London: Printed for A. Millar, 1752. First edition. 12mo measuring 101 x 165mm (pages). Contemporary calf with gilt to spines and boards. Bindings rubbed at spines and extremities but all joints strong and sound. Ownership signature of "Henry Moore, 1751" to both pastedowns. Internally a clean, pleasing, and surprisingly wide-margined copy with some chipping to the upper margin of pages 309-325 of vol II. Collates vi, , 271, [1, blank]; 325, [1, blank]: lacking the endpapers to vol II else complete. Scarce at institutions and in the trade, it last sold at auction (with the exception of the present copy) in 2009 and 2001. It is currently the only first edition on the market.
Scholarship surrounding The Female Quixote, Charlotte Lennox's answer to the emerging and successful genre of the sensational novel, has shifted in recent years. What used to be considered a reinforcement of patriarchal values and a takedown of the feminine novel is now viewed as a book that celebrates romance values and prefigures the gothic novel. "Lennox advocates a fictional world in which qualities of love and fidelity...find a more realistic though no less ideal mode of expression" (Lynch). Arabella, a heroine living in a remote castle who is shaped by French novels, expects her life to be as adventurous as those lives she read about. Replicating the high turns of phrase and sensational plots of her books, she learns to use the language of power and authority in her own romantic relationships. Ultimately she learns lessons about the values of actions over words, realizing that the more realistic and pragmatic of her two suitors is the one who truly loves her. Admired in its own time by writers including Samuel Johnson, Lennox's novel was also influential to the young Jane Austen, who echoed many of its ideas in works like Pride & Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.
ESTC T71886. Feminist Companion 648. (Item #2919)