Charlotte Smith 1749-1806

In 1784, Charlotte Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets received great praise from the literary establishment, thus establishing her worth as a writer. Smith’s ability to depict scenes of  natural beauty combined with the melancholy led her to be recognized as influential in the birth of Romanticism. Drawing on these scenes of beauty and the sublime, her work is known to have influenced novelists and poets such as Radcliffe and Wordsworth. Though her early works draw lightly upon the Gothic type, she strayed from dwelling upon subjects of the supernatural, partaking more of an interest in the political and social issues of the day. She possessed a measurable amount of knowledge concerning the nature of geology and botany, and her love of landscape and painting further added to her avoidance of the Gothic genre. 

Though Smith preferred to compose poetry, the unfortunate state of her financial affairs led her to write novels with blazing speed for the purpose of supporting her large family. Smith is known for bringing the sense of aesthetic beauty into scenes within her novels that proved to be a sensation among the readership. These talents of vivid description, alongside the ever-pervading influence of the French Revolution providing a sense of tragic realism, contributed to her ability to capture the imagination of her readers. Unfortunately for Smith, the trend of frowning upon women and their liberalist views portrayed in fictional, printed form led to her dishonor among the political elite of the time.

Smith blazed a trail for the Romantics in that she capitalized upon the reinstitution of the sonnet when composing much of her poetry, a form that Wordsworth and Coleridge among others, would soon utilize for themselves. For these two towers of the Romantic age, much is owed to the influence of Charlotte Smith, where the scenes of the melancholy and the sublime are used in conjunction with the sonnet to produce a mesmerizing sense of awe and pleasure for the reader, and to evoke a sense of connection between the self and nature.