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The Female Spectator. Being Selections from Mrs. Eliza Haywood's Periodical. First Published in Monthly Parts (1744-46).

Gabrielle M. Firmager has made a scholarly study of the writing of the almost forgotten Mrs. Eliza Haywood whose fortune it was, both good and bad, to have lived during the heyday of Defoe, Addison and Steele and of the novelist Richardson. Her bad luck was that it was also the heyday of Alexander Pope, who scorned her not inconsiderable literary achievements. Closely behind her were the rising stars of Jane Austen and Fanny Burney. The first periodical of its kind to be addressed to women readers, The Female Spectator was intended to contain 'admonitory essays' like those of Defoe, Addison and Steele. Its chief value rests, however, upon its effectiveness as a medium of manners for ladies of 18th-century England. Her cautionary tales bear some resemblance to those of Mrs. Edgeworth, set in a less practical location. An essay 'On the Distinction Between Good Manners and Good Breeding' tackles the knotty problem of whether a 'lady' should reveal to the Prime Minister her inadvertent sighting of her secret official papers indicting a nobleman, named therein, as a traitor. Or first go and tell the man in question of her decision to do so? How, if so, should he respond? Although in the eyes of posterity greater writers have overshadowed her, Mrs. Haywood's popularity in her time was founded on romantic novels of intrigue and the three 'scandal novels' of 1725, 1727 and 1736 which aroused the fury of Pope for they exposed well-known persons, some of them Pope's friends. Thinly disguised political criticism earned opprobrium for her from influential literary men and members of Walpole's government.
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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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