California State University, Long Beach
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Author of the Month


Charlotte Lennox
Co-edited by Susan Carlile, associate professor, English

Book Cover

Published in 2008 by the University Press of Kentucky (UKP), Henrietta is a part of the UPK’s series of 18th century novels by women which makes scholarly editions of important but neglected novels available for modern readership. Carlile, who joined the English Department in 2001, co-edited the novel describing an orphan under the care of her selfish aunt who pressures her to convert to Catholicism and enter a loveless marriage. Henrietta learns to live by her wits. Though forced into domestic service, she does not become servile. Lennox was a friend of both Samuel Richardson and Samuel Johnson and was generally admired by many of their contemporaries. Carlile is currently writing a critical biography titled “Charlotte Lennox: A Powerful Mind.” “It is Lennox’s bold and clear-eyed delight in human folly that makes Henrietta a great pleasure to read,” she said. “Although Henrietta starts out quite naïve, she has a particularly impressive ability to discern other’s motives and this is ultimately her salvation. This is what I appreciated – an early British novel that addressed a young woman’s insistence on making her own decisions without the punitive consequences that came in novels prior to this one.” Carlile points out that Lennox produced six novels, three plays, a book of poetry, a critical work on Shakespeare, a woman’s periodical and six translations from French. She describes Lennox as a literary innovator. “She was a writer of many firsts,” she said; “the first to reverse the gender structure in Cervantes’ Don Quixote; the first to critique Shakespeare for his lack of originality; the first to adapt her own novel, Henrietta, into a play, The Sister; the first to write a novel, Sophia, for serial publication and the first novelist to be a successful playwright. She was also among the first group of women who were able to earn their living by their pen and still maintain their reputation.” In 2006, Carlile received a Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award for a project to study “Recalibrating Literary History: Charlotte Lennox and Her Contemporaries.” She received her B.A. from Taylor University and both her M.A. and Ph.D. from Arizona State University.