NINETEENTH-CENTURY GENDER STUDIES 

ISSUE 3.2 (SUMMER 2007)

 

Eliza Haywood: Discrepant Cosmopolitanism and the Persistence of Romance(1)

By Laura J Rosenthal, University of Maryland, College Park

 

<1> For Eliza Haywood’s Parrot, narrator of her 1746 periodical The Parrot, it’s not easy being green(2) :

some People will have it that a Negro might as well set up for a Beauty, as a green Parrot for a good Speaker;—Preposterous Assertion! as if the Complextion of the Body had any Influence over the Faculties of the Mind; yet meerly on this Score they resolve, right or wrong, to condemn all I say beforehand (No. 2, unpaginated).

<2> Haywood here frames her journal—and in some ways I will frame this talk—with an analogy between being black and being green, the latter color bearing strong associations for Haywood’s audience with Jacobitism (a point to which I will return).(3) The analogy at one level asserts the aesthetic limits of the African body in familiar racist ways, but the parrot also comes to resemble the African as a victim of prejudice, as one whose mental endowments others, distracted by color, fail to recognize.  Either way, Haywood’s avian eidolon proposes an analogy between domestic pets and captured foreigners—an analogy also found extensively, as Srinivas Aravamuden has demonstrated, in eighteenth-century visual culture (29-70). The Parrot, however, satirically recalls and inverts the more common manifestations, including the fascination with exotic bodies represented on stage, as Joseph Roach has explored, through the poignancy of feathers--evidence of both a beautiful animal’s death and colonial exploitation of native peoples (125).  Haywood gives us neither an Anne Bracegirdle in her role as the Indian Queen festooned with colorful feathers possibly imported from Surinam by Aphra Behn, nor an Oroonoko whom colonists attempt to pet into submission.  Instead, an exotic animal claims not just human speech but the capacity for analysis and critique.  Rather than degrading a human to pet status, the Parrot enlarges the avian captive, evoking less a beast fable than the exotic observer device used later by Oliver Goldsmith in Citizen of the World. Haywood’s parrot, however, is a philosopher and a commodity, a witty narrator and a product of empire, a world citizen and a displaced native.

<3> I begin my discussion of Haywood today with her Parrot because the journal’s fictionalized speaker represents a kind of cosmopolitan figure found throughout Haywood’s writing. Her parrot is quite the traveler: he “drew [his] first breath in Java . . . but was taken so very young from [his] parents” that he can’t remember them.  He was brought to the Dutch settlement of Batavia. But his lady, taking “a Disgust to [him]” sold him to a French merchant, who presented him to a widow of Versailles, who sold him to a great philosopher, who sold him to a gentleman taking the Grand Tour, in whose company he saw Germany, Spain, and Holland, where he mysteriously fell “into Disgrace” and was sold to a young girl with little taste, as she “exchanged me for a Bird, I must say, of much less value than myself” (Parrot No. 1, unpaginated). In England, he fell into the hands of a nobleman and once again embarked on a grand tour. By the time he finally settles in London, then, he is one well-traveled bird. His wisdom has its origin in his cosmopolitanism, but the parrot differs from other sophisticates of the period because he acquires his worldly experience unwillingly, in captivity, and as a commodity.  Writing about humans who travel under “strong cultural, political, and economic compulsions,” the anthropologist James Clifford has observed that “such cultures of displacement and transplantation are inseparable from specific, often violent, histories of economic, political, and cultural interaction, histories that generate what might be called discrepant cosmopolitanism” (108). The parrot’s accidental tourism coupled with his contemplation of color cannot help but evoke the period’s production of other discrepant cosmopolitans.  The parrot does not stand for a particular group of captives but evokes the period’s global movements in more general terms. In his essay, Clifford explodes the classic anthropological divisions between native and traveler, or local and cosmopolite, by noting how often so-called “natives” move as well, acquiring intercultural experiences that should complicate any analysis.  The parrot becomes one of these native travelers. 

<4> As the popularity of travel writing, satires of travel like Gulliver’s Travels, and popular fictionalized travel narratives such as those written by Daniel Defoe show, early eighteenth-century print culture showed great interest in processes of global expansion and the movement it demanded.  Haywood’s writing, however, tends to show less interest in the voyage out—the multiple paths from metropolitan centers to the so-called periphery that her contemporaries mapped in their narratives—but rather in the ways in which people and things, like the parrot, come back.  While Defoe charts the triumphs and brutal failures of expansion and Swift explores the arrogance of empire, Haywood’s work, by contrast, shows an abiding interest, albeit in Eurocentric terms, in the people Luke Gibbons refers to as the “losers of history” in the context of eighteenth and nineteenth-century colonialism and nationalism. By making this claim, I am not proposing that Haywood openly resists imperialism or offers a model for progressive politics.  On the contrary, her work often displays strong conservative elements.  But just as Gibbons links Edmund Burke’s conservatism to his sympathies with Irish Catholic resistance to the “modernizing” forces of empire, I hope to show a relationship between Haywood’s conservatism and her fascination with alternatives that Clifford’s “discrepant cosmopolitan” seems productively to describe.(4)  Haywood’s discrepant cosmopolitans might include Emmanuella from The Rash Resolve, born in the Spanish West-Indies but forced to flee to Spain; Eovaai from The Adventures of Eovaai, plucked from her own country and held prisoner by the evil prime minister Ochihatou, the twins Louisa and Horatio from The Fortunate Foundlings, the first of whom travels all over Europe seeking her living and fleeing a rake, while the latter spends much of the novel in prison and who befriends the Stuart pretender, and even women like Violetta from Love in Excess and the eponymous Fantomina who travel in various disguises to be near the objects of their desire.  As we will see, Haywood’s particular version of cosmopolitanism also points to how we might rethink her place in literary history.

