Fantomina Questions and Answers Marks 10/15

Fantomina Questions and Answers Marks 10/15


1.Q. Discuss the themes presented in the novel Fantomina written by Eliza Haywood.

Fantomina explores a variety of themes, almost none of which come without literary dispute and controversy. Its unnamed protagonist’s game of disguise touches on everything from gender roles, to identity, to sexual desire. Even more so, her inability or unwillingness to seduce Beauplaisir as her true self, heavily implied as a product of a respected social status, also touches on the issue of class in 18th century British society.


One of the most sweeping themes throughout Fantomina is gender, and its role in shaping the dynamics between Fantomina, Beauplaisir, and the different sects of societies they find themselves in. There are clear challenges to gender normative behavior Haywood is making throughout the story, while also portraying an honest depiction of the disparity between male and female social standings. Fantomina manipulates the constraints put on her because of her gender to satisfy her desire for sex, already thought to be an inherently masculine desire to have. In fact, she manipulates Beauplaisir so successfully that he is made to be a bit of a fool and is easily seduced. This sharply contrasts the wits that are necessary to fool him, which Fantomina demonstrates. Clearly this challenges the notion that women are intellectually or sexually subdued.

But, given the fact that Beauplaisir escapes the end of the novella unaffected, irresponsible for the consequences of his affairs, Haywood hits readers with a dose of reality regarding gender inequalities. Despite the fact that men are easily manipulated, sexually promiscuous, predictable and even foolish, as Haywood seems to argue, they are still regarded as the superior gender.


Fantomina’s economic and social standing is portrayed in an interesting light, because her privilege seems to be more of a constraint on her than it is a benefit. This critiques the standards placed on women especially, coming from an elite background. She feels more comfortable coming forward with her sexuality in disguise at a brothel than she would at a party with her fellow middle-class men and women. Lowering her class, where there is less concern over a high-society marriage opportunity, and virginity is less of a critical concern, allots her the freedom she wants.

However, there is never an interaction between separate classes throughout the novella, rather a constant shifting throughout them. So, Fantomina enjoys all of the benefits of coming from a lower class, without having to endure the actual economic constraints.

Identity and Disguise

Disguise is not only a ‘Frolic’ in Haywood’s novella. It is a necessity for Fantomina to act freely in a male-dominated society. The protagonist becomes four different women through the medium of disguise: Fantomina, The Servant Girl, The Widow, and Incognita.

It is only through acting as characters that belong to lower classes than she does that Fantomina can lose her virginity without losing her virtuous reputation. She presents an uncanny ability to transcend social spheres altogether, as she is able to change the appearance of her class through aesthetics alone. In the eighteenth century, social status determined identity. Therefore, Fantomina would be judged on her status as Lady. However, Haywood inverts this to suggest instead that class and social status is based on outward impressions, not on one’s blood.


Female and male desire are completely different ideologies in the eighteenth century, and Haywood expects this to be common knowledge for her readers. Even when acting as a prostitute, belonging to a profession that centers on desire, Fantomina must still act with modesty. When in the disguise of Celia, her body is ‘half-reluctant, halfyielding, displaying the struggle that women faced in the expression of their desires. In public, they must adopt a modest and mild exterior, yet they are still expected to please men in private. In the world of prostitution and casual intercourse, these spheres are confused.

However, as a man, Beauplaisir can be both public and extremely forward with his desire. He is ‘rapacious’ in seeking the affections of all four characters Fantomina plays, and barely waits for her consent before he seeks satisfaction.

‘The Persecuted Maiden’ Stereotype

In the eighteenth century, novels such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela set out a. female model that many novelists followed: virtuous maidens would be rewarded with marriage, and those who lost their virginity were ‘persecuted by men. In this model, the heroine is usually vulnerable and naïve.


In contrast to this standard model, Fantomina is described as witty; she observes the workings of prostitutes in society before becoming one of them, knowing fully what her actions involved. The endings for traditional heroines in eighteenth century novels also end in disgrace or death; in Fantomina, Haywood allows neither to happen. Fantomina is sent to a French monastery, but there is no description in the novel of public opinion or the protagonist’s emotions. She neither apologizes nor repents for her promiscuous activities, and this silence is extremely powerful. Haywood rejects this stereotype of the ‘persecuted maiden’ subtly, but firmly.


Haywood’s novella contains prostitutes, a deceitful maiden, and a philandering male. Despite this, the love displayed by Fantomina is both constant and sincere. Haywood is extremely modern in the way that she includes sexual relations in the idea of love: in the eighteenth century, sex was traditionally strictly reserved for married couples. Through Fantomina losing her virginity, she is no less worthy to love Beauplaisir as a virtuous maiden is. The realization that sex involves genuine love also alters the psychology of the protagonist. Fantomina transforms from a sociopathic individual seeking control over men in the only manner possible (sex), to an individual merely doing all she can for the affections of the man she loves.


The concept of prostitution and two unmarried individuals engaging in sexual acts was a scandalous idea to an eighteenth-century society. Yet Haywood’s novel is not an exploration of the morality of the character’s decisions. Fantomina very briefly regrets losing her virginity, but after a day’s recovery she engages in the same act without another concern. This is not a case of forgetting morality, but merely of considering it to be irrelevant to the novella. The very title page describes a ‘Secret Amour’ ‘Between Two Persons of Condition’, an obvious acknowledgement from Haywood that the two protagonists do not even pose as the morally good. Once they have been categorized as people of Condition’ and morally perverse, then the reader can focus upon Fantomina’s wit, and not on the moral implications of her decision making.

2. Q. Justify the appropriateness of Haywood’s title of the novel Fantomina.

The actions the young lady in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina in her desire to find a sexually and emotionally stimulating relationship demonstrates the difficulty of relationships between men and women in the eighteen century. My lady such- a-one, as she is referred to by Haywood takes the roles of many different women to repeatedly seduce a man named Beauplaisir. For the most part of her new identities, Fantomina’s creative ideas resemble her increased desire for Beauplaisir and her initial curiosity becomes reflected upon her need to change her identity in order to recapture Beauplasir’s attention. Fantomina enjoys the fact that her disguises allow her do anything that she wishes, although, she seems to not think of the idea that a relationship between an upper class man and a low class woman is not very lasting and that her actions will eventually make herself the author of her own story.

Fantomina is a high quality mistress in the eighteenth century and because of her social position she has many restrictions placed upon her. She is not allowed to carry out a conversation of any type with a person of the opposite sex, nor is she allowed to pursue them. These behaviors were unacceptable in Fantomina’s society; therefore, women were supposed to have chaperones who were to protect them from men and also to make sure women behaved appropriately.

Fantomina’s recognition of a familiar face down below the balcony where she is sitting at reawakens her interest for Beauplaisir whom she has seen before, but because of society she has been unable to pursue him. However, because men are different from women and had the freedom to do anything they wanted to, Beauplaisir is allowed to leave the balcony and pursue women. Fantomina “is fascinated by the dalliance between ‘respectable’ gentlemen and loose women of the town.” “This excited a curiosity in her to know in what manner these creatures were addressed.” Although, Fantominas’s actions seem intentional her new identity originates all from curiosity in her pursuit to sustain Beauplasir’s interest.

Fed up with her restrictions, Fantomina decides to change her clothes to hide her real identity. It is here where Haywood reveals the restrictions on women of high social standing and the decisions of who belongs to what social position. In this case, clothing puts Fantomina in a lower social standing, even more, her new identity is that of a prostitute. Now as a prostitute, Fantomina is able to pursue Beauplaisir without any restrictions as he is unable to recognize her new identity.

In preparation to her encounter with Beauplaisir, Fontamina puts on her new identity and while with Beauplasir she resists him at first because she is worried about her reputation. At this point, Fantomina is concerned about her moral actions, but her desires can do more now because that is what she has been looking for. This of course, confuses Beauplaisir because that’s what prostitutes are expected to do and in the end a prostitute gets paid in return. Fantomina’s first disguise as a prostitute is all out of curiosity, but her imagination was so much talented that she had the power to change her appearance as she pleased. “As Fantomina changes character, she modifies her behaviors to align with his expectations.” The quote describes Fantomina’s admirable skills in manipulating the situation for her own benefit. As expected, Beauplaisir grows tired of Fantomina and this is where she takes on her new identity to continue to follow him.

Now as Celia, a low class woman she becomes Beauplasir’s maid, a new identity that becomes a bit more important than the one before because of social status .As her seduction continues she feels that she has become attached to Beauplaisir and she can’t let go of him she spends much of her time coming up with new ideas to seduce him. Her actions become a little emotional, but at the same time she intelligent as she is willing to go even further to maintain her sexual relationship with Beauplasir . It seems that what had started from curiosity has now turned into a passion that reflects her deepest emotions. “Her consistent ability to perform means that she repeatedly creates a space in which she may express her emotions.” In a sense, Fantomina feels that she belongs to Beauplaisir since he has taken her virginity and she attaches this to the fact that she now struggles to maintain her honor from being publicly exposed.

Fantomina’s passion for Beauplaisir leads her to go even further in her seduction attempt. This time, as the widow bloomer she becomes a little more vulnerable and portrays herself as weak. At one point, the widow fakes a sudden faint and allows Beauplasir to carry her off to bed. This proves that Fantomina is very calculating and her actions are being consistent with the character she assumes to be. In doing so, Fantomina believes her different roles are a source of power and freedom, but also her ability to succeed in her new role taking. Although, the role that she takes on for the most part is powerless because she gains nothing from it, she has quite effectively succeeded in making Beauplasir believe that he has been sleeping with different personas.

In her last disguise as Incognita, the significant thing they have in common is class and as the encounters continue, it seems that Fantomina’s actions are driven by pure lust. Incognita its Fantomina’s last attempt to seduce Beauplaisir and it ultimately fails just as her other disguises. Despite Beuaplasir being desperately curious to know who she really is he never shows real interest in maintaining a relationship with Incognita because in the end he has nothing to gain from a woman who demands that her identity will never be revealed. This culminates with Fantomina’s realization that Beauplasir’s real interest for her has been to satisfy his own sexual needs as he never remained faithful to her for the simple fact that he slept with the same person thinking he had been with four different women. Through Beauplaisir, the reader realizes that women are nothing but trophies and toys that are to be played with.

Ultimately, Fantomina’s various identities accomplish nothing; they do serve to reveal how lustful Beauplaisir is as well as Fantomina whether she acted on curiosity her real intentions remain ambiguous. Unfortunately, Fantomina’s creative disguises only satisfy her sexual desires, but never create a long-lasting relationship with Beauplaisir which results in her own betrayal. Fantomina’s pregnancy becomes her true story in which she has lost everything including her reputation.

In Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina,” the title character blurs the traditional gender and society roles that prohibited women from entering the public sphere of money and politics by stepping out of her prescribed private life as a high born woman. As a woman of the upper class, Fantomina would have been expected to follow “welldefined codes of behavior,” which would preserve her reputation and increase her value on the marriage market. These codes of behavior are applied to the different classes of women Fantomina inhabits. In Fantomina’s use of her own money, she enters into the male, and therefore public, world of commerce, while maintaining her guises and their specific roles in society. She not only purchases her many costumes but she rents multiple homes, hires employees, and works when she does not have to. Moreover, each of the different women she pretends to be has in some way control over their own funds, whether as a prostitute, maid, widower, or wealthy aristocrat. It is because of her plentiful funds she is able to create elaborate alternate personae in order to fool Beauplaisir into believing that it is he who is doing the chasing and not the other way around. It is made clear that almost anything can be bought for a price, except Beauplaisir’s affections and in the end Fantomina’s freedom. Throughout the story the discourses of commerce highlight Fantomina’s role in this monetary world that is usually reserved for men.

novel Fantomina has an alternative title to it – Love in a Maze. this signifies how the protagonist will create a maze and will fall for the trap herself. The ultimate result will neither benefit the trapped person nor the trapper. Henceforth, in both ways, the title is quite appropriate and to the point.


