The Female Quixote, written by Charlotte Lennox in 1752, tells the story of Arabella, a fine young lady who mistakes Romantic adventures for reality. Due to her situation of isolation after her father, the Marquis of –––– was banned from Court and left the town where they lived, she read Romances to feed her intellect and her pleasure. In this way, once grown, Arabella was not able to properly function in the society of that time. Her extended knowledge on Romances allowed her to defend her arguments when her sanity and attitude were questioned. The Countess and the Doctor, though, acted in order to successfully open her eyes and make her realize, in two different yet very similar ways, that reality is not as she perceived it.
In the Fifth chapter of the Eighth book Arabella is contradicted and directed for the first time towards the recognition of true reality by the Countess of ––––. Indeed, during a trip at Bath, the Countess of an unknown town intervenes in her defence whilst a group of ladies ridicule her for her ancient-looking dress and appearance. This intervention creates a strong bond between the two ladies, felt especially solid by Arabella who, perhaps, saw in the Countess the motherly figure she never had.
What binds even more Arabella to the Countess is the extensive knowledge the latter has on romances. The speech that occurs between the two has the function of shaking Arabella, making her partially understand the difference between the real society and the fictional one portrayed in Romances. The Countess, addressing Arabella using a “Language so comfortable to her own” (Lennox 325), explains how “what was Virtue in those Days, is Vice in ours” (Lennox 329), and that society does not give value to what was once considered to be very valuable.
The credibility Arabella grants the Countess is due to the fact that they share a common world, a deep understanding of such a delicate topic for Arabella. Unlike the other characters, which...