<5> Before turning to Haywood’s work, I want briefly to place today’s talk in the broader context of current debates over cosmopolitanism and thus my own current work very much still in progress.  Cosmopolitanism has attracted considerable attention of late, surely in response to the increasingly intercultural experience of our own moment in history.  Some critics, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah and Bruce Robbins, have recommended cosmopolitanism as a productive alternative to a damaging insularity or imperial arrogance.  Appiah optimistically defines cosmopolitanism as “in a slogan, universality plus difference” (151).  More cautious in his advocacy, Robbins nevertheless sees cosmopolitism, potentially, as a global continuation of multiculturalism. Timothy Brennan, by contrast, has argued that advocates fail “to see cosmopolitanism as less an expansive ethos than an expansionist policy: a move not toward complexity and variety but toward centralization and suffocating stagnation” (55).  Pheng Cheah finds an intriguing alternative to this sharp division, suggesting that “because both popular nationalism and activist cosmopolitanisms alike are engendered from and circumscribed by the uneven and shifting force field of the cosmopolitical, neither is inherently progressive or reactionary” (44).  I am only scratching the surface here of the richness of this conversation; for present purposes, however, I want to focus on one perspective that most contributors to this debate share: most at some point acknowledge the eighteenth century as a crucial historical moment for addressing cosmopolitanism, and most make a point of rejecting Enlightenment ideals.  For critics of cosmopolitanism, the presumed universalizing impulses of the eighteenth century betray its limits.  Defenders of cosmopolitanism, however, often begin their analyses with an insistence that they too reject eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism and want to propose a more progressive version.(5) But as Sankar Muthu has argued, even within the circle of what we might call the high Enlightenment philosophers, we find a greater variety of perspectives than many studies tend to represent.(6)  If we understand the genuine complexity of the Enlightenment itself, as Muthu suggests, we might also allow for multiple forms of cosmopolitanism in the period beyond both Kant’s unifying world vision and the sophisticated gentleman on his grand tour, although certainly any discussion of the period’s cosmopolitanism must include these. 

<6> As the grand tour itself reminds us, however, cosmopolitanism is also gendered.  “‘Good travel’ (heroic, educational, scientific, adventurous, ennobling),” Clifford writes, “is something men (should) do.  Women are impeded from serious travel” (105) and stand out as exceptions when they do so.  In spite of excellent work by Elizabeth Bohls and others showing that eighteenth-century woman traveled more than previously thought and Deborah Nord’s revisionist account of the heroines of Victorian novels in this volume, the terms of travel and even the capacity to move about the city differed for men and women.  But perhaps because of the gendering of movement in this period, some of the most interesting explorations of discrepant cosmopolitanisms can be found in the writing of women.  Clearly the fault of “parroting,” of empty chatter, is feminized in this period’s journalism.  The parrot’s frustration with audience comically echoes women’s objections to similar forms of reception (Carnell, “It’s Not Easy,” 206).

<7> Thus we need to pay attention to this period’s multiple forms of cosmopolitanism, a gesture that will reshape literary history as well.  In the still-dominant “rise of the novel” narrative, formal realism—identified by Ian Watt as the aesthetic foundation of the novel—replaces romance at around mid-century.  William Warner, revising but not wholly rejecting Watt, has thus argued that Richardson “overwrites” Haywood—that Richardson learned the foundations of writing through romances, but rejected Haywood’s sensuality.  While Warner offers a convincing case for this form of influence, his narrative nevertheless suggests that realism essentially subsumes romance.  Yet without denying that realism emerges in this period, I want to suggest at the same time that romance never dies, a point to which I will return after raising one more key association with realism.  While Watt linked the novel and its realism to demands of capitalism, the tandem development of this aesthetic with colonial expansion has been central to many recent discussions. As realms of possibility, the colonial territories, Edward Said has observed, “have always been associated with the realist novel.  Robinson Crusoe is virtually unthinkable without the colonizing mission that permits him to create a new world of his own in the distance reaches of the African, Pacific, and Atlantic wilderness” (1994).(7)  Equally unthinkable, we might add, would be Sally Godfrey with no West Indian colony in which to find redemption.  If realism, as Said observes, holds a particular place in the writing of empire, then eighteenth-century romance, I would like to propose, holds a particular place in glimpsing the “losers of history”: the dark colonized others, the similarly-complexioned but internally colonized Catholic, Celtic, and Gaelic cultures of the British empire, and even Jacobite interests associated with Catholicism. Thus I want to suggest that rather than reading Haywood’s romances as a precursor to Richardsonian realism, we should see them as contributing to an alternative mode that eventually culminates in the Gothic, the genre that comes to specialize in unwelcome and disturbing returns, in the overwhelmed rather than the triumphant, in sublime pleasures and open wounds, in dark-skinned madwomen haunting the attic in the house of fiction.

