to “take up [her] pen again,” but doubts that she can undertake such an arduous task as translation. Lydia has also bought a subscription to Lennox’s works and Lennox thanks her accordingly.

Euphemia enabled Lennox to emphasize the centrality, vitality, and urgency of female friendship, which was, both in her fictions and in her life, essential and elusive. “Female friendship,” observes Janet Todd in Women’s Friendship in Literature, “was a fascinating and inspiring theme in the eighteenth century.”4 However, as important as friendship was to women, fractures occurred. Women do not always like one another; jealousies and competitions interfere. Sylvia Brathwaite makes fun of Susannah Dobson’s ridiculous outfits and intellectual activities, while Sylvia Thornton mocks her stinginess and ambiguous sexuality. Susannah Dobson dwells on Lydia Clerke’s misfortunes to the point that her concern borders on smugness. Eventually Lydia Clerke distances herself from Susannah, possibly as a consequence of her long-winded intimations of John Clerke’s guilt and Lydia’s sexual vulnerability. While we might understand her rejection of Susannah, we must question her neglect of the gentle Ann Clerke upon her refusal to cast aside Susannah. Women can be very hard on one another. Nevertheless, rather than see the volatility of these women’s relationships as evidence of their inability to make firm and lasting bonds, we can view it as signifying the importance of friendship for eighteenth-century women. Friendship was so important that even the slightest instance of discord or malice could rupture it.

In Lennox’s letters to Lydia, we see how brittle the tie between women can be. In her first letter, Lennox sincerely and enthusiastically offers to help Lydia in any way she can. She wishes she had money of her own so that she could share it with her friend. She implores Lady Clerke to come to her house. Yet, from the tenor of Lennox’s second letter to Lydia, it would seem that Lady Clerke was repulsed by Lennox’s first letter. She did not answer it in a timely manner, and Lennox interpreted this hesitation as rejection: “I can not palliate, nor disguise the truth, therefore I will honestly own, that not having received any answer to two or three letters which I wrote to you—I thought I owd so much respect to my self as to be silent for the future.” Even two hundred years later, the hurt Lennox felt at what she perceived as rejection by Lydia registers distinctly. Why did Lydia delay responding to Charlotte? Perhaps the slight was unintended. Perhaps someone else closer to hand offered protection and in the bustle of all her comings and goings she postponed responding to Lennox. Perhaps the slight was intended. Perhaps Lydia found Charlotte’s eagerness, particularly her image of their living together in a cottage alone, disconcerting. We cannot, in the end, know for certain how Lennox’s letter affected Lady Clerke, or why she put off answering it. But it is clear that by the time Lennox wrote her second letter, the relationship was reaffirmed. Lydia must have finally sent a letter (or letters) to soothe Lennox’s bruised feelings. Lennox’s second letter alludes to what Lydia might have offered, and Lennox accepted, as a reasonable excuse for the gap in their correspondence: “I hope this letter will find you on your return from Wales, in better health, disposd to admit company, and to enjoy tranquility, which while you were continually fluctuating between hope, and fear, was not to be expected.” Lydia’s vacillating emotional state interfered with her ability to be the friend she usually was. Lennox not only excuses her friend but finds fault with her own expectations; she should not have expected Lydia to be otherwise than distracted.

Protecting Younger Women

Female friendship was important to women not only as they weathered marital difficulties, but also as they tried to protect young women like Sylvia Brathwaite from harm. When Sarah Scott writes to her sister Elizabeth Montagu about “the affair of Miss Bowes,” she presents an example of the terrible hazards a young girl faced.5 Her unequivocal assertions—“The affair of Miss Bowes is but too true”—and final return to the norms of genteel women’s visiting habits—“Mrs. Bowes & Miss Bowes made me a visit since I came hither, she is really a fine girl, lively, sensible, & very civil & goodnatured”—attest to the reality of what admittedly sounds like the plot of a novel, in fact the most famous novel of the period, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. Published in 1747, Clarissa tells the story of an ambiguous seduction/abduction. An immediate bestseller, it served as a model for numerous novels that followed, including Lennox’s The Life of Harriot Stuart, published three years later. Perhaps Richardson’s novels as well as those of some of his imitators were in Scott’s mind as she represented the reactions of the various characters and rhythmically repeated “in a fright” as if to turn her story into a fictional one. She knew that her story might be seen as just another of those outrageous fictions about which women were constantly being warned in the eighteenth century. But by ending her story as she did, with a peaceful return to normalcy, she underscores its truth to lived reality.

Although her mother was able to protect her in this instance, in the end Miss Bowes encountered troubles from which her mother could not extricate her. In 1767, four years after Scott’s letter, Miss Bowes married John Lyon, Earl of Strathmore. Quickly widowed, she once more became the prey of fortune hunters. In 1777, she married Andrew Robinson Stowey, an Irish adventurer. He “proceeded to squander her fortune, indulge in sexual exploits with servant girls and beat his wife as a punishment for her very existence.” The full story of their marriage and divorce can be found in Jane Cox’s Hatred Pursued Beyond the Grave.6 A fictional version can be found in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq., by Himself. Like the life of Lydia Clerke, the life of Miss Bowes slips easily into fiction.

Although eighteenth-century women were constantly warned against reading fiction, for it aroused the emotions and fostered unnecessary fears, Lennox used her fictions and plays to argue that women do indeed suffer alarming assaults, such as the one Miss Bowes barely escaped. The vulnerability of the young girl forms the subtext of nearly everything she wrote. It is present in all her novels from Harriot Stuart [The Life of Harriot Stuart, Written by Herself] to Euphemia. It is present in her criticism of Shakespeare, where she faults him for weakening and trivializing the women characters he found in his predecessors’ texts, and in her play The Sister, where a young man traduces a young woman and even urges his friend to take sexual advantage of her only to learn in the end that she is his long-lost sister. He closes the play with an eloquent plea to men to treat all women as sisters. And it is most completely and complexly present in The Female Quixote, her second and most famous novel. Naive and yet extraordinarily insightful (like her even more famous Spanish predecessor), Arabella, the heroine of the novel, believes the romances she reads are true and, as a consequence, turns the mundane experiences of her ordinary life into sensational fictions. She insists that a new gardener is a disguised nobleman hopelessly enamored of her and undertaking menial labor in order to be near her. She lives in constant fear of abduction and rape. As the novel ends, she engages in a debate with a deeply learned and serious-minded Doctor who is brought in by her friends to “cure” her of her “affliction” and to reduce her dependency on the intoxicating flights of fiction. The Doctor tells Arabella that life is not as full of danger and passion as novels would have it. She seems, in the end, to acquiesce to his view of the world. However, it is questionable just how much she capitulates. Although she agrees with the good Doctor that it is wrong to provoke men to commit “Violence and Revenge” for the sake of proving their love, she does not actually ever agree that fiction is empty.

Like her heroine Arabella and her friend Sarah Scott, Lennox found real life to be full of incidents as amazing as any found in fiction. It is hard not to suspect that Lennox uses The Female Quixote to poke a little fun at the sacerdotal complacency of the good Divine. While the Doctor would empty life in order to empty fiction, Arabella, Scott, and Lennox insist on the fullness of both. Sometimes terrible and unexpected things do happen to real people, and especially to young women, who spend their lives subject to the unreliable protection of husbands, fathers, and brothers. Mrs. Scott’s sober narration of such an amazing episode about real people, whom she knew and with whom she exchanged visits, assures us that outrageous acts were committed against young women not only in fiction but in fact, and Lennox’s irony in both her novels and plays affirms time and again that young women need to be warned against men just as much if not more than they need to be warned against reading novels.

Lennox’s most poignant example of a young girl’s peril, in fact, occurs in a “real” letter rather than in a fictional text. Written to her husband, it represents their daughter Harriet as exposed to serious danger. Mr. Lennox wants to send their daughter to a convent in France, a situation perilously close to one encountered by Lennox’s fictional heroine Harriot Stuart. Lennox wants to keep their daughter closer to home:

I have talkd with Mr. Johnson, and other persons of good sense and experience, upon the expediency of sending Harriet to Boulogne for her education—and they are all of opinion, which they supported with very good reasons, that a Boarding school here, will be equally advantagious, equally cheap, and is liable to fewer inconveniencies than a convent. Their reasons have convinced me, and that is the cause that they will never convince you—therefore I submit to your despotick will, with this condition only, that I go with her, and see her settled—this point I never will give up—the next thing to be considered, is what necessaries must be provided—I will give you a list of what cloaths and Linnen are usually sent even to the cheapest schools Half a dozen frocks—she has two already; a dozen pr of stockings—she has four pr but they are old; half a dozen night caps—she has one; four under petticoats—of this article she has none but rags; Morning gowns—of these she has four which I think is enough; Three quilted caps with lace borders—of these she has none; a dozen shifts—of these she has five new ones, three not made up—the others are rags; a handsome Skirt, to wear on Sundays; All the skirts she has had, for more than two years past, have been made out of my gowns—she has two of these now, but more than half worn out and only fit to wear in common.7
Lennox’s tone as she enumerates her daughter’s scanty wardrobe reflects her desperation and despair. She cannot provide even the necessities for her daughter. How can she begin to exercise control over what will happen to her? She cannot stop her husband from willfully removing their daughter to a French convent. She can only insist on seeing her settled. Lennox knew from personal experience the dangers young women traveling alone confronted and how powerless mothers could be in their efforts to protect their daughters. When Scott ends her narration with Miss Bowes safely and securely by her mother’s side, she, like Lennox, insists on the mother’s right to confront and defeat threats, real and imagined, to a daughter’s virtue. But, with her rhythmic acknowledgment of the hazards a mother ran in a world controlled by unpredictable footmen, stewards, justices of the peace, and members of Parliament, Scott too concedes the limits of a mother’s power.

In her letter to her husband, Lennox goes on to suggest a school about four miles from Gosport, which would be preferable for many reasons, not least of which because of its proximity to Lady Clerke. Hoping to keep her daughter closer to home and under Lady Clerke’s protection, Lennox tells her husband that Lady Clerke has promised to “supply the place of a mother to her—that she would see her every week or fortnight, take her home to her Mama’s house during every vacation, and write me regular accounts of her health, her improvements and her behaviour.” As a further inducement Lennox tells her husband that Lady Clerke has already mentioned Harriet in her will, and that, considering Lady Clerke’s situation, their daughter would be “in fortune’s way” as well as in virtue’s way under her care.

Mothers and Daughters

Charlotte enthusiastically nurtured a relationship between Lydia and her daughter. “Your Harriet is with me,” she writes in her second letter. It was natural that she wanted these two people to know and care about one another; it must have pleased her to think that if anything should happen to her there was another woman who cared deeply about her daughter’s welfare. “Harriet begs I will leave room for her to write a few lines to you whom she truly dotes on,” Lennox remarks just before sending her compliments to Mrs. Hammond, Lady Clerke’s “Mama.” Lennox might have hoped that an emphasis on the mother/daughter bond across the generations would ensure Lydia’s continued interest in Harriet.

