Norma Clarke

In Search of Dona Quixote

Charlotte Lennox: An Independent Mind


University of Toronto Press 528pp £85.99 order from our bookshop

Asked to name a major female author before Jane Austen, most people struggle. Charlotte Lennox (c 1729–1804), whose ‘independent mind’ is celebrated in this new, full, critical biography, deserves to be remembered as a novelist (her satire The Female Quixote was a favourite of Austen’s), translator, critic, dramatist, poet and editor of a periodical, The Lady’s Museum. The range and variety of her literary endeavours are impressive, although not untypical of the mid-18th century: Lennox’s friend and supporter Samuel Johnson and her acquaintance Oliver Goldsmith answer to much the same set of descriptions. Like them, Lennox had intellect as well as imagination, an appetite for knowledge and a more or less empty purse.

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