Charlotte Turner Smith

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Charlotte Smith
Charlotte Smith
Title page, Sonnets and Other Poems, 1827
Title page, Sonnets and Other Poems, 1827

Charlotte Turner Smith (May 4, 1749 - October 28, 1806) was an English poet and novelist whose works have been credited with influencing Jane Austen and particularly Charles Dickens. As a poet, she is a Romantic; as a novelist, she falls into no particular pigeon-hole, but is in some respects Gothic. Smith is also very much interested in social conditions (the influence on Dickens is clear here) and in politics -- specifically the French Revolution.


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Novels
  • 3 Online works
    • 3.1 Poetry
    • 3.2 Novels
  • 4 External links
  • 5 Film


Born into a well-to-do family and raised in Southern England, at the early age of fifteen, Charlotte Turner Smith married Benjamin Smith, the son of a wealthy East Indian merchant. His wealth, however, did not last and in 1783 Charlotte found herself imprisoned for debt with him for several months.

At that time she decided to publish some of her poems to support her ever-increasing family. The volume Elegiac Sonnets of 1784 achieved instant success. Charlotte put down her thoughts in the form of sonnets, helping to initiate a revival of the form which had been out of fashion since the mid-1600s. Her poetry, famous for its melancholy and sadness, became highly popular in the following years. Elegiac Poems saw several further editions and her poetic work influenced important Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In the late 1780s Charlotte Turner Smith began to write novels to earn money for her family. She composed them at almost breathtaking speed. Emmeline appeared in 1788, Ethelinde in 1789, then followed Celestina (1791), Desmond (1792) and The Old Manor House (1793), her most famous work.

An admirer of the French Revolution, Smith liked Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the revolutionary A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. According to Wollstonecraft's husband, William Godwin, in the late 1790s Smith's house served as a vital gathering place for radical intellectuals. She also, however, became critical of the tyranny of Jacobinism. In her poem "The Emigrants" (1791), written in blank verse, Charlotte Turner Smith deals with the situation of French clergy and nobility who sought refuge by taking exile in rural Sussex. Having been forced years earlier to flee England and escape her husband's creditors, Smith understood the sorrows of the exile. She points out the injustice of the Emigrants' former conduct towards the poor, but also condemns the violent turn the Revolution has taken.

In 1806 Charlotte Turner Smith died at Tilford near Farnham in Surrey. The radical publisher Joseph Johnson issued a posthumous collection of works from her manuscripts in 1807 under the title of Beachy Head and Other Poems. The melancholy title poem, another fine example of her blank verse, continues her exploration of political themes, evidences her deep knowledge of local botany and geology, and closes with a sentimental (see sentimentalism) account of a poet's death.


  • Emmeline; or The Orphan of the Castle (1788)
  • Ethelinde, or the Recluse of the Lake (1789)
  • Celestina (1791)
  • Desmond (1792)
  • The Old Manor House (1793)
  • The Emigrants (1793)
  • The Wanderings of Warwick (1794)
  • The Banished Man (1794)
  • Montalbert (1795)
  • Marchmont (1796)
  • The Young Philosopher (1798)
  • The Letters of a Solitary Wanderer (1800)

Online works


  • Selected Sonnets and "The Emigrants"
  • "Huge Vapours Brood Above the Clifted Shore"
  • Elegiac Sonnets
  • "The Emigrants"
  • Beachy Head; With Other Poems


  • The Old Manor House
  • Charlotte Smith (encyclopedia entry)
  • "British Women Romantic Poets Project"
  • Film

    Prof. Jacqueline Labbe (Warwick University, England) talks about the life and works of Charlotte Turner Smith.

    • [1] Part one
    • [2] Part two
    • [3] Part three
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