3.  Comment on the structure and technique of Haywood’s amatory novel Fantomina.


Q. Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina is often termed as an amatory novel by the critics. Comment with your own viewpoints.

Amatory fiction is term used by literary scholars and critics to refer to a category of fictional prose texts, written by female authors, mainly in the period between the late 1600s and mid 1700s. This era precedes the time period when the long works of prose fiction we know as novels became popular, and shows a move towards the consumption of prose fiction rather than poetry and drama. Three main authors are associated with amatory fiction: Aphra Behn (1640?-89), Delarivier Manley (16701724), and Eliza Haywood (1693-1756). All three wrote numerous pieces of fiction that focused on romantic and erotic love, presented from the point of view of a female character

The plots of amatory fiction typically focused on a young and inexperienced woman becoming romantically and sexually involved with an older and more sophisticated man. There is typically an element of disguise, mistaken identity, or deception, and the sexual activity is often forceful or coercive. Sexual activity also typically results in detrimental consequences for the heroine, such as pregnancy, desertion, or both. However, works of amatory fiction tend to be fairly ambiguous in their portrayals of sexually transgressive behavior, and female characters are usually not portrayed as sinful or fallen women. Rather, characters are usually shown to be victims of impulse, curiosity, or reckless naivety, all of which can create sympathetic portrayals.

Amatory fiction is sometimes viewed as a precursor to the genre of romance novels: while these texts are interested in the emotional elements of love and desire, they also do not shy away from frank and sometimes quite explicit representations of sexual activity. Moreover, women are usually portrayed as equal participants who are interested in pursuing their own gratification and pleasure. Especially considering that these works were written by women, they represent quite a unique and surprising cultural trend towards a subversion of gendered roles and expectations. As amatory fiction became less popular and more traditional models of fiction arose in the mid 1700s, heroines tended to become more chaste and less assertive. Another important contribution of amatory fiction is the way in which it foregrounded the role of women as authors, readers, and protagonists of prose fiction. The rise of the novel as a literary form is sometimes associated with a cultural shift towards literature becoming more concerned with the experiences and lives of female characters, and amatory fiction may be seen to represent one aspect of this evolution.

Despite its significance as a literary historical phenomenon, amatory fiction has not always been taken seriously by scholars and critics. Many early attempts to trace the history of the novel focused on male writers and disregarded works of amatory fiction as “trashy” or “popular,” at least in part because these works would have been read by women, members of the working classes, and individuals with less education. It was not until the 1970s and 1980s, with the rise of feminist literary criticism, that more and more scholars pointed out how important it is to study amatory fiction in order to be able to understand how and why the novel became such a popular literary form.


Narrowly defined, amatory fiction challenges formulaic genre which typically depicts an innocent, trusting woman being deceived by a self-serving, lustful man, by reversing the gender specific roles. For example, in Fantomina, by Eliza Haywood, the nameless protagonist is a noble born woman who changes her appearance to seduce the male Beauplaisir numerous times. For the women of amatory fiction, love typically ends in misery.

Our story opens in London where our unnamed heroine “a Young Lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit” is sitting in a playhouse watching men of high-society hang out with the prostitutes. At first, our protagonist is confused as to why men are spending their time with these ladies of the night, but then soon becomes envious of the ease in which the men and women are interacting. So she decides to pretend to be a prostitute because there’s nothing rich people love more than going to the city and slumming it with the poor.

She then runs into Beauplaisir, a hottie who she’s actually met before, but now she has become a Master of Disguise and no longer bound by her lady-like status she is able to actually have a personality and be flirty with him. They decided to meet up the next night. She gets her own apartment in the city and meets him at the theater. It starts off as a nice date, but when they return to her place, she ‘realizes that Beauplaisir wants to have sex. She protests saying that she is a maiden, but he does not believe her and he rapes her.

To get a key contextual thing about Fantomina, we need to talk about the “persecuted maiden”, the half-sister of the damsel-in-distress. In early literature, there was a common trope of having a virgin woman “maiden” be seduced, ravaged (ol term for rape) by some man and then left distraught, heartbroken to the point of “osing the will to live” a la Padme in Revenge of the Sith.

Fantomina is without a doubt problematic, but it signals a time when female authors were trying to tell these stories in a different way to deal with their own anxieties and to have the focus of the “forced seduction” trope to be told from the perspective of the woman and not the rapist.

In Fantomina, Haywood uses the amatory convention of the em dash to signal conversation. The well-established metaphor of spoken conversation representing sexual conversation is cued with the em dash, which functions to introduce verbal and sexual speech and to indicate reciprocal speech. The em dash is present during verbal conversations and sexual conversations to indicate a mutual, reciprocal exchange. Haywood, however, complicates the idea that mutual conversation and exchange always occur by using the em dash to also introduce nonreciprocal conversations that revealingly have no answering em dash. The loss of the visual cue signals a disruption of the grammar and a danger within the plot during the scene of

Within Fantomina, this breakdown of conversation leads to a crisis in the text that results in Fantomina becoming a single authorial figure. There is a rupture in the text that shows Fantomina turning away from conversation as the mode of sexual interaction and instead developing narrative and writing as the frame for interaction. Rather than than using the existing model of conversation occurring between two people, her desire for narrative control results in the development of persona after persona, with Fantomina as the single author of every plot.

 The arrival of Fantomina’s mother reintroduces the conversational em dash to demonstrate that both Beauplaisir’s conventional use of the conversational em dash and Fantomina’s model of narrative control are flawed. In conclusion, the mother presents the ideal use of the em dash and how to responsibly navigate amatory language, completing the instructive potential of the “grammar of eroticism.”

In one of Haywood’s most celebrated works, she does not deal directly with the setting of the masquerade, but she does implement physical costumes, much like what would appear at such an event. At the center of Fantomina, also published in 1724, is Haywood toying with the idea that to men, all women are the same. The title character “becomes a quintessentially Haywood heroine; she acts out Haywood’s entire ideology of disguise, masquerading as the double, feminine persona of virgin and virago, as both male and female heroine”.

Scholar Helen Thompson describes Fantomina in her article “Plotting Materialism” as a narrative that “envisions a heroine who resolves patriarchal contradiction not because she has been freed from patriarchy’s laws, but because she repeatedly manifests her observance of them”. Though her true identity is never revealed to the reader, our protagonist acts like a chameleon to pursue more sexual desires as opposed to amorous ones. As Haywood “conjures feminine agency from patriarchal constraint,” Fantomina defies the societal standards of women, who are supposed to be demure and lack agency, by using her intelligence to outwit her male counterpart in pursuit of sex.

The initial setting of the theatre in Fantomina: or Love in a Maze, nonetheless, is somewhat similar to a masquerade ball and sets the stage for the deceptions to follow. Similar to what would occur at a masquerade ball, this opening scene features several prostitutes soliciting men. (This aspect of these events that the aforementioned pamphleteer was not particularly fond of because it detracted from the sanctity of marriage.) Our main character, whom we never learn her true name, easily becomes fascinated with how the prostitutes “create acquaintance with as many [men] as seem desirous of it”. While we do not know her identity, we do know that she comes from a distinguished background. And, because she’s visiting from the country, she is not versed in the characteristics of a bustling city, particularly its more seedy aspects, and is rather innocent. Without a name chaining her to a singular identity, and being in a brand new city, our protagonist can be whoever she wants to be. Her naïveté leads her to try to mimic how the prostitutes act in the theatre; this is how she first dabbles into the idea of disguise. She didn’t want to live vicariously through these women anymore; she wants to be them: “The longer she reflected on it, the greater was her wonder, that men, some of whom she knew were accounted to have wit, should have tastes so very depraved. This excited a curiosity in her to know in what manner these creatures were addressed”. Although she comes from the country, acting in the manner of these other women at least makes her somebody instead of nobody. Her ultimate desire, of course, is attention.

4. Q.Comment on the style of writing novels of Eliza Haywood with reference to her Fantomina.

Haywood’s story “radically rewrites” the typical “persecuted maiden” story of the early eighteenth century.[2] The heroine is introduced as “A young lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit” visiting London from the country, who is “young, a Stranger to the World, and consequently to the Dangers of it; and having no Body in Town, at that Time, to whom she was oblig’d to be accountable for her Actions, did in every Thing as her Inclinations or Humour render’d most agreeable to her”. The reader thus expects the heroine to be seduced and reach a tragic end; such stories often taught readers about the dangers of “vulnerability, willfulness, and lack

In Fantomina, however, the heroine does not die nor is she disgraced (the typical endings). Instead, Haywood uses the disguise, wit, and sexual freedom common to Restoration comedies to show the similarities between the two genres, one tragic and the other comic. While Fantomina falls for Beauplaisir, like other maidens, she is also a heroine with an explicit sexual desire. As critic Margaret Croskery writes, Haywood “refuses to define female sexual virtue in terms of chastity or a victimized sexual objecthood…. Instead, she defines virtuous love in terms of sincerity

of guidance”.

constancy”. Fantominas ending, neither true to the “persecuted maiden” genre nor true to the marriages of Restoration comedies, is ambiguous. This would have shocked its readers. As one editor of the text writes, “where the traditional moral might be expected, this story ends with a casual delight in ‘an Intrigue, which, considering the Time it lasted, was as full of Variety as any, perhaps, that many Ages has produced””.

Fantomina also draws from the culture of the political pornography of the seventeenth century, which unflatteringly portrayed London commoners as the source of democratic unrest and protest. In the 1720s, Robert Walpole was attempting to limit the franchise in London. However, the political pornography of this time reversed the typical structure of these stories by portraying him as the villainous seducer and London as the “violated maiden”. Like these stories, Fantominas heroine “ultimately triumph[s] over those who would self-servingly exploit the favors of London’s commons”.

Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina experiments with Addison’s emerging notions of aesthetics and the pleasures of the imagination as a self consciously imagined form of fiction. Its central plot is concerned with the way fictions motivate and exercise imaginative responses in the mind, playing with the sensory manifestations that produce the passions what Addison points to as a “new Principle of Pleasure” resulting from an “Operation of the Mind”.

Haywood’s novella exposes the operation of an emergent kind of aesthetic pleasure, enabling the sensory domain to transcend the pleasures of the body in order to improve or ameliorate the imagination. A cultural novelty attracting a wide period readership, and a fiction that continues to prove attractive to critical attention today, Fantomina expresses a new relationship between the body and mind. It shows us fictive narrative attempting to do something different: to produce an aesthetic reading practice that engages readers in an imaginary experience privileged above rational judgment.


In an expanding market of readers and publishers, Haywood crafts writing that orapts features of previous amatory and romance writing in order to create an imaginary relation of individuals to the transformative class and gender relations of the time. In Fantomina, ideology produces a form of consciousness that is enabled by the aesthetic . Arguably, the amatory form of the novella, as well as the reading practice it engenders, together produce a particular kind of imaginative thinking, or consciousness, that is separate from rational cognition, judgment, or knowledge. Through its serial form, sexual desire and passion are attached to the protagonist’s particular imagination, and the reader is thus encouraged to use his or her imagination to take pleasure in the narrative and to desire more such fictions that (re)structure feeling and perception.

