The Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith

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Judith Phillips Stanton
Indiana University Press, Oct 2, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 864 pages

One of the most popular poets of her time, Charlotte Smith revived the sonnet form in England, influencing Wordsworth and Keats. Equally popular as a novelist, she experimented with many genres, and even her children's books were highly regarded by her contemporaries. Charlotte Smith's letters enlarge our understanding of her literary achievement, for they show the private world of spirit, determination, anger, and sorrow in which she wrote.

Despite her family's diligence in destroying her papers, almost 500 of Smith's letters survived in 22 libraries, archives, and private collections. The present edition makes available most of these never-before-published letters to publishers, patrons, solicitors, relatives, and friends. As this volume was going to press, the Petworth House archives turned up 56 additional lost letters not seen in at least 100 years. Most are from Smith's early career, along with two letters to her troublesome husband, Benjamin. The archives also preserved 50 letters by Benjamin, the only ones by him known to have survived. Two letters from Benjamin to Charlotte are reprinted in full, and generous excerpts from the rest are included in footnotes, bringing a shadowy figure to life.





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Page 5 - I remained dressed, •watching at the window, and expecting every moment to witness contention and bloodshed, or perhaps be overwhelmed by the projected explosion. After such scenes and such apprehensions, how deliciously soothing to my wearied spirits •was the soft pure air of the summer's morning, breathing over the dewy grass, as (having slept one night on the road) we passed over the heaths of Surrey ! My native hills at length burst upon my view. I beheld once more the fields where I had...
Page 5 - I had shared the restraint of my husband in a prison, amidst scenes of misery, of vice, and even of terror. Two attempts had, since my last residence among them, been made by the prisoners to procure their liberation, by blowing up the walls of the house. Throughout the night appointed for this enterprise, I remained dressed, watching at the window, and expecting every moment to witness contention and bloodshed, or perhaps be overwhelmed by the projected explosion.
Page 5 - It was on the 2d day of July that we commenced our journey. For more than a month I had shared the restraint of my husband in a prison, amidst scenes of misery, of vice, and even of terror.
Page 2 - No disadvantage," she observes in one of her letters, " could equal those I sustained ; the more my mind expanded, the more I became sensible of personal slavery ; the more I improved and cultivated my understanding, the farther I was removed from those with whom I was condemned to pass my life ; and the more clearly I saw by these newly-acquired lights the horror of the abyss into which I had unconsciously plunged.
Page 6 - The journey there she described in a letter to a friend : My voyage was without accident; but of my subsequent journey, in a dark night of October through the dismal hollows and almost impassable chasms of a Norman cross-road, I could give a most tremendous account. My children, fatigued almost to death, harassed by sea-sickness, and astonished at the strange noises of the French postillions, whose language they did not understand, crept close to me, while I carefully suppressed the doubts I entertained...
Page 6 - I had passed my happiest days, and amidst the perfumed turf with which one of those fields was strown, perceived with delight the beloved group from whom I had been so long divided, and for whose fate my affections were ever anxious. The transports of this meeting were too much for my exhausted spirits. After all my sufferings, I began to hope I might taste content, or experience at least a respite from my calamities !" Bat this slate of happiness did not long continue.

About the author (2003)

Charlotte Smith. English novelist, poet, and translator. Author of Emmeline, or the Orphan of the Castle(1788), Celestina(1792), Desmond(1792), The Old Manor House (1793), The Banished Man(1794), and The Young Philosopher (1798), novels; and of Sonnets(1784), and the poem Beach Head(1807). She also translated the French novel Manon Lescaut(1731) by Abbé Prévost, and accounts of several famous trials from Les Causes Cél ̈bres, which appeared (1786) as The Romance of Real Life.

Judith Phillips Stanton has taught courses in women's studies and feminist theory at Clemson University. She has published articles on Charlotte Smith and statistical studies of trends in 18th-century women's writing.

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