“Uncommon Sentiments”: Religious Freedom and the Marriage Plot in Charlotte Lennox’s Henrietta

Alison Conway, University of Western Ontario
Vol. 34, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 231-248

This essay examines the tension between religious and social imperatives in Charlotte Lennox’s 1758 novel, Henrietta. It suggests that Lennox both defends her heroine’s claims to liberty of conscience in the face of social persecution and satirizes her religious zeal. This tension highlights a larger eighteenth-century cultural quandary: how to reconcile the independence granted women by religious conviction with the subordination required by dominant sexual and social codes. When set against the backdrop of Protestant discourses that emphasize spiritual autonomy, the companionate marriage and the plot conventions that instantiate it appear deeply compromised.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]