Publication Date: May 11, 2004
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With an Introduction by Jane Smiley
First published in America in 1794, Charlotte Temple took the country by storm—in fact, it was this nation’s first bona fide “bestseller.” Susanna Rowson’s most famous work is the story of an innocent British schoolgirl who takes the advice of her depraved French teacher— with tragic consequences. Seduced by the dashing Lieutenant Montraville, who persuades her to move to America with him, the fifteen-year-old Charlotte leaves her adoring parents and makes the treacherous sea voyage to New York. In the land of opportunity, Charlotte is callously abandoned by Montraville. Alone and pregnant with an illegitimate child, she valiantly fights to stave off poverty and ruin.
This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of the first American edition.
Susanna Rowson, nee Haswell (1762 - 2 March 1824) was a British-American novelist, poet, playwright, religious writer, stage actress, and educator. Rowson was the author of the 1791 novel Charlotte Temple, the most popular best-seller in American literature until Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852. It was as governess that she wrote her first work, Victoria, dedicated to the Duchess of Devonshire, published in 1786, and in the same year she married William Rowson, a hardware merchant and Royal Horse Guards trumpeter. In 1791, she published the novel now referred to as Charlotte Temple; it became the first American best-selling novel. After William's hardware business failed, he and Susanna turned to acting. In 1793, as a member of the theater company of Thomas Wignell, she returned to America, performing in Philadelphia.
Jane Smiley is the author of nine previous works of fiction, including The Age of Grief, The Greenlanders, Ordinary Love & Good Will, A Thousand Acres (for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize), and Moo. She lives in northern California.
“A spirited, cannily high-minded story of seduction, betrayal, and retribution.”
—MARGO JEFFERSON, The New York Times