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Charlotte Temple

2.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,039 ratings  ·  182 reviews
With an Introduction by Jane Smiley

First published in America in 1794, Charlotte Temple took the country by stormin fact, it was this nations first bona fide bestseller. Susanna Rowsons 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,
Paperback, 144 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Modern Library (first published 1790)
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Average rating 2.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,039 ratings  ·  182 reviews

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Mar 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: littry-fiction
this book is baaaaaad. it is melodramatic and sentimental and full of woe is me and what shall i do and beseeching and fainting and fits and inexplicable deaths. i want montambo to read it because of all the people herein who are faced with unpleasantness, fall into a fit, and die. i want a doctor to tell me what that is all about. and i also want to know how playing the harp with a man for a half hour can knock you up. because i don't want a baby, but i do love the harp...

come to my blog!
May 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book for several reasons. One, it was the first novel to become an American best-seller. Two, written by a woman who was also a writer of plays, music, textbooks. She was an actress and an educator. At one point, she was the main breadwinner in her family, which her husband approved of. We're talking in mid 1700's here.

The story of Charlotte begins in England. She's fifteen years old, the only child of two doting parents. A cute British soldier comes along and convinces her to
I'm rating this book based on historical context and for entertainment value. It's a really hilarious, melodramatic book with an absurd and sensational story about a young woman who falls into vice (basically, in the words of Coach from Mean Girls, "Don't have sex. You will get pregnant. And die."). But it provides a really interesting look at the gender roles of the time period, the expectations of women and men, and the concerns of the public about morality and sexuality. So as a historical ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
All the morality of Jane Austen without any of the fun, Fantine without all the wonderful singing. Vanity Fair lite...triple ugh. Dear Reader, I've decided I loathe being talked to directly by the narrator.
I scanned some of the other reviews ... apparently, one is a "hater" when one has different taste in literature?
I can appreciate that this novel has historic relevance, but as to the question, "Did you like this book?" my answer is, "No." I read it because of its place in history, but I did not enjoy the flowery, fussy, manipulative style of writing, the predictable plot, the heavier-than-heavy-handed moralisms, or the assumptions the author makes about her audience. This is the 18th century
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charlotte Temple is the first bestseller published in the United States, and thus an important read for anyone interested in American literature and/or print culture. This novel is very short--a novella, technically--and has a very melodramatic, over-the-top plot. It's basically an early conduct novel, showing young girls and women what consequences come from having sex outside marriage--poverty, ostracism, and death.

Charlotte is a young British girl who falls in love with a British officer and
My mission to read women above and beyond the call of duty has increasingly drawn me further afield over the years, and these days I find myself wandering realms and centuries far outside of the areas of my usual perusal in search of the famous, the infamous, and the more than not horrendously underread. I don't expect to love or even like everything, especially when considering how warped popular representation of women's writing must be by patriarchal ivory towers even today, so the fact that ...more
May 28, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
I know it was a bestseller at the turn of the XVIII and XIX. But to me, today, it sounded too moralizing and I couldn't force myself to listen to more than circa one-third of the book (I was listening from LibriVox). Perhaps some other time...
Sotiris Karaiskos
After the first American novel I went straight to the first American best seller. This is an ordinary sentimental novel of the era in which the author narrates in excessively dramatic tones a story of seduction intended - as she claims - to warn girls and their parents about this threat. It is a book that had everything needed at that time to have a great impact, especially on the female readership. Of course, in today's reader this sentimentality and the moral suggestions may seem ridiculous ...more
Anna C
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In every lit class, there comes an awkward moment when the professor has just assigned a reading he or she is unsure about. The students are already packing up, and the professor is doubting the quality of the assigned work. And so, just as the students are heading out to lunch, the professor casually tosses out a small disclaimer. These form a catalog of hilarious understatements. My Gender and Politics prof warned us that Judith Butler is 'kinda dense,' and a Shakespearean guy admitted that ...more

This was the first book I read for college, and the first school-assigned book that I finished on time since the 9th grade. Therefore, I feel justly proud. I kept up with a reading schedule! For a book published in 1795 that would normally take me 5 months to read despite its short length! I finished it in a week!

Charlotte Temple was fascinating because of the context that I read it in. When you learn about sentimentalism and its role in American literature and society,
Brenda Clough
Alas and alack! I have been a writer too long. I read a work like this, and instead of seeing it as a period piece all I can see is how it should have been written, better. Move the heroine's problems to the fore. Do not lade the beginning with flashbacks -- her grandparents, her parents, her French teacher, argh! Avoid having people tell us their story; far better to have us right there, watching the old grandfather hauled away for debt. And great day in the morning, must all the characters be ...more
John Pistelli
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Often called America's first bestseller, Charlotte Temple (1791) is a short didactic novel of primarily historical interest. In this, it is similar to Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette; both short novels urge their young female readers against corrupting entanglements with men and against extramarital romantic and sexual relations more generally. Both novels were very popular in their own time and then later dropped out of fashion, until they both were revived at the end of the twentieth ...more
Smitha Murthy
I love reading classics that no one has really heard of. I am surprised, though, that despite studying American Literature that the name of Susanna Rowson never came up. Charlotte is one of the saddest heroines I have ever read - woe follows her everywhere and Susanna shows no mercy on her.

