Charlotte Smith: A Critical Biography by Loraine Fletcher

By Loraine Fletcher

'Sold, a felony prostitute' while married off on the age of fifteen, Charlotte Smith left her wastrel husband to aid herself and their teenagers as a poet and novelist who could have a long-lasting impact on William Wordsworth and Jane Austen. Combative and witty she grew to become a thorough, debatable and intensely well known writer: at a time whilst 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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Sample text

Here she had the luxury of time to herself and a home out of the foetid atmosphere of Cheapside, among the trees and gardens that she knew now were necessities to her. Benjamin was to be based in Southgate and travel in to work every day. But his 36 Charlotte Smith incomprehension of his wife's character and interests was turning to resentment. Sometimes he did not come home at all; work was an excuse to stay in London part of the week, though Charlotte knew he was unlikely to be working. She was already pregnant with her third son when she moved to Southgate with her husband and Benjamin Berney.

Her memories of Anna, idealised now over eleven years, were still clear. The financial aspect of the matter was difficult to spell out to the sisters, but Lucy implied that Miss Meriton would save Nicholas from his financial worries. It is unlikely her hints conveyed much to Charlotte. She had had to think about money when Stoke Place was sold, and had felt angry about its passing to a new owner. Her grandfather had bought it in 1718. But she had always preferred Bignor Park, and in the excitement of leaving school and coming out she repressed the memory of this strange event.

Charles Dyer Son of Benjamin Smith Esq. and By Charlotte his wife Feb 27th 1773. Anna Augusta Daughter of Benjamin and Charlotte Smith June 18th 1774. Charlotte's second daughter was named for her maternal grandmother but usually known as Augusta. She took after Anna in looks, and was a cheerful and affectionate child from her earliest months. Richard's respect for Charlotte's abilities increased as she grew older, and he talked to her more about the business. Now she was back in London close to the hated warehouse once more, she did not refuse to give him what help she could.

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