Fantomina imagines fictions of desire that centrally engage and (re)produce the esthetic by linking the body to the imagination, producing a desire inspired by narrative fiction, and enabling individual desire to be reproduced through literary forms. William Warner has dalmed that Haywood’s fiction generalizes the reader, but if we notice how fiction begins to work as an aesthetic practice of ideology, we may see how fiction generalizes not the reader, but rather the desire for reading.3 That is, fiction works to engender ideology in its pleasurable responses, 4 and Fantomina in particular reveals how feeling (both sensory and emotive) precedes understanding, making the imagination just as great and as transporting” as the understanding, as Addison suggests.

5. Q. Are there any ironic situations presented in the novel Fantomina? Discuss in your own words.

Fantomina is a novel written by Eliza Haywood in 1725. The book mainly revolves around an unnamed character who becomes intrigued by the men she sees in a playhouse in London. She then pretends to be a prostitute and enjoys talking to a man called Beauplaisir. He believes her to be a prostitute and rapes her despite her protests. She (the unnamed main character) is worried about her reputation and so tells Beauplaisir that her name is Fantomina. Beauplaisir tires of her and leaves for Bath, but she follows him. She disguises as herself as a maid at the inn Beauplaisir is staying at and manages to sleep with him again after he is interested in her. After Beauplaisir leaves Bath, he meets the unnamed main character again on his journey home, but now she is disguised as a widow. Beauplaisir ravishes her again and she becomes pregnant. The unnamed character’s mother finds out, and she is sent to live in a French monastery.

Haywood wrote the book to illustrate how one woman’s initial mistake could become her passion as a result of love, which is unguided in this storyline. Furthermore, she wanted to portray a story of a persecuted maiden’ and display how women were treated during the 18th century.

The book was received very well by critics and fans. Indeed, Eliza Haywood was one of the four bestselling authors of the first half of the 18th century. She has received widespread recognition for Fantomina since the rise of feminist literary criticism, and Fantomina has appeared in many anthologies since the 1980s.


Dressing as a prostitute, but maintaining the expectations of a lady – Situational Irony

In Haywood’s novella, the protagonist Fantomina is a lady who dresses as a prostitute to experience freedom. She is therefore aware of her higher status, despite her lowerclass dress. Others, such as Beauplaisir, see only her outward dress, and not her true status as upper-class. It is ironic that Fantomina dresses as a prostitute yet expects her virginity to be treated with respect when she and Beauplaisir spend the night together. This highlights the difference between female and male expectation of desire. For Fantomina, a woman should be treated in accordance to their social status, whereas Beauplaisir assumes her as lower-class due to her clothing. Ironically, Fantomina expects treatment in accordance with the very status she wants to keep secret.


The irony of accusing Beauplaisir of treachery – A Situational Irony

After Fantomina has played out her roles as Widow Bloomer, Celia, and Fantomina, she returns to London and writes letters to Beauplaisir under her different personas. When Beauplaisir refuses Fantomina, but agrees to see the Widow the next day, Fantomina accuses him of treachery and betrayal. There is an undeniable sense of irony here: she brands Beauplaisir as a typical, lying male, when she has fooled him no fewer than three times already by dressing as different women. However, the motive behind her deception almost makes this irony acceptable. Becoming three different women at once was the only way in which Fantomina could prove that Beauplaisir is a rake, promising affection to many women simultaneously. This irony does not, then, mock Fantomina, but is rather a result of what she must do in order to prove the unreliability of the male gender.

The irony of claiming control over female sexuality –

A Dramatic Irony The motivation behind Fantomina’s actions throughout the entirety of Haywood’s novellas is freedom from the constraints that accompany her role in society as a lady. Most importantly, this is inclusive of sexual freedom: without her usual upper-class dress, she can now interact with men without any judgement. Fantomina thereby possesses control over expression of her female sexuality, and refuses to conform to the constraints of a society that expects women to only become sexually active as a man’s wife. It is therefore ironic that at the end of the story, despite her greatest efforts, Fantomina goes in to labor and is finally a slave to the bodily functions that only occur to the female sex. Fantomina has fought for the entire novella to dictate her own secret desires, only to be forced to submit and admit to the societal bonds that her status as a female impose on her.

The irony of the protagonist loving Beauplaisir, yet approaching him as a prostitute – A Dramatic Irony

Upon meeting Beauplaisir for the first time, Fantomina mentions that she has seen him before and taken a shine to him. While the only way she can approach him is dressed as a lower-class prostitute, this comment confirms that she seeks him out specifically, suggesting there is more to her interest in him than just lust. It is therefore heavily ironic that Fantomina perhaps seeks something similar to love by approaching Beauplaisir dressed as a prostitute: by tricking Beauplaisir into thinking she is a prostitute, Fantomina effectively prevents him from falling in love with the person who she truly is.


While the tone of this story is straightforward and sincere, there is considerable comic irony in the Lady’s predicament, and in her increasingly strenuous efforts to ensnare Beauplaisir . She expends great energy in order to appear distant and mysterious, as when she runs after his carriage so that she can then present herself to him as a greving widow, preoccupied with her dead husband and her stolen inheritance and as a woman uninterested in romance.

6. Q. What significant symbols and motifs have been used by Haywood in her novel Fantomina? Comment critically.

There are many symbols associated with the novel Fantomina written by notable 18th century woman writer Eliza Haywood. Some such major symbols are as follows – The female body

The moment that Fantomina decides to impersonate a prostitute is also the moment that her body becomes symbolic of merely physical features; posing as a prostitute reduces her to just a body, without status or class. Her body therefore acts as a symbol of the injustices surrounding the female gender, and their sexuality. First of all, the few men within the novel-setting aside Beauplaisir for the moment-are not judged by their appearances. They attempt to woo Fantomina with their words, and this is deemed enough. However, a woman’s value is judged wholly on her looks, and she can only demand freedom with men when she is a prostitute, and allows them free reign with her body. Secondly, the female body is symbolic of Beauplaisir’s attitude (and perhaps male attitude generally) towards female sexuality. Despite treasuring the female body before intercourse, the female body during sex is merely a vessel to fulfill male desire, and there is no need to have a personality attached to the limbs. Thus the female body is affected with the stigma of expectation: the woman must be ready to please a man, but she is restricted in pleasure she is allowed to enjoy herself.

The theatre

Haywood’s novella is a story of disguise and deception, and the story opens in a theatre. Haywood perhaps chose this setting as particularly poignant in suggesting a ‘Show’ that not only occurs on the stage. In fact, Fantomina neither names nor even hints that she is watching the play, and instead studies the people down below in the ‘Pit’. First of all, the structure of the theatre is symbolic of social class, as prostitutes are at the bottom of the hierarchy, socially and physically. Fantomina is clearly a woman of noble birth, as she is separate and higher, in a Box, where she can observe but does not have to engage in the lower classes. Additionally, the theatre setting suggests a continuation of the show beyond the stage to the people watching it: in eighteenthcentury society, there is always an audience, watching and judging every action. Incognita’s mask

The plot of Haywood’s novella is only possible through disguise, a theme that matc:ializes in the symbolic mask that the protagonist wears as part of Incognita’s disguise. This is an especially important symbol for two reasons: it completely resonates and represents the major theme of how aesthetics and identity are linked, and it bears connotations that a eighteenth-century audience would have recognized. Firstly, the mask is almost ironic in its representation of of Fantomina’s ‘Frolick’. She has previously donned disguises to fool Beauplaisir, yet this is the first time she has actually worn a mask. This is ironic, as up to this point, she has needed no mask to fool Beauplaisir, so it becomes also a symbol of her talents, and a mockery of his intuition. Secondly, in the eighteenth century, the mask worn by a woman was a sign that she was a: prostitute. This connotation mocks both Fantomina, for acting as a prostitute and tragically being raped, and Beauplaisir, who assumes she is a prostitute from appearance alone. While this symbol could appear to be merely a device to cement the already obvious theme of disguise, Haywood seems to use it with a different awareness: it suggests there is a difference between what the audience would assume the mask means, what it means to Beauplaisir, and how Fantomina uses it to invoke a particular meaning.


In the eighteenth century, when Haywood was writing Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze, writing in the epistolary format was popular. Novels such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Frances Burney’s Evelina both include, or use as the entire structure, letters in the novel. Haywood’s use of the epistolary is minimal, yet important. It allows the reader to see the culmination of all Fantomina’s lies, and the hand that she writes each in is a symbol of the character itself that she has constructed each time. It is also a further symbol of Fantomina’s mockery of Beauplaisir: she sends the letters from “different women” at the same time, demonstrating her capabilities and the extent to which she will maintain this ‘frolick’. The letters therefore demonstrate how intricately Fantomina has woven a web of lies, and acts as the first outward symbol of her beginning to lose control.

The male gaze

The male gaze as a symbol is especially recognizable in the opening scenes of the novel, at the theatre. The original motive behind Fantomina’s frolic is a curiosity based on how men react to prostitutes, and how these women can partially control the male gaze. Within Fantomina, the male gaze can be read as a motif because it is a constant stimulus that the protagonist seeks, and that occurs over and over. It is especially important, as Beauplaisir’s male gaze not only has complete control over Fantomina, but is also controlled by her. She seems to understand the psychology behind what pleases this particular man, and assumes different disguises that all attract his gaze. Therefore, while the motif of the ‘male gaze’ in other novels presents a patriarchal dominance where women are objects, Haywood inverts this standard. Instead, Fantomina encourages the gaze, yet simultaneously is able to manipulate it to see what she

7. Q. What is your sense of Beauplaisir, as a character? Do you find him attractive or just an agent of male gaze?

In “Fantomning” a young woman masquerades as three different characters to aid in her quest to make love with Beauplaisir, the man she finds simply irresistible. She finally resorts to masking herself and writing as “Incognita.” It seems that she is filled with desire so strong that she would resort to any means necessary to fulfill those desires. In the end, she gives birth to a child and is sent to a convent by her disgraced mother. However, her fate is presented almost as an afterthought, and it would be ridiculous to assume that Haywood presents 57 such a powerful female protagonist only to strike her down in the end and show that she should have behaved herself all along.

The Lady

The main character of the story is referred to simply as the Lady, when she is not referred to by the various guises that she adopts throughout the story. We are told that she is a young Lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit” (Paragraph 1). At the story’s opening, she is out with her friends at the theatre and notices a prostitute surrounded by admirers on the lower floor. Although her friends dismiss this woman, the Lady is fascinated by her and by the power that she seems to have over men, We are told that the Lady, in contrast to her urbane friends, has had a country upbringing, which has made her naive and credulous. The Lady resolves to disguise herself as a prostitute the following evening.

In doing so, she immediately draws the attention of a man named Beauplaisir, a social acquaintance whom she has long admired, and who does not recognize her in her disguise. They flirt, but the Lady manages to hold him off by telling him that she has an engagement with another client that evening. He insists on seeing her the following evening; she agrees and reserves a room at a nearby inn beforehand, telling herself that he will have more respect for her if she brings him to a grand place. However, the elegant inn simply causes him to believe that she is a higher class of prostitute. This time, the Lady is unable to resist him, and the two of them have what we understand to be her first sexual encounter, which causes her great shame. It also causes her to fall in love with Beauplaisir. She tells him that her name is Fantomina, and the following morning bribes the landlady at the inn to tell Beauplaisir-should he come by when she is not in her room-that these are her permanent quarters. She then returns to her Aunt, with whom she has been staying.

Beauplaisir and the Lady-in her guise as Fantomina-continue to see one another. However, Beauplaisir soon grows weary of Fantomina, despite being intrigued by her resemblance to the Lady. The Lady senses his growing weariness and decides to adopt a new disguise in order to keep him interested. She pretends to be a country maid named Celia; following him to an inn in Bath, she presents herself in his room. Beauplaisir is charmed by her, and the two of them have an encounter, one that is mutually undi, stood to be casual and fleeting.

Lady then adopts a new disguise, one that is more somber than her previous two disguises. She pretends to be a widow, who is in danger of being disinherited by her husband’s unscrupulous family. She flags down Beauplaisir’s coach outside of another hotel in Bath, asks him for a ride into London, and tells him her sad story. Beauplaisir . is initially bored by the Widow Boomer’s obsession with her dead husband and her inheritance; however, he notices that she becomes animated and eloquent on the subject of love and sex. The two of them begin to flirt, then stop at an inn for the night and have another encounter.

The Lady is the main character of this story, who expresses herself through many different characters. She pretends to be a nameless prostitute first; then Fantomina, a well-born country girl whose circumstances slightly resemble her own; then Celia, a humble country maid; then the Widow Boomer, a recent and unfairly disinherited widow; and finally, a mysterious noblewoman known only as Incognita. The amount of energy and artfulness that she puts into these creations suggests both a rich imaginative life and great reserves of shrewdness and resourcefulness.

seems in many ways rebellious, for a woman of her time and social class. She is having sex outside of marriage, and she is deceiving both her lover and the people in her social circle. She is also going out of her way-literally, by renting one distant lodging after another-to keep these deceptions separate from her real life. At a certain point, however, the deceptions become her real life because she cannot imagine her life without Beauplaisir. Only her domineering mother’s return from Europe serves to bring her back to her roots.

The Lady’s behavior

Several Identities of the Lady

Fantomina Fantomina is the first identity the novel’s unnamed protagonist takes on. Fantomina is a playhouse prostitute. This is the opposite of who the protagonist really is, because the protagonist comes from a distinguished family. She assumes this identity out of curiosity about how freely the prostitutes can speak to men without being judged. Thinking that she is an actual prostitute, Beauplasir rapes her and then he leaves for Bath when he gets tired of Fantomina.

Celia – Celia is the identity the protagonist embodies after Beauplasir moves to Bath. The protagonist follows him and assumes the role of Celia, a country girl working as a maid. She seduces Beauplaisir (even though he doesn’t realize he’s being seduced). Beauplaisir quickly grows tired of Celia and departs again, –

Mrs. Bloomer This is the third disguise the protagonist uses. Mrs. Bloomer is a traveling widow. Beauplasir uses her “grief” to his advantage and “seduce” her (quotes around seduces because he technically is not the one doing the seducing: it was the protagonist’s plan all along). They have sex many times (including when they stop for a while at an inn).

Incognita – The final disguise the protagonist assumes. Incognita is a masked lady. Her ambiguity/mystery signifies a very high-class woman, and in his encounters with her, Beauplaisir is aware that he is being deceived. Beauplaisir –

Beauplaisir is a wealthy, handsome, aristocratic man. He is a rake who is accustomed to pursuing sexual pleasure and then discarding women when he tires of them. However, he cannot read between the lines, and therefore gets seduced multiple times by the same woman without realizing it. The woman gets away with seducing him by wearing a series of disguises. He eventually gets her pregnant before she is forced to live in a monastery.



The Protagonist’s Mother

Fantomina’s mother has a strong role to play at the end of the novel . Fantomina continues to maintain her original house, and receives Beauplaisir as both Widow Bloomer and Fantomina. However, it is now extremely evident that he has grown tired of both. She is busy planning a way to drop these two characters and continue the game when her Mother unexpectedly arrives. She has heard nothing of Fantomina’s pursuits. Even so, Fantomina is now restricted in her social freedom. Yet this is the least of her worries: it is revealed she is pregnant with Beauplaisir’s child. Her plan is to eat little and wear huge-hooped petticoats to cover the size of her stomach, until she can be sent to the country to have the baby in secret. She attends a ball as a goodbye from society, and it is here that she goes into labor. Her Mother demands to know the Father of her child. Fantomina tells her Beauplaisir’s name. He is fetched, and does not recognize the Lady as any woman he has laid with. He begs her to admit that she is framing him, and that it is not his child.

Fantomina’s mother eventually tells Beauplaisir that this was a ploy to get him to marry her and save her honor, that it is her own fault, and that he owes nothing to her or the child. He offers to make sure the child is in safe hands if it is discharged to him, but this offer is rejected. Beauplaisir is extremely confused, and continues to visit to inquire of Fantomina’s health until he is asked to stop. Once Fantomina is strong enough, her mother sends her to a French monastery.

8. Q. How far Haywood’s Fantomina be considered as a Feminist novel?


Q. What type of feminist goals does Eliza Haywood set for her protagonist in the novel Fantomina? Discuss illustratively.

Eliza Haywood was a feminist who believed that women should be given equal opportunities with men for education. “Eighteenth-century society associated female authorship with inappropriate public display, sexual transgression, and the production of inferior texts”. Haywood defended the treatment of her texts as “inferior” with the charge that women were not properly educated and, therefore, should not be expected to write about subjects beyond their general knowledge. However, she was writing about much more than just love and desire; she was making a statement about female sexuality and gender inequality.

“Fantomina” titillates the reader with the story of a woman so desirous of a man, Beauplaisir, that she masquerades as not one or two, but as four different characters. She first endures what amounts to his raping her while she pretends to be a prostitute. She then dresses as a servant girl in order to receive his advances. Her third disguise is that of a widow. Finally, she resorts to simply masking her face with a veil and dubbing herself “Incognita.” The extent of the protagonist’s bold behavior and the degree of Beauplaisir’s stupidity is alarming, even to a twenty-first century reader.

In a time when women were never considered victors in the realm of sexuality, author Eliza Haywood protests these standards in her writings. She creates female characters who show the world that women can win, even in patriarchal societies. Victorious female characters make the world a better place by further empowering other women. Whether they are accomplishing their dreams, raising a family, or finding a mate, women benefit from living their lives with the freedom to make their own choices. In Eliza Haywood’s novella, “Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze,” the unnamed protagonist (Lady –) represents a strong female character in an early example of feminist literature.

The story “Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze” begins with a description of the protagonist as a “young lady of distinguished birth, beauty, wit, and spirit”. Lady attends the playhouse one night and curiously notes the way men give attention to the prostitutes in another section of the audience. She decides to gratify her “innocent curiosity” and visits the playhouse the following night dressed as a prostitute herself. Men flock to her, praising her beauty. One man in particular, Beauplaisir, makes her swoon. She agrees to go with him the following night. Once Beauplaisir and the young woman have sex, she is afraid of her undoing. She backtracks and says that she is not actually a prostitute, but Fantomina, “a daughter of a country gentleman,” which is why she is ashamed of her actions.

Nevertheless, they continue to meet, she assuming the identity of Fantomina. When he tires of her and travels away, she assumes a new disguise to attract him. Her new identity is a maid at the place he is staying, and she calls herself Celia. Beauplaisir becomes attracted to the protagonist as Celia (unaware that it is the same woman as before). After a month, he grows sexually weary of her as well and goes back home. Not to be forgotten, she assumes a fourth identity, calling herself Widow Bloomer. Once again Beauplaisir is beguiled, thinking she might be able to “ease the burden of his love”. Once again, they form a sexual relationship, but unsurprisingly Beauplaisir wants something fresh rather quickly.

Finally, Lady puts on her fifth and final identity, the mysterious and masked aristocrat who goes by the elusive title, Incognita. At last, she becomes tired of her scheme and trickery, not without discovering she is pregnant. Her mother visits, “not approving of many things she had been told of the conduct of her daughter”. The young protagonist hides her pregnancy well until she goes into labor prematurely. Her mother demands Lady – confess who the father is, to which she offers up Beauplaisir’s name. He comes, but denies he is the father, still not realizing the woman before him is the same as the other five women he has slept with. Lady – confesses her trickery and must take full responsibility for her actions. When she is healed, she is sent off to a monastery.

Readers struggle to interpret who Lady — really is. Is Lady a strong, independent woman who is ahead of her time, or is Lady – a self-conscious, fragile character who is so dissatisfied in her identity that her only option is to experiment with the identities of others? On the one hand, she makes her own decisions as she pleases and holds sexual power over a man, but on the other hand, she hides her true self from readers. Who really is Lady—? She is a woman who defines independence and inner-strength. She defies societal expectations to become who she wants to be with no help from others. She, although excelling at mystery and multiple identities, does not become confused in her inner identity, “one of distinguished birth, beauty, wit, and spirit”. Even though her final circumstances (of pregnancy and a monastery) appear to be her downfall, Lady does not surrender to the appearance of weakness –

. She holds the head high, still identifying with her real self – a popular young woman who frequently attends high-class social gatherings. Finally , she ends up in a all-female society that empowers women to strip themselves from the bondage of men.

Some critics disagree with the argument that Lady is a strong, independent woman who is ahead of her time. According to Kate Levin, Lady is not mature because she only acts in relation to Beauplaisir (Levin 1). Levin also argues that the protagonist is always saying yes and no at the same time, a weakness that she calls “collusive resistance” (Levin 2). Margaret Croskery believes that because Lady demonstrates “collusive resistance,” she is neither the victor nor the vanquished, a protest of both kinds of norms (77). Others note that Lady –’s pregnancy takes away from the power of feminism (Ballaster 190). Pregnancy is a consequence that she cannot run from and ultimately shows the weakness of the female sex, something, though, that Lady herself cannot control. Lastly, while some say Lady -‘s transportation to a monastery is a continuation of the female society (Craft 831), others debate that it is a punishment and an imprisonment of female freedom (Levin 1).

– even Even the text itself is its own critic. At some points, it seems like Lady and Beauplaisir really love each other, and it is a mutual, loving relationship. In the beginning, Fantomina and Beauplaisir “were infinitely charmed with each other”. Lady “almost died for another opportunity of conversing with him,” and calls him her “beloved Beauplaisir”. And anothing could be more tender than the manner in which he accosted her”. At other times, it seems that the relationship (in both their eyes) is simply a lustful and passionate affair. Beauplaisir quickly loses interest over and over again, “the rifled charms of Fantomina soon lost their poignancy, and grew tasteless and insipid. Even Lady – eventually reveals that it was fatal to have gotten involved with Beauplaisir because of the trouble it had caused her.

Readers may question if Lady – is a desperate woman who wants attention or if she is in search of a genuine lover but gets distracted by the game of identity. Because of the discrepancies and changes in feelings, especially Lady —’s, some critics still debate if the protagonist is actually empowered and should be hailed as a heroine in feminist literature. Despite all the criticisms, Lady – does display a striking freedom in the way she expresses her and fearless in her quest towards the discovery of love, sex, and power.

The feminist literary criticism approach can be used to study the protagonist, Lady -, in “Fantomina; or Love in a Maze.” Elaine Showalter argues that there are three literary subcultures, or major stages of female development, in literature. The subculture itself means “a habit of living”. The first is the Feminine Stage, which involves the “imitation of the prevailing modes of the dominant tradition” and “internalization of its standards”. The next, Feminist Stage, is “a protest against these standards and advocacy of minority rights”. Finally, the Female Stage is a “phase of self-discovery, a turning inward freed from some of the dependency of opposition, a search for identity”. Showalter says that a character can display characteristics from more than one developmental stage, even though the stages roughly follow literary time periods.

According to Showalter, the Feminine phase in literature included texts written between the 1840s and 1880s; the Feminist phase from 1880s to 1920; the Female stage from 1920 to the present. Eliza Haywood wrote this particular novella in 1724, long before females became common protagonists and long before the female stage began. The protagonist in “Fantomina; or Love in a Maze” strongly illustrates the final developmental stage (Female) and demonstrates some characteristics in the Feminist stage as well. This is determined by the character’s knowledge of what she wants and her desire to get what she wants, her protest against stereotypical female standards by advocating self-discovery of identity, her trickery that makes her the victor, and her continuous inner strength.

