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The Female Quixote

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The Female Quixote , a vivacious and ironical novel parodying the style of Cervantes, portrays Arabella, the beautiful daughter of a marquis, whose passion for reading romances colors her approach to her own life and causes many comical and melodramatic misunderstandings among her relatives and
admirers. Both Joseph Fielding and Samuel Johnson greatly admired Lennox, and this novel established her as one of the most successful practitioners of the "Novel of Sentiment."

464 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1752

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About the author

Charlotte Lennox

76 books30 followers
Charlotte Ramsay Lennox (born: c. 1730) was a British author and poet of the 18th century. She is most famous now as the author of The Female Quixote and for her association with Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and Samuel Richardson, but she had a long career and wrote poetry, prose, and drama.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 214 reviews
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
468 reviews3,255 followers
August 1, 2019
The beautiful, delectable, bright Arabella 17, has it all , a fabulously wealthy nobleman father, once a prominent man in the king's court, the nameless Marquis, having fled London , now living in a remote castle in rural eighteenth century England. The daughter's servants take care of every need or whim she requires, the motherless girl lacks a woman's guidance however, and the indulgent busy father a widower lets the lonely, neglected , bored Arabella read too much, ( her late mother's books) a very bad habit indeed....Worst still she only reads French Romance novels from the 1600's the kind the heroines are saved just in the nick of time by the heroes from ravishers ( her favorite word). The problem, she believes they are factual...Her idiosyncrasies cause big trouble, anything can set her imagination off , men on horses and she jumps into a roaring river trying to escape supposed ravishers, almost perishing in the process, astounding the women companions, her gardener Edward could be a man of quality in disguise, but an abductor too, so terrified, the lady promptly runs away. Arabella thinks and acts like a woman in the silly books, perceives insults from people when none is intended, the public begins to notice this rather peculiar manner . When her father dies his brother Sir Charles Glanville takes charge of the young gullible lady , acquiring a guardian, the uncle is understandably concerned, is the niece insane ? What about the family's plan to marry Arabella to his son, the late Marquis wanted this, he recognized his nephew's good character, back then first cousins married often, with some health issues, ask European royals. Sir Charles brings his son Charles Jr. and daughter, the jealous insecure Charlotte on a long visit to his deceased brother's castle where the strange behavior of the niece keeps everything in turmoil, no surprise...Poor Charles Jr. the lovesick man cannot comprehend his cousin's actions, despair will take him to bed, not feeling well. Maybe a trip to the most famous resort in England will change the tense atmosphere, elegant Bath, the waters they say heals the ill but will it cure the brain. More embarrassing situations occur there caused by you know who, word spread quickly, among the upper classes, even Lucy the rich girl's servant and confidant seems nervous ...A funny satire for some and an excruciating pain for others, depends on your mood . This a pale imitation written in 1752, of the great original , quite possibly the most amusing book ever written...Don Quixote.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,892 followers
August 22, 2017
The concept of a woman driven as crazy as Don Quixote by her reading of overwrought eighteenth century romances was I thought an amusing one, but didn't make for a great book. Possibly the execution was difficult because of the relatively restricted sphere of movement that her heroine has in 18th century England. I felt that Jane Austen achieved a better result in Northanger Abbey in which her heroine interprets everything she hears in the light of the gothic-fantasties that she is always reading.

So Lennox focuses attention back on the Quixote. Such a simple, brilliant idea, yet how hard to execute as more than a one joke story, yet on the other hand the more you do than that the closer you get to Cervantes. What Lennox achieves is a translation of the earlier book into an eighteenth century British context - what would be crazy and contemporary in the era of the four Georges - a woman who treats Pamela or Clarissa type stories with comical earnestness. From all this it is hard not to feel that Cervantes' creation is the greatest book in European literary history because this type of writing requires from the author both a loving appreciation of literature and a willingness to explode it from the inside, an openness to its seductive power and an intimate knowledge of its feet of clay.
Profile Image for Mieneke.
782 reviews85 followers
November 20, 2010
Let me be honest; The Female Quixote was a huge struggle to get through. Only the fact that I'd decided that I was going to finish this book and review it, kept me from putting it away. Frustratingly, this wasn't because the story as such was bad or the writing was shoddy, it was because Lennox's protagonist Arabella does what she is meant to do too well.