Undeniably Lydia Clerke cared about Harriet, and Harriet’s words to her express a sincere regard in return. Did Lennox tell her daughter what to write? or did she watch proudly and silently as her daughter penned the delightful note that now exists? If she did indeed supervise the construction of her daughter’s note it becomes just another sign of her maternal solicitude and belief in the power of female friendship. Harriet’s words are gentle and loving, and it is not hard to imagine that they deeply moved Lydia, whose tears may have worn the holes in the paper that now make reading the young girl’s words so difficult. Rereading Harriet’s note over the years, Lydia must have wept often, indulging in the sorrowful feelings brought on by bittersweet memories of a promising girl who died young.

In 1777, when she writes her amiable message to Lady Clerke, Harriet is twelve years old and under her mother’s protection. Just one year later, at the age of thirteen, she is arrested, along with her mother and a woman named Hannah Davis, for disturbing the peace. Indicted in the county of Middlesex as “wicked and evil disposed persons and Riotous Routers and disturbers of the peace,” the three women are accused of causing a great tumult “in the Dwelling House of one Nicholas Hancock” where they assaulted one Ann Brown.8 One of the strangest documents I came across, this indictment confounded me; I could not understand why a thirteen-year-old girl along with her mother and a third woman would engage in riotous assembly. Perhaps her age of thirteen years should alert us to another reading of this incident. Like her mother, who, according to her first letter to Lydia Clerke, was thirteen when her father died, Harriet was also thirteen when she encountered a potentially extremely dangerous situation.

Laetitia Hawkins, a young contemporary of Lennox’s, refers to this incident in a book of anecdotes. From her point of view it betokens Lennox’s brutality, which she sees as like Samuel Johnson’s: “The matter is indeed set even by his [Johnson] having decreed the palm of excellence in female authorship, to his favourite Charlotte Lennox whom I remember waiting at Hick’s-hall, till a trial came on before my father and the other justices;—a trial in which it must be confessed she had some concern; for it was an indictment preferred by her maid against her, for beating her! It came out that a battle had taken place between ‘the Female Quixote,’ and her solitary domestic. How the legal question was decided, I have, I regret to say, forgotten:—it gave me an opportunity of seeing the illustrious lady, and at a safe distance.”9 Hawkins writes many years after the event, so her memory may be faulty as well as incomplete. Nevertheless, her animosity and jealousy come through clearly and her representation of Lennox as a wild amazon ready to pick fights with hapless innocents is certainly supported by the wording on the indictment drawn up against the author, her daughter, and Hannah Davis. But is the incident as unequivocal as the indictment and Hawkins suggest?

If we turn to other legal documents (dated 1782 and 1789) from the same Middlesex record office, we find that Ann Brown may not have been Lennox’s maid. In 1782 and 1789, a woman named “Ann Brown” was charged with luring men into rooms to relieve them of their money and watches while they slept.10 The Ann Brown in Lennox’s indictment might have been the same Ann Brown identified as a pickpocket-prostitute in the other two court documents. If both Ann Browns were the same woman and remembering that Harriet Lennox was, at this time, thirteen years old, might we not see Charlotte Lennox and Hannah Davis (perhaps Lennox’s maid?) as rescuers of a young girl who had been taken to Nicholas Hancock’s house for illicit purposes? This possibility is admittedly far-fetched, but trafficking in women has a long and underground history, and it is not implausible that Lennox was indeed acting like her most famous heroine, rescuing a young woman (her own daughter in this case) from a situation she perceived as dangerous. Whether or not it was actually dangerous we cannot know, but it could have been. In Hatred Pursued Beyond the Grave, Jane Cox presents the seventeenth-century case of a prostitute named Lucy Hungate, who was indicted at King’s Bench for abducting a young girl.11 In English Sexualities, Tim Hitchcock notes that the average age of a prostitute in the eighteenth century was between 15 and 25.12 While Hawkins prefers to see the rescue as an example of Lennox’s brutality, it can be seen as an example of her tireless and perhaps futile battle to protect her imperilled daughter from the snares of this world.

We do not know whether Harriet Lennox ever went to school, either in Gosport or in France. We learn, in Sylvia Brathwaite’s letter about ghosts, written in 1785, that she is dying: “Harriot Lenox is supposed to be dying—poor Thing—I believe latterly she has been amiable—Her Ilness is lingering—her sense good—and I trust she will think properly.” Sylvia’s words are harsh. Had Harriet been less than amiable? Was she headstrong? Are we making too much of Sylvia’s words if we speculate that the undated “school” letter was provoked by some sort of improper thinking on Harriet’s part? Given the fact that she is thirteen when the ambiguous Middlesex incident occurs, it is possible to surmise that as she reached her difficult teenage years, she became impulsive and unruly. With this possibility in mind, we can offer still another reading of the incident. Perhaps Harriet was not kidnapped by Ann Brown after all. Perhaps she was seduced. Or, fretful about her parents’ restrictions on her movements and sexually curious, she might have gone freely and willingly to the home of Nicholas Hancock. Like many adolescent girls, Harriet was probably moody, sometimes sweet and loving, but, at other times, rebellious. Did the threat of school send her into the streets for adventure? or, did her dangerous adventures cause her parents to seek out an appropriate school?

We know so little about Harriet. All that remains of her are her words, fragile and fading, on the back of her mother’s second letter to Lady Clerke. It seems appropriate that the last mention of Lennox’s daughter in the Lydia Clerke collection appears in a letter about ghosts.

