First edition of this epistolary novel-memoir, an early and compelling example of the self-conscious novelization of a woman's life.
Very good plus.
LUCINDA; Or the Mountain Mourner
"[H]ow ardently I could wish, that every soul of unspotted innocence, might read and mentally realize the wrongs and sufferings of the unfortunate Lucinda."
Once ambivalently recorded as "memoirist or novelist," and clearly influenced by Susanna Rowson in CHARLOTTE TEMPLE, Manvill has since been vindicated by the historical record as recording the truth: Lucinda Manvill, her stepdaughter and the book's heroine, suffers an assault; she returns to her father's house pregnant and alone; the neighbors seek to have her expelled from the town, and only the soft heart of a local magistrate allows her to remain through the birth of her child. Shortly thereafter she dies. From this brutal sequence of events, Manvill constructs a suspenseful and sentimental narrative, offered as a "awful warning to all the youthful and innocent daughters of Adam." Her stepdaughter's only faults, she argues, were ignorance and too much trust; thus she offers young women not admonition and blame but knowledge and warning, along with a heartfelt plea that others who "fall" similarly be forgiven.
LUCINDA is also a technical tutorial in the earliest decades of American literature: Manvill discloses her literary choices at every turn, frankly explaining how she holds back revelations when it would be "out of place" to puncture suspense; transparently discussing her choice to report intimate scenes through the distanced and indirect language of letters; showing step by step the process of constructing a sentimental novel out of the raw materials of reality. A remarkable historical document of the systematic brutality visited on women by the systems of society.
Read more: Mischelle Booher Anthony, "I Trust Every Feeling Heart": Reader History and P. D. Manvill's Lucinda; Or The Mountain Mourner.
Johnstown [New York]: W. & A. Child, 1807. 6.5'' x 4''. Contemporary full sheep. 150 pages. Light wear to boards, with scuffing and shallow chipping to spine foot, text block uniformly toned with sections of spotting.
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