I.  Women in Excess

<8>Let us return now specifically to Haywood. The fact that such a strangely disjunctive group of texts--Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1724), Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), and Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess (1719),--all became the early eighteenth-century’s best-selling fictional narratives has begun many a Haywood study, but we have yet to fully consider the meaning of this triangulation.  The politics of empire clearly link Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels; the political meaning of the amatory education of a French count, however, does not immediately present itself.  Critics have certainly revealed stylistic similarities between Haywood and Swift on the one hand, and Haywood and Defoe on the other. Ros Ballaster has shown that Haywood shared Scriblerian strategies in such works as The Adventures of Eovaai (1736) and The Opera of Operas (1733), even though the Scriblerians themselves condemned her out of their notorious misogyny (143-67).   While the importance of accounting for these less familiar Haywood texts has only recently become apparent, Haywood’s location in literary history in relation to Defoe has long served as a point of reference for debates over canonicity.  Paula Backscheider neatly sums up this challenge by asking why “Defoe, and not Defoe and Haywood, is credited with originating the realist novel?” (23-4). Kristen T. Saxton similarly credits Haywood with contributing to the development of realism, praising her “attention to quotidian detail, and her concentration on legal, economic, physical, and psychological realism” (128). Others have argued that her novels offer a more feminocentric, and thus more realistic, version of social conflicts.(8)

<9> Certainly Haywood contributed to developing what we now call realism; nevertheless, I would like to suggest an alternative way of thinking about her place in literary history. Because so much in Haywood’s fiction has to be bracketed in order to imagine it as “realistic,” the realism argument tends to cast Haywood stylistically as an embryonic version of Richardson, gifted in her own way but not having achieved full mastery of this new form. Further, Haywood’s overt debt to continental romance, along with other aspects I will later discuss, sets her apart from the Englishness, however mongrelized, that Defoe and Richardson seek to define in their “formal realism.”(9)  In Desire and Domestic Fiction, Nancy Armstrong identifies the point of the realist domestic novel as setting a conduct-book-like template for proper female behavior that reproduces the bourgeois family.  Later in The Imaginary Puritan, she and Leonard Tennenhouse argue that even though some critics have praised Defoe as the founder of the English novel, Defoe gendered his characters in such a way as to leave his work “on the periphery” of novel history (201).  Robinson protects himself from the “other” the way that Pamela protects herself from her master; Defoe, then, exports the domestic novel to a distant West Indian island. 

<10> Yet in spite of their vast differences, Pamela and Robinson Crusoe share one project: the reproduction of British culture, although in different and certainly complex and ambivalent ways. In the closing paragraphs of the first part of Robinson Crusoe, Robinson sends to the island, in addition to “other Supplies,”

Seven Women, being such as I found proper for Service, or for Wives to such as would take them: As to the English men, I promis’d them to send them some Women from England, with a good Cargoe of Necessaries, if they would apply themselves to Planting, which I afterwards perform’d.  And the Fellows prov’d very honest and diligent after they were master’d, and had their Properties set apart for them.  I sent them also from the Brasils five Cows, three of them being big with Calf, some Sheep, and some Hogs, which, when I came again, were considerably encreas’d (220).

Crusoe’s gift to the islanders closes the narrative’s first part and suggests to the reader the possibility that this community will have at least a chance of flourishing as a full-blown colony.(10)  Until then, all contestation over the island had taken place between male bodies, Caribbean, English, and Spanish.  The transition from possession to colonial development, however, demands women (and a few pregnant cows).  We learn nothing about these women; we might assume, however, that Defoe’s readers would have understood them as “excessive” in two senses: women who had run afoul of patriarchal sexual restrictions and who had become desperate enough from their own lack of resources at home to undertake this journey.  In eighteenth-century culture the colonies, as Defoe suggests in Moll Flanders, became a place where women might redeem their sexual excess by contributing to colonial reproduction.  Richardson echoes this possibility: Sally Godfrey in Pamela begins afresh by transporting herself to the West Indies; some of Clarissa’s relatives wanted to send her to Philadelphia after the rape.  In Thomas Southerne’s popular stage version of Oroonoko (1695), the Welldon sisters seek husbands in Surinam after becoming too “well done” in London.  Swift’s Corinna, “pride of Drury Lane,” is in her nightmares “to Jamaica seems transported,/ Alone, and by no planter courted.”(11)  The deportation of disorderly women to the colonies emerged for some mid-century prostitution reformers as a win-win solution, ridding London of its streetwalkers, giving these women a second chance, and, as reformer William Dodd put it,  granting “due attention . . .  to the demands of our colonies abroad” (62).(12)  At the end of the century, Ann Maria Falconbridge reported discovering in the ill-fated colony of Sierra Leone a group of white women who, in her account, claimed they were British prostitutes who had been rounded up and forced onto ships in order to provide mates for black male colonists (64-65).  The deportation of “excess” women to penal colonies in Australia after the American war suggests the persistence of this strategy.  While eighteenth-century readers of Robinson Crusoe would not necessarily have understood the women Robinson transports specifically as prostitutes, surely they would have recognized them as metropolitan detritus.  Swift satirizes rather than celebrates the colonial project in Gulliver’s Travels, but the narrative depends on the recognition of widespread tropes linking colonial and sexual reproduction.(13)  Rather than depicting the export of women to fresh fertile grounds, Swift represents eighteenth-century imperial ambitions as sexual disfunction.  Gulliver plants no seeds abroad; instead, he comes home and sticks herbs up his nose to guard against the stench of his wife, enjoying nonreproductive but probably criminal conversation with his horses. 