If 13 was a difficult age for Harriet Lennox, it was also a difficult age for her mother. Charlotte Lennox’s biographers often point out that the fictional adventures of Harriot, the eponymous heroine of The Life of Harriot Stuart, derive from her author’s actual experiences. “Lennox,” Margaret Anne Doody contends, “allowed others to believe that the novel was autobiographical.”13 Like her heroine Harriot, Lennox was thirteen when her father died and she sailed from America to England in the hope that her mother’s family would help her and her financially straitened family. The family connection proved useless to both Harriot and Lennox, but both received unexpected help from strangers. As already noted, two different circles of acquaintance—a circle of wealthy women which included the Duchess of Newcastle, Lady Cecelia Isabella Finch, and Lady Rockingham; and a circle of up-and-coming literary men, which included Thomas Birch and Samuel Johnson—patronized the young Charlotte Ramsay. In The Life of Harriot Stuart, she represents the first circle when, perhaps unfairly, she satirizes Isabella Finch in the fictional “Lady Cecelia,” who, at first, befriends the hapless Harriot and promises her a position at court, and then turns against her when she is falsely accused of attacking the family tutor (who actually first sexually assaulted her). Many people held this fictional portrait of Finch against Lennox. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu bristled in a letter to her daughter the Countess of Bute: “I was rouz’d into great surprize and Indignation by the monstrous abuse of one of the very, very few Women I have a real value for. I mean Lady B[ell] F[inch], who is not only clearly meant by the mention of her Library, she being the only Lady at Court that has one, but her very name at length, she being christen’d Caecelia Isabella, thô she chuses to be call’d by the Latter. I allwaies thought her conduct in every light so irreproachable, I did not think she had an Enemy upon Earth. I now see ’tis impossible to avoid them, especially in her Situation. It is one of the misfortunes of a suppos’d Court interest … even the people you have oblig’d hate you if they do not think you have serv’d them to the utmost extent of a power that they fancy you are possess’d of; which it may be is only imaginary.”14 Whether Finch was hypocritical and self-absorbed, as Lennox represented her, or the blameless victim of heartless satire, as Lady Montagu protested, or, more likely, something in between, the story of Harriot’s predicament attests to the ease with which a women’s story can be distorted to suit different purposes.

Women’s stories are not easily re-membered. Both men and women prefer his story to hers. In Harriot Stuart, the tutor’s story of the eponymous heroine’s aggressive attack on him easily supplants her story of his sexual assault on her. The patriarchal judicial view of Lennox’s actions seems more rational to Laetitia Hawkins than Lennox’s view of herself as the rescuer of women in peril. It is not easy to present the woman’s point of view; it is easier to dismiss it. When Arabella, in The Female Quixote, hears the shady history of Miss Groves’s seduction, she transforms it. Rather than agree that the mother of two children born out of wedlock is a wicked woman, she would rather traduce the man as a cowardly seducer who vilely abandons the woman who loves him. But few are willing to accept Arabella’s version of Miss Groves’s history. In her handling of Arabella’s unusual (and often feminist) explications of the stories she hears, Lennox suggests that women need to listen more carefully to each other’s stories.

As much as Charlotte and Lydia shared—difficult marriages, a desire to protect vulnerable young women, and lives that slipped easily into fiction—there were important differences between them. One of the most significant must be their different experiences of mothering, both as mothers and as daughters. Lennox left her mother behind when she came to London at the very young age of 13. Chances are she never saw her mother again. Catherine Ramsay died in New York in 1765, the same year that Harriet Lennox was born. While Charlotte lost her mother just when she probably needed her most, Lydia was lucky enough to have her mother with her during the most trying times of her married and widowed life. Almost every letter to Lydia asks after Mrs. Hammond. We do not know when Mrs. Hammond died, but it is likely that it was only after her mother passed away that Lydia felt free to marry Joseph Townsend and move to Wiltshire.

Not only did the two women have very different mothering experiences as daughters, but they also had different experiences as mothers. Lydia and John had no children. However, when Lydia remarried, she became the step-mother of six children, four sons and two daughters. In Sylvia’s last letter, she recommends a chaperone for Lydia’s daughters, thus suggesting that Lydia had the means to protect and care for the step-children she acquired by marriage to Mr. Townsend, Lennox was not as lucky; she had few resources and little help in caring for and promoting the interests of her two children. As already suggested, her daughter died young. In addition to Sylvia’s terse comment in her “ghost” letter, there is a memorial poem in Lennox’s own hand “On Henrietta Holles Lennox 17”, which speaks movingly of an early death: “And take a lesson from this early grave … / In youth and beauty mark how vain to trust.” Duncan Isles believes the existence of the poem confirms the fact of Harriet’s death at 17.15

Lennox’s second child, George Louis, born six years after his sister, also seems to have come to a lamentable end. As a young man, he demonstrated great promise; he published poems and short stories in such magazines as the British Magazine and Review, the Edinburgh Weekly Magazine, the Hibernian, the New Novelist’s Magazine, and the Weekly Entertainer. In her second letter to Lydia, Charlotte crows: “My dear little boy is always with me from Saturday, till Sunday evening, when he returns to the Academy, of which, young as he is [six years old], he is the ornament, and delight.” Unfortunately this early promise did not last. The next reference to him, found in Lennox’s 1793 letter of application for assistance to the Royal Literary Fund, suggests that his father lured him into illegal activities and that he consequently had to flee England: “I see an only child upon the brink of utter ruin—driven as he was first to desperation by a most unnatural father; and then deserted, and left exposed to all the evils that may well be expected from the deceitful circumstances he is in.”16 Of course, this letter may include fictional elements. Looking at Lennox’s elaborations (“The last ship that will go to America till next March, will sail in a week—the money for the passage must be paid before he goes on board, and the very lowest terms that are offered, are out of my reach”) and taking into account the letter’s replication of fictional difficulties encountered by the son in Lennox’s 1790 novel Euphemia, it is possible that Lennox drew on her fiction to dramatize her need for financial assistance and to create a sense of urgency. However, she pleads with such passion and conviction that I sometimes doubt my own skepticism: “I would preserve him if I could,” she exclaims, her voice full of authentic parental anxiety. Perhaps Lennox used the real-life situation of her husband and son to feed her fancy when constructing the events of Euphemia. Whether life became fiction, or fiction fact, we cannot know. Nor can we know for sure if Lennox’s efforts on behalf of her son were successful.17

