In 1807, a small rural New York press published the first edition of P. D. Manville’s Lucinda; or the Mountain Mourner. Over the next five decades now fewer than ten printings of the novel appeared in three different states. In the book, the eponymous heroine is one of seven children left to the ailing and poverty-stricken widower Adrian Manvill. Although it is a memoir, Lucinda reads like a sentimental epistolary novel, where the heroine is seduced, abandoned, and then dies in isolation shortly after her illegitimate child is born. Mischelle B. Anthony’s critical edition rescues this once popular cautionary tale from obscurity and positions it among such classic early American narratives as Charlotte Temple and The Coquette.
In her introduction, Anthony sheds light on the text’s multiple functions among its nineteenth-century readership and draws attention to its unique status as a narrative written by a participant in the events.
P. D. Manvill was born Martha Dyer Waterman to a prominent Rhode Island family in 1764. Lucinda is her only known publication.
Mischelle B. Anthony is associate professor of English at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. She has published numerous articles on early American literature.