<11> For Defoe, Richardson, and many other eighteenth-century “realist” writers, however, sending disorderly women to the colonies benefits both the colonial and domestic projects.  Early eighteenth-century fiction reveals a near-obsession with excess and excessive women, a configuration found nowhere with such consistently as in the writing of Eliza Haywood.  Over and over, Haywood creates dramatic conflict with plots featuring too many women for everyone to find happiness, even if they appear to deserve it.  Love in Excess might be retitled “Women in Excess” for all the women, deserving and otherwise, who love D’Elmont but can’t have him. In the first half of the novel, Amena and Alovisa both fall hopelessly in love with the apparently irresistible Count, but only one can become his wife.  At the novel’s close, the conjugal happiness of four reunited lovers becomes strangely tempered by the death of the lovely and virtuous Violetta, who out of passion had followed D’Elmont as his page but could not survive his reunion with Melliora.  In The British Recluse two women meet, begin a friendship, and unfold to each other elaborate narratives of seduction and betrayal; both heroines, however, discover they have been injured by the same man.  The Rash Resolve ends dramatically with a love triangle between two beautiful and virtuous women who adore the well-intentioned Emilius.  In The Injur’d Husband the Baroness competes with Montamour for the attentions of Beauclair; Dorimenus in The Masqueraders embitters all four women who compete for him.  Fantomina provides the most dramatic and perhaps even self-conscious example of Haywood’s “women in excess” plots, for the heroine herself actually seems to recognize the inadequacy of an amorous narrative with just one woman.   In Richardson or Defoe, some of these excess women might have ended up crossing the Atlantic for domestic redemption. 

<12> The potential problem of too many women for everyone to get a husband not only shaped fictional plots, but influenced discussions of population at this time.  Marriage rates indeed remained relatively low in the early eighteenth century: by 1741, 11.2 per cent of people aged 40-44 had never married, but in 1701, this number had almost reached 25 percent (Daunton 394). With marriage portions rising and economic opportunities for women decreasing, some families found themselves with “daughters in excess,” a situation that fed broader concerns about depopulation leading to national weakness.  One anonymous projector proposed solving this problem with a national lottery “for the Relief of Distressed Virgins,” in which all men with incomes of £100 or more would receive a wife through a “charitable” system of distribution (Good News). The author blames male reluctance for the proliferation of extra females, insisting that “divers scandalous Libels” have contributed to the unpopularity of marriage, including the anonymous Reasons against Matrimony (1734) and Edward Ward’s The Batchelor’s Estimate of the Expences of a Married Life (1729), which demonstrates that even a woman with £2000 down would not compensate for the financial demands of the transition from single to married life (9).  

<13> If the specter of a generation of spinsters posed one kind of threat to reproduction, an increase in prostitution posed another.(14) Reformers in the early 18th century represented London streets as overrun by disorderly women, who not only overwhelmed public spaces, but who contributed to depopulation through their reputed sterility.  In the middle of the century, Saunders Welch objected that:

Prostitutes swarm in the streets of this metropolis to such a degree, and bawdy-houses are kept in such an open and public manner, to the great scandal of our civil polity, that a stranger would think that such practices, instead of being prohibited, had the sanction of the legislature, and that the whole town was one general stew (7).

With most of these women “rendered barren . . . those who understand political arithmetic, must allow this to be no less a national than a moral evil” (13).  The contradiction between intensified policing of female sexuality and simultaneous anxieties about depopulation did not pass unnoticed.  In 1735, Daniel Maclauchlan proposed social forgiveness of women impregnated outside of marriage for the sake of population.  Instead of castigating these women, “all the Cities, Town, and Places of Resort in Great-Britain and Ireland” should build institutions for raising their children, who could become useful laborers and add to national strength (10).  Thomas Coram founded such an institution in the same year, but while critics accused the new Foundling Hospital of encouraging sexual permissiveness, Maclauchlan countered that condemnation of unmarried pregnant women “robs the Common-wealth of its full number of Citizens” (10).  Reformers, then, argue on both sides in terms of population: on the one hand, excess women abound as both spinsters and whores, but on the other hand they create a population deficit by failing to reproduce.  There were, in other words, too many women but not enough people.  

<14> In the canon of “realism,” these extra, non-reproductive women often find their way to the colonies.  But what happens to them in Haywood?  While different narratives offer different solutions—some heroines kill themselves or die of a broken heart—a significant number of such women enter convents.  Fantomina goes to a convent after giving birth; Louisa in The Fortunate Foundlings takes refuge in a convent, as do Lasselia in the eponymous romance and Emmanuela in The Rash Resolve. Natura in Life’s Progress through the Passions encounters several passionate women tucked away in a convent; Melliora in Love in Excess received her education in a convent and later returns there; in the same narrative, Amena retires to a convent when she has lost her reputation.  In Haywood, the convent seems to provide a parallel function to the colony in the century’s nascent literary realism and in travel narratives (including satiric ones): as the destination or location of excess and excessive women.  The convent solution is inextricable from Haywood’s continent-inflected romance style, for in Protestant England no such solution remained available.

