Charlotte Smith Criticism - Essay

British Critic (review date 1807)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Beachy Head, with Other Poems” British Critic 30 (August 1807): 170-74.

[In the following review, the author laments the death of Smith and praises her posthumous poems as some of her best work, particularly noting the composition and tone.]

Most sincerely do we lament the death of Mrs. Charlotte Smith. We acknowledged in her a genuine child of genius, a most vivid fancy, refined taste, and extraordinary sensibility. We could not, indeed, always accord with her in sentiment. With respect to some subjects beyond her line of experience, reading, and indeed talent, she was unfortunately wayward and preposterous; but her poetic feeling and ability have...

(The entire section is 1530 words.)

Sarah Zimmerman (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Zimmerman, Sarah. “Charlotte Smith's Letters and the Practice of Self-Presentation.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 53, no. 1 (autumn 1991): 50-77.

[In the following essay, Zimmerman discusses Smith's constant efforts to present herself to her readers and publishers as a woman attempting to support her children through her writings.]

In a letter to her publishers written in March 1797, Charlotte Smith requests changes to a portrait for a new edition of her Elegiac Sonnets, the collection of poems which had already undergone seven editions since its initial appearance in 1784.1 The engraving provided a visual counterpart to the...

(The entire section is 9127 words.)

Matthew Bray (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bray, Matthew. “Removing the Anglo-Saxon Yoke: The Francocentric Vision of Charlotte Smith's Later Works.” The Wordsworth Circle 24, no. 3 (summer 1993): 155-58.

[In the following essay, Bray examines the increasingly pro-French version of the history of English-French relations.]

Charlotte Smith initially opposed the British war with France for humanitarian reasons. In her polemical blank-verse poem, The Emigrants (1793), for instance, Smith argues that her fellow country men and women should derive national pride from “acts of pure humanity” toward French ecclesiastical emigrés displaced by the Revolution rather than from “the deafening roar...

(The entire section is 2893 words.)

Terence Allan Hoagwood (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hoagwood, Terence Allan. In an Introduction to Beachy Head with Other Poems, by Charlotte Smith, pp. 3-11. Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1993.

[In the following essay, Hoagwood describes the content of Smith's poetry as surpassing the usual poetic concerns to embrace social, political, and intellectual issues.]

Charlotte Smith, an influential poet and extraordinarily successful novelist, was the author of sixty-three volumes, altogether,1 including bestseller novels with social themes (saliently feminist and politically revolutionary themes) and books of widely-admired poetry, of which the volume here reprinted was her last....

(The entire section is 3074 words.)

Eleanor Ty (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ty, Eleanor. “Contradictory Narratives: Feminine Ideals in Emmeline.” In Unsex'd Revolutionaries: Five Women Novelists of the 1790s, pp. 115-29. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.

[In the following excerpt, Ty discusses Smith's first novel, suggesting that although Smith was constrained by financial considerations and the need to please her readers, her critique of patriarchy is as powerful as those of her more radical peers.]

Like Wollstonecraft's Mary, a Fiction and Inchbald's A Simple Story Charlotte Smith's first novel, Emmeline; or, The Orphan of the Castle, may be considered a pre-revolutionary novel because of its...

(The entire section is 7238 words.)

Katharine M. Rogers (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rogers, Katharine M. “Romantic Aspirations, Restricted Possibilities: The Novels of Charlotte Smith.” In Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776-1837, edited by Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner, pp. 72-88. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Rogers explores Smith's limitations as a female writer incorporating the ideals of Romanticism in her novels.]

Charlotte Smith wrote her novels in the 1790s (from Emmeline in 1788 through The Young Philosopher in 1798), at the time when Romanticism was just beginning to vitalize English literature. She shared the Romantics' intense relationship...

(The entire section is 7637 words.)

Deborah Kennedy (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kennedy, Deborah. “Thorns and Roses: The Sonnets of Charlotte Smith.” Women's Writing: The Elizabethan to Victorian Period 2, no. 1 (1995): 43-53.

[In the following essay, Kennedy discusses the autobiographical content of Smith's Elegiac Sonnets.]

In her book on sensibility, Janet Todd traces the development of the figure of the melancholy poet, which had become a common literary type by the mid-eighteenth century.1 The models were men of feeling like Thomas Gray and Edward Young; there were no popular female equivalents until Charlotte Smith published her aptly named Elegiac Sonnets in 1784.2 Although other women had...

