(40.) See especially Ryder's 1952 introduction to the Sorrows of Young Werter.
George Ticknor's The Sorrows of Young Werter. The University of North Carolina Studies in Comparative Literature 4.
In the movement between the two types of publication, we might also notice those sonnets in the first edition written as if they were taken from a novel and written by a fictional character, namely the ones "Supposed to be written by [Goethe's] Werter
."(23) This intricate exchange between poetry and fiction does not end there: Mary Robinson borrows Walsingham, a secondary character from Smith's novel Montalbert (1795) and makes him the poem-writing hero of her own Walsingham (1797), in which guise he joins in praising the poems of Charlotte Smith!(24) Reading Smith's work, then, demonstrates the difficulties we must face, trying to unravel the tangled lines of development that wrap themselves around both the lyric and the novel.
Following the interlude of longer poems, Smith juxtaposes three sonnets "From Petrarch," with three sonnets "Supposed to have been written by Werter," but she reverses the order of these sub-sequences between the first and second editions in a manner that reflects her growing confidence as a Petrarchan sonneteer.
The revised Petrarch-Werter sequence of the poems in Smith's second edition of Elegiac Sonnets not only puts Petrarch closer to the poet's tomb at the end of "The Origin of Flattery" and places him in his proper chronological relationship to Werter, but it also allows Smith to finish with a self-reflexive flourish.
Charlotte o'er the mournful spot shall weep, Where her poor Werter and his sorrows sleep.
Hailer with the figure of the celebrity adulteress of the 1780s, the creature of the public sphere of fashion, an identification given an interesting twist by her association of The Stranger with Mary Wollstonecraft: About the same time that this first attempt at representing an adultress in an exemplary light was made by a German dramatist, which forms an aera in manners; a direct vindication of adultery was for the first time attempted by a woman, a professed admirer and imitator of the German suicide Werter. The Female Werter, as she is styled by her biographer, asserts in a work, intitled "The Wrongs of Woman," that adultery is justifiable, and that the restrictions placed on it by the laws of England constitute part of the wrongs of woman.
The identification of the play with the "Female Werter" was an enduring one.
In Godwin's melancholy salvaging, Wollstonecraft is seen as a "female Werter
" whose mind seems "almost of too fine a texture to encounter the vicissitudes of human affairs, to whom pleasure is transport, and disappointment is agony indescribable" (Memoirs 242).
Godwin significantly characterized Wollstonecraft as "a female Werter" with reference to her "most exquisite and delicious sensibility" and constitutional vulnerability (Memoirs 242).
In this sense Wollstonecraft is actually acting as "a female Werter" against the norm of "passive virtue" idealized in women in sentimental literature (Todd, Sensibility 20), reflecting and reinforcing the same norm in social life.