Reaction to The Coquette

The story of Eliza Wharton published in The Coquette gives the reader a visual picture of what the 18th Century looked like for women life, and how communications were developed. As we all know The Coquette was a novel written with letters. This shows completely how people communicated with each other throughout the 18th Century. Especially how these letters were valued immensely due to the fact that it took time for letters to be delivered to the recipient, and the amount of importance the contents of the letter has. Another factor that has to do with the formation of the letters, is how some symbolize love letters between Eliza, Boyer, and Sanford. It shows how much these letter meant to these people, and with the amount of trust they had in the post for the letters to get to the recipient.

A different form of communication regarding the language Eliza uses throughout the novel changes significantly. In letters to Mrs. M Wharton, Eliza uses a more sophisticated diction, and doesn’t go into the nitty gritty details of certain events, and very rarely tell her things in the letter and wants to talk to her in person. “I hope soon to converse with you personally upon the subject.” [1] She writes to her mother in times of needed advice she knows her mother loves to give out. She wants her mother to know that she loves her, and always ends her letters in telling her mother they soon will be together again, “I shall soon return to the bosom of domestic tranquility, to the arms of maternal tenderness, where I can deliberate and advise at leisure, about his important matter.” [2]. Eliza’s diction now changes when she is writing to her friend Lucy. It changes to more of a regular diction and goes into lots of detail about events and encounters. It is typical writing when you are talking to a close friend. “I have not yet told my mamma that he entertain me with the lover’s theme; or, at least, that I listen to it. Yet I must own to you, from whom I have never concealed an action or idea, that his situation in life.” [3] This really shows on how people’s relationships can influence their way of communicating with each other.

As I was reading through the novel, it really paints a picture of what Eliza Wharton did throughout her life and how her encounters with people resulted in her demise at the end of the story. Another thing that really makes this novel very memorable is the fact they story is written in letters. This can represent how a postal worker could read about someone’s life. With the age of the post at this time, you couldn’t trust what was private in your letters. So halfway through reading this novel I changed my point of view and started to read it as a postal worker would.

I want to know the reason why Mr. Boyer throughout most of the novel was flirting and trying to get Eliza to marry him when he was a clergyman. We all know that men in the clergy are not to be married, but throughout the novel Mr. Boyer is leading Eliza on, and eventually for a brief period of time being engaged with Eliza. I also want to know in which ways did people change socially with the new ability to communicate between people without necessarily being in the same town.


[1] Hannah W. Foster, The Coquette (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 40

[2] Foster, 74

[3] Foster, 84


2 thoughts on “Reaction to The Coquette

  1. PCooney1,
    This is a really interesting blog post and I am particularly intrigued by your point concerning how Eliza’s writing style varied considerably depending on whom she was addressing in her letter. You distinguished how Eliza is slightly more endearing in her letters to her mother while her letters to Lucy are for more “friendly” and posses more emphasis on dictation of events than on flowery sentiments of love and filial devotion. This reminds me similarly to one of the arguments Henkin makes in his monograph, “The Postal Age”, concerning how letters were often a way to showcase skills in penmanship and composition (Henkin, pg. 24). Therefore, I think if one were to examine some of the letters written by Eliza (specifically letters that are more “flowery” in composition such as those to her mother or her lovers) one could discern that perhaps some of the letters were a way of “showing off” her penmanship and skill at writing. Nevertheless, I liked your post and found it really insightful!


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