Born in Portsmouth, England, Susanna Haswell came to America with her parents, Susanna Musgrave and William Haswell, in 1768. Her early education in the classics and a life of comfort were halted by the onset of the Revolutionary War. William Haswell's Tory sympathies led first to the confinement of the Haswell family and later to their removal to England. Impoverished by these events, the family struggled to regain its economic stability, and Susanna aided the family by working as a governess until her marriage to the merchant William Rowson in 1786.
Marriage, however, did not bring economic security; when her husband failed in his business ventures, Haswell Rowson supported the family through her writings and on the stage. In 1792 she settled in Boston, her home for the next quarter century. While directing a school for young women, she continued to write novels, poetry, plays, short stories, and textbooks. Her early novels are rarely acknowledged today, but Haswell Rowson's fourth novel, Charlotte Temple ( 1791), became America's first best-selling novel. Susanna Haswell Rowson died in her adopted city of Boston on March 2, 1824.
Selected Works: Victoria ( 1786); The Inquisitor; or, Invisible Rambler ( 1788); Mary; or, The Test of Honor ( 1789); Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth ( 1791); Mentoria; or, The Young Ladies Friend ( 1791); Rebecca; or, The Fille de Chambre ( 1792); Trials of the Human Heart ( 1795); Reuben and Rachel; or, Tales of Old Times ( 1798). Bibliography: Castiglia; Davidson, introduction to Charlotte Temple; Davidson, Revolution and the Word; Weil.
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