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.
Written in epistolary form and drawn from actual events, Brown's The Power of Sympathy (1789) and Foster's The Coquette (1797) were two of the earliest novels published in the United States. Both novels reflect the eighteenth-century preoccupation with the role of women as safekeepers of the young country's morality.
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