34. Charlotte Lennox - The Female Quixote (1752)
As the name states the Female Quixote is a bit like Don Quixote but with a female main character... well it is a bit like it in the sense that it is a story about a character obsessed with romance literature and who presumes to act like the characters in those novels.
The main character Arabella acts aloof, presumes that men are always out to kidnap her, expects gallant knights to save her and dresses in what could only be considered extreme-retro fashion. Of course this leads to inumerous situations where she clashes with the society around her.
It is a good book, but it is much more hung up on its premiss than it should have been. Little else happens. It does not have the scope or the depth of Quixote, but it shows an interesting complementary perspective to that book. Romance novel obsession from a woman's point of view. Like Quixote it is a novel about novels, and that is its best, but derivative point.
Samuel Richardson and Samuel Johnson both reviewed and helped out with Lennox's second and most successful novel, The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella, and Henry Fielding praised the novel in his Covent Garden Journal. The Female Quixote was quite popular. It was reprinted and packaged in a series of great novels in 1783, 1799, and 1810. It was translated into German in 1754, French in 1773 and 1801, and Spanish in 1808. The novel formally inverts Don Quixote: as the don mistakes himself for the knightly hero of a Romance, so Arabella mistakes herself for the maiden love of a Romance. While the don thinks it his duty to praise the Platonically pure damsels he meets (such as the prostitute he loves), so Arabella believes it is in her power to kill with a look and it is the duty of her lovers to suffer ordeals on her behalf.