<15> Haywood’s frequent recourse to convents in her amorous plots has attracted little attention outside of some debate about the fate of Fantomina.  Convents had long provided plot twists and solutions in seventeenth-century romance, but a convent plot would necessarily take on a different meaning after the Glorious Revolution.  In Aphra Behn’s era, a cosmopolitanism court culture linked British and French high society in spite of tensions between the two nations.(15)  While such cosmopolitan links did not disappear in the eighteenth century, Protestantism, as Linda Colley has argued, consolidated a new sense of nationhood between otherwise disparate groups within Great Britain (Colley, Britons). Yet, many of Haywood’s novels work against this grain.  Certainly the convent rather than the colony solution in Haywood might be read as adding force to claims of Haywood’s protofeminism.  But while feminists have long recognized convents as alternative intellectual spaces for women, in Haywood’s fiction they actually hold a range of possibilities.(16) Time does not allow me to detail these differences, but in Haywood convents can be oppressive or liberating, ignorant or intellectual, chaste or sensual.(17)

<16> Anticlerical writing in France, the historian Mita Choudhury had observed, represented convents as unnatural and even socially dangerous because they discouraged reproduction.  While on opposite sides politically, both Defoe and Swift tend by contrast to represent their “women in excess” as teeming: both Moll and Roxana pump out baby after baby; the figure of the teeming woman becomes a central icon of Scriblerian satire, functioning as a trope for excess literary production (Francus). Haywood herself occupies a central place in Pope’s Dunciad as such a figure, famously flanked by her “babes of love.”  For both Swift and Defoe, this teeming does not in particular represent a woman’s ideal contribution to society.(18)  Certainly the fecundity of Moll and Roxana, at least superficially, suggest the destabilizing force of female sexual transgression.  But in spite of the often-misogynistic associations in early eighteenth-century writing with teeming women, there are, nevertheless, ways in which failure to teem poses an even greater threat.  Defoe, as Ann Louise Kibbie has observed, embodies the greatest ethical challenges of capitalism in moments when Moll and Roxana become figures of sterility rather than fertility. Roxana’s initial infertility with her landlord and sterility later in her career render explicit the “horror of capital,” according to Kibbie (1028). There are aspects of even misogynistic representations of female reproduction, then, that suggest both shameful impropriety and a “comic” sense of fundamental female nature at the same time.  Scriblerian teemers and Defoean whores may in many instances add less desirable kinds of children to the population; nevertheless, reformers, as we have seen, seem to have worried the most that such women would fail to reproduce at all.  These anxieties about depopulation were bound up with, as Felicity Nussbaum has argued, the demands of imperial ambitions: the nation needed children as future soldiers, sailors, and colonists (22-46). By the early eighteenth century the British Empire had already overstretched itself, trying to hold on to colonial outposts that it often lacked the forces to retain.(19)  In this particular historical and ideological context, we might find significance in the failure, or perhaps refusal, of so many of Haywood’s women to teem. 

<17> Not only do convents enable female non-reproductivity and offer an alternative solution to the colonial export of disorderly women but, to state the obvious, they are Catholic.  Convents in seventeenth and even eighteenth-century French novels carry one kind of meaning, but convent plots in a nation virulently striving to define itself as Protestant and negotiating in Haywood’s lifetime two rebellions by Stuart pretenders holds quite another.  In other eighteenth-century novels, convent plots often serve to reveal the superiority of Protestantism through the cruelty of nuns.  Penelope Aubin’s The Life of Madam de Beaumont (1721), for example, tells the story of Bellinda, secretly raised as a Protestant by her English mother, whose resistance to Catholicism forms a central plot element.  When Bellinda becomes an orphan, her guardians “shut me up in a Monastery of Poor Clares, as they pretended to have me convinced of my Errors in Religion, but, in truth, with design to wrong me of my Fortune” (21).  In this novel Aubin confronts the highly politicized tensions between English Protestantism and French Catholicism through the specter of the convent, a strategy that, given the period’s anti-Catholicism, comes as less of a surprise than Haywood’s cosmopolitan view.  In Aubin’s novel the convent represents the extremes of absolutism in opposition to British liberty; other writers exploited stereotypes of Catholic transgressive sexuality in convent plots.(20) The anonymous Nunnery Tales (1727), for example, offers stories about the way “the Veil of Religion cover[s] the most prophane Desires, and impure Rapture wear the Name of Sacred Enthusiasm” (2). In these stories, girls forced into the convent copulate with friars, real and fake, risking live burial as the standard punishment.  With less sensationalism, Richardson organizes the plot of Sir Charles Grandison around Catholic/Protestant tensions: the novel cannot end happily until Charles rests assured that Clementina will not enter a convent. In a nation in the process of defining its identity through colonial expansion and its unity through Protestantism, Haywood’s convent plots, in contrast to the material immediacy of the colony plot in realism, give her novels an otherworldly, exoticized, not fully British aesthetic.

II. From Haywood to the Gothic

<18> Now let us briefly return to Haywood’s cosmopolitan parrot and how this parrot and other cosmopolites help us rewrite Haywood’s place in literary history.  A parrot, of course, also plays a key role in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as a creature associated with the uncanniness of empire.  Haywood’s very canny parrot, however, like other journalists answers correspondence from fellow-creatures, and at one point a baffled fellow parrot inquires about the English. To the question, “what is the greatest object of their Detestation,” our Poll answers “Popery”; to “What is their greatest pleasure,” he answers “A Parade.” 

As to the Proofs . . . let him reflect on the Millions chearfully raised, and continued to be raised, ever since the Revolution, for preventing that Doctrine from prevailing, and he will soon be convinced my Answer is just in this Article; and as for the other, let him but give himself the Trouble to look out of his Cage, and see the transported Numbers which run to be Spectators when any Shew is made to the Public, whether it be a Wedding or an Execution (No. 6, unpaginated).