Arabella is completely obsessed with French Romances. She's an eighteenth century Twihard, only sans vampires. This becomes problematic when she decides this is how the world should work and leads her life accordingly. Naturally, the world doesn't work like this and when Arabella's father dies, her life becomes complicated, as her perceptions of life and the real world start to clash. Arabella's voice is distinct and unique and was problematic for me. Lennox let her speak in the language of romance and that means long, convoluted sentences, which sometimes require several rereads to make sense. The following is a good example of Arabella's speech:

When I shall be so fortunate, interrupted she, to meet with a Lover who shall have as pure and perfect a Passion for me, as Oroondates had for Statira; and give me as many glorious Proofs of his Constancy and Affection, doubtless I shall not be ungrateful: But since I have not the Merits of Statira, I ought not to pretend to her good Fortune; and shall be very well contented if I escape the Persecutions which Persons of my Sex, who are not frightfully ugly, are always exposed to, without hoping to inspire such a Passion as that of Oroondates. (p. 48)

Arabella speaks as if she should write on pink paper with purple ink and dot her i's with hearts. Luckily, only Arabella and occasionally Sir George, he of dishonourable intent, use this mode of speech. The other characters speak far more plainly. The difference in voice between Glanville and Arabella is distinct and serves to emphasize Arabella's silliness. Arabella's strange notions are almost as exasperating to me, as the reader, as they are to her suitor Glanville.

However, while exasperating, Arabella's eccentricity does serve to make Lennox's point. As stated in the introduction and the appendix to the book, The Female Quixote was meant to be an indictment of the romances and the nefarious influence they could have on young minds and, through Lennox's portrayal of Arabella, as such it succeeds. Arabella's 'conversion' comes about abruptly and the final book feels very rushed; the reasons for this are explored in the appendix, so I won't go into them here, other than to say that while as a denouement it may have been a little underwhelming, at that point in the narrative I was just glad to get it over with.

Another factor that made the reading experienced a mixed one for me, was the editor's decision to retain the original capitalisation and interpunction. The use of capitals for almost every proper noun is distracting, as is the italicisation of all names. Adding to the confusion was the lack of quotation marks in dialogues, which at times made it difficult to keep straight who was speaking and what was part of the speech and what was meant as description of the speaker. While I can understand the desire to stay close to the original text, especially for academic purposes, for the casual reader such as myself, it would have been preferable if at least the capitalisation and quotation marks had been modernised.

The question then remains why this book should be read today? I can think of several reasons. One, it has a place in English literary history, if only for its connection to both Dr. Johnson and Samuel Richardson. Two, whatever the book's flaws, Charlotte Lennox was a skilled writer, who wrote her story with great flair and thorough knowledge of her subject matter and deserves to be read. Three, despite everything, Arabella remains a sympathetic character and if you look beyond the absurdity of her notions,  her situation shows the unequal position women occupied in the eigtheenth century. This last point is further explored in Margaret Anne Doody's introduction to the book. Apart from giving some insight into Charlotte Lennox's history, Doody touches on several feminist themes in the book.

So, if this book deserves to be read in my opinion, who would I recommend it too? Honestly, only to those who wouldn't read it casually. It's not a book read purely for pleasure by a chance passerby. It's more suited to those who would read it for research or someone very familiar with the literature of the times. I am neither of these anymore and because of that, this book, while technically sound, just didn't work for me and turned in to a really tough read.
Profile Image for DC.
257 reviews89 followers
July 16, 2011
Hah, what a lovely little book this is. What a lovely, deliciously ridiculous book this is. Seriously, it's a romp.

From the title itself, you can discern that it involves some kind of delusional mis-adventurer. Quite right, as the story revolves around the life-story of the Lady Arabella, who is as beautiful as she is intelligent, graceful and kind-hearted. It is a pity that, with all her admirable traits, she is possessed with a mind too swayed by the romances stocked in her library.