Lady —’s motives guide her during the process of getting what she wants. At first, her motives are “no other aim than the gratification of an innocent curiosity”. According to one critic, Lady -‘s motives stay here the whole story, meaning she is only interested in learning more about what male attention feels like, nothing more. Other textual interpretations acknowledge that her curiosity turns into sexual knowledge and experience because she keeps trying to sleep with Beauplaisir. A “hope of interest” becomes her new motive in keeping Beauplaisir close at hand. She says that “she loved Beauplaisir”. She wants to have some sexual control and be sexually satisfied at the same time, hoping to “once more engage him, to hear him sigh, to see him languish, to feel the strenuous pressures of his eager arms, to be compelled, to be sweetly forced to what she wished with equal ardor”. Once the fun becomes a glorious scheme to trick Beauplaisir into loving and lusting more than one woman, her motives finally turn to being the victor in the game of love and sex. According to Catherine Craft, this is Lady —’s “fantasy of female freedom”. Craft notes that she adopts disguises for her own pleasures and is proud and content with her actions during the game. Her motives, although shifting frequently, demonstrate character

Lady – knows what she wants and will not stop at anything to get it “no matter the consequence”. In this, she defines strength and independence because what she wants defies what society says women should “want” in that day. Lady chooses to fight for what she desires, even if society opposes it. The exception to this rule is when her mother comes to town, because not only are there uninvited consequences (pregnancy), but she has to be responsible for them. Lady – takes on five different identities to keep the game alive. With each disguise and performance, she prepares more, meaning that she learns quickly how to become someone else. However, she does not lose sight of who she is and proves that it is okay for women to do whatever necessary to win.

complexity and depth.

As her experiences broaden, she begins to understand the complex differences between the sexes. She learns quickly that men desire difference while women desire sameness so she elegantly disguises her desire for the same object with his for a new. Emily Hodgson-Anderson argues that although Lady – plans everything out beforehand, her feelings for Beauplaisir are still genuine, which is why she succeeds overall. Thinking ahead and preparing how she will seduce Beauplaisir is, Hodgson-Anderson argues, what makes Lady – a feminist character. Lady -‘s strong will and deep thinking further empowers her throughout the story. –

Lady actively protests stereotypical female standards as she discovers her own identity. First, she protests common gender roles. She promotes her own power when she first refuses Beauplaisir’s service, “observing the surprise he himself refused by a woman, who he supposed granted her favours without exception”. Although Lady – is dressed as a prostitute, she does not live to the standard of one, which threatens Beauplaisir’s expectations of manliness and conquering. When Lady addresses Beauplaisir in a letter as Incognita, she calls him the “all-conquering Beauplaisir,” Buttering him up and praising everything about him. However , when Beauplaisir responds to the obliging and witty incognita he calls himself “your everlasting slave”.

The way Lady – writes Beauplaisir puts herself in the spot of the victor. No matter how powerful Beauplaisir thinks he is, when it comes down to it, he is at the hands of Incognita because she has to make the first move. He never has to make the first move because he is being eloquently pursued, an ironic twist of gender stereotypes. Beauplaisir’s hands are tied – he is subservient to a woman. Lady – has great power over a man in this part of the story and she delights in it. The power she has promises a chance to finally control Beauplaisir’s attention, making him focus on Incognita alone.

assumes Lady – even experiments with social class, creating identities as lowly as a prostitute and maid to as high as an aristocrat. Lady – herself, being born of “distinguished birth” would have never experienced life from the perspective of lowly characters like the prostitute, Fantomina, or the maid. According to Craft, each disguise Lady is a higher class than the last, but more sexually accessible, which is the opposite of standards of the day. As a prostitute, she is “fearful, confused, altogether unprepared to resist in such encounters”. Although she may start out sexually weak, she develops her sexual strength and dominance, so by the time she is Incognita, she “yielded without even a shew of reluctance”.

According to Hodgson-Anderson, a notable critic, Incognita is the identity most threatening to Beauplaisir. This is not because she is the highest class citizen, but because she refuses to share her real name or her face. A refusal to share these things makes Beauplaisir uncomfortable and frustrated because he has no power and may end up the fool in the end. A lack of accountability could mean the woman he is sleeping with is not an aristocrat, or worse in his mind) – ugly. But what really scares Beauplaisir, while empowering Lady -, is her mask. Juliette Merritt suggests that masquerade is a game in which women win because in realigning femininity, women create a new identity that will not compromise their public identity. –

The mask also allows her to freely express her genuine desires. According to Hodgson-Anderson, this is a positive personal demonstration called self-conscious performance, which is when women act out roles that they have internally conceived for themselves so they can achieve female passions that society would consider immoral or disastrous. Lady —’s strength is further defined by the way she grows to handle the pressure sexual encounters create, and how she controls her own identity’s desires through the names and costumes of others. By creating false identities, Lady – is freely expressing what society would not normally allow her to express her true desires.

Lady – uses trickery to first become and then stay the victor in the game of sex. She genuinely enjoys tricking Beauplaisir and being the master behind the curtain. She “imagines a world of satisfaction to herself in engaging him in the character of such a one”. She is convinced that no one knows of her scheme, proud that “I shall hear no whispers as I pass, – She is forsaken: The odious forsaken will never wound my ears; nor will my wrongs excite either the mirth or pity of the talking world”. Even – the narrator brags on Lady – in the text, “she was so admirably skilled in the art of feigning”. This proves that whether or not Lady is actually interested in Beauplaisir, she wants to play a game, and Craft even argues that Lady – gets tired of Beauplaisir just as often as he gets tired of her . “She began to grow weary of receiving his now insipid caresses as he was of offering them”, which further suggests that Lady – is interested in something short-lived that gives her power over a man. The complexity of her trickery and her character keeps the game alive.

– Instead of playing the typical weak female or the victim, Lady – presents Beauplaisir as the fool in the relationship. He is “both surprised and troubled at the mystery” from the beginning when Lady tells him she is not a prostitute. Thus begins the more advanced labyrinth of deceit. She “provided herself of another disguise to carry on a third plot”, and then “she had prepared herself for it, and had another project in embryo, which she soon ripened into action”, a deceit unmatched by any other. Her disguises empower her because only she knows what is real. Beauplaisir can only guess who these beautiful women are clueless that is is all the same person.

The mystery of the disguises keeps her reputation safe while allowing her to pursue her desires. She turns the relationship into a maze (and a game) that she gets out of, while he is still left clueless, “But I have outwitted even the most subtle of the deceiving kind, and while he thinks to fool me, is himself the only beguiled person”. She lets Beauplaisir think he is seducing her, but she is seducing him and is in charge of the whole story. Hodgson-Anderson points out that Beauplaisir thinks he has conquered four women, when he is actually making love to the same body every night. Such a belief on Beauplaisir’s part would make him feel like a male victor, a king in the field of sex. But when Lady – confesses what she has done, he is “more confused than ever he had known in his whole life,” an entire defeat on his part, one that will forever remain with him. Lady – ultimately “proves skill in a game against the man perceived to be the best”.

Finally, Lady —’s inner strength throughout the novella proves her to be in the feminist and female stages of Showalter’s female development theory. First of all, she depends on only herself to get through the game and any pain it might cause her. She “did in every thing as her inclinations of humours rendered most agreeable to her” and “depended on the strength of her virtue, to bear her fate through trials more dangerous than she apprehended this to be”. When she succeeds, she is proud of herself because “I have him always raving, wild, impatient, longing, dying”.

Things start downhill because she is raped by Beauplaisir, “she was undone; and he gained a victory so highly rapturous, that had he known over whom, scarce could he have triumphed more”. Even so, she rises above, becoming the victor in an uncomfortable and taboo situation that first puts her on the bottom of the social pyramid. Next, she is accountable for her actions and accepts responsibility for them. Helen Thompson says it is important to note that Lady does tell Beauplaisir about the trickery she involves him in. Even if it would have cost her reputation and been completely terrifying, “she related the whole truth”.

she does not get confused about her own identity, despite putting on so many others. Lady is able to maintain her personal identity so that “she met him three or four days in a week, at the lodging she had taken for that purpose, yet as much as he employed her time and thoughts, she was never missed from any assembly she had been accustomed to frequent”. According to Croskery, her adopted roles reveal traits about her own identity because in the fake identities, she can express desires that she normally could not based on her sex and class. Her ultimate inner strength is her self-composure and belief in herself, which is how she presents herself to the world.

– Lady – 5 Inner strength continues even when she becomes pregnant and is sent to the monastery. Even though she is pregnant, she still retains her true identity, attending social gatherings appearing as a lovely virgin, “by eating little, lacing prodigious straight, and the advantage of a great hoop-petticoat, however, her bigness was not taken notice of”, She gives birth to a daughter, someone who will be pinned down by society as an illegitimate child. However, that child will grow to become a woman who will have the choice to be whoever she wants to be. Lady is the one the child can look up to in this way, because Lady not only defies stereotypical female standards, but pursues the self-discovery of identity. In the monastery, Lady has the opportunity to live in an all-female society, a society that is free from male bias, power, and control. Instead of living in a place where men rule and women submit, Lady can finally rest in a home that promotes female empowerment, something that Lady – exhibits throughout the story.

The archetype of seduction begins in the garden with Eve and the serpent. In this story, however, it is not the woman who is beguiled, but the man. This story weakens the criticism of women on the basis of the garden. Instead, men are attacked with the point that they are “stupid and beguiled”. Haywood writes “Fantomina; or Love in a Maze” to play with the idea that the best seduction is mutual. The passion in this story is a split flame one lover’s flame burns out over and over again (Beauplaisir) while the others constantly grows stronger (Lady -).

Not only does the story “Fantomina; or Love in a Maze” frequent the topic of passion, it focuses on rising above the stereotypical gender roles in the game of sexuality. According to Levin, the female protagonist learns sexual knowledge through experience, she jumps over conventional boundaries by becoming the teacher instead of the learner.. As her sexual identity forms, so does her identity as a female. Her final identity settles as a mother when instead of creating another disguise, Lady —’s body creates another being.

The introduction to “Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze” is a couplet by Edmund Waller which reads, “In love the victors from the vanquished fly. — They fly that wound, and they pursue that die.” While traditionally Lady – would be the vanquished, she is in fact the victor because she empowers herself and mystifies the sex that is usually allpowerful. Beauplaisir is the vanquished, weak, and confused one. The story ultimately proves the power women have when they are given the opportunity and freedom to express it. Lady is a woman who demonstrates incredible independence, empowerment, and control for a female of her time. Through her motives, quest for identity, trickery, and inner strength, Lady – demonstrates that she is a strong female character in an early example of feminist literature. – –

Haywood’s female characters often employ “prevarication,” self-misrepresentation, or even elements of masquerade in order to gain such power. More specifically, Haywood’s female characters often misrepresent themselves as a means by which to achieve sexual control and even to obtain sexual gratification.

9. Q. How does the relationships between the different disguises of the female protagonist and the male hero complicate the plot of the novel Fantomina?

During the Enlightenment, men and women lived by a “rigid class system” that put renewed emphasis on the public life. This public sphere of money, politics, and business was reserved primarily for men. In Eliza Haywood’s “Faniumina,” the title character blurs the traditional gender and society roles that prohibited women from entering the public sphere of money and politics by stepping out of her prescribed private life as a high born woman. As a woman of the upper class, Fantomina would have been expected to follow “well-defined codes of behavior,” which would preserve her reputation and increase her value on the marriage market. These codes of behavior are applied to the different classes of women Fantomina inhabits.

