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The Coquette

3.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,556 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
The Coquette tells the much-publicized story of the seduction and death of Elizabeth Whitman, a poet from Hartford, Connecticut.

Written as a series of letters--between the heroine and her friends and lovers--it describes her long, tortuous courtship by two men, neither of whom perfectly suits her. Eliza Wharton (as Whitman is called in the novel) wavers between Major Sanfo
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 19th 1987 by Oxford University Press, U.S.A. (first published February 19th 1797)
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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Awakening by Kate ChopinThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark TwainThe Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Early American Novels
20th out of 33 books — 11 voters
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary WollstonecraftSongs of Innocence and of Experience by William BlakeJacques the Fatalist by Denis DiderotThe Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan PotockiCritique of Judgment by Immanuel Kant
Best Books of the 1790's: 1790-1799
22nd out of 104 books — 9 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,338)
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Sep 01, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
American literature didn't get off to a fast start. Our best efforts to convince the world that Puritan sermons count as literature aside, nobody really got anything decent written until Poe in the early 1800s.

Except there's this, which I found referred to fleetingly as the first viable American novel - 1797 - and I'd never even heard of it, and it's actually pretty great. (It's also based on a true story that apparently had America's panties all moist and knotted, for whatever that's worth.)

In the class I read it for, there was quite a healthy debate over who The Coquette actually is. Eliza, while initially labled a coquette for showing attraction to more than one man, never acts coquettishly. She's always forthcoming with her intentions; from the beginning she tells Boyer she doesn't want a loveless marriage, and then tells Stanford she wants no love without stability. It's the men who constantly change their minds and use Eliza's emotions as a ploy. Boyer threatens to stop wooing ...more
Megan Ensign
Nov 21, 2007 Megan Ensign rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone.
The Coquette is an epistolary novel based on an actual event that occurred in the "Era of Good Feelings"--that is, the period immediately after the Constitution was ratified. It tells the story, through letters, of a woman's fall from grace.
To contemporary readers, the story might seem a little bland. Really, I consider it very similar to the side plot in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, but if one is able to contextualize the novel, it suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.
I read a critic
Faith Bradham
Mar 01, 2011 Faith Bradham rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 12, 2015 Sheri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Coquette: or, The History of Eliza Wharton by Hannah Webster Foster

Set in 1797, based on the true story of Eliza Wharton.She finds herself falling for two suitors, Reverend Boyer and Major Sanford. Eliza is well liberated for a woman of her time, and the situation she gets herself into is quite scandalous.

She has her friends and Mother who will all be affected by Eliza's actions. Told alternating chapters, in letters written by and to each other, we know exactly how each person feels.

I foun
John Pistelli
Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette is a 1797 American epistolary seduction novel and a roman à clef about the death of Elizabeth Whitman (fictionally re-christened Eliza Wharton), a woman of the Connecticut gentry who is impregnated by a married man and who then dies in a tavern after giving birth to his stillborn child. (A fun fact: Whitman's seducer may have been the grandson of the Great Awakening divine, Jonathan Edwards—a possibility that Foster leaves unmentioned.) The Coquette is a nove ...more
Samantha Bartley
Jan 23, 2015 Samantha Bartley rated it really liked it
I read this book for my Women's Literature class. The story was quite interesting, and made me unsure how it was going to end. (I hadn't read the back of the book at this point, which was nothing but spoilers) I was expecting this book to be much like a Jane Austin novel. But it wasn't. For one thing, the story of Eliza Wharton is based of the true story of an Elizabeth Whitman. The story was dramatized of course, but still, I didn't realize that while reading it. Another difference between this ...more
Sep 03, 2010 Meagan rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 15, 2010 Jamie rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Three stars because it was an interesting text to talk about in class, not because it was a particularly enjoyable read.

"The Coquette" constituted week two of our 'seduction narrative' segment of this seminar, and made more sense to me than "Charlotte Temple" beneath this umbrella term. Eliza Wharton truly is seduced in a way that Charlotte Temple is not (I would call "CT" an abduction narrative, but for some reason, my class didn't want to talk consent); because of this, though, I found Eliza t
Nov 01, 2015 Miriam rated it it was ok
Ehhh, unfortunately, this book just wasn't for me. It wasn't the writing style or anything to fault the author for - I just found the topic and story boring and off-putting. The narrative - written in the form of letters to and from various characters - was a bit confusing as well. However, for those interested in American Literature (which I, personally, am not), or colonial women, this book would be worth taking a look at.
Feb 28, 2014 Rachel rated it liked it
The use of letter writing, as opposed to an omniscient narrator, offers up a unique way of giving each character within the novel, The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster, a distinct voice and personality. It is easy to discover who is the prude, the coquette, the rake and the righteous. Each letter grants readers insight into the varying personalities represented through individual writing styles. It is from these writing styles that we are given vision into the characters personal lives, showing ...more
Apr 17, 2015 Corrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: spinstars
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2012 Cody rated it liked it
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Jan 26, 2012 Tom rated it liked it
A sentimental eighteenth century American novel with surprising insights on politics, sexuality, and the social order.

