"William B. Warner has argued that Richardson and Fielding set out rather consciously to disavow, absorb yet erase, and obliterate their female predecessors, including Haywood, whose work is essential to the history of the novel. Feminist critics including Margaret Doody, Jane Spencer, and Ros Ballaster give her credit for initiating major forms of the novel [and] key character types." (Oxford DNB)Haywood's earliest novels are perhaps best classed as 'amatory fiction'--sexy, daring tales of adventure in the bedroom and the streets--which is perhaps another reason why they have not until recently received as much attention, acclaim, or study as the more formal, serious novels by her male contemporaries. However, she wrote in many genres, crafting plays, poetry, literary criticism, political essays and conduct books as well as novels. She even translated a number of works from the continent, and founded several periodicals aimed at an educated female audience. With all these ventures, it is not surprise that her tone ranged widely, too. For example, by the 1750s, her books were more moralistic and domestic, and rather less titillating, in tone.
"a professional woman author--she lived by her pen, as the saying goes--writing popular fiction, and it was very popular." (Introduction, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, 7)Haywood's books are the sort of thing that the grandmothers and mothers of Regency women may have read, and perhaps passed down to (or hid from) their daughters. They are the precursors to the novels of such Regency and Victorian luminaries as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and the Brontë sisters.
"As Christopher Flint remarked, 'Haywood, more than any other eighteenth-century writer ... bridges the fictional narratives of Behn or Defoe and the works of Burney and Austen' (Family Fictions, 219)." (Oxford DNB)
"[B]luntly, it is a bodice ripper. It is also an emotionally charged soap opera of brutal ambition, adulterous passion, and abuses of power. Again, it is a cautionary young-adult novel tracing the love-lives of impressionable young women in a violent, male-dominated world. ... Any novelist would kill to write a novel with such broad appeal." (Introduction, Love in Excess, 23)
"the story of an intelligent, independent, wilful woman discovering the full force of the disciplining, transforming forces that create the subdued woman for whom society's gendered commands become willed behaviour." (Oxford DNB)
"the most interesting and instructive stories occur when passion is intensified sufficiently to overcome prudence." (Introduction, Fantomina and Other Works, 16)Haywood herself is almost as much of an enigma as Fantomina (indeed, "female authorship was widely considered to be the literary equivalent of prostitution" [Introduction, Fantomina and Other Works, 9]). There is not a great deal known about her life, at least not in comparison with her contemporaries Fielding and Richardson; the most widely disseminated tidbit about her is that she was mocked by Alexander Pope in his Dunciad (1728). But we must remember that
"[t]hough we now know little about the private woman behind [her] conspicuous success, our ignorance is not proof of her obscurity. ... Haywood was solidly enmeshed in the literary scene of her day." (Introduction, Love in Excess, 8)She was born in Shropshire, married early (her maiden name was Eliza Fowler) and widowed probably by 1719/20, then lived with the poet Richard Savage, by whom she had a child. Beginning in 1724, she lived with William Hatchett, a bookseller and playwright, and had a son with him. She was an actress as well as author: her career on the stage began in 1715. While she began to write fiction in 1719, she continued to act for another two decades. Haywood was a vigorous and brilliant women whose prolific output in all kinds of literary and dramatic fields is incredible. She was active in other ways, too: she participated strenuously in politics, to the point of being brought in for questioning over her statements. She was a truly remarkable woman whose experimental and unconventional life and works are well worth reading as precedents of and precursors to the women authors, and women readers, of the later 18th and the 19th century.
-- Paula R. Backscheider, 'Haywood, Eliza (1693?–1756),' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edn, Sept 2010. [link]
-- Eliza Haywood, Fantomina and Other Works, ed. Alexander Pettit, Margaret Case Croskery, and Anna C. Patchias (Broadview Press, 2004). [link]
-- Eliza Haywood, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, ed. Christine Blouch (Broadview Press, 1998). [link]
-- Eliza Haywood, Love in Excess, ed. David Oakleaf (Broadview Press, 2000); 2nd edn. [link]
-- Haywood's Wikipedia page [link] has a list of her major works and a list of resources, including a modern biography.
[This was a guest post for Lesley-Anne McLeod's Regency blog; many thanks to her for that opportunity, and for allowing me to repost it here at home. Thanks go to her, too, for finding the images.]