The Coquette

The Coquette

by

Hannah Webster Foster

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The Coquette: Letter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Eliza writes Lucy and tells her that Major Sanford approached her as she walked alone in the garden and “went on rhapsodically to declare his passion.” He worried that Eliza was “forming a connection with Mr. Boyer, which would effectually destroy all his hopes of future happiness.” He reminded Eliza of “the confinements” of Mr. Boyer’s “profession,” and asked if her “generous mind could submit to cares and perplexities like these.” He presumed that Eliza preferred “a more elevated sphere of life,” and while she didn’t “approve his sentiments,” her “ear was charmed with his rhetoric.”
Eliza doesn’t “approve” of Sanford’s talk of “passion,” but she does approve of talks of money. Sanford suspects that Eliza is looking to be upwardly mobile, and Boyer’s profession as a preacher doesn’t pay very much money. Eliza will never climb to the upper class as the wife of a preacher, and Sanford is hoping that this will be enough to convince Eliza to reject Boyer’s advances.
Themes
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Sanford asked Eliza if they might be friends and if she would allow him to visit occasionally, “as a brother, if no more?” Eliza told him she “was a pensioner of friendship,” but her friends’ poor opinion of Sanford has made her hesitant. “I plead guilty to the charge, madam,” Sanford said finally, “which they have undoubtedly brought against me, of imprudence and folly in many particulars; yet of malignancy and vice I am innocent.”
Eliza’s claim to be “a pensioner of friendship” again highlights her preoccupation with money. Also, Sanford’s claim that he is “imprudent” but innocent of “vice” again implies that true virtue shouldn’t be confined to mere chastity. Sanford may be sexually promiscuous, but he isn’t that bad of a guy, he claims. 
Themes
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
“I hope you have been agreeably entertained,” Mrs. Richman said to Eliza after Sanford left. “I did not choose my company, madam,” Eliza said. “Nor,” said Mrs. Richman, “did you refuse it, I presume.” Eliza claimed she was only being hospitable and hoped that Mrs. Richman did not think her “an object of seduction.” She told Eliza that she does not think her “seducible,” but neither was “Richardson’s Clarissa, till she made herself the victim, by her own indiscretion.” Mrs. Richman again warned Eliza of Sanford’s “arts,” and recommended she “remember [her] engagement to Mr. Boyer.” She instructed Eliza to let “sincerity and virtue be [her] guides,” which are sure to lead to “happiness and peace.”
Again, Mrs. Richman is quite condescending, which continues to undermine her friendship with Eliza. Mrs. Richman’s self-righteousness and her subtle implications that Eliza could be, or perhaps has been, seduced are the equivalent of eighteenth-century slut-shaming. To dissuade a continued relationship,she mentions Clarissa, an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson in which the title character tries to reform a rake and subsequently dies. Plus, she urges Eliza to remember her “engagement” to Boyer; however, Eliza told Boyer exactly what she told Mrs. Richman—that she will not be confined to any man.
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon