Charlotte Temple

Charlotte Temple Summary and Analysis of Chapters XXXI-XXXV


Chapter XXXI

When Charlotte arrives at the Crayton house, Mrs. Crayton is upstairs playing cards. One of the servants, John, brings her Charlotte’s letter, but she coldly rejects the young girl’s request for help, claiming not to know her. Charlotte realizes she will die of exposure and faints, but Mrs. Crayton remains unmoved. John takes Charlotte back to his hovel and gets her a doctor. That night, she gives birth to a daughter.

Chapter XXXII

The narrator explains Mrs. Crayton’s real reason for not helping Charlotte. She is worried that Charlotte will tell her husband about Mrs. Crayton’s influence in her downfall, thus ruining her marriage. The narrator interjects that it would have been smarter to help Charlotte, since she could have bribed her not to tell Crayton about her role in the elopement.

All of the servants gossip about Mrs. Crayton’s failure to help “a poor distressed lunatic,” and even Corydon is put off by her lack of generosity. Meanwhile, Charlotte is delirious for days after the birth, and does not recognize the child as her own. John continues to host her but is too poor to provide her with everything she needs to recuperate, so the doctor starts a collection for Charlotte among the officer’s wives. One night, Mrs. Beauchamp, who is back from her travels, calls the doctor because one of her children is ill. He tells her about Charlotte’s plight, and she and the doctor leave immediately to help the dying girl.

Chapter XXXIII

Mrs. Beauchamp almost faints when she sees the wretched conditions in which Charlotte has been staying. Charlotte recognizes her but cannot remember her name, but still thanks her heartily for coming to see her and asks about the letter to her parents. Mrs. Beauchamp wants to move Charlotte to her house, but she is too ill to be moved so she pays for the hovel to be made more comfortable. She also gives John a large reward for his hospitality.

The next morning, Mrs. Beauchamp visits Charlotte again. Although she is very lucid, recognizing her daughter and calling Mrs. Beauchamp by name, the doctor says she has only a few hours to live. Charlotte realizes that she is dying, and says a prayer for her daughter before asking for a clergyman. Just then, Mr. Temple appears at the door, having arrived in America and tracked Charlotte to John’s hovel. Charlotte dies in his arms and entrusts him with her baby.

Chapter XXXIV

Montraville is stationed in New York, and enquires after Charlotte to see how she is doing. He finds out from the servant girl that Charlotte left one night on foot to New York. Attempting to trace her, Montraville stumbles upon her funeral. He offers to let Mr. Temple kill him to avenge his daughter, but Mr. Temple declines, reasoning that Montraville’s guilt is a worse punishment than death. Suddenly, Montraville remembers that Belcour was supposed to care for Charlotte, and he goes to his house and stabs him to death. However, he is wounded in the duel and the cut becomes infected, resulting in a long illness. While he is sick, he raves deliriously for Charlotte, but Julia never leaves his side. He eventually recovers but is “subject to severe fits of melancholy” for the rest of his life.

Chapter XXXV

Mr. Temple brings Charlotte’s daughter back to England. Although everyone is distraught by Charlotte’s death, Mrs. Temple eventually gets some comfort from raising the baby, which they name Lucy. On an excursion to London ten years later, they see a wretched woman dying of exposure in the streets. They take her in, and she apologizes for corrupting their daughter, explaining that she is Mademoiselle La Rue. She separated from Crayton three years after Charlotte’s death, and has spent the past seven years living extravagantly until she ran out of money. Mr. Temple forgives her and takes her to a hospital, but she dies a few days later.


In the final chapters of Charlotte Temple, Rowson deviates significantly from her earlier assertions that the greatest punishment for immorality is spiritual poverty, not worldly suffering. When Mrs. Crayton declines to shelter Charlotte, the narrator speculates that if she had helped her former friend, she could have bribed her to keep quiet about her early indiscretions, thus saving her marriage and perhaps preventing its dissolution three years later. This suggests a direct correlation between one’s moral choices and one’s fate.

Similarly, Rowson ends the novel by showing Mrs. Crayton (now Mademoiselle La Rue again) as a wretched hag, fallen on hard times due to her extravagant lifestyle and inability to stay with her husband. She adds that this suffering is due to her “vice,” which “leads only to misery and shame.” Importantly, La Rue asks Mr. Temple not for food or shelter, but for forgiveness for leading his daughter astray. This suggests that despite her dramatically reduced circumstances, La Rue’s greatest suffering comes from the guilt she feels about hurting Charlotte.

In the final chapters, most of the characters become extreme examples of moral or immoral behavior, and any ambiguity dissipates. When she is not delirious, Charlotte devotes herself wholly to penitence, referring to her child as “the offspring of disobedience.” Meanwhile, Mr. Temple, Mrs. Beauchamp, and John all serve as examples of hyperbolic generosity, doing anything to help the less fortunate even when it means making significant sacrifices themselves. This lack of ambiguity cements the novel’s status as a didactic allegory, where the story is meant to teach a straightforward moral that readers can apply to their own lives.

Despite his indiscretions, Montraville remains a romantic hero to the end of the book, bravely confronting Belcour, and adopting a decidedly melancholy, Byronic attitude after Charlotte’s death. By keeping Montraville an appealing character throughout the novel, and blaming his abandonment of Charlotte on ignorance rather than indifference, Rowson reminds female readers that even honorable men can betray them accidentally. She also demonstrates to male readers that behaving as Montraville does has consequences for themselves, beyond financial obligation and difficulty finding a wife.

Rowson uses the minor characters in this section to illustrate her message of contentment. John and his wife do not try to take advantage of Charlotte despite their extreme poverty, and are willing to do with even less food and space in order to help her. Similarly, Julia readily accepts Montraville’s relationship with Charlotte and stands by him as a wife, accepting her circumstances and caring for Montraville despite his dishonesty about his romantic past.