Lennox’s experiences as daughter, mother, and wife were far more difficult than Lydia’s. While Lydia died with a loving husband beside her and probably some of her step-children in attendance, Charlotte died alone and poor in Dean’s Yard, Westminster, on 4 January 1804, and, according to Nichols’s Literary Anecdotes, “lies buried with the common soldiery in the further burying-ground of Broad Chapel, undistinguished even by a headstone to say where she lies.”18

Altogether, Charlotte’s life was much harder than Lydia’s. While Lydia led a peaceful existence, spending most of her life in Gosport or Southampton before moving to Pewsey, Wiltshire upon her marriage to Townsend, Charlotte’s life was peripatetic, almost frenetically so. As a child, she moved from the American Colonies to England, and as an adult, she moved many times from one end of London to another, often fleeing creditors. She struggled ceaselessly to keep a roof over her head, to earn a living, and to care for her children.

A Woman Writer

Lennox’s main source of income throughout her life was her work as a writer, and, in the course of a 50-year career, she produced a formidable bibliography: a book of poems and occasional verse, seven novels, two books of criticism (Shakespear Illustrated and The Greek Theatre of Father Brumoy), four translations from the French, three plays, and a periodical, The Lady’s Museum, which ran to eleven numbers. In 1752, 1775, and 1793, she circulated proposals for new editions of her work by subscription. Lydia Clerke probably purchased a subscription in response to the 1775 proposal.

Although a successful writer, Lennox encountered many difficulties. In her second letter to Lydia, she writes about one of her many wars with the booksellers. She and her publishers were quarreling over plans to reissue Sully’s Memoirs without consulting or remunerating its author. Lennox counts on Dr. Johnson’s and Lord Camden’s help, but fears her old friend and antagonist David Garrick will do more damage than the other two men can do good.

The eighteenth century was a time of great change in the book trade. As the patronage of the wealthy declined, the power of the booksellers grew and acts of Parliament were necessary to regulate the trade. At the beginning of the century, on 1 April 1710, The Act for the Encouragement of Learning came into force: a book published prior to that date, was given to the bookseller for 21 years; if the book was published after 1710, as Sully’s Memoirs was, then the bookseller was given a copyright for 14 years but could renew his copyright for another 14 years with the author if s/he were still living. In 1774, in a landmark case, Donaldson v. Becket, the House of Lords voted against perpetual copyright, effectively ending the booksellers’ stranglehold on the book trade. The booksellers protested and a relief bill designed to provide booksellers with an additional fourteen years of copyright was proposed.19 It was perhaps with this relief bill in mind that Dodsley decided to reprint Sully without consulting Lennox. However, the bill was defeated, and Lennox correctly concludes that Dodsley is acting in defiance of Parliament in reissuing the work without consulting her. Although in her letter Lennox fears she will lose her battle, it would seem that she won, or that, at least, she and Dodsley compromised, for two editions of the Memoirs appeared in 1778, one identifying her as the author and the other not, and no new printings of Sully’s Memoirs appeared until 1805, a year after Lennox’s death.

Copyright may have been the issue that most frustrated Lennox as a writer, but she also cared about her reputation. She hoped her fame would last. In a brief, undated letter to Johnson, she urges haste for she fears she will soon be forgotten: “as it is of great consequence to me to have the book presented to His Majesty, before I am quite forgot, the sooner you begin to deal with Mr. Strahan the better.”20 Though ultimately her fame was fleeting, in her own day she was declared a genius. Her books were important; her ideas and images, particularly that of the female Quixote, circulated widely; her learning was celebrated by her contemporaries. In 1779, she was included as one of “The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain” by painter Richard Samuel.21 Nonetheless, during the course of the nineteenth century, she almost disappeared from literary history, eclipsed by the many literary men of her day. We could accept this occurrence as a normal adjustment in literary appreciation: gradually and over the course of time, the best writers rise and the second-rate fall. Modern literary theory, however, suggests that literary history and the fluctuations of authorial reputations are not such rational processes. Prejudice, chance, and intentional oversight complicate matters. If Lennox was forgotten, overlooked, or mentioned only briefly (usually in a footnote) in most nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century histories of the Age of Johnson, it might have been as a result of forces unrelated to literary value but more a consequence of the way women’s roles play and re-play in history. While men are usually treated as independent and autonomous, women, more likely than not, are treated as appendages of the men they knew. Lennox’s obscurity perhaps partly results from the intense spotlight focused on Samuel Johnson, her friend and colleague. In biography after biography (even those focusing on Lennox), she is pictured as gratefully receiving the patronage of the established and twenty-years-older writer.

Nevertheless, at least once, in a 1754 letter to Lennox from Mary Jones, a poet and occasional writer who lived in Oxford, Lennox moves to the foreground while Johnson fades into the background. She becomes the luminary, he the satellite: “And now I’m got among the celestial Signs, pray, where is that Meteor, that Rambler, that shew’d himself in our Hemisphere last Summer, & has never been heard of since, except among the Transactions of the Literati? If he is often at your Elbow (a Situation he had the Confidence to boast of to me) I should be oblig’d to you if you’d make my Compliments to him. He’s so restless a Companion, that twas impossible to take my Observations of him, with any Accuracy, in his Company; but now he’s got Abroad, & exhibits himself fairly to the Eye, I doubt not of contemplating his Magnitude with the greatest Satisfaction.”22 It is refreshing to see Johnson, the Rambler, boasting of his friendship with Lennox and dropping her name into a conversation in order to magnify his importance in another woman’s eyes. Presenting himself as Lennox’s confidant reflected glory on him.

