By Loraine Fletcher
'Sold, a criminal prostitute' while married off on the age of fifteen, Charlotte Smith left her wastrel husband to help herself and their childrens as a poet and novelist who could have an enduring effect on William Wordsworth and Jane Austen. Combative and witty she grew to become a thorough, arguable and extremely renowned writer: at a time while the French Revolution was once elevating excessive hopes of Reform, she argued for swap in England too. Loraine Fletcher's brilliant scholarly biography is as readable for the newcomer to the 1790s as for the professional, tracing the embattled existence within the splendidly self-dramatising fiction.
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Extra info for Charlotte Smith: A Critical Biography
Richard and Elizabeth lived in Islington, so Charlotte had to be driven four or five miles for the benefit of these lectures. Catherine describes her as listening to the elder Mrs Smith 'with apathy and disgust', yet Charlotte writes temperately here. com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-17 28 29 her impatience with Benjamin's relatives. Her last sentence implies that her social life, what there was of it, was spent with families who had made their money in the West Indies, or with successful London merchants, and that she did not much like them.
The heroine Laura Glenmorris, who is seventeen, has to bury her baby with the help of her maid, Menie: With Menie's assistance, at an hour when the rest of the household were asleep, I wrapt up my poor dead baby in the best linen I had, and Menie having procured me what answered the purpose of a coffin, I deposited him in it without shedding a tear -1 could not shed tears . . and having made . . as deep a grave as we could, I placed in it the lifeless object of so many, many months of fond solicitude...
Nursing, for her, never had any contraceptive effect, and her first son was only a year old when she was preparing for her second confinement. In the week before she went into labour there broke out in Cheapside and among the household over the warehouse what the British Public Characters account calls 'the malignant sore throat', probably diphtheria or a virulent streptococcal infection. The servants, her little boy and presumably Benjamin came down with it; only Charlotte escaped the infection.