Academic journal article Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

Eliza Haywood, Periodicalist(?)

Academic journal article Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

Eliza Haywood, Periodicalist(?)

Article excerpt

The final decade of Eliza Haywood 's career presents us with a poorly un- derstood burst of hard-to-categorize writings that further complicates her already complex legacy as a novelist of the passions. Her eighteenth- century readers understood this to be the case as well, or at least one of them did. On the seventh evening of Clara Reeve's Progress of Romance (1785), the main speaker, Euphrasia, memorably addresses Haywood as an author who began her career in licentiousness but later recovered her reputation and la- bored long in the "service of virtue" (214). Reeve differs from many modern readers in that she is less impressed by Haywood 's later (and supposedly more moralistic, whatever that means) novels than she is with the various pieces Haywood composed in the essay tradition:

Mrs. Heywood [sic] was one of the most voluminous female writers that ever England produced, none of her latter works are destitute of merit, though they do not rise to the highest pitch of excellence.-Betsey [sic] Thoughtless is reckoned her best Novel; but those works by which she is most likely to be known to posterity, are The Female Spectator, and the In- visible Spy. (214-15)

Euphrasia and her wise companion Sophronia agree in hoping these Addiso- nian texts will long "survive to do [Haywood] honour!" (215). Reeve's descrip- tion here of a dual-part structure for Haywood's career-an immoral beginning and a moral conclusion, neatly divided by the 1740s-has been slid- ing out of scholarly favor for years. Yet whether or not Haywood turned away from and redeemed, or even wanted to redeem, her earlier work, there is a ge- neric argument also at play in The Progress of Romance, and it is this buried concern with genre and futurity that interests this essay. Reeve understands Haywood's career as moving away from the novel form: the culmination of her authorial powers that will preserve her reputation is not, at least for Reeve, Betsy Thoughtless, which is her best novel, but not her most memorable work. Inspired by Reeve's suggestion, or perhaps admonition, that we remember Haywood as the author of The Female Spectator, this essay has two intercon- nected premises: one, that Haywood was an enormously inventive writer of periodical-like texts, and that we could do worse than consider this a major part of her legacy; and two, that it is surprisingly difficult to be certain about exactly which of Haywood 's late texts are actually periodicals. While it insists on the importance of her extensive periodical labor to understanding Hay- wood 's career, this essay also, perhaps paradoxically, questions the readiness with which some critics have attached the label "periodical" to particular Hay- wood texts. This is less because I believe they are wrong to do so than because Haywood's nontraditional approach to using the periodical form reaffirms her indefatigable genre savvy and simultaneously poses some provocative ques- tions for scholars who study periodicals, such as how we can most usefully de- fine the kinds of writing that constitute such a heterogeneous genre.

The impetus for my investigation comes in part from two recent books that opt to describe as "periodicals" a pair of Haywood texts that I would not, in my own work on that genre, have described so: Kathryn King designates the Epistles for the Ladies a periodical in her Political Biography, and in Gender and the Fictions of the Public Sphere, Anthony Pollock discusses The Invisible Spy as "one of [Haywood 's] last periodical enterprises" (166). I will weigh both these texts and their claims regarding periodical classification momentarily. This in- teresting expansion of the scope of Haywood's periodical work likely owes a considerable debt to the prominence of The Female Spectator in newer scholar- ship, and indeed, any discussion of Haywood 's essay writing must, as even Clara Reeve's brief commentary does, begin with The Female Spectator. Thanks to the collection of essays on that work edited by Donald J. …

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