In Fantomina’s use of her own money, she enters into the male, and therefore public, world of commerce, while maintaining her guises and their specific roles in society. She not only purchases her many costumes but she rents multiple homes, hires employees, and works when she does not have to. Moreover, each of the different women she pretends to be has in some way control over their own funds, whether as a prostitute, maid, widower, or wealthy aristocrat. It is because of her plentiful funds she is able to create elaborate alternate personae in order to fool Beauplaisir into believing that it is he who is doing the chasing and not the other way around. It is made clear that almost anything can be bought for a price, except Beauplaisir’s affections and in the end Fantomina’s freedom. Throughout the story the discourses of commerce highlight Fantomina’s role in this monetary world that is usually reserved for men.

The language of mercantilism is expressed almost immediately as Fantomina becomes consumed with curiosity about the interactions between men and women, specifically the men of her rank and their interest in the prostitutes at the theater. She goes undercover to better understand this forbidden culture. Dressing up like a prostitute and making her way down to the pit; there Fantomina (the name she gives herself when she pretends to be a prostitute) is immediately surrounded by a “crowd of purchasers…each endeavoring to outbid the other in offering her a price for her embraces”. As a prostitute, Fantomina is a public figure who actively participates in the business of buying and selling goods, namely herself. Released from the restrictions of her class, Fantomina finds a “vast deal of pleasure in conversing with him [Beauplaisir] in this free and unrestrained manner”.

Eager to keep Beauplaisir’s attention, despite trying to convince herself otherwise, Fantomina rents “lodgings in a house not very far from it, intending, that if he should insist on passing some part of the night with her, to carry him there, thinking she might with more security to her honor entertain him at a place where she was mistress”. Even at this early stage she is taking control of the situation, accounting for the possible consequences of being seen or letting Beauplaisir have the upper hand. Her introduction to the world of commerce illuminates her naiveté as she reacts with hurt and disgust at Beauplaisir’s attempt to pay her as an assurance of his affection. She Mas either forgotten that she is indeed a prostitute to Beauplaisir or lacks an understanding of the role she is playing. Fantomina is beginning to understand what can and cannot be bought in this public, commercial world as well as the very real dangers to her reputation and her heart.

Noticing that she is losing Beauplaisir’s interest, Fantomina dons a new disguise that will enable her to remain close to Beauplaisir as he attempts to distance himself from het Celia, a maid, is able to eam her own money just as a prostitute does, but now she is entering a more private place in society. As Celia, a maid in the house Beauplaisir is renting on his way to Bath, Pantomina does not just play at being a maid, but actually does her duties as she fully embraces this new role. Understanding what is expected of her, she responds with a “well counterfeited show of surprise and joy,” demonstrating her knowledge of what would be socially expected of a woman in her position. Just as before, Beauplaisir offers Celia money or a salary in return for services. It is not until she acts as the Widow Bloomer does she begin to create business on a microcosmic Scake, when she hires a servant along with a coach and horses to travel. This seemingly Small occurrence puts Fantomina in a powerful position as she is now responsible for a servant’s livelihood and generating the economy.

As the Widow Bloomer, Fantomina has her own money, money that no longer belongs to her husband. She is a fully independent woman masquerading as a helpless widow. Indeed, she must be helpless in order to invoke sympathy and affection from Beauplaisir. By letting him believe that he is comforting her, as he “kisses away her tears,” Fantomina is manipulating the situation by appearing to act in accordance to the societal conventions that were expected of a woman of her assumed class.

Finally as Incognita, Fantomina reaches her goal in securing Beauplaisir’s affections. In this process, though, she has elevated her position in the economic sense by hiring two ‘necessitous men”. As the Widow Bloomer there is no account of how she hired the servant she employed only that he was hired. As Incognita, however, the reader gets a full report on her interaction with these men. This becomes important as she is seen as a competent business woman. Incognita goes into the park where many poor men roam, disregarding the potential danger of her situation, in order to find the perfect man for her plan. Incognita begins:

To communicate the business she had with them in these words: I am sensible, gentlemen (said she), that through the blindness of fortune, and the partiality of the world, merit frequently goes unrewarded, and that those of the best pretensions meet with the least encouragement.

Melissa Mowry points out that it is Fantomina’s successful “ability to forge a collation with… commoners” that gives her the upper hand. This display of impressive persuasive tactics, in which Incognita is flattering the men and convincing them that she is their ally against the social world that has rejected them, demonstrates her ability to function as a woman in a man’s world. Fantomina is able to sell herself (so to speak) and make her enterprise attractive to men. She is a part of the many facets of commerce, not just as a consumer but as a seller too.

Fantomina’s downfall does not happen when she discovers that she is pregnant but when her mother comes into town. A pregnancy out of wedlock would have been catastrophic for a woman of this time, but Fantomina does not even appear to panic at her situation; in fact she is level headed and able to conceal the pregnancy until she begins to go into labor at a ball. The narrator maintains that Fantomina “would easily have found means to have screened even this from the knowledge of the world, had she been at liberty to have acted with the same unquestionable authority over herself as she did before the coming of her mother”,

At last the strict rules of convention and social expectations have finally caught up to Fantomina, not because she made a mistake but by simply being reined in by the voice of tradition and authority, her mother, Like her daughter, though, Fantomina’s mother takes on the role of head of the family as she demands that Beauplaisir marry her daughter. It is also significant that it is Fantomina’s mother and not Beauplaisir that has exposed Fantomina’s secrets and not Beauplaisir himself. Even more interesting is the refusal of Beauplaisir’s offer to “discharge it [his daughter] faithfully” by both Fantomina and her mother. Not only does this once again put the women in financial authority, it effectively cuts off any power Beauplaisir might have had. Even while living in the confines of societal expectations Fantomina and her mother remain in control of their lives.

Haywood’s story can be seen as moralistic as the heroine is punished for her misdeeds and manipulative behavior, by being sent off to a convent and being removed from the world that she is familiar with. Or it can be looked at as a woman’s journey into the male world of commerce and power while having to work within the confines of society. It is Fantomina’s ability to adapt to the public world of commerce and exchange that permitted her to get as far as she did before the inevitable crushing influence of social expectations stopped her.

10. Q. The Lady often congratulates herself, throughout this story, for having found the perfect way to keep Beauplaisir entranced with her. To what degree do you think that her deceptions work? To what degree do you think that she is deluding herself?


How the themes of deception and seduction overcomplicate matters in this novel?]

Within the pages of Eliza Haywood’s novels, masquerade is often used by female characters as a means by which to gain control or power. More specifically, Haywood’s female characters often misrepresent themselves as a means by which to achieve sexual power and even to obtain sexual gratification. Haywood also explores the theme of women’s uses of deception and even disguise as methods by which to skirt the confines of a male dominated society and as modes devoted to escaping the boundaries they inflict upon themselves in trying to maintain their virtue.

Haywood’s characters cannot, however, be dismissed as lusty trollops. Even the most virtuous female characters are not bereft of feelings of desire, an interesting twist on the eighteenth-century heroine. The idea of virtue is treated as a burden to women, and some characters freely give up their virtue, while others cling to it with all of their might, even resisting what would actually amount to rape by the very men they provoke into showering them with amorous attentions.

at 15 interesting to note that the strongest and most willful of Haywood’s female characters are often punished in the end. Her novels contain the message of women who seek sexual gratification and are powerful enough to pursue it, but they do not completely ignore the fact that Haywood’s contemporary audience was not likely to have had much sympathy for a promiscuous woman. Eliza Haywood was not only an Independent woman who characterized independent female protagonists, but she was also an eighteenth-century businesswoman. She knew better than to alienate her audience. On the other hand, it is important to note the difference between punishment and repentance. Haywood’s most headstrong characters may suffer through illegitimate childbirth, confinement in monasteries, and hastily arranged marriages, but it is rare to find a thusly punished character within the pages of Eliza Haywood’s work who is at all repentant for her “immoral” actions.

Haywood certainly felt the sting of gender inequality. Despite the fact that she was one of the best-selling authors of her time, she was undoubtedly treated as an inferior writer and as sexually promiscuous by many of her counterparts. She led a highly visible life, herself a “singlewoman,” and she suffered criticism for it. It would be negligent to treat her, and her work, simply as promiscuous today. A much more productive approach is to consider Haywood’s work in light of what is known about her political and personal beliefs.

“Fantomina” titillates the reader with the story of a woman so desirous of a man, Beauplaisir, that she masquerades as not one or two, but as four different characters. She first endures what amounts to his raping her while she pretends to be a prostitute. She then dresses as a servant girl in order to receive his advances. Her third disguise is that of a widow. Finally, she resorts to simply masking her face with a veil and dubbing herself “Incognita.” The extent of the protagonist’s bold behavior and the degree of Beauplaisir’s stupidity is alarming, even to a twenty-first century reader.

“Fantomina” and Love in Excess are not merely tales of sexual escapades; they are Haywood’s attempts at representing women as beings just as capable of desire as are men. It would be ignorant to assume that Haywood was trying to illustrate that lusty women are vile and should be punished. She was showing that society treats women unfairly. They are men’s equals in every way, and if they were only treated as such, things would inevitably run much more smoothly. Women would not have to deceive, and extramarital sexual encounters would not always amount to rape. Women are just as capable of consent as are men of making advances, and acknowledging that fact could serve to improve society as a whole. Eliza 14 Haywood knew what it was to be treated unfairly based on her gender, and she managed to lament that fact within the pages of her fiction.

In “Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze,” first published in 1724, Eliza Haywood illustrates her interest in masquerade as a facilitator of sexual gratification to degrees almost reaching the ludicrous. “A Young Lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit” decides to devote her affection to a fickle, at best, a gentleman named Beauplaisir. His name, which translates from the French to “beautiful pleasure,” is well suited to his demeanor, for the “distinguished” protagonist finds him quite irresistible. Having been left in the care of her aunt by an absent mother, she occupies herself in going to great lengths to obtain Beauplaisir’s affections.

she had to him [. Witnessing the actions and demeanor of a prostitute while at a play, the protagonist develops “a Curiosity in her to know in what Manner these Creatures were addressed”, and she decides that she will masquerade as Fantomina, a prostitute, in order to gain access to Beauplaisir. Although the protagonist is a beautiful young woman, Beauplaisir is not lacking in other admirers. It would be inappropriate for the protagonist to introduce herself to Beauplaisir in her social station, and, noticing that the “Creatures” converse openly with whatever men they choose, she decides that the disguise of a prostitute could be just the way to gain Beauplaisir’s attention. She goes so far as to purchase the use of some lodgings, to which she allows Beauplaisir to accompany her. Her darling Beauplaisir thinks nothing of treating her according to what he assumes to be her true role: “He was bold;—he was resolute: She fearful, confused, altogether unprepared to resist in such Encounters, and rendered more so, by the extreme Liking .]. In fine, she was undone”. So she escapes her “persecuted virtue,” rather to her surprise, but not necessarily to her chagrin. Any pains she has taken thus far to maintain her virginity are no longer of consequence.

It is not surprising that Beauplaisir would take any liberties he likes with a woman he believes to be a prostitute. However, when she reaches the point of being alone with Beauplaisir, the protagonist realizes that she is undoubtedly going to be raped. “Shocked [. . .] at the Apprehension of really losing her Honour, she struggled all she could [. . .] she told him, that she was a Virgin, and had assumed this Manner of Behaviour only to engage him. But that he little regarded”. Essentially, Beauplaisir rapes her. It is no less a rape simply because the lady is, herself, enraptured. She attempts to resist his advances, and he takes her by force. “[T]he heroine learns she cannot simply follow personal desires without regard to the patriarchal social structures that largely define the public arena in which those desires exist”. However , she also realizes that what is done is done, and she resolves to continue her flirtation with Beauplaisir and, perhaps, to enjoy him more during future encounters.

