London: Printed for J. Dodsley in Pall Mall; and T. Davies in Russell Street, Covent Garden, 1769. First edition. Early blue-gray wraps stitched at spine. Pages measuring 190 x 120mm. Collating complete: , 75, . Gentle wear to wraps with light soiling at rear; title page gently toned but else a surprisingly bright copy. One of 1000 copies printed by William Bowyer and John Nichols. Scarce institutionally and in trade, it is the only copy currently on the market. The present copy aside, it has appeared only once at auction since 1964.
A scarce and important dramatic work based on her third novel Henrietta, which exposed how a young woman's virtue alone could not protect her. Indeed, it depicts Henrietta's vulnerability and her reliance on the honesty and good intentions of those around her -- humans usually grappling with their own limitations, desires, vices and fears. Biting, humorous, sensational, and realistic, in novel form Henrietta blurred the lines of expectation and set the stage for the next generations of women writers. Notably, Lennox was best known as a literary critic and novelist, "having published three plays, of which only two made it to production and one of those had just a single performance..." (Schurer). That play was The Sister, which "was hissed off the stage at its one and only performance on 18 February 1769 at the Covent Garden Theatre in London" (Schurer). The comedy's onstage failure was not due to unpopularity; indeed, its first print run of 1000 quickly sold out, with a second edition of 500 being printed soon after that same year. Rather, members of the English literary elite were angered by her harsh critique of the English Bard in Shakespear Illustrated (1758) and saw this as an opportunity for publicly shaming her for maligning the reputation of "so great and Excellent an Author" (Gerrick). It was not only Lennox's attack on Shakespeare's overuse of sources that brought the ire of established male authors, however; it was also her assertion that in altering his sources, Shakespeare had "stripped female characters of their original authority, taking from them the power and the moral independence which the old romances had given them" (Doody). In this sense, the attack on The Sister was an attempt to undermine Britain's first published dramatic critic for her feminist argument, which changed the face of the field.
Feminist Companion 648. ESTC T10798. Near Fine (Item #3514)