Eliza Haywood Essay - Critical Essays

Haywood, Eliza


Eliza Haywood 1693?–1756

(Also Heywood, also wrote under the pseudonym of Exploralibus) English novelist, dramatist, essayist, and poet.

Haywood's career spanned a transitional period in the history of the English novel. Her works reflect broad changes in the popular novel in the eighteenth century: from the early model of the fanciful French romance to more realistic novels featuring characters drawn from different social classes. She also produced several periodicals, including The Female Spectator, which prescribed conduct, manners, and morals to her readers.

Biographical Information

Little is known about Haywood's early life. She was probably born in London, and she married in 1710. Few details of her marriage are known, and between 1715 and 1720 she separated from her husband. She worked as an actress in Dublin, Ireland, and in London, where she published her enormously successful first novel, Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry in three volumes in 1719 and 1720. She also wrote dramas early in her career, but they were less successful, and she focused on novel-writing as a means of supporting herself. Her first works were romantic novels focusing on the travails of high-born ladies seeking to retain their virtue, modeled after the works of Aphra Behn. Haywood was a popular and widely read author for many years, and most of her novels went into several editions during her lifetime. Although her popularity with the reading public declined toward the end of her life, she continued to write and publish until close to her death in 1756.

Major Works

In the 1720s the "secret histories" of novelist Mary Manley became popular. These works retold or invented scandalous episodes in the lives of readily identifiable well-known people, thinly disguised behind invented names or foreign. Haywood adopted the form and produced Memoirs of a Certain Island Adjacent to Utopia and The Secret History of the Present Intrigues of the Court of Caramania. Her scandalous, thinly veiled satires of prominent social and political figures incurred the wrath of Alexander Pope, who made her one of the most vulgar figures in his Dunciad of 1728. In Pope's satire, Haywood is the prize awarded to the bookseller Edmund Curll after a contest celebrating the coronation of the Kind of Dullness. Pope also attacked Haywood's character by implying that she was the mother of two illegitimate children, although he may have been referring to two of her anonymously published works.

The Dunciad damaged Haywood's personal and professional reputation, and for the next sixteen years she published mostly anonymously, or under various pseudonyms. She also renewed her interest and involvement in the theater, producing a play, acting, and collaborating with other playwrights. In the last two decades of her life she established a new reputation for herself. The reading public was rejected the romantic novel in favor of more realistic descriptions of life and character. Heywood wrote a series of moralistic studies of love among the middle and upper classes. Foremost among these is The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, which most critics have called her best work of fiction. Considered by some to be the first novel about domestic life written in English, it was an early attempt to use the processes of daily life as material for fiction. Betsy Thoughtless contained Haywood's best-developed characters and most realistic setting, and it stands as a minor but not inconsequential example of the kind of realistic fiction being produced by Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.

During this period, Haywood's most didactic writing was done in short-lived periodicals, including The Female Spectator, the first magazine by a woman for a woman. Written entirely by Haywood, the essays in The Female Spectator dealt with such topics as love, marriage, female education, morals, manners, literature, philosophy, and the arts. The magazine, which appeared for two years, was an innovative attempt to raise the intellectual level of popular reading material for women.

Critical Reception

Haywood's chief skill as a novelist, in the opinion of one contemporary critic, was her power to elicit an emotional response from her readers. She is noted by modern critics for introducing character studies into her works at a time when detailed exploration of character was rarely seen in popular fiction. Haywood's innovative use of middle-class characters and events from everyday life are credited with contributing to the movement toward realism in the novel genre. Haywood's novels are often overplotted, contain stock characters and incidents, and employ extravagant language. Nevertheless, her works provided enjoyment and entertainment for the readers of her day, and they give modern readers and scholars unique insight into eighteenth-century women's lives, public taste, and the development of prose fiction.