Here and elsewhere, Haywood rails against the cruelty of English pleasure in public hangings: Parrot number 4 tells the story of a man who loses everything out of his perverse inability to miss such an event.  While in the fictional story the hanged man turns out to be the hero’s father and the spectacle of his death drives the son to madness, Haywood devotes the first part of this number of her journal to describing the sadistic pleasure that spectators of all classes have been taking in the public hangings of Jacobite rebels.  Haywood peppers The Parrot with praise for monarchs who have forgiven such rebels, condemnation of those who have refused to do so, and stories of the excruciating grief of loved ones.  Anti-popery and sadistic pleasure in the cruel spectacle of public hanging, then, converge in The Parrot.   While not explicitly Jacobite, Haywood’s fictional story suggests that the hanged man whose agony delights may turn out to be someone you love.  Similarly, convents are not consistently positive in her fiction; nevertheless, their suggestiveness of both Catholicism and nonreproductivity points to an alternative to Protestant unity and the global reproduction of this identity.

<19> Earlier I had suggested that rather than thinking of Haywood’s fiction as an embryonic version of Richardsonian realism that we instead consider the possibility that her writing belongs to an alternative idiom not subsumed into realism and that shortly became popular again in what we now call the Gothic. Critics in the eighteenth century, however, often called this form the “romance,” perhaps suggesting more continuity that subsequent criticism has allowed.  Walpole is almost universally credited with inventing gothic fiction with his 1764 Castle of Otranto (which he called a “gothic romance”) but the sublime—the sense of a powerful, awesome force outside of oneself—so central to the genre and that constitutes for Luke Gibbons the most compelling example of Edmund Burke’s sympathies with those who suffer (or in his words, “losers of history”) can be found already in Haywood, along with the convents, Catholicism, and nonreproductivity that characterize this genre.(21) Many of Haywood’s heroines make an effort to remain virtuous and some of them succeed, but often instead they find themselves confronted with a force larger than themselves, an oceanic eroticism that leaves them utterly without the power to tear themselves away.  When D’Elmont meets with Amena in Love in Excess, for example,

he found her panting heart beat measures of consent, her heaving breast swell to be pressed by his, and every pulse confess a wish to yield; her spirits all dissolved sunk in a lethargy of love, her snowy arms unknowing grasped his neck . . .  (63).

Amena is terrified because she knows what is at stake, but “all nature seemed to favour his design . . . What now could poor Amena do?” (63).(22) The gothic is, of course, an enormously fungible designation; Donna Heiland’s recent description of eighteenth-century gothic as characterized aesthetically by the sublime and ideologically by transgressive acts that “focus on corruption in, or resistance to, the patriarchal structures that shaped the country’s political life and family life, and gender roles within those structures” seems to describe much of what goes on in Haywood’s amorous fiction as well (24).  Certainly Haywood’s fiction lacks the supernatural presence associated with the gothic; nevertheless, her convent plots locate her narratives in a different context from daily life in eighteenth-century Great Britain. Amena’s loss of self (she does not know that her arms grasps D’Elmont’s neck) in the face of overwhelming passion, a predicament repeated over and over in Haywood’s fiction, becomes a specifically erotic version of the sublime, “an experience that involves a confrontation between a perceiving subject and an overwhelmingly powerful object, the confusion of boundaries between subject and object” (Heiland 33). Haywood’s amorous fiction for the most part overlooks the quotidian of realism, instead building up to passionate moments of sublime dissolution in the exhilaration and terror of sexual transgression, even if these narratives sometimes end with apparently conventional morals.  If we follow the literary trail of convents to the gothic, we find a range of narratives in which desire takes precedence over reproduction, passion proves irresistible, evil motives lurk unseen, sexually voracious older women torment men in love with their nieces, cosmopolitan adventurers instantly recognize each other’s quality, individuals both embrace and resist entrenched hierarchies, and everything seems to happen at another time or in another place. 

<20> Haywood’s novels, in turn, are filled with proto-Gothic plot turns of sexual threat, unjust confinement, incest, loss of self-control, heroines cast into treachery and of course endless convents.  As in Haywood, so in Matthew Lewis’s paradigmatic Gothic novel The Monk (and other Gothic fiction as well), the Catholic context holds significance as both an implicit comparison to Protestant ethics, but also as an exotic location with different kinds of choices than generally found in the British reader’s world.(23)  The convent setting provides in particular opportunities to explore the high drama of sexual transgression.  Both The Monk and Love in Excess tell the stories of male amorous awakening; both include plots with devoted cross-dressed women; both suggest the dangers of too much innocence and not enough worldliness; both include powerful and sexually aggressive older women; both end with two handsome men and three virtuous women, one of whom must die.  The incestuous passion blocked by a parent in The Force of Nature finds its scandalous consummation in The Monk.  As in The Monk, attempted escapes from convents appear frequently in Haywood’s fiction; the mother of the foundlings Horatio and Louisa, like Agnes, confronts the scandal of discovering her pregnancy within a convent, and Louisa herself later must escape cold-hearted and deceptive nuns.  In Life’s Progress through the Passions, the aggressive abbess stealthily takes the place of the nun with whom the hero Natura has fallen in love, a plot repeated with a supernatural twist in Agnes’s failed escape attempt costumed as a nun, but replaced by the Bleeding Nun.  Further, The Monk features at the heart of its plot one of the most memorable scenes of reproductive failure in the eighteenth century: Agnes imprisoned in the catacombs of the monastery, her pregnancy discovered in a convent, clutching her dead infant as worms slither through its decomposing body.