Haywood’s choice of a prostitute for the protagonist’s first disguise is significant. “[I]n the eighteenth century [. . . prostitution] was widespread—and increasing [.. j London alone, it is thought, had over 10,000 prostitutes.” Although quite a few “returned ‘sooner or later to a more regular course of life,'” prostitution was most certainly rampant. Prostitutes actually had more freedom than single women of a higher social standing, and although they were wage earners, “[e]arnings were almost certainly higher than for most other female occupations”. So it seems that the protagonist, through performing a masquerade as a prostitute, puts herself in a much more likely position to get what she wants (the naughty attentions of Beauplaisir) than the position she would be in as her true self.

When Beauplaisir’s affections toward Fantomina begin to wane after her initial disguise, the protagonist remakes herself as a servant girl, Celia. She adorns herself in dress appropriate to the role, darkens her hair and brows, adopts a country dialect, and then plots to gain employment where Beauplaisir is staying in Bath: Notwithstanding this Metamorphosis she was still extremely pretty; and the Mistress of the House happening at that time to want a Maid, was very glad of the Opportunity of taking her.


Gentlemen’s bods, getting them Perumbasit is, of course, fired with the first sight of her […] His wild Desires burst ont les al mes Worts and Actions he called her little Angel, Cherubim, swore he must sonjery time I devoured her lips, her Breasts with greedy Kisses, held to his 19 burning Bosom her half-pielding, half-reluctant Body, nor suffered her to get loose, till he had ravaged all the protagonist is once again satisfied, and Beauplaisir is once again Fooled

The soricance of the protagonist’s second disguise being a servant is that the role actually offers more freedom than that of a distinguished” young lady. Female servants had the freedom to choose among positions, for service was one of the few professions evaliable to a woman in the eighteenth century that offered a bit of security and “the possibility of Social advancement. As a matter of fact, “A number of female servants seem to have mamed the masters. Indeed, to have served in a household where the wile ted seems to have had definite advantage.

Abrough of a lower social standing, servants did have more individual freedom in regard to behavior. Haywood illustrates that fact when her protagonist chooses to masquerade as a servant rather than return to her appropriate position as “A Young Lady of distinguished Birth.”

Although she is no longer a virgin, it would be difficult for “Fantomina” to seduce Beauplaisir as a tady. At the point when she decides to masquerade as “Celia,” she has decided that she wants to be with Beauplaisir again but does not want to go through the masquerade of resistance. Actually, she does not resist at all as Celia, but merely gives herself to him as easily as an amorous servant girl might. She need not carry on the guise of an innocent. As “Fantomina” she is a bit shocked at the outcome of her escapade. At this point, she knows what she wants and pursues it vehemently.

Of course, she gives the heroine the ability to act upon her desires by also granting her wih skills in the Art of feigning’. The second seduction scene is no ‘reenactment’ of the first. The political dynamics of seduction have altered considerably. In the first Seduction, the heroine struggled […] In the next seduction however, Beauplaisir’s mastery becomes the fantasy created by the fiction of her disguise [. . . The heroine is clompletely in control of both the role she is playing and her own ironic assessment of the situation.

Upon learning that Beauplaisir will be leaving Bath, the protagonist comes up with a scheme so she can accompany him on his journey. She dresses as a mourning widow, Mrs. Bloomer: “The Dress she had ordered to be made, was such as Widows wear in their first Mourning, which, together with the most afflicted and penitential Countenance that ever was seen, was no small Alteration to her who used to seem all Gaiety.” She is no more “the rude Country Girl”; she is “the sorrowful Widow”. When she pretends to and a ride with Beauplaisir, he, of course, takes it upon himself to console the pitiful, yet beautiful, widow: “They passed the Time of their journey in as much Happiness as the most luxurious Gratification of wild Desires could make them”. The protagonist’s disguise is successful yet again, and she receives her much-desired reward for the effort. She once again succeeds in seducing Beauplaisir while allowing him to believe he is actually the seducer.


The role of widow is the most blatantly desirable, in regard to the freedom it offers, than what the reader is led to believe is the protagonist’s role in reality. “[W]idows had more alternatives (than single women) from which to choose […] she became the head of her deceased husband’s household”. Widowhood most definitely offered more freedom than wifehood or even being single. As the character Peachum states in John Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera,” from 1728, “The comfortable state of widowhood is the only hope that keeps up a wife’s spirits”. “Widows enjoyed the most extensive economic rights and privileges of any working women in the early modern period”. Haywood’s protagonist is aware that the role of widow brings with it a certain amount of freedom and ease with which to carry out her plan.

The heroine has triumphed in making love with Beauplaisir as three different characters, but once again her beloved’s affection has begun to wane. She begins to devise yet another plan, for she simply refuses to conform to societal standards. At this point, she still has a great deal of desire for Beauplaisir, but she also does not want to lose at the game she herself has created. “She got over the Difficulty at last, however, by proceeding in a Manner, if possible, more extraordinary than all her former Behaviour”. The protagonist resorts merely to naming herself “Incognita” and tempting Beauplaisir to her, again specially arranged, lodgings. She titillates him with a letter: “To the All-conquering Beauplaisir […] I am infinite in Love […] There is but one Thing in my power to refuse you, which is the Knowledge of my Name [. . .] Yours, INCOGNITA”. She conceals her face completely, “setting forth the others (the parts in which Beauplaisir actually has an interest] with the greatest Care and Exactness. Her fine Shape, and Air, and Neck, appeared to great Advantage”. She conquers once again, and it is reasonable to suspect that this time her masquerade touches much more closely upon her true character.

When Beauplaisir “resolved never to make a second Visit,” the protagonist “comforted herself with the Design of forming some other Stratagem, with which to impose on him a fourth time”. Did she say “a fourth time?” Of course, that would not be right. Fantomina came first, then Celia, then Mrs. Bloomer, then Incognita. Perhaps Haywood does not simply make a careless mistake in writing “fourth” instead of “fifth.” Perhaps the reader is to understand that “Incognita” is the protagonist herself, realizing that which character she chooses for her masquerade is not nearly as important to Beauplaisir as is receiving the affections he desires. Although he swears never to return, the reader knows he is weak and lusty, and he will be back.

After painting such a remarkable story of female power and sexual desire, Eliza Haywood strikes her character down: “She was with Child”. The reader is led to believe, however, that even that obstacle might have been overcome if not for the return of the protagonist’s mother: [T]hough she would easily have found Means to have screened even this from the Knowledge of the World, had she been at liberty to have acted with the same unquestionable Authority over herself, as she did before the coming of her Mother, yet now all her Invention was at a loss for a Stratagem to impose on a Woman of her Penetration. She is rendered powerless to control her situation by the return of her mother, who undoubtedly represents the societal standards she has shunned since first succumbing to the loss of her virginity to the forceful Beauplaisir.


Far from eager to end her charade, “Ut was a great while before she could be brought to confess anything, and much longer before she could be prevailed on to name the man whom she so fatally had loved”. The entire story is brought to light , and the bold protagonist is punished. However, the reader is not led to believe that she is in any way repentant. She laments the fact that her mother returned, making i impossible for her to give birth in secret and then get on with her life, but she does not show remorse

As the first three characters, the heroine manages to take on roles that in themselves excuse her behavior, behavior which would be inappropriate and even impossible to act out were she operating under the confines of her own name and position in society. She successfully seduces Beauplaisir while masquerading as each of the three characters and as Incognita. She achieves the sexual gratification she so desperately desires as an answer to her obsessive lust for the easily distracted Beauplaisir.

However, it is the heroine herself who must bear the pains resulting from her shenanigans. Neither Pantomina, Celia, Mrs. Bloomer, nor Incognita can save her from the fact that she becomes pregnant and is sent to a convent by her mother. Why, after representing the protagonist as such a bold and empowered young woman, does Maywood end by punishing her? Perhaps Haywood is simply too aware of her audience to end in favor of a promiscuous woman. Although it appears that “Fantomina” is punished, it is also true that she has no feelings of remorse. Her unfortunate end is only that, a way for Haywood to illustrate that desirous women may experience the disastrous results of their lust, but Haywood’s attempt to appease her perhaps indignant audience ends at that. She does not go so far as to give the impression that the protagonist believes she did anything wrong. After all, Beauplaisir is not held accountable, so why should Haywood’s heroine feel repentant?

The reader cannot disregard the fact that France was widely considered a place of debauchery and amoral behavior by eighteenth-century British citizens. Perhaps the story does not end with a naughty girl being sent to her punishment. Perhaps Haywood alludes to the fact that “A Young Lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit” could get into a lot of trouble in a place such as France; and because she is not remorseful for her actions, she is likely to do just that.

11. Q. it is said that Haywood went against the social norms and customs of the time inwriting her novels. Is it true even in case of Fantomina? Discuss.

The heroes in the ancient romances have nothing in them that is natural; all is unlimited in their character. Haywood’s amatory fiction withdraws from traditional romances in introducing human limitation, and accepting vice and virtue as one. Custom, as an established and widely accepted system, is therefore not necessarily the right system; haywood proclaims from the title page it is a history of ‘two Persons of Condition’ , suggesting immediately a break in tradition from people who are assumingly, without Condition. Ancient romances exhibit love as either faultless when one has it, or tragic when one loses it. Haywood instead introduces love as flawed, alienating the romance genre from custom, but reconciling it instead with a new reality of unpredictable human emotions. Tradition can thus be outdated, and have a negative effect in dragging ‘everything’ back to the familiar but obsolete. Even in fiction, one must alienate us from custom to encourage a new order in society.

It is unavoidable that men and women are to be categorised separately. Traditional gender norms that separate the two sexes -occupation, strength and physical appearance -are irrelevant when considering emotions, specifically love. Instead, Haywood characterises Beauplaisir and Fantomina through constancy and inconstancy in love to produce views of gender that work against the traditional image. Through this constancy in love, Fantomina as a female lover refuses to be stereotyped as the ‘hysterical woman’ who considers ‘Complaints, Tears, Swooning’ and ‘Extravagancies’ to manipulate the other gender. Even if her actions are arguably extreme, she remains emotionally stable and outwardly calm in her façade; hysteria was seen as being shown through physical defects, of which Fantomina displays none.

Whilst Fantomina’s deception rejects traditional expectations gender through retaining control of Beauplaisir, she only ultimately has temporary domination of him during the initial courtship. This control is almost completely surrendered when the social aspect of courting ends, and the physical reduces her performative layer to carnal desire. He: held to his burning Bosom her half-yielding, half-reluctant Body, nor suffered her to get loose, till he had ravaged all and glutted each rapacious Sense’.

Traditional gender norms are restored through physical activity. The human body is reduced to a fundamental animal magnetism, stripping away all social behaviours that arguably cloud one’s true nature. Fantomina fights between the control she wields in the courtship, and the submission to pleasure in the erotic, with natural impulses ‘halfyielding’ and ‘half-reluctant’, as if conscious and unconscious desires remain in opposition. Yet this reluctance also defies custom.

Novels such as Richardson’s Pamela refuse sexual encounter through an upholding of virtue, typically expected of women. Haywood’s protagonist is torn between pursuing a carnal satisfaction and retaining control, both patriarchal traits. Even in inverting what is expected of her gender, her submission, even if it is willing to secure pleasure, can still be read as a submission. A slave-like metaphor is inferred in preventing the woman from breaking ‘loose from his grasp, suggesting not only his physical hold on Fantomina, but the shackles of tradition that prevent female satisfaction. Here, custom unites women with an expected patriarchal dominance, far from a reconciliation as they are unwelcome.

