It is often said that Charlotte Smith’s final novel, The Young Philosopher (1798), is concerned with marginal or liminal locations and states of being, an aspect of the work which has been seen to actively facilitate its critique of the values and power structures of mainstream British society. Elizabeth Kraft, for example, observes that

This employment of the periphery as a physical and conceptual space from which to appraise and criticize the center characterizes what Eleanor Ty has termed the “ex-centric” nature of the novel, which explores “the out of the ordinary as well as the de-centerd or marginalized.”2 However, whilst the novel’s concern with marginality has been noted, it has yet to receive sustained critical attention in terms of the use of geography and space in the novel, something which is perhaps surprising, given the significance of coastal settings in the story of Laura Glenmorris. This essay demonstrates that in The Young Philosopher, as in the poetry that preceded it, Smith uses the coastline as a powerfully symbolic space for the exploration of the relationship between female identity and patriarchal authority in its various manifestations. It has been argued that during the course of the eighteenth century the British coastline came to be seen as a clear and “settled” border within which national identity could be forged.3 Smith, however, represents the fringe of Britain in much more ambiguous terms. Absolutely fundamental to

the narrative direction of the novel, the coastal settings of The Young Philosopher are spaces of opportunity, where fortunes change and freedom from oppression becomes a possibility. Yet they are also places of sorrow, frustration, violence, and criminality, where the suffering of women is thrown into sharp relief and the sanctuary offered by nature proves only a temporary refuge from the injustices and oppression which are shown to exist, not only at Britain’s borders, but also at its heart.