Dangers of Coquetry (1790): Reviews

The European Magazine, and London Review, vol. 17, May 1790, p. 352.

THE Author of these volumes professes to have written them for the perusal of the thoughtless and the young, with a view to teach the unexperienced minds of females, that “indiscretions may produce as fatal effects as actual guilt, and that even the appearance of impropriety cannot be too carefully avoided.”  The Tale however by which these lessons are inculcated, possesses a double aspect; for while it attributes the most mischievous and dreadful consequences to a little innocent coquetry in the character of a wife, it shews them to have proceeded from an idle, ridiculous, and unfounded jealousy on the part of her husband.  Louisa Conolly marries Mr. Mortimer, and, contrary to her promise, attends a partie to Almack’s, without the permission of her husband; where, to match the pride and arrogance of a rival beauty, she permits Lord Ormington to whisper soft nonsense in her ear.  Vanity and female revenge blow, through the trumpet Fame “the horrid deed to every eye;” and it at length reaches the knowledge of her husband in the shape of conjugal infidelity.  The jealous feelings of his heart represent the picture of injured honour to his mind.  He challenges the supposed seducer, and falls a victim to his own credulity, in having too rashly given credit to a report derogatory to the virtue of his innocent wife. [Note that the reviewer confuses Lord Ormington and Lord Bertie here.]  The style in which this Novel is written, is simple and unadorned, and the language in general very correct; but it does not possess sufficient interest to move the heart, nor a sufficient probabilityto convince the understanding.  There are, however, many virtuous sentiments and moral reflections interspersed throughout the work.

The Critical Review, vol. 70, September 1790, p. 339.

The moral to be drawn form this work is so good, that we are blind to the dullness, the insipidity, and improbability of the narrative.  “It teaches that indiscretion may produce as fatal effects as actual guilt; and that even the appearance of impropriety (especially in women) cannot be too carefully avoided.”

The English Review, vol. 17, March 1791, p. 234.

“For the perusal of the thoughtless and the young is this tale given to the world … it teaches that indiscretionmay produce as fatal effects as ACTUAL GUILT, and that even the appearance of impropriety cannot be too carefully avoided.”  Such is the object of this sensible and moral novel.  The characters are well drawn; the incidents rising naturally from each other exhibit in their fatal catastrophe a solemn warning to the fair sex to avoid the dangers of coquetry.  The following portrait of a coquette is sketched with truth and good sense:

            “A coquette in your sex is, in my opinion, as detestable as a libertine in ours, and has certainly less excuse for her fault that the latter can boast.  The libertine has passion for his excuse; and those who know the force of it in the bosom of youth, should make some allowances for its effects; but in cold blood to take pains to destroy the happiness of others, to wound an inexperienced heart, for the sake of wounding it, as an un-whip’d urchin torments a worm for the pleasures of seeing it writhe about in torture; to seduce lovers from their affianced brides, husbands from their wives, and all to gratify a thirst of admiration, and a despicable vanity, with but a grain of passion to plead her excuse; this is the conduct of a finished coquette; and this is the character, though gilded over by beauty and accomplishments, which will ever deserve and ever meet my abhorrence.”