In this book, you will see the beautiful lady think that each man she meets has an intention to carry her away, while each woman she beholds has a sob story about a passionate lover or two. She is almost too silly in thinking that the world is still full of the antiquated notions of unregulated passions and murderous violence, but still she is much charming in her pleasant speeches and very elegant grace.

It was somewhat pleasant to hear of her tales, but it was rather sad to see how such an accomplished lady could have such notions of love. I felt quite sorry for her zealous lover for keeping his stead. I laughed with much zest at the story of a man who, wanting to woo the lady by his mastery of the romantic stories of then, saw that his plans backfired on him. I was rather glad at seeing that there were some understanding personalities who tried to help Arabella see reason. (The Countess is just so lovely!)

My only complaint: The climax was very near the end, and the ending seemed rather rushed :/ While I was happy about how it ended, I felt that it would have been nice to see all the rich niceties there.

Delightful, humorous, and with such engaging story-telling. A very happy read for me :D

[Notes: Randomly picked... Arabella's just so oblivious and unconscious, it's simply delicious reading of her "adventures". SRSLY.]
Profile Image for Whitney.
652 reviews56 followers
December 16, 2015
It is baffling to think that a young heiress of ANY century would spend her formative years reading romance novels and believing that the events and characters therein were FACTUAL.

This book is difficult. Funny events and misunderstandings do happen, but readers must sift through the flowery language to reach understanding.

We go through 400 pages of our protagonist Lady Arabella acting like a fathead, and finally, in the next-to-last chapter, after she nearly drowns herself in a fatheaded panic, a clergyman visits her and mansplains that just because a French author writes a book, it doesn't mean he knows what went down between Amalazontha and Cleilia two thousand years ago. And by the way, those dames never existed.

So basically this book is a 400-page lesson to Always Cite Your Sources!

Regarding Arabella herself, aside from being reeallly annoying, she's hilarious. She believes that she MUST behave like a romance heroine. She single-mindedly follows the fictitious examples.

Rule number 1: If a lady is alone with a man, he cannot prevent himself from falling in love with her. He will react in three potential ways. He may (1) declare his love; (2) hide his love forever, because declaring his love is a Crime, and will forever shame the lady, or (3) he will kidnap the lady in preparations to Ravish her.

Rule number 2: If a lady receives a love declaration from a man, she may react in three potential ways. She may (1) banish him from the country; (2) wait for him to apologize, where she will forgive him and declare that she does not hate him; or (3) (optional) she'll tell him he does not have to kill himself, because he probably will try something drastic to correct his horrible Crime of love declaration.

Rule number 3: If a lady is kidnapped by a man, she has 2 options. She must either (1) faint for the duration of kidnapping, or (2) burn down the man's castle and jump into the nearest body of water.

Passing observations on polite female behavior
1. If you go anywhere on a horse, make sure to be galloping
2. If you want to give instructions to someone, but you do not wish to speak, do so by Signs by your own invention, i.e. "make a sign for him to be gone." Move your hands around and assume that everyone will understand, because it was what everyone did two thousand years ago!
3. You can get away with all kinds of stupid shit if you're pretty enough.
Profile Image for Phrodrick.
901 reviews39 followers
May 17, 2018
Having just finished a group read of Charlotte Lenox’s The Female Quixote, the consensus opinion was that this was a lost opportunity. The conceit driving this novel was to reproduce the confusion, hilarity and social satire in Cervantes’ famous novel; recast from the point of view of an equally confused woman.

In the original a man convinced that he is The Knight of romance. A man of pure intentions attempting to serve his pure love by the performance of heroic deeds. That he is a befuddle old man wearing a shaving bowl for a helmet launching himself on a more or less innocent country-side is not something he is ever capable of realizing.

To be honest I was disappointed in most of the classic novel. The first part mostly achieved some of this miscasting of noble of intentions carried out in a less than noble world. Too much of the rest was about our hero and his servant the great Sancho Panza (I think a much greater character than the Don) getting their heads bashed.

