This essay examines prudence in Charlotte Lennox’s novel, Henrietta (1758). The novel’s protagonist, Henrietta, matures as she fights to become an independent woman, exploring choices beyond the two socially acceptable ones offered to her: marrying for financial stability or becoming a Catholic nun. Henrietta is unwilling to denounce her personal beliefs to please her upper-class family, and as a young woman living in eighteenth-century Britain, she breaks societal barriers by taking a job as a housemaid. She is ambitious but humble. Her journey is punctuated by inner conflicts that test and hone her sense of prudence. Her entire life is guided by prudence. Henrietta is not perfect as a model heroine only because she is a runaway, but her conviction on high moral values is inviolable. The novel embraces prudence as Henrietta’s ability to make sensible life decisions where her humility outweighs vanity. Also, regret and remorse appear in the heroine’s life through her decisions that often seem degrading to her social status. Henrietta’s strength demonstrates Lennox’s use of the rise in companionate marriage and the debate pro-education for young ladies, especially when the novel genre was just beginning to have an impact in literature and was largely read by women. Henrietta is a predecessor to many bildungsroman novels, and in many ways, Lennox sets the standard for the genre.
- Alternative title
An Almost Perfect Heroine: Prudence in Henrietta by Charlotte Lennox
- DPLA rights
Sambdman, Joelma. 2016.
- Journal title
Papers & Publications
- Date submitted
19 July 2022
- Additional information
I am grateful to Dr. Leigh Dillard of the University of North Georgia for introducing me to eighteenth-century British women writers and encouraging me to present my works at several academic conferences. Without her dedication and mentorship as my Professor, I would not have submitted this essay for publication. She gave me relevant writing feedback and, most importantly, believed in me when I had doubts about my work. I also want to thank the reviewers from Papers & Publications and content editor Dr. J. Ereck Jarvis of the Northwestern State University for his comments and patience. The reviewing process leading up to publication has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my academic years. I must thank my husband for cooking late dinners and serving me right next to my laptop and piles of papers, and lastly, I am grateful to my son for his undying support of my studies.
Joelma Sambdman is a senior English Literature major in the Department of English at the University of North Georgia. She was named to the President’s Honor Roll in Fall 2016, and she was recognized as a Clark Theodore Outstanding Nontraditional Student Award Finalist in Spring 2017. She is a Standing Member of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, Alpha Upsilon Phi Chapter, and holds office as the Secretary of the Students for Professional and Technical Communications (SPTC) at UNG Gainesville. She is interested in literary research and creative ways to present literary studies in the classroom. Some of her undergraduate works include the development of whiteboard animation videos based on literary texts that can be used as pedagogical tools. She has presented such works at the Sigma Tau Delta North Georgia Conference and two other Literary Studies Mini-Conferences held by the UNG-Gainesville English Department in the Summer and Fall 2016. She completed a minor in the Spanish language in 2016, and she was a Teacher’s Assistant for Elementary Spanish at the UNG Modern Languages Lab for the Gainesville Campus in Spring 2017. She holds an Associate Degree in Spanish from Georgia Perimeter College (1999) and a Bachelor Degree in Journalism from the Catholic University of the Pernambuco State (1994), in Recife, Brazil. Following her graduation from the University of North Georgia in May 2018, she plans on seeking a Master Degree in English Literature or a Master in Professional Communications.