Charlotte Smith was a well-known poet as well as the author of many borderline gothic novels, most notably Emmeline: The Orphan of the Castle; Ethelinde, the Recluse of the Lake; Celestina. A Novel, and The Old Manor House.

Smith had many literary friends and well-wishers, among them Robert Southey who called her a Living Remarkable, a woman of genius, good sense and pleasant manners, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Godwin. One of Smith's early patrons was Lamb's aunt, Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire

Smith was a major influence on Jane Austen whose early writings are imitations and satires of Smith's work.

Smith began her literary career by translating the abbé Prévost's novel Manon Lescault which she found in the ruined Normandy chateau she and her husband occupied for a frigid winter after fleeing their English creditors. Interestingly, it was Prévost who translated Richardson into French making him the most widely read and imitated English author in France at the time.

Smith took up novel writing to support her 12 children. Her parents had married her off at only 15 years old to an abusive husband who had good prospects, but turned out to be profligate. Smith's father-in-law was sympathetic enough to their plight to will her children most of his estate. However, Smith's husband claimed the money and she had to undertake a long court battle on behalf of the children. The inheritance was sadly depleted by the time Smith won the suit forty years later. The legal battle inspired the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case in Dickens' Bleak House.

This experience and many other difficulties in her life, including debtor's prison, turned her into a political Radical critical of the courts, marriage laws, and the class system, as well as of slavery, and the war against the American colonists, issues she explores in her novels.

Sir Walter Scott had high praise for Smith and published a memoir about her.

Gothic Labyrinth