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Charlotte Lennox ( 1730 - 1804 )  Category ( Authors ) [suggest a correction]

Charlotte LennoxEighteenth-century British author and poet, Charlotte Ramsay Lennox, is most famous as the author of The Female Quixote, and for her friendships with some of the most famous authors of the period, including Samuel Richardson, Samuel Johnson, and Joshua Reynolds. Probably born in Gibraltar, her father, James Ramsay, was a Scottish captain in the Royal Navy. Her birth name was Barbara Ramsay. Little is known regarding her life before she became a public figure, though her biographers have determined that much from her first novels may be semi-autobiographical.

Charlotte traveled to New York with her parents in 1738 and stayed until 1742. When she was fifteen she accepted the position of companion to a wealthy London widow. Few occupations were opened to women in the eighteenth century, and the term, "companion," is best defined as "servant." Lennox published her first volume of poetry in 1747. At that time she was preparing for a position at court, but instead married Alexander Lennox. Her husband was chronically unemployed. He claimed to be the true heir to the Earl of Lennox, but his claim was rejected on the basis of bastardy.

Charlotte Lennox found herself constantly looking for ways to make money to support her growing family (the couple had several children, two of whom survived infancy). For a while she tried working as an actress, but was unsuccessful. She continued to write, however, and in 1750 she published her first poem and met Samuel Johnson, who held her in very high regard. He ensured that Lennox was introduced to important members of the London literary scene.

Women associated with Johnson disliked Lennox, as they regarded her as unladylike and bad tempered. Johnson and Samuel Richardson both reviewed, critiqued, and otherwise helped Lennox with her second and most successful novel, The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella. Author Henry Fielding praised the novel in his Covent Garden Journal. The novel was a popular success as well and during the eighteenth century it was reprinted and translated into several languages. Estranged from her husband for many years, the couple finally separated in 1793. He immigrated to America, leaving his wife in poverty. She died in 1804 and was buried in an unmarked grave in a London cemetery. The Female Quixote remained popular throughout the nineteenth century, and is still read in many college literature courses today.

Image: Lennox (standing right, with lute), in the company of other "Bluestockings" (1778).

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