Ruth Hall became.
Advertisements released before the book's publication predicted the book was "destined to make a sensation." Sure enough, within days of its release in December 1854, critics realized the book was mean-spirited ("Ruthless Hall," Grace Greenwood called her) and, more importantly, that it was autobiographical. Of course, the real problem was that one of the villains in the book, Hyacinth Ellet, was apparently based on "the chronicler of Idlewild," the very popular writer Nathaniel Parker Willis.
On December 23, 1854, the Mason Brothers began advertising that the author never claimed it was autobiography and that critics were looking for trouble. They never denied that it was Willis (it was, after all) but it wasn't their fault that critics recognized an unflattering portrait of that famous writer. The ads inevitably drew more attention to the controversy, and sales of the book skyrocketed, adding up to some 70,000 copies sold.
But the Mason Brothers could not have anticipated William U. Moulton, the former employer of Fanny Fern (and soon to become husband of author and poet Louise Chandler). His embittered response ended the controversy once and for all. More on that in just a few days.