The Female Quixote (1752) by Charlotte Lennox
"Whoa now," I hear you say, "you're dragging us back into the 18th century now?"
Yes, dear readers. Yes I am.
Never would I have heard of Charlotte Lennox or her wickedly-funny novel had I not taken a grad seminar on 18th century lit. Now, this is the same class that brought me Clarissa, through which I plodded for hundreds of pages until I JUST. COULDN'T. TAKE. IT. ANYMORE. If you've tried reading Clarissa, you'll know what I mean.
But then, here comes The Female Quixote and I'm hooked. Like the novel it parodies, Lennox's work is absolutely hilarious- and the fact that I, a 21st-century gal, find these centuries-old novels so funny still delights me. It tells me that our funny-bones really don't change all that much, sort of like human nature. But back to the novel...
As in Don Quixote, the main character (this time, a woman), devours romances like they're going out of style and then projects their elements and assumptions onto the real world. Therefore, even the most benign servant or chill neighbor becomes infused with hyperbolic and sinister designs. Such blinders, though, leave the main character open to real-life manipulation.
I probably would have been all insulted and what-not if this book about a woman who's head is turned by novels but is then "brought back to reality" by a man had been less humorous and so clearly descended from the great text by Cervantes. Lennox, too, was writing within a specific historical moment, riffing off of other books but creating something unique in the process. It was refreshing, especially after Clarissa and several other I'm-such-a-delicate-lady-help-me-you-strong-man novels written around that time, to read a story in which a woman dedicated herself so wholly to books that they became her world.