"The Coquette," one of the two "best-selling" American novels of the 18th century, tells the much-publicized story of the seduction and death of Elizabeth Whitman, a poet from Hartford, Conneticut. Written as a series of letters - between the heroine and her friends and lovers - it describes her long, tortuous courtship by two men, neither of whom perfectly suits her. Eliza Wharton (as Whitman is called in the novel) wavers between Major Sanford, a charming but insincere man, and the Reverend Boyer, a bore who wants to marry her. When, in her mid-30s, Wharton finds herself suddenly abandoned when both men marry other women, she willfully enters into a relationship with Sanford and becomes pregnant. Alone and dejected, she dies in childbirth at a roadside inn.
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