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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $16.00
  • December 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93167-9
  • 464 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

The Coquette and The Boarding School

Norton Critical Editions


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Hannah Webster Foster (Author), Jennifer Harris (Editor, Mount Allison University), Bryan Waterman (Editor, New York University)


Hannah Webster Foster's two major Early American works with a wealth of primary materials are now available in a Norton Critical Edition.

Published anonymously in 1797, Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette grabbed American interest with its ripped-from-the-headlines story of sex and scandal. A steady best seller for decades, the seduction novel was passed down through generations; indeed, its heroine became better known than the book’s author. A year later, Foster’s lesser-known follow-up, The Boarding School, provided an equally compelling portrait of women at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same epistolary form. Both novels can now be read in conversation with each other in this new Norton Critical Edition based on the respective first edition texts; the author’s original spelling, punctuation, and usage are retained while obvious printer’s errors are corrected. The texts are joined with a detailed introduction to Foster’s legacy and Elizabeth Whitman’s life along with explanatory annotations and a note on the text.

“Sources and Contexts” unearths a wealth of original material about the environment the works were produced in and the real-life people who inspired them. The three sections, “On Coquetry,” “The Life and Death of Elizabeth Whitman,” and “The Nineteenth-Century Legacy,” include new and corrected transcriptions of Whitman’s letters to Ruth and Joel Barlow, an inventory of items found at Whitman’s room at her death, popular representations of Elizabeth Whitman, and unauthorized sequels to The Coquette. Seven illustrations, including three of Eliza Wharton, are included to enrich the reading experience.

“Criticism” brings together nine diverse contemporary interpretations. Contributors include Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Claire C. Pettengill, Julia A. Stern, Gillian Brown, Jeffrey H. Richards, and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, among others.

Chronologies of the lives of Hannah Webster Foster and Elizabeth Whitman are included along with a Selected Bibliography.


    List of Illustrations
    A Note on the Texts

    The Texts of The Coquette and The Boarding School

    The Coquette
    The Boarding School

    Sources and Contexts

    On Coquetry
    Anonymous • A modern Coquette’s account of herself
    Anonymous • For the Massachusetts Gazette. On Coquetry

    The Life and Death of Elizabeth Whitman
    The Letters of Elizabeth Whitman to Joel and Ruth Barlow, 1779–1783
    Inventory of Whitman’s Belongings on Her Death
    Bryan Waterman • The Elizabeth Whitman Paper Trail
    William Hill Brown • From The Power of Sympathy
    Anonymous • A Pathetick Fragment. By the late unfortunate Miss Whitman

    The Nineteenth-Century Legacy
    J. Horatio Nichols • From The New England Coquette
    William R. Hayden • From Clara Wharton; A Sequel to Eliza Wharton
    Anonymous • Tragedy in Tale of Love
    Caroline Wells Healey Dall • From The Romance of the Association


    Carroll Smith-Rosenberg • From Domesticating ‘Virtue’: Coquettes and Revolutionaries in Young America
    Claire C. Pettengill • [Female Friendship in Foster’s Novels]
    Julia A. Stern • [Live Burial and the Tyrannies of Voice in The Coquette]
    Gillian Brown • From Consent, Coquetry, and Consequences
    Jeffrey H. Richards • [Theater, Sexuality, and National Virtue in Foster’s Novels]
    Gwendolyn Audrey Foster • [The Dialogics of Sisterly Advice in The Boarding School]
    Elizabeth Hewitt • [Foster’s Epistolarity]
    Rodney Hessinger • [Gender in the Seduction Tales of the Late Eighteenth Century]
    Blevin Shelnutt • The Coquette and Pseudonymous Attribution

    Hannah Webster Foster: A Chronology
    Elizabeth Whitman: A Chronology
    Selected Bibliography