Thursday 26 February 2015

Wall of Shame

On this page I plan on memorialising some of the negative, dismissive, outrageous and idiotic statements made about Eliza Haywood and her (actual or putative) works. (I have already discussed Haywood's reputation before the twentieth century, and collected together some of the more positive statements made about Haywood here.)

I think that it is worth collecting some of the misogyny, prejudice and ignorance of the last two centuries in one place so that the (admirable) restraint of modern scholars—who are prone to tell students that Haywood's works have been "overlooked" or "dismissed"—is more obvious.

[1731]. Jonathan Swift [letter dated 26 October 1731], in Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk (1824), 2.29 (here)

Mrs. Heywood I have heard of as a stupid, infamous, scribbling woman, but have not seen any of her productions.

[1815]. Sir Egerton Brydges, Censura Literaria: Containing Titles, Abstracts, and Opinions of Old English Books, 2nd ed. (1815), 10.312 fn (here):

Secret Histories, Novels, and Poems, Written by Mrs. Eliza Haywood, 1732, in 4 vols. and third edition. Unless there was some omission, or a subsequent reprint with addition, it seems doubtful which story of this disgraceful detailer of lascivious passion, rapes, adultery, and murder, is referred to.

[1823]. Anonymous reviewer of Peveril of the Peak in The Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 100 (February 1823), 188 (here):

The productions of Mrs. Heywood, or of Mrs. Behn, would be little compatible with the delicacy of modern days: but, indeed, the scale of feeling on such subjects, more especially among women, has been very much raised since that period.

[1833]. Lord Dover [annotation] in Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann, edited by Lord Dover (1833), 1.325 (here):

Eliza Heywood, a voluminous writer of indifferent novels; of which the best known is one called "Betsy Thoughtless."

[1842]. Charles Whitehead, Richard Savage: A Romance of Real Life (1844), ch. 15 fn (here):

Eliza Haywood, although now nearly forgotten, attained during her life-time to an enviable celebrity. Pope, in his Dunciad, has heaped terrible infamy upon her head. Her plays I have not seen; but I have looked into her novels of which "The History of Betsy Thoughtless " and "Jenny and Jemmy Jessamy " are the most considerable. They possess no common degree of merit, but are altogether unfit for modern perusal.

[1848]. Thomas Wright, England Under the House of Hanover: Its History and Condition During the Reigns of the Three Georges (1848), 1.91 (here).

It is clear, indeed, that the national taste had become as vulgar as the national manners, and as corrupt as the principles of a large majority of the public men of that period. The works which received the greatest encouragement were scandalous memoirs, secret history surreptitiously obtained and sent forth under fictitious names, (such as the books which came the pens of Eliza Haywood, Mrs. Manley, and other equally shameless female writers, and from the press of Edmund Curll,) and ill-disguised obscenity.

[1856]. Anonymous, "Daniel De Foe," The Dublin University Magazine, vol. 48, no. 283 (July 1856): 70 (here):

Have any of the readers of these pages perused Eliza Heywood's other works? … If the ladies are ignorant of this literature, let them be advised and remain in their ignorance.

[1859]. David Masson, British Novelists and Their Styles: Being a Critical Sketch of the History of British Prose Fiction (1859), 98–99 (here); reprinted (Boston 1859), 106 (here):

Passing by these, however, and also those short novels of licentious incident by Mrs. Heywood and other followers of Aphra Behn, which are to be found bound up in old volumes, four or five together, in the neglected shelves of large libraries, we alight, in the reign of George II., on a new group of British Novelists, remembered pre-eminently under that name.

[1872]. Hippolyte A. Taine, History of English Literature, translated by H. Van Luen, 2nd ed. (1872), 2.206 (here):

In no age were hack-writers so beggarly and more vile. Poor fellows, like Richard Savage …; courtesans like Eliza Heywood, notorious by the shamelessness of their public confessions; …. These villanies, foul linen, the greasy coat six years old, musty pudding, and the rest, are in Pope as in Hogarth, with English crudity and preciseness.

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