Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Memoirs of Emma Courtney” as Want to Read:
Memoirs of Emma Courtney
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Memoirs of Emma Courtney

2.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  208 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Memoirs of Emma Courtney is one of the most articulate and detailed expressions of the yearnings and frustrations of a woman living in late eighteenth-century English society. It questions marital arrangements and courtship rituals by depicting a woman who actively pursues the man she loves. In this first fully annotated edition of a key sentimental novel, Hays reveals the ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 15th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1796)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Memoirs of Emma Courtney, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Memoirs of Emma Courtney

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 411)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 18, 2014 Katelyn rated it it was ok
The plot doesn't progress at all throughout the middle 100 pages, and then ten million things happen right at the end.
I read this book as part of a class called "Regency Women Writers"

Although there is much to mock about this book (especially the last 50 pages or so, which pretty much devolve into sentimental melodrama) I was actually pleasantly surprised by this book. I found Hays' writing style much more engaging than that of Wollstonecraft, whilst she manages to touch on many of the same fascinating issues as her more-celebrated counterpart.

This is an extraordinary book, in many ways, blending as it does th
Dec 07, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it
This book is in the tradition of Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman and William Godwin's Things as they Are; or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams, but it's fascinating in its own right for a few reasons:

1. It's a deliberately experimental text that includes correspondence from Hays's own life.

2. It plumbs the previously unexplored depths of female psychology, including female desire and sexuality (which made it quite scandalous for the 1790s).

3. It was notoriously poorly receive
Nov 12, 2014 Kellyk rated it really liked it
This novel follows most eighteenth century plots, where characters are engulfed by societal standards that they must ultimately transcend or succumb to gendered standards. However, Emma Courtney, the protagonist and writer of this epistolary novel, does not succeed in any of her premeditated goals to "step outside of the magic circle" imposed on women by the laws of society. Instead, she continues to pursue Augustus Harley -- the keeper of her heart -- who ignores her and denies her. It's almost ...more
Jenn McCollum
Nov 11, 2011 Jenn McCollum rated it it was ok
Mary Hays is an eighteenth-century author obsessed with proving that she -- like her romantic contemporaries -- can use highfaluting language as an argument for virtue: her own virtue. Memoirs of Emma Courtney is not an easy read although it is short, but the pay-offs are big. My jaw was hanging down to my feet from practically the first page. I have rarely -- never? -- encountered such a female heroine in English literature in my oh-so-many dimly-lit reading escapades of reading frenzies.

At fir
Ben Eldridge
Feb 12, 2012 Ben Eldridge rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In attempting to highlight the plight of women in 18th century society, the histrionic tone of this book makes it a failure. The philosophy and social comment is overpowering, and presented by some of the most unlikeable characters I have come across in fiction. Unlikely coincidence is used to drive the plot on too many occasions, and the ending has been rightly mocked as totally implausible. On an intellectual level it is easy to sympathize with the societal/cultural problems faced by women of ...more
Rachel Brand
Read for EN4363: Romantic Writing and Women.

I was confused by all the negative reviews when I began reading this book, but now as I come to a close, I can understand the complaints. This novel initially captivated me, and I was surprised to find some of the elements of Emma's life akin to those you'd come across in an Austen novel--a young woman passed between relatives due to deaths in her family, an unusual upbringing giving her a freedom to study typically unfeminine subjects, ultimately culm
Carolyn Davis
Feb 10, 2015 Carolyn Davis rated it really liked it
I'm legitimately surprised that this book isn't more popular with critics, because it really seems to have great relevance to anyone studying early feminist or post-(French)revolutionary radical thought among people like Mary Wollstonecraft. In some ways it's your standard epistolary sentimental novel, but it surprises you at turns with some really well-reasoned attempts to engage with the anti-royalist debate on liberty.
Jan 10, 2010 Jaimie rated it liked it
Memoirs of Emma Courtney illustrates the gender ideals and constructions that society placed upon men and women in the late 18th century into the early 19th century. The novel revolves around the life of Emma Courtney. She narrates the story of her life in England: her early education, the deaths of her caretakers at an early age, her enduring and persistent love of a man named Augustus Harley and her struggle to survive in a world in which she felt "crushed by the iron hand of barbarous despoti ...more
Jun 27, 2016 Amy rated it liked it
Pacing is all off - nothing happens until the last thirty pages, and then every possible storyline begins and is concluded within a couple of paragraphs. Madness. Hays is fundamentally obsessed with weeping and quoting Rousseau on every single page.
Alanna Myers
Mar 18, 2015 Alanna Myers rated it liked it
Great proto-feminist read
Feb 23, 2010 John rated it really liked it
Odd in an interesting way. Based highly on Hays's own life, it's really some sociopolitical ideas concerning women and the sensibility/reason debate held together with a thin narrative.
Jul 06, 2013 Donna added it

I'm not sure what rating to give this book, I both enjoyed it and found myself extremely annoyed by it. I think I'll hold off until I re-read it for my class to review it.
Dec 07, 2009 J rated it did not like it
In the end, the only thing I truly enjoyed about the book was mocking it. Ouch. See my blog entry....
Nov 10, 2012 Laura marked it as to-read
Shelves: e-books
Free download at Gutenberg Project.
Jen marked it as to-read
Jun 22, 2016
reinsplash marked it as to-read
Jun 22, 2016
Cat {Wild Night In}
Cat {Wild Night In} marked it as to-read
Jun 06, 2016
Bethany marked it as to-read
Jun 06, 2016
Jer Fairall
Jer Fairall marked it as to-read
Jun 05, 2016
Anna rated it really liked it
May 31, 2016
Tabitha Moonshine
Tabitha Moonshine marked it as to-read
May 12, 2016
Chris Walker
Chris Walker marked it as to-read
May 09, 2016
Emily rated it really liked it
May 02, 2016
Catherine Brereton
Catherine Brereton rated it really liked it
May 01, 2016
Gemma marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2016
Marija marked it as to-read
Apr 25, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 13 14 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Marriage
  • Anti-Pamela and Shamela
  • Complete Short Stories, Vol 2
  • A Simple Story
  • The Power of Sympathy and the Coquette
  • The Figaro Trilogy: The Barber of Seville / The Marriage of Figaro / The Guilty Mother
  • The Beggar's Opera
  • The Old English Baron
  • Emmeline
  • Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • The Vindications: The Rights of Men and the Rights of Woman (2 in 1)
  • Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, and Chance Acquaintances: Three Short Novels
  • Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism
  • Poems Between Women: Four Centuries of Love, Romantic Friendship, and Desire
  • The Midnight
  • Millenium Hall
  • Poor Miss Finch
  • Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist

Share This Book