In The Female Quixote, Ms. Lennox presents us with the beautiful, young, and wealthy Lady Arabella. She has grown up in complete social seclusion, daughter of a reclusive older father and a long deceased mother. She has educated herself out of the family library but has committed herself to the romances of her time, the French novels, so infamous in so many other books. Lady Arabells believes these books to be literally true histories and perfectly correct in their depiction of all matters pertaining to love. She blindly and strictly adheres to their example with no notion they may be in any minor way less than the truth. The behaviors of a proper woman of her class and appearance cannot allow any man to express his feelings toward her; nor can any man expect to earn Lady A’s regard before he has nearly died from her pretended indifference, after he has slain many hundreds of enemies and saved her from the evil machinations of previously ignored would be lovers now turned into would be ravishers.

Vast amounts of the novel are given over to detailed recitations of a hand full of fictional examples of how strictly her rules must be enforced and in how no presentable male of whatever age may be allowed even the chance to give answers to her extreme fancies.

Initially this comic send-up succeeds. Later in the book there are some lovely satirical scores made against mid-18th Century dating and related social conventions and other satires of period fashions. Unintentionally her rigidity does yield to her a true lover, in the person of her besotted and understanding cousin. Unfortunately these are all but buried in the increasing dead weight of overly long, dense and repetitious re-telling of Lady A’s favorite ill stared literary lovers.

In a lighter hand this much needed mirror image of Don Quixote would have been as classic as its older male example.
Profile Image for Joseph.
Author 3 books41 followers
April 30, 2017
It is a comedy and a parody of romance novels but also shows the power of fantasy and imagination in human relations. This I think is the more potent of the books' purposes because the way Arabella reacts to life is not a caricature; it is entirely possible that a person can build such defenses in order to survive.

There are scenes of pure comedy like when she believes that the newly hired, handsome young gardener is some nobleman who has infiltrated her estate in order to be closer to her. When the head gardener catches him trying to steal cod out of the fish pond, she refuses to believe it and thinks he was trying to drown himself over his love for her."But Mr Woodbind, Madam, said Lucy, saw the Carp in his Hand: I wonder what he was going to do with them.
"Still, resumed Arabella, extremely chagrined, still will you wound my Ears with that horrid Sound? I tell you, obstinate and foolish Wench, that this unhappy Man went thither to die; and if he really caught the Fish, it was to conceal his Design from Woodbind:His great Mind could not suggest to him, that it was possible he might be suspected of a Baseness like that this ignorant Fellow accused him of; therefore he took no Care about it, being wholly possessed by his despairing Thoughts."

There is something desperate and profound to Arabella's terror of love and intimacy. Lennox reminds us that Arabella is normal in all other aspects of human relationships and manners, so she is not depicted as insane or a caricature. She has closed herself off from intimacy and love by using her knowledge of romance novels. She sets impossible standards for any potential lover and retains strict control of any potentially intimate situation. This is not unlike any multitude of emotional problems human beings experience, resulting in problems with expressing themselves or being able to feel loved or a part of something. It is loneliness. And Arabella was brought up alone by her father in a remote castle.

I wonder why Lennox isn't mentioned in the same breath with the other 18th c English novelists, namely Fielding and Richardson? I think she is their equal at the least. I like her better. This novel, like 'Don Quixote,' is a great comedy as well as being an intricate depiction of fantasy, escapism and other forms of psychological reactions.
Profile Image for Monty Milne.
876 reviews47 followers
March 31, 2015
This book is one joke stretched too thin. The heroine can never be a Quixote because she is almost entirely passive - imprisoned by gender and social status as much as Rapunzel in her tower. The joke - that she takes seriously the trashy French cod-medieval romances fashionable at the time - wears increasingly thin with every boring repetition of the absurdities of her favourite fictional characters.

The book isn't all bad. It's of some interest in the history of the development of the novel (Northanger Abbey was influenced by it)and some of it is intermittently amusing. The heroine remains likeable as well as annoying (perhaps because of her total absence of Schadenfreude). The hero is a decent fellow - although at times I wished he would be a bit more proactive in shaking the heroine out of her ridiculousness (it's quite clever the way she won't let him get a word in edgeways in some amusing but exasperating passages of crossed wires and miscommunication).