It was also interesting to see the authorial intrusions. Susanna reminds me a bit of Jane Austen. I can understand why this was the best-selling American book until Uncle Toms Cabin. This one goes straight
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lizzie Belnap
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a beautiful story about forgiveness and compassion and repentance but then, like, every ten pages Rowson would show up to warn us all that sin is shameful (which was, like, the opposite of the point of the book). It made me cry a lot.
Savannah Porter
Heavens. What a depressing story. Even more than Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I don't know what to make of it. How was this the bestselling novel until the 1900s?
Well, I'm back to reading books for a college class. And this is the first thing I had to read this term? Ugh. Sometimes the life of an English major isn't quite so glamorous.

I will say that while I didn't love this book (written in the late 1700s), I didn't hate it either. Once you get past the old writing style and accept that the author will direct certain passages directly to her reader, it has a pretty good story line. Of course, you also have to bear in mind that the story is built around
Charlotte Temple, oh you poor, unfortunate, naive soul. Why oh why didn't you listen to your parents?

Lol. So, my opinion on this piece? I adored the omniscient narrator. I loved the way she would degress from the story, jump around between the perspectives and comment on the characters' behavior throughout. Sometimes it was so hilarious. She would address the readers directly and it was so fun at times.

When looking at this book from today's perspective (and a feminist one), I found it quite
Aug 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
America's first bestseller, according to my prof. I'm not sure why, but the style reminded me of Jane Austen's juvenilia, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending. A novel of sensibility, with an abundance of fainting, a very foreign (to our eyes) framework of feminine virtue, and comically blatant didactic asides.

Charlotte is a super sweet lil' gal who loves mommy and daddy & wants to be virtuous, but also (!) is horny & wants to follow a rakish man to America so she can get her
Oct 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Susanna Rowsons day, this was a book of literary genius. Her target audience was young girls & she wrote this to teach a lesson about cherishing virtue & morals. I loved the simpleness of her characters... None were too complicated. I also loved how the morals of her story are still a much talked about issue in our present day. Charlotte was young, naive, & easily persuaded. The only image she had of the world was that of her little community & girls boarding school. Though ...more
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Think 18th century after school special.

A tragedy from start to finish. Miss Charlotte Temple is set out as an example as to what the outcome can be when one is imprudent, listening to those that do not have your best interest at heart and allow yourself to be ruined. It is beautifully written and an incredibly quick read. The author uses these asides that I actually liked (I imagined the characters froze in the seen fade out and the narrator steps out with a spotlight as they address the
Naomi Schmidt
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was everything I thought it would be, and more! Interspersed at seemingly random intervals throughout the overly moralistic tale, the author earnestly lectures the reader directly, constantly re-emphasizing all of the already obvious moral shortcomings of the characters as the story progresses. The lessons on filial devotion should be required reading for all children. With such chapter titles as "French teachers not always the best women in the world," "Which people void of feeling ...more
Sydney Bollinger
This book is an extremely interesting look into the sentimental novel. Rowson's narrative reminds me of a story a mother would tell her daughter in order to help her find the "right" husband and live the "right" way. Not progressive in terms of women's literature at all, but definitely worth exploring.

It's also extremely melodramatic, so it's a bit like reading a soap opera where the narrator keeps telling you how to interpret the different scenes.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cautionary tale on what happens if we raise our daughters to be "delicate flowers"...they will become easy prey. :-( Also think about the mother/daughter relationships and how they parallel Britain and America. Loved this novel, first American best seller but she made no money on it in America due to lack of copyrights there.
Joe Yellin
Apr 17, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I could have I would've given it negative stars! That's how bad this book is. Heroine is walked over like a carpet and lives miserably til she dies. Yes, I just painted broad strokes here, but I'm saving you hours of your life that you would never get back if you read this book.
Saffyre Falkenberg
This book is more dramatic than any soap opera. Very entertaining, if also quite preachy.
Chandra Powers Wersch
I find the reviews of this book quite interesting. I read it for historical purposes, rather than pleasure, and paired it with Marion Rust's Prodigal Daughters: Susanna Rowson's Early American Women. The books serves as a great primary source on gender and as a cautionary tale of female sexuality in the late 18th Century. It's quite telling of the horror people felt about female curiosity and sexuality while exemplifying the double standards that it was okay for men to get away with infidelity, ...more
Justin Ferguson
Jul 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Charlotte Temple" was not what I was expecting. At best I was hoping for a Jane Austen-type read, seeing as how the author's overlapped. I was also looking for early American novel to potentially teach to my students. Unfortunately, I neither enjoyed reading this book, nor will I teach it to my students. The main problem with this book is that it's very problematic for a modern reader. I don't see how anyone could sit down and read and enjoy this. I think this work is better served in college ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Charlotte Temple" was not what I was expecting. At best I was hoping for a Jane Austen-type read, seeing as how the author's overlapped. I was also looking for early American novel to potentially teach to my students. Unfortunately, I neither enjoyed reading this book, nor will I teach it to my students. The main problem with this book is that it's very problematic for a modern reader. I don't see how anyone could sit down and read and enjoy this. I think this work is better served in college ...more
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BYU-Adolescent Li...: Charlotte Temple 1 4 Jun 14, 2013 10:50PM  

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Susanna Rowson, née Haswell, was a British-American novelist, poet, playwright, religious writer, stage actress, and educator. She was the author of the novel Charlotte Temple--the most popular bestseller in American literature until Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852.

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