If we look at what both Lennox and Johnson produced by 1754, the date of Jones’s letter, her perception becomes not simply contrary but also insightful. While Johnson had published much by 1754, Lennox had published more. Johnson’s translation of Lobo’s A Voyage to Abyssinia, his poems “London” and “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” and his Life of Mr. Richard Savage had appeared; his Plan for A Dictionary of the English Language had circulated; Garrick had produced his tragedy Irene; and the Rambler, his periodical, had appeared every two weeks for two years, from 1750 until 1752. He had also, for several years, composed the “Parliamentary Debates” in the Gentleman’s Magazine and contributed to his friend Hawkesworth’s Adventurer. Meanwhile, Lennox had published Poems on Several Occasions, two novels (The Life of Harriot Stuart and The Female Quixote), translated The Memoirs of the Duke of Sully and Voltaire’s Siècle de Louis XIV, and produced Shakespear Illustrated, becoming, as Margaret Anne Doody notes, “the first woman to produce a scholarly work on English literature, and the first feminist critic of a major author.”23 It is not necessarily a misconstruction to reverse the values we have conventionally given Johnson and Lennox. Johnson was older and achieved greater importance eventually, but Lennox was a widely known and successful author who perhaps reached larger audiences than Johnson in their own day. She was as much his peer as his protégée. According to Norma Clarke, “Mrs. Montagu may have been ‘Queen of the Blues’ but Charlotte Lennox, crowned queen at the Devil tavern by her peers, was the reigning monarch of the booksellers in the 1750s.”24

If it is with great difficulty that contemporary literary critics see the woman as equal to the man, it was just as difficult, if not more so, for the citizen of the eighteenth century. Women were judged as a category apart from men. Even Johnson, as much as he praised Lennox, always did so in reference to other women: “I dined yesterday at Mrs. Garrick’s with Mrs. Carter, Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney. Three such women are not to be found: I know not where I could find a fourth except Mrs. Lennox, who is superiour to them all.”25 Women might be geniuses but they were not comparable to men. Lennox felt this disparity deeply. In her novels, plays, and essays, there is much evidence of her discomfort with the ways women in general, and women writers in particular, were treated.

The Lady’s Museum

In The Lady’s Museum, a dialogic compendium of history, natural science, poetry, fiction, and philosophy, Lennox gives us perhaps her most complete and complex subversion of the many complacencies of her day. While the explicit texts of many of the periodical’s articles suggest that women are triflers and happiest when they submit to their natural inclination to trifle, ironic subtexts argue that women sometimes want to be taken seriously and that perhaps even the Editor herself—despite her many claims to Trifler-hood—has purposes other than merely to divert and please her readers. Using a series of personae—“Parthenissa,” “Perdita,” “Penelope Spindle,” and “Mrs. Trifler”—and declaring herself to be the self-proclaimed daughter and granddaughter of triflers, Lennox produces a discourse so polysemous that it is hard to tell where she stands: “if we poor women furnished our minds with moral and historical truth, and took pains to acquire the true principles of taste and criticism, we should be very apt upon this supposition to discern the deficiencies of our admirers in these articles; and from a total dissimilitude of manners and pursuits, grow quickly disgusted at each other, and to risk our establishments for the sake of accomplishments no longer respected.”26 If we carefully peel back the layers of irony in this “letter to the editor,” we are left with the inescapable conclusion that men are not the lords of creation they claim to be. While it is in women’s economic interest to defer to men, such deference is fragile and false. It only lasts as long as women remain uneducated. If they were to furnish their minds “with moral and historical truth” and “acquire the true principles of taste and criticism,” they would soon learn how deficient their male counterparts were. Women dare not better themselves, for then they would not be able to stay with the men they admired and chose in their ignorance. Husbands and wives would grow dissatisfied with one another. Husbands would become less solicitous; wives might lose their homes. And, as Lennox’s last clause suggests, once women were accomplished, the accomplishments they struggled so hard to obtain would lose value. What men (and women) respect in men, they do not as readily respect in women.

Lennox’s sentiments were enthusiastically echoed in “To the World,” an anonymous introduction to a 1761 edition of Susannah Centlivre’s works: “Be it known that the Person with Pen in Hand is no other than a Woman, not a little piqued to find that neither the Nobility nor Commonality of the Year 1722, had Spirit enough to erect in Westminster-Abbey, a Monument justly due to the Manes of the never to be forgotten Mrs. Centlivre, whose Works are full of lively Incidents, genteel Language, and humorous Descriptions of real Life, and deserved to have been recorded by a Pen equal to that which celebrated the Life of Pythagoras.27 Protesting against the poor treatment Centlivre’s work and reputation received earlier in the century, the self-declared female author pointedly seeks a woman writer like Anne Dacier (the French classical scholar) to indite the biography of the now deceased Centlivre, thus implying that a male writer would not do the job as well. The anonymous critic goes on to castigate the ways in which men promote themselves and one another: “Some Authors have had a Shandeian Knack of ushering in their own Praises, sounding their own Trumpet, calling Absurdity Wit, and boasting when they ought to blush; but our Poetess had Modesty, the general Attendant of Merit. She was even asham’d to proclaim her own great Genius, probably because the Custom of the Times discountenanced poetical Excellence in a Female. The Gentlemen of the Quill published it not, perhaps envying her superior Talents; and her Bookseller, complying with national Prejudices, put a fictitious Name to her Love’s Contrivance, thro’ Fear that the Work shou’d be condemned, if known to be Feminine.” Because, unlike her male counterparts, she did not promote herself, Centlivre is forgotten even though her works were popular and revered in her day. The anonymous author would like to believe that conditions have changed and that women are no longer unfairly treated. She does not want to “reproach the present Age for the Sins of their Fathers.” So she points out how much better things are. Men are not ashamed to own their dependence on and collaboration with women writers: “A pleasing Prospect I’ve lately had, viz. the Work of the ingenious Lord Corke, and the not less ingenious Mr. Samuel Johnson, who have took pains to translate a large Part of Father Brumoy’s Greek Theatre, and were not ashamed that their Labours should be joined to those of Mrs. Lennox.” She goes on to hazard that since now men willingly admit women have souls, it may not be long before they also admit women can write poetry equal even to Pope’s.

