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  • Caustic Burns and Moving Hearts:Satire and Affect in Eliza Haywood's The Masqueraders
  • Fauve Vandenberghe

In 1725, in his poem "To Mrs. Eliza Haywood on her Writing," James Sterling dubbed Haywood the "Great Arbitress of Passion," whose "wond'rous Art" "mov'st the Heart."1 Many critics have since cited this favorable review of her amatory fiction because it highlights the intense emotional states and passionate desires that populate many of Haywood's early novels.2 The little-discussed closing lines of his poem, however, commend her writing for entirely different reasons: Sterling writes that Haywood smiles "at the Tempests" she has "rais'd below" and that "Satiric Precept warms the moral Tale."3 Over the last twenty years, several literary historians have pointed to these satirical elements in Haywood's novels, though few of these critics have read her fictions as fundamentally satirical.4 Instead, over the past three decades, feminist critics have successfully secured a place for Haywood's early amatory and often proto-feministic fictions within the larger rise of the novel. However, this positioning of Haywood as a novelist has often deflected attention away from the satirical aspects of these early fictions.5 Kathryn King has recently observed a similar inhibition among scholars to include Haywood in the history of satire. She argues that we need to explore more thoroughly the satirical aspects of her writings, which have "more in common with the work of Pope and Swift than either of her fellow satirists cared to admit."6 This essay takes its cue from King's call to study Haywood's satirical enterprise and examines the nature of her satirical vision in The Masqueraders: or, Fatal Curiosity. Being the Secret History of a Late Amour (1725).

The Masqueraders remains a relatively understudied text. As one of the many salacious amatory fictions Haywood published in the 1720s, The Masqueraders follows the adventures of the libertine rake Dorimenus in the whirl of the London masquerade and [End Page 39] functions as an interesting locus for Haywood's negotiation and exploration of morality, gender, and popular culture.7 As was typical of Haywood's popular fiction from this period, both of her female heroines—Philecta and Dalinda—attend the masquerade as a way to indulge in their sexual fantasies with Dorimenus. In the end, both women are essentially punished (or so it seems) for their sexual curiosity and transgression of socially accepted behavior.

Though The Masqueraders is the primary focus of this essay, I begin by studying two significant contemporary responses to Haywood's fictions, showing that readers in her own time routinely thought of Haywood as a satirist. Both Sterling's review and Alexander Pope's scathing portrayal of her as a hack writer in The Dunciad (1728) and The Dunciad Variorum (1729) demonstrate that Haywood's engagement with secret history provides a valuable heuristic for studying the satirical undercurrents of her amatory fiction. In the second part of this essay, then, I examine the generic traces of secret history in The Masqueraders. Following Melinda Rabb, who has explored what happens when we see the power dynamics of secret histories "not as toward the novel but as toward satire," it becomes clear that this text's gossipy third-person narrative perspective and use of typically satirical naming practices exhibit an aggression similar to satires from this same period.8 As I argue in the third section of this essay, The Masqueraders shows its links to satire not only in its generic connections to secret history but also in its employment of elements from more traditional satirical forms and especially the mock-heroic. In particular, Haywood evokes the mock-heroic in what Ros Ballaster has called the "peculiarly double nature of Haywood's satirical enterprise" of "both imitation and critique."9 Haywood thus uses the mock-heroic to ridicule the romance that unfolds over the course of The Masqueraders while also exposing the tendency of this form to deride both the amatory and feminine. She thereby casts herself as a writer who is aware of satirical conventions while also recognizing their limitations.

Above all, I emphasize the importance of acknowledging the profoundly hybrid nature of Haywood's writings...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1941-952X
Print ISSN
0162-9905
Pages
pp. 39-66
Launched on MUSE
2020-07-23
Open Access
No
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