<21> Sophia Lee’s gothic novel The Recess renders explicit the political suggestion of such failures. In this novel, the secret daughters of Mary, Queen of Scots grow up in a secret cavern fitted into a living space and hidden beneath the ruins of a convent.  Upon the death of their caregiver, Ellinor and Matilda venture out into the world, falling passionately in love and suffering for their choices.  From the beginning, however, they are “women in excess,” doomed to persecution and death.  Like many Haywood heroines, both daughters travel far and wide, escaping from various sorts of prisons.  Ellinor, for example, sets out to reunite with her husband Essex by disguising herself as a young man and traveling to Ireland; she spends several months, still in disguise, confined in a castle in Scotland.  She ultimately goes mad and dies.  Matilda also suffers for her marriage:  Queen Elizabeth falls in love with Matilda’s husband Leicester, so they both must flee.  All of their refuges fail, and Leicester is betrayed and killed.  Ellinor has no children; Matilda has one daughter who grows up, but dies.  Like The Monk and like much Haywood fiction, then, Lee represents women failing to teem, yet more explicitly intertwines the failed reproduction with the fate of the losers of history.  The sisters begin life underground in the recess, as if they were never quite born in the first place; they are excess women whose very existence cannot come to light.  Matilda’s daughter Mary, who dies before her mother, is the last of Mary Stuart’s direct line.  While Ellinor and Matilda never become nuns and while Matilda explicitly commits herself to Protestantism, their sanctuary in the recess beneath a ruined convent suggests the force of the past over the present.  That past, which meets its dead end in this novel, is embodied by the Catholic Mary Stuart, whose “Secret History” Haywood also wrote.(24)

<22> While the trail of convents in Haywood’s fiction might be seen as contributing at an earlier moment to the gothic mode, neither Haywood nor these gothic novels actually exclude colonies; they just don’t represent colonies as opportunities for national and personal expansion.  In one of the few Haywood novels in which a colony figures prominently, The Rash Resolve, the heiress Emmanuela falls into the hands of a guardian in the Spanish West Indies.  Emmanuela wants to return to Europe, but the guardian locks her away to try to force her to marry his son.  While this kind of imprisonment appears in several Haywood plots (in The Distress’d Orphan, greedy relatives have the heroine confined to a madhouse),(25) irregular colonial authority seems to leave Emmanuela particularly vulnerable.  Later Emmanuela retreats to a convent when her lover, tricked by a jealous rival, abandons her.  She must escape from the convent when she discovers her pregnancy, weeping in the rain and nearly dissolving into madness.  The convent and the colony become parallel locations here of nonreproductive misery, and Emmanuela herself ultimately dies an excess woman.(26) Interesting, in Betsy Thoughtless, the Haywood novel that comes closest to Richardonian realism, we find a very rare plot of attempted colonial redemption in Haywood’s work when Lady Mellasin and Flora take refuge in Jamaica.

<23> Like Haywood’s parrot and like Emmanuela, Elvira in The Monk comes back from an exotic outpost.  While Lewis inherited a huge West Indian plantation, in The Monk the colony remains, as in The Rash Resolve, a place of loss and misery.  Similarly in The Recess, colonies hold no redemption.  Captured and forced to Jamaica, Matilda is only saved by a slave rebellion, for which she appears to have some sympathy.  The governor of Jamaica, however, imprisons Matilda with her daughter for what he takes to be her alliance with the rebels.  The single ray of hope that prevents this from devolving into Lewis’s more graphic scene of mother/child imprisonment is the African-Carribbean mistress of the governor, who eventually frees them both and travels with them back to Europe.

<24> Donna Heiland has suggested that we might read this plot as a fantasized cross-cultural alliance of women in the context of the gothic’s fascination with patriarchal inheritance.  We might also note, however, how this alliance specifically links two abused women who each represent different strains of oppression or of the “losers of history”: not the reproducing Robinson Crusoes or even the humiliated Gullivers, but, for example, the twin foundling who commits himself to the Stuart pretender, the “Unfortunate mistress” Idalia rather than Defoe’s fortunate one, the ANTI-Pamela rather than Pamela, the virtuous heroine raped and murdered by her own brother in the catacombs of a monastery with Agnes’s dead baby rotting in a nearby chamber, held close by its doting mother.  As in Haywood’s fiction, women in gothic novels also tend not to teem. While the gothic’s entanglement with colonialism has been extensively debated and takes a wide variety of forms, Haywood and then gothic novelists set up convents, in alternatively chauvinistic, xenophobic, cosmopolitan, and/or oppositional plots, at least in part in tension with colony plots, retracing imaginary steps through an old world rather harvesting a new one, generating nightmares and fantasies about what has never been fully laid to rest and what might return from another time or another place.  While not the cosmopolitanism acquired by gentlemen on the Grand Tour nor a Kantian vision of world government, the discrepant cosmopolitanism in Haywood’s romances, in The Parrot, and in some Gothic novels describe the effects of global flows on those less eager to move and who found themselves on the wrong side of history.