I begin to suspect that Lennox was the anonymous author of “To the World,” which was published in the same year as the last number of The Lady’s Museum. The sentiments in the Centlivre introduction are not unlike those in Lennox’s periodical. Both are full of complex and multilayered ironies. Both vigorously protest women’s unnatural and disadvantageous subordination. Likewise, both the anonymous author and Lennox insist that women’s political as well as literary abilities are equal to men’s. My strongest piece of evidence, however, is the stress the anonymous author places on Mrs. Lennox, the only living woman writer identified by name in the piece. When she advertises with detailed particularity the collective translation of The Greek Theatre of Father Brumoy, it is easy to imagine Lennox slyly giving her friends a hint as to the identity of the writer, thus adding another layer of self-reflexive irony to her text. Since within the text she stresses women’s tendency to minimize their own achievements, she can hardly promote herself directly. However, even as she playfully professes anonymity and frets about a woman writer’s need to behave with ladylike propriety, she shamelessly promotes a recently published work.

Both The Lady’s Museum and “To the World” overflow with provocative ironies. Writing anonymously and subversively allowed Lennox to transgress boldly. Without fear of ridicule, she could vehemently and covertly wield her pen against all the injustices that threatened her livelihood and her future fame. She might even have had a quixotic hope that her words would, either in her own day or some time in the future, reach ears that heard.


1. The date and birthplace of Charlotte Lennox have not yet been unequivocally established. Miriam Small (1935) and Gustav Maynadier (1940) suppose that she was born in New York City in 1720. Philippe Séjourné (1967) moves her birth date forward to between 1727 and 1729 (143) and argues that she was not born in the American Colonies. Duncan Isles (1970) suggests Lennox was born in 1729 or 1730 in Gibraltar, where her father was then stationed.

2. WO 64/10, f. 39, Army List of 1745, Public Record Office. This Army List gives the career of John Ramsay. He is listed as an Ensign in the Coldstream Regiment of Footguards on 3 August 1703, as Lieutenant on 1 September 1706, and as Lieutenant Captain on 23 April 1729. On 30 December 1738, he becomes one of four captains in a company at New York. The document also notes Ramsay’s death on “13th February 1741/42.”

3. Janet Todd, Women’s Friendship in Literature (New York, 1980) 413.

4. Todd 359.

5. Box 29, MO5754, Montagu Papers, Huntington Library.

6. Jane Cox, Hatred Pursued Beyond the Grave (London, 1993) 28-35.

7. Isles 426-7.

8. MJ/SR 3358/9, Greater London Record Office.

9. Laetitia M. Hawkins, Anecdotes (London, 1824) 1:331.

10. OB/SP 1782 Ap/41, OB/SP 1789 Jy/24, Greater London Record Office.

11. Cox 87-93.

12. Hitchcock 95.

13. Margaret Anne Doody, “Introduction,” The Female Quixote (Oxford, 1989) xix.

14. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 3:8.

15. Isles 428-9.

16. BM, Microfilm M1077, Reel #1.

17. See Berg, “Getting the Mother’s Story Right: Charlotte Lennox and the New World” for a fuller explanation of these arguments.

18. John Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1812-16) 7:435.

19. There is a wealth of material about eighteenth-century British copyright law. Particularly helpful to me were Mark Rose, Authors and Owners (Cambridge, 1993). A. S. Collins, Authorship in the Days of Johnson: Being a Study of the Relation between Author, Patron, Publisher and Public, 1726-1780 (London, 1927); John Feather, A History of British Publishing (London, 1988); Benjamin Kaplan, An Unhurried View of Copyright (New York, 1966); and Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi, eds, The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature (Durham, 1994) were also helpful.

20. Small 53.

21. The other eight were Elizabeth Carter, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Angelica Kauffmann, Frances Sheridan, Catherine Macaulay, Hannah More, Elizabeth Montagu, and Elizabeth Griffith.

22. Isles 42-3. Mary Jones’s Miscellanies in Prose and Verse was published by Dodsley in 1750. With her playful irony, she strikes me as, like Lennox, a precursor to Jane Austen: “Wit mixt with Good-nature, and corrected with good Manners, is certainly an agreeable Qualification, and many times an useful one too. But as ’tis generally manag’d, I reckon a Tooth-drawer, or a Corn-cutter by far more useful Members of Society. Nay have heard some of our Male-Critics positively assert, That she who can make a Pudding, or a Pye, has a much better Title to their Approbation, than she who can make a Pun or a Preamble of an Hour long” (299). In their 1755 edition of Poems by Eminent Ladies, editors Bonnell Thornton and George Colman the Elder describe Jones as “the daughter of the late Mr. Oliver Jones, of Oxford. She is now living; and the reader will readily agree that Oxford is deservedly called the Seat of the Muses while this ingenious Lady resides there” (254).

23. Margaret Anne Doody, “Shakespeare’s Novels: Charlotte Lennox Illustrated,” Studies in the Novel 19 (1987): 307.

24. Norma Clarke, Dr. Johnson’s Women (London, 2000) 118.

25. Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson 1:510.