Principal Works

*†Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry. 3 vols, (novel) 1719-20

The Fair Captive (drama) 1721

*†The British Recluse; or, The Secret History of Cleomira, Supos'd Dead (novel) 1722

*†Idalia; or, The Unfortunate Mistress (novel) 1723

†‡The Masqueraders ; or, Fatal Curiosity (novel) 1724-5

Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze (novel) 1724

*†Lasselia; or, The Self-Abandoned (novel) 1724

*†Poems on Several Occasions (poetry) 1724

*†The Rash Resolve; or, The Untimely Discovery (novel) 1724

A Spy Upon the Conjurer; or, A Collection of Surprising Stories, with Names, Places, and Particular Circumstances Relating to Mr. Duncan Campbell, Commonly Known by the Name of the Deaf and Dumb Man; and the Astonishing Penetration and Event of His Predictions (novel) 1724

* A Wife to Be Let (drama) 1724

Memoirs of a Certain Island Adjacent to the Kingdom of Utopia. 2 vols, (novel) 1725-26

The Perplexed Duchess; or, Treachery Rewarded (novel) 1727

Philidore and Placentia; or, L'Amor trop Delicat (novel) 1727

The Secret History of the Present Intrigues of the Court of Caramania (novel) 1727

Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lunenburgh (drama) 1729

The Adventures of Eovaai, Princess of Ijaveo. A Pre-Adamitical History (novel) 1736; also published as The Unfortunate Princess, 1741.

Anti-Pamela; or, Feigned Innocence Detected in a Series of Syrena's Adventures (novel) 1742

The Female Spectator. 4 vols, (periodical) 1744-46

Dalinda; or, The Double Marriage (novel) 1749

The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless. 4 vols, (novel) 1751

The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (novel) 1753

The Invisible Spy (novel) 1755

* These works, or portions of them, were included in Haywood's four-volume Works, published in 1724.

† These works, or portions of them, were included in Haywood's four-volume Secret Histories, Novels, and Poems, published in 1725.

‡ These works, or portions of them, were included in Haywood's two-volume Secret Histories, Novels, etc., published in 1727.


Joyce M. Horner (essay date 1929-30)

SOURCE: "The Fair Triumvirate of Wit," in Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, Vol. XI, Nos. 1-3, October 1929-July 1930, pp. 1-23.

[In the following excerpt, Horner provides an assessment of Haywood's work and career.]

.A few years before the death of Mrs Manley, there appeared in the Postboy for January 7, 1721, the following notice:

"Whereas Elizabeth Haywood, Wife of the Reverend Mr Valentine Haywood, eloped from him her Husband on Saturday the 26 of November, last past, and went away without his Knowledge and Consent: This is to give Notice to all persons in general, That if any one shall trust her, either with Money or Goods, or if she shall contract Debts of any kind whatsoever, the said Mr Haywood will not pay the same."34

This Elizabeth, or Eliza, Haywood would have been recognized by contemporary readers of this announcement as the author of a popular novel called Love in Excess, which had appeared in 1719. She may have been known in other capacities, also, for she had appeared as an actress on one occasion at least, in Shadwell's version of Timon, when it was produced at Dublin in 1715; and if she was, indeed, Sappho of the Tatler35 she must have attracted public attention earlier than this. But, today, we know very little of the early life of the lady in question. All that is on record is that Eliza Fowler, daughter of a London shopkeeper, married, while she was still in her teens, the Reverend Valentine Haywood, author of a few forgotten theological works; and the next intimation we have is that she is running away from him. This break with her husband is the beginning of Mrs Haywood's activity as a writer.

Later in her career, when she is looking back and moralizing in the Female Spectator over her own experience, Mrs Haywood speaks of the round of pleasures and "promiscuous diversions," in which she indulged in her youth. One wonders how she managed to lead so gay a life with a narrow orthodox clergyman for a husband; still more, how the Reverend Valentine Haywood came to allow his young wife to flaunt herself on the boards of the Smock Alley Playhouse. It looks as though her elopement from him was only the climax of a series of attempts on the part of a high-spirited woman to assert herself. Elsewhere, in a letter to Curll, included in the Female Dunciad, she speaks of the "little inadvertencies of her early life."36 This confession from herself, together with Pope's reference to the "two babes of love,"37 which Curll backed up with his not very trustworthy evidence that they were the children of a poet and a bookseller, suggest that Eliza's character was not always highly moral. But we have only vague hints and unsubstantiated slanders from which to reconstruct her private life, and we have to remember that the mere fact that she was a woman author, a successor of the infamous Mrs Manley, an associate of the not over respectable society of the theatres and of Grub Street, was enough to get her an undesirable reputation.