But really the flaws are too many. Near the end we are introduced to an unnamed Countess who seems to promise a feisty character who will pull the heroine out of her absurdity. Alas, she does no such thing, but drops out of the narrative to be replaced by a dull-as-ditchwater clergyman who is the one who finally succeeds in showing our heroine the error of her ways - in a wholly unconvincing penultimate chapter. This is finished off by the inevitable marriage of hero and heroine at the end - which of course we knew was coming 400 pages previously. The journey to get there is not really worth the effort (and they are first cousins - I can't be the only reader left a bit cold by such semi-incestuous relationships).
Profile Image for Leanne (Booksandbabble).
100 reviews113 followers
July 26, 2016
This delightful novel centers around the young and cloistered Arabella and her obsession with romance novels. From her extensive reading Arabella develops ridiculous, romantic notions about people and events she comes into contact with on a daily basis. Oblivious to the sneering and jeering from other young ladies and gents, she is a constant source of embarrassment to her two cousins, Mr and Ms. Glanville.

However ridiculous Arabella may seem she is also extremely well read and can converse on any number of topics. Where Ms Glanville remains silent due to her restrictive notions of propriety, Arabella's voice is strong and full of intelligence. Ms. Glanville is petty and jealous but Arabella, always trying to emulate her heroines, is always open and loving to everyone.

By obeying the laws of Romance Arabella believes in her own authority and voice. She will not be married off to just anyone and has very particular ideas about the qualities a lover must display. Arabella puts her own imaginative spin on any given situation and so it can be argued that she is the author of her own life unlike the women of her time that obey strict societal rules and regulations. Though she goes against the rules, it is her immense virtue that allows her to maintain her notions without being shunned, unlike other women of that time who have their own rules and sexual appetites.

I do not see this novel as a condemnation of romance novels, but it suggests perhaps that it should be read in moderation and must be laid aside at some point in ones adult life. However, it is due to her extensive reading that Arabella is intelligent, witty, insightful and caring; and when she finally makes a match it is one of equality and not of submission.
Profile Image for Rachel.
69 reviews5 followers
December 8, 2008
This book is absolutely not for everyone. I liked it, though.

Portions can be quite tedious, yes, and the book as a whole is fairly outdated (hey, it was written over 250 years ago). But, it was a very popular book in its day and I think it's an important work for anyone who's at all serious about getting to know either 18th century British literature or women's British literature.

The ending is quite rushed, which is shameful, but this is apparently because the author was urged by friends (including Samuel Richardson) to make sure it fit into 2 volumes instead of 3, and she had no time to do drastic re-writes.

It really is an interesting take on Don Quixote, and how different he would be if he was a female. This is also a comic, as opposed to tragic, novel.

I found it to be pretty delightful, though as I said there some tedious portions, as the reader becomes quite as sick as the heroine's friends of hearing her go over and over and over the plots of her beloved romances.
Profile Image for George.
2,315 reviews
September 19, 2020
3.5 stars. An entertaining, humorous, overly long novel about 17 year old Arabella, who reads and commits to memory popular French historical fiction romance novels. Arabella has not had the guidance of a mother or female companions, being brought up by her widowed father in a remote English castle. Arabella’s conduct is odd, behaving like a literary heroine who is always in control. This behaviour produces many comic events. For example, she expects men whose love she spurns, to kill themselves due to being distraught at being rejected by Arabella! People listen to Arabella because she has an excellent memory, can quote the behaviour of historical figures of 2,000 years ago, and is very rich and beautiful. A worthwhile read. This book was first published in 1752.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
14 reviews7 followers
July 2, 2017
I can't be the only person who didn't see this book as anti-novel reading! This is one of my favorite books ever and to me it makes a point about the lack of female education at the time (Hey, even the value we place on female education now!) and the way that women were often kept totally separate from 'real life'. Like children being moved from one parent to another (father to husband). Of course, since Arabella knows nothing of the world, and her father is not the involved parent of the year, she's going to latch onto the thing that gives her the most pleasure and a look into romantic relationships and adventure.

