Foster, Hannah Webster (1758–1840)

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Foster, Hannah Webster (1758–1840)

American author . Born Hannah Webster in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on September 10, 1758; died in Montreal, Canada, on April 17, 1840; married John Foster (a Unitarian minister); children: six.

Little is known about Hannah Webster Foster aside from her enduring 45-year marriage to a Unitarian minister and the publication of one highly successful novel. In 1789, signing herself simply "A Lady of Massachusetts," Foster published The Coquette; or The History of Eliza Wharton, a sentimental novel loosely based on a scandal involving a prominent Connecticut family, and including seduction, elopement, and tragic death. Reminiscent of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa Harlowe in its epistolary form, the book reached its peak of popularity between 1824 and 1828. It went through 13 reprints, though it was not until the 1866 edition, published decades after Foster's death, that her name finally appeared on the title page. Foster's second book, The Boarding School; or, Lessons of a Preceptress to her Pupils, published in 1798, failed to find an audience.