It is probable that when she cut herself off from her husband, Mrs Haywood felt fairly confident of her ability to earn her living as a writer. Her little experience of the stage gave her the courage to offer her services to Rich, then owner of the Lincoln's Inn Theatre, and the announcement of her first play, The Fair Captive, occurring only a few months after the Reverend Valentine's advertisement, comes with the effect of a counterchallenge to her husband. The popularity of Love in Excess, however, gave her a better start in her professional career than her experience as an actress. Her dramatic work, like Mrs Manley's, is unimportant, but right up to her death she was a well-known novelist.

It would be tedious and unnecessary here to make a catalogue of all her works. She produced over fifty of the fictitious tales of various kinds that we may loosely class as novels. Some of these, Love in Excess and all its train, are pure romances of the type of Mrs Behn's stories and the seven novels of Mrs Manley's Power of Love. Some are secret histories of the type of the Atlantis—notably the famous Court of Carimania, which brought her more enemies than she knew how to cope with. The best of them, like Betsy Thoughtless and Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy, are domestic novels of the type which came into fashion after Pamela. Besides her plays and romances, Mrs Haywood wrote essays, letters, moral tracts, and translated from the French. In 1744 she started the popular Female Spectator, which she brought out monthly for two years, herself the "onlie begetter" of it. In 1746, from August to October, she produced a weekly paper, the Parrot. She was, moreover, for part of the time her own publisher, for in her Virtuous Villager, in 1742, appears an advertisement for "new books sold by Eliza Haywood, Publisher at the sign of Fame in Covent Garden." From 1719 to her death in 1756, hardly half a dozen years go by without some new work from the pen of Mrs Haywood. At one period of her life, about the year 1724, she was writing at the rate of a novel a month.

Many who have not read a line of Mrs Haywood's own work have seen her name in a footnote to the Dunciad,38 and her novels on the back of the ass which appears as the frontispiece. Her relations with Pope form a turning point in Mrs Haywood's life. Before 1728, in the years of her greatest activity, when amorous novel after amorous novel came from her pen, we gather that she was a popular author. The first collected edition of her works, in 1724, was ushered in by the usual chorus of minor poets. Richard Savage protests that her "soul-thrilling accents" have brought tears to his eyes; a poem "by an unknown hand" tells how its author was "an atheist to love's power declared" until Mrs Haywood's mastery of the tender passion convert ed him. James Sterling proclaims her as "Born to delight as to reform the age." The number of the editions of her novels which were called for is a more substantial evidence of her popularity; and we have an indication of the fact that her name was a useful one to the book-seller, in its appearance in big print on the title page of the Pleasant and Delightful History of Gillian of Croyden,39 a work in which she...

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Helene Koon (essay date 1978)

SOURCE: "Eliza Haywood and the Female Spectator" in The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. XLII, No. 1, Winter, 1978, pp. 43-55.

[In the following essay, Koon discusses the social context of Haywood's periodical The Female Spectator.]

Eliza Haywood, daughter of a London shopkeeper, was probably born in 1690, probably married Valentine Haywood about 1710, and probably left him somewhere between 1715 and 1720.1 The vagueness of these facts indicates the slight attention paid the woman who burst like a rocket on the London literary scene in 1720 with the publication of her first book, Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry. By 1725 that novel was...

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Mary Anne Schofield (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: "The Awakening of the Eighteenth-Century Heroine: Eliza Haywood's New Women," in The CEA Critic: An Official Journal of the College English Association, Vol. 43, No. 3, March, 1981, pp. 9-13.

[In the following essay, Schofield offers an analysis of Haywood's female heroines and of Haywood's role in the development of the novel. Schofield also examines ways that Haywood's works contribute to an understanding of eighteenth-century social life.]

Until recent years critical studies of eighteenth-century fiction have begun with considerations of Richardson and Fielding.1 As seen from the perspective of these general histories, the eighteenth-century novel...

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April London (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: "Placing the Female," in Fetter'd of Free?: British Women Novelists, 1670-1815, edited by Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski, Ohio University Press, 1986, pp. 101-23.

[In the following excerpt, London examines plot, characterization, and garden imagery in Haywood's novel Love in Excess.]

Eliza Haywood's most successful novel, Love in Excess; or The Fatal Inquiry centers on the amorous adventures of two brothers, with a neighboring baronet and his sister drawn in during the second volume as an added complication. The eldest brother, Count d'Elmont, returns to Paris after two years spent in a military career and is immediately besieged by various...