It is hilarious how she gets so many things wrong, but it's even more interesting that she has the strength of personality to get people to go along with her. They might think she's loony but even her suitors start to learn to read her gestures and play along with how she wants her life to be. The end is pretty disappointing, but until then, Arabella does shape at least part of her own world, like the queens in the books she loves. It's pretty fantastic, really.

I love seeing the influences this book must have had on Northanger Abbey (I can't imagine it didn't) and even Emma, a bit, as well as some influence on the up and coming gothic genre. I'd give this book more stars if I could.
Profile Image for Sunny.
473 reviews104 followers
December 8, 2013
Found a free downloadable copy HERE. I love it when that happens!

This may be against protocol, and I realize that I only gave Don Quixote three stars. But, I enjoyed this parody more than its roastee. I warn would-be readers: this is not as bawdy as DQ. But, the laughs are there just the same.

Instead of Don Quixote, we have Arabella - a young lady who has been isolated from the world in her father's country estate and has read way too many romance novels. Everything that happens around her is misunderstood by Lady Bella to be conformable to a romance.

Instead of Sancho Panza, we have Lucy - Bella's lady-in-waiting. Lucy is just as silly and naive as our Sancho was.

The story can be a bit tedious at time, but that's likely because I've not read any of the ancient romances, so when Arabella would go on and on with her "examples" of gallantry quoted from her books - and she would list like ten in a row sometimes - I didn't get the references. But, that was not a hindrance to enjoying the story.

I recommend, however, that folks read the original Quixote first. Knowing the silliness of that story really added to the enjoyment of the hysterical preposterousness in this one.
Profile Image for Mariam Hamad.
309 reviews295 followers
December 31, 2021
بالنسبة لروايات الأديبات الإنجليزيات -اللواتي لسببٍ ما أستثقل قراءة أعمالهن- كانت هذه الرواية ممتعة ومسلية. أرادت تشارلوت لينوكس أن تحاكي أعظم عمل أدبي أوروبي: دون كيخوته، فخلقت شخصية أرابيلا (أو الليدي بيلا) الفتاة الجميلة التي نشأت في قلعة معزولة وانهمكت في قراءة الروايات الرومانسية القروسطية التي شوّهت رؤيتها للعالم الحقيقي. خيال أرابيلا الجامح كان يصوّر لها الأشياء على غير واقعها، ويعبئ الفراغات بسرعة هائلة بقصص غير منطقية على أرض الواقع، لكن منطقية في عالم الفرسان والأميرات. لكنها مثل فارس المنتشا دون كيخوته، ذكية وواسعة الاطلاع وفي أحيان كثيرة تتحدث برزانة ووعي، مما يجعل المحيطين بها في حيرة من هذه الازدواجية في شخصيتها. أسلوب حديث أرابيلا كان يشبه السرد الأدبي القديم، ولا يفوتها ذكر اسم أيّ من أبطال وبطلات رواياتها (التي تعتبرها تاريخ حقيقي لهؤلاء الأشخاص الحقيقيين بلا شك) في أي موقف أو وجهة نظر ترغب في تأكيدها.

لم تعجبني النهاية، أو بشكل أدق لم يعجبني كيف حدثت النقلة في وعي أرابيلا، فحتى الصفحة قبل الأخيرة كانت لا تزال في عالمها الخيالي، ثم فجأة حدثت النقلة، لا أعرف كيف! ليس من المعقول أن محادثة واحدة مع الطبيب كانت تكفي لتغيير منظورها التي ترسخ عبر سنوات طويلة من العزلة والقراءة. هناك حوالي ١٥ صفحة يسرد فيها السير جورج تاريخه الشخصي المختلق بالكامل، لم يكن لها أي ضرورة في سير الأحداث. على العموم رواية مسلية.
Profile Image for Poppy.
99 reviews10 followers
March 2, 2016
Arabella, the protagonist in this novel, is truly just one of the most stupid people ever. Convinced that works of fiction are real, she lives her live by them, believing that any man who lays eyes on her is desperately in love with her, banishing them from her presence, and telling them that she doesn't want them to die because of their love for her. This idiotic behaviour is such fun to read. I feel myself to be like Miss Glanville, gobsmacked by how everyone around her falls in love with Arabella when her mind is truly warped. I don't know whether Mr Glanville ought to be applauded for sticking with Arabella, or hit round the head for that very same reason.