(The entire section is 5455 words.)

Carrol L. Fry (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fry, Carrol L. “The French Revolution in Charlotte Smith's Works: Desmond, The Emigrants, and The Banished Man.” In Charlotte Smith, pp. 64-88. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996.

[In the following excerpt, Fry discusses Smith's innovative use of contemporary political events in her novels and poetry.]

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven!(1)

So wrote Wordsworth of the early days of the French Revolution after he arrived in Paris in 1791, the times that Charlotte Smith describes in volume 3 of Celestina. While he is in France, Willoughby mentions “hearing, and but hearing,...

(The entire section is 12633 words.)

Brent Raycroft (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Raycroft, Brent. “From Charlotte Smith to Nehemiah Higginbottom: Revising the Genealogy of the Early Romantic Sonnet.” European Romantic Review 9, no. 3 (summer 1998): 363-92.

[In the following essay, Raycroft examines Smith's long absence from the literary canon and her recent reinstatement as one of the earliest Romantic poets.]


This essay is primarily about writing Charlotte Smith back into the history of the early Romantic sonnet, but it is structured around a group of texts, critical and poetic, from the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. After sketching briefly the interconnected fame of Charlotte Smith and William Lisle...

(The entire section is 11484 words.)

Diane Long Hoeveler (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hoeveler, Diane Long. “Gendering the Civilizing Process: The Case of Charlotte Smith's Emmeline, the Orphan of the Castle.” In Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës, pp. 27-50. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

[In the following excerpt, Hoeveler discusses Emmeline as an important text in the establishment of the female gothic novel tradition.]

This desire of being always women, is the very consciousness that degrades the sex.

—Mary Wollstonecraft


In 1753,...

(The entire section is 10324 words.)

John M. Anderson (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Anderson, John M. “In the Churchyard, Outside the Church: Personal Mysticism and Ecclesiastical Politics in Two Poems by Charlotte Smith.” In Seeing into the Life of Things: Essays on Literature and Religious Experience, edited by John L. Mahoney, pp. 195-209. New York: Fordham University Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Anderson explores Smith's use of the conventional tropes associated with religious poetry to address social and political concerns.]

Much of what we call great poetry, the poetry that stands most securely at the center of the canons of literature however much change may occur on its fringes, owes its stability to the fact that it is...

(The entire section is 5289 words.)

Sarah M. Zimmerman (essay date 1999)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Zimmerman, Sarah M. “‘Dost thou not know my voice?’: Charlotte Smith and the Lyric's Audience.” In Romanticism, Lyricism, and History, pp. 39-72. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

[In the following excerpt, Zimmerman explores Smith's strategy of appealing to the readers of her sonnets by developing a persona that is completely absorbed in private sorrow and oblivious to her audience.]

O! grief hath chang'd me since you saw me last,
And careful hours with time's deformed hand
Have written strange defeatures in my face:
But tell me yet, dost thou not know my voice?

The Comedy of Errors (V.i.298-301)


(The entire section is 13422 words.)

Judith Hawley (essay date 1999)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hawley, Judith. “Charlotte Smith's Elegiac Sonnets: Losses and Gains.” In Women's Poetry in the Enlightenment: The Making of a Canon, 1730-1820, edited by Isobel Armstrong and Virginia Blain, pp. 184-98. Houndmills: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1999.

[In the following essay, Hawley discusses Smith's role in the revival of the elegiac sonnet.]

In Chapter 10 of the first volume of Persuasion, Jane Austen's favourite heroine, Anne Elliot, no longer in the spring of her life, finds herself musing on whether or not Captain Wentworth has transferred his affections from her to one of the Misses Musgrove. ‘She occupied her mind as much as possible’ by...

(The entire section is 6182 words.)

Judith Stanton (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stanton, Judith. “Charlotte Smith and ‘Mr. Monstroso’: An Eighteenth-Century Marriage in Life and Fiction.” Women's Writing: The Elizabethan to Victorian Period 7, no. 1 (2000): 7-22.

[In the following essay, Stanton examines Smith's letters and concludes that her husband, Benjamin Smith, provided the model for many of the antagonists in her novels.]

Benjamin Smith was rich, charming and handsome. Yet his miserable 41-year marriage to Charlotte Smith was an almost textbook case of the atrocities a man could legally inflict upon his wife and children in eighteenth-century England Her two most reliable biographers until recently1 shed little...

(The entire section is 7172 words.)