Presenting Gender: Changing Sex in Early-Modern Culture

By Chris Mounsey | Go to book overview

The Key to Stowe: Toward a Patriot Whig
Reading of Eliza Haywood's Eovaai

ELIZABETH KUBEK

Such were the difficulties and dangers which encompassed this princess

—Bolingbroke, on Queen Elizabeth I

ELIZA HAYWOOD'S 1736 ADVENTURES OF EOVAAI, PRINCESS OF IJAVEO is often described as resistant to classification, "a wild blend of genres" further confused by participation in "an uneasy piecemeal alliance of otherwise contradictory "political" positions."1 Certainly Eovaai is a hybrid of various forms, although it most closely resembles the popular class of roman a cléf commonly referred to in early modern England as the scandalous chronicle, two examples of which had already procured Haywood some notoriety. However, the assertion that Eovaai lacks coherence is based in misinterpretation of the fiction's specific political context and goals. Constructing the adventures of her "pre-Adamitical" princess, Haywood combines scandal narrative, anti-Walpole satire, fairy tale, and erotic bildungsroman in an act of overdetermination, since all of these genres are employed to demonstrate the same master trope: the conflict between the desire for power and the "Spirit of Patriotism." This last phrase, spoken in Eovaai by the virtuous Alhahuza, is a clear indicator of the fiction's political allegiance. The identification of Alhahuza as Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, is an obvious one, but what remains to be noted is the degree to which this statesman's ideas and goals inform the entire work. Read in the context of Bolingbroke's writings2 and the situation and actions of his supporters in the 1730s, Eovaai emerges not merely as a novel with a key, but as a fiction that is a key. Eovaai deliberately fictionalizes and popularizes the political writings and theories of the exiled Bolingbroke, and also functions as a guidebook to another political text: Stowe, the estate of Bolingbroke's ally Richard Temple, viscount Cobham, and the gathering-place of the so-called "Patriot Whigs." During the 1730s Cobham commissioned for Stowe's gardens and park a series of structures honoring the

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