Full disclosure: I had to read this for school, but I feel edified for having read it. It's quick and entertaining if this is the kind of book you enjoy.
This is a very difficult book to review. ""The Couquette" was an extremely important book in its time, especially in revealing the duplicity of gender fidelity. To review it outside of that reality, on its literary merits alone, is somewhat pointless. The story of a ruined woman is not new, and that downfall coming at the hands of a revengeful, amoral man is also an old theme. Does Foster address these ideas in a creative or interesting way? I don't think so. Foster feels the need to place blame ...more
May 02, 2008 angrykitty rated it it was ok's written in letters, which is kinda's another feel sorry for the pretty girl story.....third.....wait....i don't have a third.....
Jun 13, 2011 Xandinavian rated it did not like it
Worst thing I ever read.
Dec 15, 2015 Chrisanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, historical
Maybe it's books like this that give a bad name to moral tales. I really liked the quaintness but I can see how some people might not. As much as the language isn't in fashion, and morals are declining in fashion, hormones, habits, and social goals haven't changed. And that's why I find it relevant. Nor, in my experience, have the natural reactions from such actions changed. We just tend to brush all of those emotions aside because some kinds of deep feeling are currently out of style. And I'm m ...more
This is a very interesting book, and Eliza is a very frustrating character. She is always asking for advice, but never heeds it. She is in her 30s but seems much younger due to her carefree attitude.

I read the preface after I finished, and was very surprised to learn who the character of Major Sanford represented. The seducer was identified as none other than Pierpont Edwards, son of the famous Rev. Jonathan Edwards! The book became much more interesting when I found that out.

Some quotes I highl
Alex Kaiser
Feb 06, 2016 Alex Kaiser rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jean Marie
Feb 26, 2012 Jean Marie rated it liked it
In a nutshell, not the worst school related read I've been subjected to but it was definitely one of those reads that caused me to struggle throughout it. It being written in letter format certainly helped with the changes in narration, but I think was the cause of my overwhelming disappointment (I mean, honestly, I should have really enjoyed this all things considered) was what always hurts a good book to me: consistent detailing from beginning to climax followed by a noticable quickening come ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Dexter rated it liked it
This is a frustrating novel, perhaps because I read it for my American Lit class and thus was forced to discuss certain aspects of the book. I found Maj. Sanford very interesting, though certainly villainous. And yet, it must be said that he certainly loved Eliza, in his own way. I mean, he took care of her. In his own way. That said, he's still a douchebag.

Eliza herself is kind of an idiot, and I don't approve at all of her actions, but I also sympathize with her. She didn't really have a lot o
Feb 10, 2014 Epizeuxis rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who: are interested in the history.
An overly moralistic little cautionary tale of the antiquated codes that women were once subjected to (and still are, admittedly) told in the ever odd epistolary format. Its messages are outdated, its characters are simplistic, and it concludes in the predictably morose fashion that one can expect from this sort of fable.

Still, it's an easy read, and a bit of historical writing to be remembered for its contextual relevance.

One of those books I sort-of read in college but didn't read very well because of course there were half a dozen other books competing for my attention and blah blah. Still can't remember if I properly finished it or whatever.

Anyway, it's interesting to sit down and just read it as a novel. I know how it ends and whatnot (I mean, it's pretty obvious--and also it was discussed to death in whatever class I read it for) so I'm enjoying teasing out the little things that color characters' world.

Jul 06, 2014 Elysa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 02, 2014 Joey rated it really liked it
The original 'gossip magazine' in American literature, The Coquette tells the fictionalized version of the fall of Elizabeth Whitman in early US. Although it was a bit flowery at times, and the high dramatism often left me rolling my eyes, this text is a wonderful peek behind the early-American domesticity (think of it as an early soap opera). Bonus marks for the intriguing depictions of Eliza's two suitors, Rev. Boyer and Major Sanford.
Sep 14, 2011 Mandy rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cameron L.
May 31, 2015 Cameron L. rated it liked it
Especially interesting in that it uses letters as the driving mechanism of the plot so we can easily perceive the motives of specific characters, but at the same time it makes the plot itself muddled by conflicting voices and accounts. Interesting read about the impossibility of feminine agency in the 18th century America.
Sep 10, 2015 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
I felt like the different characters didn't have distinct enough voices, which is a big problem in an epistolary novel. It was a fine book, but there are definitely better society novels out there (like Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald) that I would recommend over this one.

Received from netgalley.
Carol A. Civetta
Jan 24, 2015 Carol A. Civetta rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can not read this book. It was written as people spoke back then.

I found this book very hard to read. It is too formal and although the story is based on a fascinating true local story, I Can not finish it and I hope that someone will write a contemporary version.
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Hannah Webster Foster (September 10, 1758 – April 17, 1840) was an American novelist.

(from Wikipedia)
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“He is a gay man, my dear, to say no more; and such are the companions we wish when we join a party avowedly formed for pleasure.” 2 likes
“The mind, after being confined at home for a while, sends the imagination abroad in quest of new treasures; and the body may as well accompany it,” 2 likes
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