As John Adams observed, the framework of the popular eighteenth-century seduction novel glossed the question of whether liberal governance could sustain virtue. The question of sustaining virtue in an environment of ungoverned passions prefigures later debates about sensational literature, debates that took root in earlier authors who offered sensational subjects to attract and instruct the broadest audiences. Fearful of unbridled democracy, Adams voiced the concern that the character of America would be sacrificed as it came of age after shedding its tyrannical parent, just as Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa shed the unreasonable tyranny of her parents only to succumb to the villainy of the artful seducer Lovelace. Adams presages Joseph Fichtelberg’s recent argument that sentimental writing, “the language of feeling,” “provided the imagery through which Americans sought to explain and shape the market,” thereby symbolizing “the mechanisms of exchange” (1). Viewing the seduction novel as a representation of an unbridled marketplace, Fichtelberg opposes dominant critics, such as Ann Douglas, Julia Stern, Nina Baym, Jane Tompkins, and Cathy Davidson, who in various ways “treat sentimental writing as a refuge, a protest, or an occult expression of the market and its consequences” (Fichtelberg 2).