 

Endnotes

(1)This paper was originally presented as a keynote speech at the British Women Writers’ Association in Lexington, Kentucky, April 2007, and is published here with minimal change.  I am grateful to the conference organizers for the opportunity to present this work before such a lively group of scholars. (^)

(2)Rachel Carnell (1998-99) anticipates this observation.(^)

(3)Carnell, 207. See also Monod (1989, 204; cited by Carnell, 1998-1999).(^)

(4)Gibbons phrases his argument as follows: "In terms of the new, neo-stoical concepts of civil society that evolved in the eighteenth century, the body in pain, and its attendant 'right to complain,' proved an embarrassment to the Enlightenment, and came to be identified with the losers of history, and the ominous category of 'doomed' people. I argue that what is often construed as a counter-Enlightenment current in the writings of Swift and Burke derives from their determination to reinstate the wounds of history into the public sphere, and, by extension, 'obsolete' or 'traditional' societies into the course of history" (xii).(^)

(5)For an excellent cross-section of contemporary views of cosmopolitanism, see Cheah and Robbins, 1998.(^)

(6)Muthu makes this case (2003) through the examples of Diderot, Kant, and Herder.(^)

(7)Said’s connect between realism and imperialism has been influential, but the suggestion that as a result only narratives that defy realism can also resist colonialism has been convincingly challenged.  See, for example, Moss.(^)  

(8)For an interesting discussion and critique of this tendency in Haywood criticism, see King (1998).   Rachel Carnell (2006) also makes the case for Haywood’s contribution to formal realism, but at the same time suggests that we think of realism itself as contested and as the result of politically contested forms of subjectivity.(^)

(9)For an in-depth discussion of Haywood’s difference from Defoe’s realism, see Hammon, chapter 6.(^)

(10)The colony ultimately fails in Further Adventures; nevertheless, this scene suggests what a colony would need to make this transition.(^)

(11)“A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed” (454).(^)

(12)See also Henderson (102-103), who points out that John Fielding preferred this solution as well.(^)

(13)For recent exploration of this theme in eighteenth-century literature, see Hutner and Cheek.(^)

(14)On prostitution in the eighteenth century, see my Infamous Commerce.(^)

(15)On tensions between nationalism and cosmopolitanism in this period, see Newman.(^)

(16)Historically they held a range of possibilities as well.  See Walker on this point.(^)

(17)The convent initially provides a refuge for Melliora, but it fails to protect her from being ravished.  In other novels, the convent looms as an unhappy alternative to social circulation.  Emmanuela in The Rash Resolve, for example, generously uses her money to preserve Barilla, who nevertheless proves ungrateful, from a convent by paying her dowry.  The heroine of The Agreeable Caledonian despairs at her confinement to a convent and plots her escape.  The Fortunate Foundlings offers a range of possibilities: the mother of Horatio and Louisa had been whisked away to a convent before she could marry her lover, but later in the novel Louisa’s protector places her in a convent for safe keeping. Louisa’s convent, however, quickly turns into a prison when the nuns, unknown to Louisa, withhold letters from her lover and plot to convince Louisa to take the veil.  One of Haywood’s more positive depictions of a convent appears in The Force of Nature: or, The Lucky Disappointment (1725).  The convent initially appears to be a prison to which the heroine Felisinda has been condemned upon the death of her father, but in the end it saves her from unwittingly committing incest with her half brother.  Felisinda’s kind guardian Berinthia, abbess of the convent, finds “so much Pleasure” in this sanctuary “that methinks I wonder all my Sex are not Monasticks, or how they can be so far infatuated, as to prefer the bitter Sweets and Troubles of a noisy World, to that happy Tranquility a Cloyster afford” (46).  Still another version of the convent appears in Life’s Progress through the Passion (1748).  In traveling through France, the hero Natura comes upon “Le Convent de Riche Dames” tucked away in the woods, where he finds lavish entertainment with beautiful desiring women, at least two of whom fall in love with him.  In Life’s Progress, isolated convents hold excessively sensuous women and their attendant dangers.(^)

(18)On this point, see in particular Ingrassia.  Ingrassia’s essay focuses on The Dunciad but has a wider resonance.(^)  

(19)See Colley (2002).(^)

(20)On representations of Catholics in this period and earlier, see Dolan.(^)

(21)On Haywood’s sublime, see also King (forthcoming, 2008).  For King, Haywood’s development of an erotic sublime emerged out of her association with Aaron Hill and other Whig writers interested in strong feelings in general and Longinus in particular.  I am grateful to Professor King for sharing this work with me in advance of publication and for sharing her wisdom on Haywood in general.(^)

(22)For a very interesting discussion of the issue of consent in Haywood’s writing, see Kramnick.(^)

(23)Certainly The Monk cannot be taken to represent all of Gothic fiction, as James Watt (1999) has shown. Space does not permit a full discussion of the gothic as a genre here; the broad familiarity of Lewis’s novel and Love in Excess, however, will I hope efficiently make the case for Haywood’s resemblance to and even possible influence over later writers.(^)

(24)See Haywood, Mary, Queen of Scots: Being the Secret History of Her Life (1725).(^)

(25)In her introduction to the facsimile edition of this volume, Deborah Nestor notes the novel’s proto-Gothic sensibility and speculates that this aspect contributed to its enduring popularity.(^)

(26)This bare outline, however, does not do justice to this narrative, which tells the story of one of Haywood’s most interesting and resourceful characters.  She raises her child on her own, but later dies when it seems clear to her that the child would be better off with his father.(^)

 

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