chapter  6
26 Pages

The Forgotten Woman

In her preface to her 1798 novel The Young Philosopher, Charlotte Smith declares her credentials for delineating “all the evils arising from oppression, from fraud and chicane”: “If a Writer can best describe who has suffered . . . I am above almost any person qualified.”1 Legal chicanery, domestic cruelty, painful personal loss resonate loudly when they appear in the fictional world of Charlotte Smith. The Young Philosopher, like most of her works, offers a scathing indictment of both legal corruption and familial abuse, and it also features scenes of domestic tragedy. In this novel, the middle-aged Laura Glenmorris doubles for Smith as the author enacts her own anxieties and the anxieties of her historical moment, anxieties born, in large part, of the sense of liminality that the age of sensibility had conferred on women.