This is a very enjoyable and lighthearted novel, however ridiculous it's main character is.
Profile Image for Tom.
447 reviews9 followers
August 2, 2017
Not as artful as Jane Austen or as wide-ranging as Henry Fielding, yet a very amusing mixture of the two in its look at the feminine sphere described through picaresque incidents. Perhaps the story dragged out a little too long, the titular 'female Quixote' Arabella's silly misadventures tending to the repetitive - plus, what a sudden ending! - but it made me laugh out loud on several occasions with its clever pastiche of Don Quixote and romance novels.
Profile Image for Talia.
130 reviews2 followers
March 21, 2022
Idk if I actually finished it but I’m saying I did bc of what we did with it in class sorry y’all
Profile Image for Camille.
9 reviews
August 8, 2023
2,5? Wayyy too repetitive, although I found the beginning okay.
Profile Image for Candace(dominant hand injured).
296 reviews42 followers
May 2, 2018
Reading in Readers Review Group, April to May 2018.

I thought Arabella (MC) was very funny for the first few chapters; Arabella is obsessed with French Romances and thinks everyone is a character in one; she is always the heroine, every man is helplessly obsessed with her. However, all readers of romance know there are rules to this genre. If a man falls for Arabella, he will hold his tongue for years until he can no longer stand it, then fight a duel or something life threatening to show how true his love is, THEN he may tell Arabella how much he adores her. But Arabella knows rules that don’t make any sense to the reader or to the other characters. So what is at first amusing , soon becomes annoying and very repetitive.

I would rather read Northanger Abbeyand save my time.
Profile Image for Lee Foust.
Author 8 books159 followers
December 15, 2018
This was on the syllabus of a grad course in Female English novelists I took at NYU about 25 years ago. I skipped it back then when the semester got a bit hairy and have only just now finally gotten around to reading it. It's an enjoyable read. It was entertaining to consider the female side of the great heroic romance tradition--mostly the paranoia and egotism of those heroines so frequently carried off by unwonted lovers, pirates, and bandits who mostly depended upon the kindness of noble knights errant for their eventual deliverance from their many adventures. Granted the novel's plot is really only that one joke repeated several times with slight variations over the course of nearly 400 pp.--but, hey, it's a pretty funny joke!

There are some psychological subtleties and inventive additions to the situation as Arabella, our heroine, loses the father--under who's sheltered country life she's managed to learn of life only through romances--and must apply her romance knowledge and values more and more to the actual civilization of her own time period and society into which she enters. Therefore I found my amusement tempered as the plot progressed, but the new situations usually renewed the joke enough to keep me going to the novel's rather abrupt ending.

Yes, said ending's weakness compared to the rest of the story's elaborate recitation is the standard critical beef with the text, but I didn't find it too terrible. There's internal evidence that Lennox had a more gradual solution to our heroine's "madness" in mind with the introduction of a female fellow reader of romances in the penultimate section. However, this interesting character rather quickly vanishes from the narrative and her role as an educated cure to Arabella's over-zealous attachment to the romance idiom is replaced by a male figure in the abrupt final section. It appears--given their surviving correspondence--that Richardson's advice is to blame for the dramatic flaw. But it appears that he was giving Lennox advice more on the length necessary for the standards of publishing in the era that allowed her to get the book published at all and that the format dictated a certain length that, in turn, demanded either a further volume--which would probably have been way too long and drawn-out an ending--or the present rather hasty wrapping up of things at the present length. It would have been nice for the solution to our heroine's dilemma of how to shake off the influence of romance in order to adapt to her world as it was had been through a fellow female character rather than the annoying mansplaining that now concludes the novel. But wattayagonnado? It's not the worst ending to a novel, that's for sure

At any rate, the ending doesn't negate the cleverness and fun of the 10 books that precede it, so I give it a 3.5 stars and call it an eminently readable early English novel.

