A Political Biography of Eliza Haywood

By Kathryn R. King | Go to book overview

1
‘HER APPROACH TO FAME’: 1714–29

Most accounts of Haywood in the 1720s stress her sexual alliances or the cultural scandal of her earliest fiction, but the more compelling story is of a young woman’s journey towards literary professionalism and ultimately oppositional political engagement. Haywood began her public life ambitious for fame – as an actress first, and then perhaps as a coterie poet – but she found popular acclaim, almost by surprise it would seem, as a ‘best-selling’ novelist. Very soon she was writing as an ‘author by profession’ and by the end of the decade had developed the shrewd marketing practices that would serve her throughout her career. Her politics in the 1720s are not easily pegged, however. Her novels were not exactly written ‘outside the context of party politics and patronage’, as some have thought, but neither did she write as a Tory partisan.1 Dedications, panegyrical passages and records of friendships point instead toward a quest for protection and support from sometimes unexpected quarters. This chapter (and the next) will consider evidence for her partisan alignments and will conclude, with some reservations, that Haywood is probably best described as an opportunist by necessity in this phase of her career. But this is not to say that she lacked political principles or convictions. Even in the 1720s she was drawn to political themes to which she would return for the rest of her career, many of them concerned with social justice and truth-telling.

For this period there exists a relative wealth of information regarding her personal experiences and even, if some speculation is granted, her inner life. This is the time of her infamous squabbles with Martha Sansom (née Fowke) and the toxic falling-out with former intimate and soon-to-be enemy, Richard Savage. Haywood did something she would seldom if ever do again, she took her wounded feelings into print, retelling the story of her disdain for Sansom and Savage and her victimization by them (as she saw it) in prefaces, dedications, self-inscriptions and allegorized fictions. She even invented for her purposes a retaliatory ‘revenge’ subgenre of the amatory novella that enabled her to continue punishing the pair in one encrypted roman-à-clef story after another. By the end of the decade she seems to have cured herself of this proclivity for airing her grievances in public and would thereafter maintain the practised reticence so often remarked nowadays, but during this emotionally tempestuous period she would

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A Political Biography of Eliza Haywood
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Biographical Prolegomenon xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - ‘Her Approach to Fame’- 1714–29 17
  • 2 - Memoirs of a Certain Island Adjacent to Utopia 35
  • 3 - Theatrical Thirties- 1729–37 55
  • 4 - AD Ventures of Eovaai 73
  • 5 - At the Sign of Fame- 1741–4 95
  • 6 - The Female Spectator 111
  • 7 - The Parrot 133
  • 8 - Epistles for the Ladies 155
  • 9 - Was Haywood a Jacobite? 177
  • Epilogue- the Invisible Spy 193
  • Notes 203
  • Works Cited 243
  • Index 259
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