The Female Quixote: Or, the Adventures of Arabella

Lennox, Charlotte

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: Mar-05-1998
  • Last revised: Aug-21-2006


Arabella is a young lady who has lived for a long while at her father’s secluded country home. She spends her time reading romances (in 18th century Britain, "romance" meant fictional works posing as historical accounts of tragic heroines, leibestods, and undying affection--usually French in origin).

She has come to believe the romances to be true and models her behavior after the rigid rules of womanhood contained in them. Moreover, she interprets others’ action or outside events according to romantic expectations.

When Arabella finally goes into society, all are struck with her wisdom and beauty, but are baffled by her behavior and constant references to various romantic characters. She scorns her persistent suitor, Mr. Glanville, since he does not, at first, pursue her according to the rules of romance. He neither pines away, nor allows her to send him to the far ends of the earth to think of her without hope, forever. He soon learns to humor her caprices.

Arabella goes through many adventures all of which depend on her obsession. When she falls ill after diving into a river to save her honor, a doctor is called in to treat her. Learning of her obsession, he resolves to cure her. Using cold logic, he dissolves Arabella’s misconceptions.


The doctor is the hero of this novel. He is the only one capable of sustaining an argument in the face of Arabella’s notions. Arabella responds to him because he does present rational explanations for why she must be wrong rather than just telling her that she is wrong as the other characters do. The novel is soundly of The Enlightenment. Old beliefs and practices guided by rules must fade away in favor of beliefs and practices guided by natural reason.


First published: 1752


Oxford Univ. Press

Place Published

New York



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