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Mary Anne Schofield (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: "Descending Angels," in Fetter'd of Free?: British Women Novelists, 1670-1815, edited by Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski, Ohio University Press, 1986, pp. 186-200.

[In the following essay, Schofield analyzes Haywood's depiction of prostitutes in her fiction.]

In 1731 Sarah Millwood, London prostitute, protests:

I curse your barbarous sex, who robb'd me of [my virtues] e'er I knew their worth; then left me, too late, to count their value by their loss. Another and another Spoiler came, and all my gain was poverty and reproach.1

She expresses the feminine concern of the...

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Mary Anne Schofield (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: Introduction to Masquerade Novels of Eliza Haywood, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1986, pp. 5-20.

[In the following essay, Schofield provides an overview of the theme of masking in four of Haywood's popular novels.]

Eliza Fowler Haywood (1693?-1756) is the most popular and prolific of English eighteenth-century women novelists. Writing some sixty-odd novels and romances, she also found time to produce the first magazine by and for women (The Female Spectator), compose conduct-guide books (e.g., Love Letters on All Occasions; The Wife; The Husband in Answer to the Wife) and dramas (e.g., Frederick, Duke of Lunenburg-Saxon; The Fair...

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Jane Spencer (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: "Reform by Self-Discovery: Eliza Haywood's The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751)," in The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen, Basil Blackwell, 1986, pp. 147-52.

[In the following excerpt from her study of female novelists in English, Spencer examines the theme of the reformed heroine in Haywood's novel Miss Betsy Thoughtless.]

The change in Eliza Haywood's tone when she began writing novels again after the 1730s has already been mentioned. Betsy Thoughtless and The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (1753) differ from her earlier works not just in the greater concessions to the new feminine modesty and...

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John J. Richetti (essay date 1987)

SOURCE: "Voice and Gender in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Haywood to Burney," in Studies in the Novel, Vol. XIX, No. 3, Fall, 1987, pp. 263-72.

[In the following essay, Richetti analyzes female speech in Haywood's works, especially in The Rash Resolve, and compares it with that depicted by other eighteenth-century novelists.]

Inescapably but also elusively, gender must affect speech. Given their distinct positions in the hierarchy of social power, men and women must have different relationships to language and use it in different ways. In the special speaking we call writing, similar differences must also somehow be at work, and feminist criticism is partly...

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Mary Anne Schofield (essay date 1990)

SOURCE: "The Later Haywood," in Masking and Unmasking the Mind: Disguising Romances in Feminine Fiction, 1713-1799, University of Delaware Press, 1990, pp. 101-8.

[In the following essay, Schofield examines the theme of disguise in Haywood's Miss Betsy Thoughtless.]

The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751)1 following the success of Collyer's Felicia to Charlotte (1744) and Richardson's Pamela (1741) demonstrates, first of all, Haywood's chameleon-like ability to follow the popular form, in this case, the morally acceptable romance-novel. Richardson's emphasis on the educability of the feminine public in their moral awareness is...

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Christine Blouch (essay date 1991)

SOURCE: "Eliza Haywood and the Romance of Obscurity," in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 31, No. 3, Summer, 1991, pp. 535-52.

[In the following essay, Blouch discussess Haywood's relative biographical and critical obscurity.]

The closest Eliza Haywood ever got to Poet's Corner was an unmarked grave within a stone's throw of it. The prolific early novelist lies buried in St. Margaret's parish churchyard, now covered by the extensive manicured lawn adjacent to Westminster Abbey and to the poets whose reputations she never equaled.1

Haywood's works have suffered a similarly unremarked fate. The purpose of this article is to initiate...

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Further Reading

Ballaster, Ros. Seductive Forms: Women's Amatory Fiction from 1684-1740. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, 232 p.

Scholarly study of romance fiction and the development of the novel in the first half of the eighteenth century, with an extended discussion of Haywood.

Jerrold, Walter and Clare. Five Queer Women. New York: Brentano's Ltd., 1929, 356 p.

Biographically oriented examination of Haywood and four of her contemporaries, focusing on their unconventional relationships with the social and literary expectations of their respective eras.

MacCarthy, B. G....

(The entire section is 407 words.)