Friday, December 26, 2008

Henrietta

Henrietta (1758), by Charlotte Lennox, is a funny, charming Fieldingesque novel about the adventures of the eponymous heroine. Henrietta is a very well-born young lady, down on her luck. She refuses to submit to her aunt's decree that she convert to Catholicism, and this leads to a downhill spiral that sees Henrietta go from being the niece of an earl to the servant of a succession of very silly women. What is remarkable about Henrietta is her unwavering sense of pride and dignity - she has no problem saying no to people, and is not willing to bend her principles or beliefs, even when it would mean significant financial gain (or the ability to escape certain sticky situations). Henrietta undergoes many misfortunes, and finds herself in situations where lesser heroines would have come completely unstuck, but her sense of pride and dignity never falter. She is not a prig, however, as she is willing to do a lot of things that proper women should never do (such as run away from home), so she is never a boring character.

I found this novel really wonderful. Henrietta is a great heroine, and mercifully does not faint as much as Lennox's Harriot Stuart. Lennox has wonderful comic timing and the social satire in this novel is brilliant. I really enjoyed her portrayal of Miss Woodby, which I think may just have influenced Austen's portrayal of Isabella Thorpe in Northanger Abbey. And Lord B's proposal to Henrietta echoes both Pamela and Pride and Prejudice. As Perry's introduction points out, this novel fits neatly between Fielding and Burney. Fielding is obviously a major influence on Lennox, particularly in her portrayal of comic types, and Burney obviously looked to Lennox's use of the bildungsroman.

While I am still giving The Female Quixote the Lennox prize, this is a very readable, funny and interesting novel about a woman who dares to stand up for what she believes in, despite the consequences.

5 comments:

Netta Johnson said...

Hello, I have just started reading your blog and I am really enjoying it. I noticed you have not posted in 2009, and I am wondering if you are continuing it? Thanks!

Tarun said...

I find this character similar to the one i want to be... This is a great read for the New Year start. I found this book among the best sellers in a1books.co.in online store...So i suppose this is enough for me top take the decision. :)

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Liberation said...

Great resources here. I’ll be back for the next your posting. Keep writing and happy blogging.

Susan Carlile said...

I am thrilled that you like Lennox's _Henrietta_. When Ruth and I set out to edit this novel we hoped for a wide audience. All good wishes for you blog. Susan Carlile