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...
(The entire section is 2709 words.)