The Coquette

The Coquette

by

Hannah Webster Foster

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Coquette can help.

The Coquette: Letter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
“Divines need not declaim, not philosophers expatiate on the disappointments of human life!” Reverend Boyer writes to Mr. Selby. Boyer had been so excited at the prospect of spending more time with Eliza, but recent events have left him “dashed with the bitter rankings of jealousy and suspicion.” When Boyer went to the General and Mrs. Richman’s for his “accidental” visit with Eliza, he found Major Sanford waiting on Eliza as well. When she entered the room with “a brilliance of appearance and gaiety of manner” he had never noticed before, he became flustered and “forgot to sit down again.” Boyer stood awkwardly “transfixed by the pangs of disappointment.”
The encouragement of General and Mrs. Richman have made Boyer feel as if he has some claim to Eliza, and he becomes instantly jealous seeing her with Sanford. While he found Eliza attractive before, Boyer didn’t realize just how beautiful until he sees her with another man. In the company of Sanford, Eliza’s “gaiety of manner” is on full display, and Boyer clearly fears that she is a coquette, which implies she is lacking morals and therefore not an appropriate woman to marry.
Themes
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Reverend Boyer asks Mrs. Richman if Major Sanford’s character is “unexceptionable.” Surely, Eliza, “a lady of delicacy,” would not spend time “with an immoral, not to say profligate man.” Mrs. Richman claims that Sanford’s “rank and fortune” make him a respectable man, but she doesn’t like the idea of Eliza spending time with him. She claims Eliza knows nothing of Sanford, and her acceptance of his invite was mere “juvenile indiscretion.” Mrs. Richman warns that they must look on Eliza’s behavior with “a candid eye,” and she reminds Boyer that “faults, not foibles, require the severity of censure.”
Boyer questions Eliza’s virtue because of her association with Sanford, a man he suspects is a womanizer and therefore morally and sexually corrupt. Sanford is a wealthy man, which makes him respected in the eyes of society, but Mrs. Richman finds his promiscuity undesirable and morally dangerous. As Eliza doesn’t know of his reputation, she is thus far still innocent and not worthy of “censure” (or their disapproval and criticism).
Themes
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon