“What am I about? . Though I cannot marry Charlotte, I cannot be villain enough to forsake her, nor must I dare to trifle with the heart of Julia Franklin. I will return this box . which has been the source of so much uneasiness already, and in the evening pay a visit to my poor melancholy Charlotte, and endeavour to forget this fascinating Julia.”
In Chapter I, the young captain appears to be a dashing womanizer with no regard for the consequences of his actions. While before, Montraville proclaimed himself someone who “never think[s] of the future” (4), he is now determined to treat Charlotte as honorably as possible, even though he can’t marry her. Montraville’s good intentions add a layer of complexity to his character while also enhancing the realism of the story, since few young women would voluntarily elope with a man who was obviously evil and did not care for them.
“That I loved my seducer is but too true! yet powerful as that passion is when operating in a young heart glowing with sensibility, it never would have conquered my affection to you, my beloved parents, had I not been encouraged, nay, urged to take the fatally imprudent step, by one of my own sex, who, under the mask of friendship, drew me on to ruin.”
Excerpted from Charlotte’s letter to her mother in Chapter XXII, this quote illustrates her (and Rowson’s) continuing tendency to blame others for Charlotte’s downfall. In this case, Rowson emphasizes the role that a bad female role model can play in encouraging other young women to “take the fatally imprudent step.” Although the author frequently seems to assume her readers are young, innocent women, there are indications in the text that she anticipates a wider readership as well. For example, she refers at one point to a “sober matron” who might be reading the book, and another time to a “Sir.” Therefore, it is possible that Mademoiselle La Rue’s role in Charlotte’s downfall is meant to discourage Rowson’s less innocent readers from corrupting younger women, as La Rue does in the story.
“‘And what,’ cry you, ‘does the conceited author suppose we can glean from these pages, if Charlotte is held up as an object of terror, to prevent us from falling into guilty errors? does not La Rue triumph in her shame, and by adding art to guilt, obtain the affection of a worthy man, and rise to a station where she is beheld with respect, and cheerfully received into all companies. . ‘ No, my fair querist, I mean no such thing. Remember the endeavours of the wicked are often suffered to prosper, that in the end their fall may be attended with more bitterness of heart.”
What then is the moral you would inculcate?
This is one of the most elaborate instances of Rowson pre-empting potential criticism of her “tale of truth.” She breaks the fourth wall, guessing at the reader’s reaction to her story. Importantly, this quote also comprises the thesis of the novel; as Rowson explains, people should behave morally and modestly regardless of the consequences (or lack thereof). She proposes that a peaceful spiritual life is a better reward for virtue than wealth or popularity, and therefore it does not matter that the villainous Mademoiselle La Rue seems to have achieved a happy life for herself.
However, his relationship with Charlotte seems to have changed him in a small way (although ultimately, not enough for him to marry her)
“He gave [Mademoiselle La Rue] shelter that night beneath his hospitable roof, and the next day got her admission into an hospital; where having lingered a few weeks, she died, a striking example that vice, however prosperous in the beginning, in the end leads only to misery and shame.”