26. The Lady’s Museum, January 1761: 641-3.

27. Mrs. Centlivre, The Work of the Celebrated Mrs. Centlivre in Three Volumes (London, 1761) 1:vii-x.


Manuscript Sources

British Library. Manuscript Collections: Newcastle Papers, Royal Literary Fund Records (Microfilm M1077, Reel #1).

City of Westminster Archives Centre, Parish Record Books.

Greater London Record Office. Indictments, Middlesex: MJ/SP 1778, f. 29; MJ/SR 3358/9. Sundry Papers: OB/SP 1782 Ap/41, OB/SP 1789 Jy/24.

The Houghton Library, The Lennox Collection.

The Huntington Library, The Montagu Papers, Box 29, MO5754.

John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Letters from Charlotte Lennox to Samuel Johnson.

Public Record Office, Army List of 1745: WO 64/10; PRO 355.3/WOD.

Royal College of Surgeons of England, Hunter-Baillie Letters: one letter from Charlotte Lennox to Dr. William Hunter.

Society of Antiquaries, The Cely-Trevilian Collection. 444/19 (the Lydia Clerke letters); 444/18 (letter from Warren Hastings to John Clerke).

Victoria and Albert Museum, Pressmark Forster 48 (letters from Charlotte Lennox to David Garrick).

Westminster Abbey Muniment Room & Library.

Printed Sources

Reference Works

British Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide. Ed. Janet Todd. New York: Continuum, 1989.

Gentleman’s Magazine

Books and Journal Articles

Berg, Temma F. “Charlotte Lennox and Lydia Clerke: Reflecting on Letters”. In Eighteenth-Century Women: Studies in Their Lives, Work, and Culture. Ed. Linda V. Troost. Vol. 2. New York: AMS Press, 2002.

Berg, Temma F. “Getting the Mother’s Story Right: Charlotte Lennox and the New World”. Papers on Language and Literature 32 (1996): 369-398.

Boswell, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson. 2 vols. London: Everyman’s Library, 1973.

Centlivre, Mrs. The Work of the Celebrated Mrs. Centlivre in Three Volumes. London, 1761.

Clarke, Norma. Dr. Johnson’s Women. London: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Collins, A. S. Authorship in the Days of Johnson: Being a Study of the Relation between Author, Patron, Publisher and Public, 1726-1780. London: Robert Holden & Co., Ltd, 1927.

Cox, Jane. Hatred Pursued Beyond the Grave: Tales of our Ancestors from the London Church Courts. London: HMSO, 1993.

Doody, Margaret Anne. “Introduction”. The Female Quixote. 1752; London: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Doody, Margaret Anne. “Shakespeare’s Novels: Charlotte Lennox Illustrated”. Studies in the Novel 19 (1987): 296-310.

Feather, John. “The Publishers and the Pirates: British Copyright Law in Theory and Practice, 1710-1775”. Publishing History 22 (1987): 5-16.

Feather, John. A History of British Publishing. London: Croom Helm, 1988.

Halsband, Robert, ed. The Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.

Hawkins, Laetitia M. Anecdotes. 2 vols. London, 1824.

Hitchcock, Tim. English Sexualities, 1700-1800. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1997.

Isles, Duncan. “Johnson and CL”. New Rambler 19 (1967): 34-38.

Isles, Duncan. “The Lennox Collection”. Harvard Library Bulletin 18 (1970): 317-344; 19 (1971): 36-60, 165-86, 416-35.

Jones, Mary. Miscellanies in Prose and Verse. Oxford, 1750.

Kaplan, Benjamin. An Unhurried View of Copyright. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.

Langbauer, Laurie. “Romance Revised: Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote”. Novel: A Forum on Fiction 18 (1984): 29-49.

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. Euphemia. Ed. Mary Anne Schofield. 1790; Delmar, NY: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1989.

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. The Female Quixote, or the Adventures of Arabella. Ed. Margaret Dalziel. Introduction by Margaret Anne Doody. Chronology and Appendix by Duncan Isles. 1752; London: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. The Lady’s Museum. By the author of The Female Quixote. 11 Numbers. London, [1760/61].

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. The Life of Harriot Stuart, Written by Herself. 2 vols. London, 1751. (Microfilm. New Haven, Conn. © Research Publications, 1975 [History of Women, Reel 55, no. 344]).

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. Memoirs of Maximilien de Bethune, Duke of Sully, Prime Minister to Henry the Great. 3 vols. London, 1756.

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. Shakespear Illustrated: or the Novels and Histories, on which the Plays of Shakespear are founded, Collected and Translated from the Original Authors, with Critical Remarks. 1753; New York: AMS Press, 1973.

Lennox, Charlotte Ramsay. The Sister: A Comedy. London, 1769.

Maynadier, Gustavus Howard. The First American Novelist? Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940.

“Memoirs of Mrs. Lenox, the Celebrated Author of the Female Quixote, and other works”. The Edinburgh Weekly Magazine, 9 October 1783: 33-36.

Montagu, Elizabeth Robinson. “The Queen of the Bluestockings”: Her Correspondence from 1720 to 1761. Ed. Emily J. Climenson. London: Murray, 1906.

Nichols, John. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. 7 vols. London, 1812-16.

Rose, Mark. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.

Séjourné, Philippe. The Mystery of Charlotte Lennox: First Novelist of Colonial America (1727?-1804). Aix-en-Provence: Publications des Annales de la Faculté des Lettres, 1967.

Small, Miriam Rossiter. Charlotte Ramsay Lennox: An Eighteenth Century Lady of Letters. 1935; Archon Books, 1969.

Woodmansee, Martha, and Peter Jaszi, eds. The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994.

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
Berg, Temma. "Charlotte Lennox." Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 263, Gale, 2012. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 26 June 2019. Originally published in The Lives and Letters of an Eighteenth-Century Circle of Acquaintance, Ashgate, 2006, pp. 121-144.

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420110444