In 1791 Susanna Rowson published a novel titled Charlotte, A Tale of Truth that would in editions be known simply as Charlotte Temple. Many later editions were printed and most of those copies immediately purchased as Charlotte Temple did something that had never been done before in the short history of America: it made its author America’s first female writer of a bestseller. Rowson died in 1824 and sometime after that the discovery was made that she had written a sequel to her popular tale which told of the fate of Charlotte’s daughter, Lucy.
Originally published in 1828 as Charlotte’s Daughter; or the Three Orphans, it too would undergo a name change as the result of later editions. The 1842 edition directly tied the sequel to the original with its simpler Lucy Temple and that is how it is been referred to ever since. As the original title indicates, Lucy is not the sole focus of the story; she is just one of three 18-year-old orphaned girls facing various levels of difficulties as they seek the happily-ever-after of marrying wisely and well. The other two parent-challenged wards of Reverend Matthews represent the extremes with one being abandoned by her husband and the other doing remarkably better. As for Lucy, one might her fortune falls in between. Or, then again, one might say it is even more emotionally devastating than losing a loser: after discovering she and her husband share the same biological father, they both commit to a life platonic celibacy.
Although it would go on to become Rowson’s last popular success—though in no way eclipsing the status of Charlotte Temple—the critical reception was tepid enough to deem that the daughter’s story would forever be a lightweight up against the history-making volume introduced the Temple family into the world.