The Coquette: or, The History of Eliza Wharton


By: Hannah Webster Foster

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The demise of a respectable but unloved fiancé introduces a sudden and intoxicating freedom into Eliza Wharton’s life. Two new beaus vie for her attention: Reverend Boyer, a staid and proper clergyman, and Major Sanford, a dashing libertine. Reluctant to commit to either suitor, Eliza struggles with the conflicts between duty, romance, and her new-found independence.
Based on the true story of Eliza Whitman, the much-talked-about focus of America’s first tabloid scandal, this 1797 novel both satirizes and pays homage to its sentimental precursors. The tale unfolds from a variety of perspectives, recounted in a series of letters between the heroine and her friends and family. Eliza’s situation reflects the limited options available to middle-class women of her era, and her dilemma and its resolution offer fascinating historical, literary, and cultural insights into early American society.

Reprint of the Samuel Etheridge, Boston, 1797 edition


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