Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The City Widow: Or, Love in a Butt

Although the dedication of Ab.44 The City Widow is signed ‘Eliz. Haywood’ it was not identified as being by Haywood in any work of reference until 1972, and it wasn't included in any list of Haywood's works until 1991. It is yet to attract any interest and it remains, basically, invisible (a search on the MLA International Bibliography found no articles that refer to it!).

The invisibility of The City Widow is partly because it is an extremely rare work: there are no copies in the UK, and it was only when the National Union Catalog reached ‘Haywood’ in 1972 that scholars could easily locate the two copies held in the US, at the Clark and Newberry libraries. (To these two can now be added a third, my own [above].)

However, the Clark copy of the first issue has been available on microfilm since the mid-80s and a scan of this microfilm has been available online to much of the academic community for at least five years. So, what gives?

It seems likely that, until The City Widow is widely available in edited form, it will remain invisible for some time. And the chance of it being edited for a commercial publisher at present seems slim. Certainly, it is highly unlikely (i.e., there is no chance) that Pickering and Chatto will extend their collection of Selected Works of Eliza Haywood and I do not know of any other press which is likely to take on such a large editorial project.

(That said, two of Haywood's shorter works will appear in the Chawton House Library series and it is possible that other works, not previously edited, will appear like this over time. However, given that this is the first editorial undertaking in a decade, it will be a very long time—if ever—that Haywood's complete corpus will appear in this haphazard way.)

Since it became clear (by about 2004) that Pickering and Chatto were not interested in extending their Selected Works I have given quite a bit of thought, off and on, to the idea of editing the Complete Works of Eliza Haywood myself, or trying to coordinate the editing of Haywood's complete works.

Clearly, a large project such as this would take many years to complete, even if a number of scholars collaborated on it. Then again, many of the volumes would also be very short and many of the shortest volumes would be the most interesting (at least, from my point of view). Depending on how the project were set up, and how widely the volumes were sold, I'd expect such a project would have quite an rapid impact at graduate level, helping to encourage the study of many of the works by Haywood that remain invisible.

Pickering and Chatto only abandoned the Selected Works of Eliza Haywood for commercial reasons: if they thought they could spin money out of such a project, they would be onto it at once, so it seems unlikely that any other commercial publisher would be any more interested, which leaves only three avenues: a subsidised project, issued by a commercial publisher (I am not sure who—which funding body—would have the funds to subsidise such a large undertaking), a non-commercial academic press (I am not sure any of these survive) or a non-commercial, non-academic press like Lulu.

At present, I prefer Lulu. And, if this were a collaborative undertaking, pursued by Haywood scholars with the intention of making reliable and approachable texts available to students, the fact that Lulu allows the printing of cheap paperbacks (for students) and sturdy hardbacks (for libraries) would have to count in its favour.

And given, as I have discovered recently, that the actual editing of primary texts does not count as academic activity in any way in the eyes of government bean-counters, there is no incentive to seek a commercial publisher, who would only water-down academic standards in editing, restrict circulation for commercial reasons, and be empowered to almost indefinitely limit future access by their control of the copyright.

As for where to start with The Complete Works of Eliza Haywood: to a certain extent the exact title would not matter with a project like this, but the early emphasis would have to be on texts like The City Widow which have, so far, escaped attention merely because they are rare. There are quite a few works by Haywood that are either not available in any form or which are just as rare (such as Ab.24 The Fatal Fondness and Ab.40 The Perplex'd Dutchess). After this would be all other works that are not yet edited and bringing up the rear, works that are available in edited form like Fantomina.

* * * * *

Since I have been thinking of editing The Complete Works of Eliza Haywood for at least a decade, I have long been been collecting and transcribing texts. And now that I have a copy of The City Widow I am in a position to edit it—one of the most pressing cases—as I would like to see all the Haywood texts edited, against a copy of the original. Below is a sample of the text. Any volunteers to edit it?

The Dedication:

To Mrs. Burscoe, Relict of Mr. John Burscoe, Vintner.


As diamonds are illustrated by their foils, so virtue appears most bright when compar’d with vice. Your perfections are, indeed, brightly conspicuous of themselves, but when we see an opposite character, in a person of much the same circumstances, they are shown in more true, as |4| well as in more amiable colours. It is in justice therefore to your merit, I lay this little History at your feet, it being impossible to consider the faults of my Widow, without applauding the excellent conduct You have maintain’d, since the death of your justly lamented Spouse. The visible contrast between you, renders this Piece an offering fit for You, and for you alone, and will, I hope, engage a favourable acceptance from her who is,

  With all due Admiration,
      Your humble, and most obedient Servant,
        Eliz. Haywood.

The City Widow: Or, Love in a Butt

Bacchus and Cupid have always been the most intimate of all the Gods, and never fail to assist each other’s Designs. Hymen has a thousand times endeavour’d to breed a difference between then; but they not only rejected his insinuations, but likewise, at last, drove him intirely out of their Society. As soon as he approaches, the amorous and jovial Deities quit their place, and leave him to the reproachful complaints |6| of his unhappy devotees. Bacchalia, who, for many a long year, had languish’d beneath his chains, being happily deliver’d of the burthen, those friendly powers resolv’d to take into their mutual protection; and accordingly inspir’d her with the nicest relish of those pleasures, Love and Wine afford. She now indulg’d herself in rich Tokay, Frontignac and Hermitage, whose generous influence, renewing that vigour the approaches of age had somewhat impair’d, the bounteous God, of tender languishments, presented her with a swain, who wanted no requisite to gratify her amorous fires. He was tall, his limbs admirably proportion’d, his complexion sanguine, had very regular features, and eyes, that bespoke his inclinations of the warmest nature. She no sooner saw him, than she became passionately charm’d with him; but now alas! the malice of Hymen began to show itself, and he was resolv’d to be reveng’d on his Antagonist Deities, in the person of their favourite Bacchalia. He inspir’d the breast of Sylvander, for so the lovely youth was call’d, with desires vastly different from those she was possess’d of. He burn’d, indeed, he rag’d, he long’d for the enjoyment of Bacchalia, but all his wishes tended |7| to marriage, nor had a thought of obtaining her, but by being her husband. He made his addresses, therefore, in the most distant and honourable fashion; testifying by all his words and actions, that his passion was accompany’d with the extreamest respect and veneration; but these note being the qualities she desir’d in him, she set her whole wit at work to embolden him to a more familiar behaviour.

[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After all my pictures disappeared again I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files and, for now on, will stick with the smaller images (500px), which Blogger is prepared to host.]

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