PS The intro also notes that since Ms. Lennox lived for a few years in the 13 American colonies, this may well be the first great "American" novel. However, since her father was a sailor and she was born in Gibralter and spent most of her life in England, it's a stretch. Still, it's an interesting bit of trivia useful for cocktail parties if nothing else!
Profile Image for Tuva.
117 reviews
June 16, 2020
I liked Arabella and her weird look on life in the beginning, but it grew to annoy me in the end. It was just too much.
However, I really enjoyed Sir George's story in the middle of the book, it was probably my favourite part of the book.
The book, in general, was good, I enjoyed it, I just thought it could've ended a lot sooner than it did.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews502 followers
August 11, 2007
Written almost 150 years after the original Don Quixote, Charlotte Lennox attempted similar popularity by creating these adventures of Arabella. Like Don Quixote, Arabella lives in a delusional world so unlike reality that she creates her own drama simply by existing.

Raised on poorly translated romances that she reads to be gospel, Arabella's expectations of the world involves chivalry like the kind she read in the romances of Cleopatra's life. When it comes to her suitors she expects her men to willingly throw themselves on the knife for her or beneath a carriage. Any behavior less than that leaves Arabella cold. In one instance where her suitor Glanville becomes ill she insists on visiting him on his sickbed to announce that it is all in his head, he is sick because he can not have her, and it is about time he recover so he can continue to love her from afar. Despite all assurances that his sickness has little to do with his feelings for her, she knows only what she has read in romance novels of the past and continues to believe the men in her life exist solely to love her and that they will do anything for her.

Meant to be a tongue-in-cheek comedy much of the story is flat and uninteresting. Scenes in which Arabella rants and raves about the books she has read (and how it would behoove any suitor interested in obtaining her affections to read the histories of the heroines Arabella likens to herself) are by far the most interesting and entertaining. However, they are far and few between and the meat in the middle is dry.

While I appreciate Lennox's attempt to create a Female Quixote, nothing can compare with the original.
Profile Image for Elle.
24 reviews5 followers
March 7, 2018
This was the most tedious and frustrating period novel I have ever read. And I have read many! Firstly, one had to get past Every second Word being Written in Capital Letters (at least in the free version I downloaded from girlebooks.com) - it took me at least 100 pages before I stopped noticing this grammatical crime. Secondly, the fact that speech is never properly encased in quotation marks which even after the lapse of 444 pages could not fail to irritate me. But most importantly, the sheer tediousness of Arabella's rambling and repetitive speeches about so-called heroic historical figures, the ridiculous idea that it is a "crime" to declare your love for someone unless they have first spent at least 20 years languishing over their undeclared passion and have shed 9/10ths of their blood at your feet... Oh Arabella, I have never felt so exasperated with a member of my own sex! Could anyone be so thoroughly and stubbornly deceived?? I continued to persevere with this book in the hope that a satisfying ending would somewhat make up for my labour. Sadly not. We could have at least been favoured with Sir George's humble confession in his own words, instead we are granted merely a few short paragraphs to tie up an interminably long story. I don't know what Jane Austen saw in your work Miss Lennox but I won't be venturing there again.
Profile Image for Ian.
885 reviews
July 22, 2020
I'm going to bang the drum for this as an underrated classic from the 18th century. Lennox's heroine Arabella has been brought up sheltered from society, with only books for company and these books - tales of ancient heroes and romances, of fair damsels and chivalrous knights - have become her reality. She cannot help but believe every encounter to be a scene from these pages, every man must surely fall instantly in love with her, willing to lay down his life for her merest glance of acknowledgement of his existence. This comedy of embarrassment, fuelled by a delusional hero obviously harks back to Don Quixote, but it also anticipates "The Office" by 250 years. Arabella is preposterous, stupid, but likeable. She could star in a sit-com and make people cringe and laugh in equal measure.
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