Female gender norms are challenged, whilst male are not, presenting a mockery of custom that doesn’t change, but should. Beauplaisir is representative of all male lovers; his name literally meaning ‘fair pleasure’ dictates his identity as interchangeable. It remains important not that Beauplaisir ‘ravaged’ or ‘glutted the senses, but that he obtains the right to do so. Fantomina, despite stepping outside her class boundaries to obtain what she wants, questions neither his dominance nor his imminent boredom, accepting quickly that ‘Time will wither’ the ‘most violent Passion’. Haywood therefore associates the inconstancy of hysterical women with the male, and a calm business-like manner with the female. Yet the women is seemingly accused of being submissive despite embodying male attributes, and the established patriarchy deems almost all male activity as acceptable. Gender is inverted, but custom reconciles this inversion back to normality through perception.

Custom is, by definition, a public practise that is seen acceptable in society, and more specifically a certain class. To defy custom is to differ from what is widely accepted and is consequently considered alien and wrong. The appearance of custom thus reconciles Fantomina to a respectability that allows her private , sexual pursuit without losing honour or reputation. Public appearance is only important because Fantoming’s origins, assumed to be aristocracy; her licentious behaviour would be more widely accepted in the lower class, where prostitutes would reside. Customary public face’ is not only specific to time and location, but social class.

Fantomina can only defy the traditional behaviour of her social sphere, assumed to be aristocracy, through the masquerade. Social class is, within this novel, constructed fundamentally on who you are not how you act. Only partial descent to a lower social class is actually achieved, as the masquerade changes the top ‘performing’ layer of Identity but not the core of the being. The initial masquerade is emphasised through the theatrical setting: ‘She had no sooner designed this Frolic than she put it in Execution!

Pantominas actions are constantly named as a ‘frolic’, ‘game’ and ‘play’, presenting a juxtaposition between the genuine feelings she exhibits for Beauplaisir, and the artifical nature of the front she presents. Perhaps the only way for society to be seen as even partially matriarchal is through a ‘design’ of the imagination: a society governed by patriarchy would never produce this role for a woman from the foundations set by men. It must be imagined by a woman, but men’s minds are limited by power. The masquerade in execution is also a necessity. Whilst men could begin to cross social boundaries, such as those who descend to the ‘Pit but remain upper class, women were restricted to polite areas, such as the stalls the protagonist is first encountered in. Pretence is therefore the only way for Fantomina to continue her escapades without the novel descending to a tale of social damnation. Furthermore, this ‘execution’ seems extremely clinical; each identity Fantomina inhabits is specific and well-thought. It remains almost as if she delivers each performance with the expectation of it coming abruptly to a close, only to execute the next. She perhaps appears as a well-versed actress through social expectations of male desire, and matches her short-lived performances with inevitable male boredom.

Reality is mimicked by a masquerade, it is an imitation of actual life. Yet even in its lack of originality, the performance reveals truth about reality. In assuming four different identities Fantomina, Celia, the Widow and Incognita -the protagonist reveals Beauplaisir as a rake, information only achievable through the masquerade. Even though the masquerade is not true, it almost becomes reality for Fantomina. She refuses to reveal her real name, even to the reader, and therefore remains constantly in disguise. She performs to an unknowing audience, never leaving her name on the credits.

Reality cannot be considered a single concept, it must also be considered as specifically based on an individual’s perception, Reality as a generalised notion is universal and based upon social expectation and long-held customs. A different reality is specific to the person, based on how they perceive the world, with expectations originating only from their internal moral compass. Therefore, whilst custom in a generalised reality is an idea ‘widely accepted, this can alter depending on what each person accepts.

Ideologically, Fantomina can continue her ‘whimsical adventures’ for as long as she  desires, as they belong to her imagination. Only when she attempts to include another person in her version of reality, specifically a stock character that will act according to basic expectation, is she dragged back to a universal reality where one must accept responsibility of consequence. This occurs through childbirth, yet not the pregnancy itself . As long as the change in her body is stationary and able to disguise, the game can continue despite the physical deformity. It becomes biologically necessary for the protagonist to reconcile with reality, satirising the achievement as this ‘whimsical adventure’; for a woman to act outside her class will always be a short-lived fantasy as nature prevents them from ever fully assuming a different identity.

Throughout the ‘Secret History’, Fantomina rejects this stereotype of a hysterical woman through suppressing her emotions. She is then presented with the physical signs of hysteria, as the pregnancy reveals her publicly as a vessel of desire: she could not conceal the sudden Rack which all at once invaded her; or had her Tongue been mute, her wildly rolling Eyes, the Distortion of her Features […] she laboured under some terrible Shock of Nature”. Nature is here presented as the adversary. In eighteenth century belief, the womb was seen as a natural deficiency as the most potent difference to men. In Fantomina’s imaginative reality, she appears to almost lack this reproductive organ. This is emphasised through the selected narration, where the reader learns ‘all at once of the situation also, as if Fantomina is only shocked back to reality through the pain of childbirth. Even in childbirth, it can be argued that she still continues to reject nature, as the vision ‘invaded her’; only with physical force will Fantomina accept reality.

Samuel Johnson commented that romance should “imitate nature; but is necessary to distinguish those part of nature […] which are most proper for imitation”. If Haywood’s novella was considered as negatively influential on its audience, a reconciliation to a female stereotype and traditional punishment allows the ‘improper’ parts to act as a moral ‘[lecture] of conduct. Yet whilst Fantomina should be reconciled to reality through being sent to the French monastery, she perhaps isn’t as she shows little remorse. The only people who must be reconciled back to a general reality are the readers, brought to an abrupt ‘shock’ with ‘finis’.

Tradition is so because it is repeated, and therefore fixed within society. Perhaps Haywood actively refuses to ‘reconcile’ Fantomina with any existing traditions due to her lack of satisfaction. ‘Reconcile’ is, by definition, to exist in a harmonious relationship. The customs exhibited in Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze all originate from a patriarchal foundation, assuming a naturally negative relationship to the submissive female. Lack of reconciliation and a refusal to align oneself with these gender expectations is possibly the only way to solicit change. Custom may reconcile us to a familiarity, but not to a future where patriarchal oppression is lessened.


12. Q. Critically appreciate the 18th century feminist novel Fnatomina.

The contemporary success of a novel can provide a worthwhile indicator of its cultural significance. With this in mind, it should be noted that, during the first half of the eighteenth century, sales of Haywood’s first work of prose fiction, Love in Excess (1719), were equalled only by Robinson Crusoe (1719),Gulliver’s Travels.

Marmela (1740–1). Given her intensely prolific output and the level of popular recognition that Haywood enjoyed during her lifetime, it is hardly surprising that her more recent critical ‘rediscovery’ has gleaned such rewarding and diverse interpretation.

Like many of her contemporaries, Haywood’s literary output encompassed a wide range of genres induding political writing (satires, essays and works of fiction), poems, translations, plays, criticism, periodicals and conduct books. She was also an actress and, during the 17405, a publisher in her own right . While hardly exceptional, Haywood’s versatility attests to a cultural atmosphere which encouraged authors to adapt and respond to the fickle demands of the literary marketplace. Meeting demands, however , does not necessarily mean merely imitating popular literary models, since, as Paula Backscheider and John Richetti argue:

TEjven in her more formulaic tales of tumultuous passion the corruption of the male establishment is a given. Taken all together, Haywood’s novellas are as much a critique of patriarchal arrangements as they are often enough a celebration of female emotional intensity. Pathos and anger share the stage with erotic arousal and explorations of women’s sexuality. To gain this effect, she sometimes creates the perspective of women watching men and construing them an alien, secret society. She can also meld dass privilege with gender power in ways that have startling, contemporary resonance.”

Pantomina reflects many of the thematic and stylistic features typical in contemporary amatory fiction. Then, as now, lurid speculation concerning the sexual dalliances of London’s fashionable and wealthy elite was a popular cultural pastime, as was the undoing of females whose passion leads them astray from the path of virtue. Like the hapless Beauplaisir in the text, however, readers should be wary of outward appearances. On doser examination, the narrative’s depiction of a remarkably dynamic and resourceful female protagonist is anything but conventional.

An unnamed young lady of distinguished birth, beauty, wit, and spirit’ finds that her elevated dass makes it impossible for her to become acquainted with the handsome but fickle Beauplaisir through conventional means. As such, she adopts the disguise of a wealthy London courtesan and soon finds herself enjoying ‘a vast deal of pleasure in conversing with him in this free and unrestrained manner’. Very quickly, however, the inevitable dilemma arises concerning how far she will carry on the disguise – and the subsequent role of the high-class prostitute – that she has assumed. A compelling combination of fierce determination, desire and sexual innocence leads her to devise a rather precarious plan in order to meet Beauplaisir again in private. The sexual encounter depicted underlines the problematic intersection, in gendered terms, between language – the charming conversation’ of lovers and physical consummation: –

“She had now gone too far to retreat. – He was bold; -he was resolute. She fearful – confused, altogether unprepared to resist in such encounters, and rendered more so by the extreme liking she had to him. -Shocked, however, at the apprehension of really losing her honour, she struggled all she could, and was just going to reveal the whole secret of her name and quality, when the thoughts of the liberty he had taken with her, and those he still continued to prosecute, prevented her, with representing the danger of being exposed, and the whole affair made a theme for public ridicule. -Thus much, indeed, she told him, that she was a virgin, and had assumed this manner of behaviour only to engage him. But that he little regarded, or if he had, would have been far from obliging him to desist; -nay, in the present burning eagerness of desire, tis probable that had he been acquainted both with who and what she really was, the knowledge of her birth would not have influenced him with respect sufficient to have curbed the wild exuberance of his luxurious wishes, or made him in that longing, that impatient moment, change the form of his addresses.”

.Like Clarissa’s Lovelace, Beauplaisir in ‘that impatient moment negates the female’s use of language (either as a means to preserve her virginity, or expose her identity): ‘In fine, she was undone’ . Unlike Richardson, Haywood’s narrator provides a detailed exposition of the differing, gendered, perceptions of the episode, revealing in turn the female protagonist’s profound ambivalence and Beauplaisir’s probable indifference regarding her true identity, anyway. Here and elsewhere in the narrative, true ‘power’ is in the hands of this omniscient narrator.

The rakish Beauplaisir is quick to accept the deception offered by the female protagonist as an explanation for her actions (she tells him that she is Fantomina, the daughter of a country gentleman’ attempting to satisfy her curiosity concerning the experience of mistresses). Significantly , Beauplaisir’s complacency is based on his own narrow understanding of females since he did not doubt by the beginning of her conduct, but that in the end she would be in reality the thing she so artfully had counterfeited’.

Ironically, the narrator goes on to inform us, he ‘had good enough nature to pity the misfortunes he imagined would be her lot’. Despite his own role in her ‘undoing’, Beauplaisir’s judgement of female conduct leads him to imagine that his new lover will end up, like most heroines of contemporary amatory fiction, a tragic victim. In revealing Beauplaisir’s thoughts, the narrator emphasises the hypocrisy of the conventional rake figure even while he is simultaneously being outwitted at his own game.

As a typical rake, Beauplaisir ‘[v]aried not so much from his sex as to be able to prolong desire to any great length after possession’, yet the intrepid female protagonist proves herself to be anything but the conventional passive victim of amatory fiction. Now fully aware that she seeks rather more than Beauplaisir’s charming conversation (to be compelled, to be sweetly forced to what she wished with equal ardour), she adopts a series of disguises in order to repeatedly seduce (in the guise of being seduced by) her hapless lover.

The stratagem sees Fantomina transformed, in turn, into a pretty maid in Bath called Celia, a charming young widow named Mrs Bloomer, and finally into the utterly mysterious Incognita. Disguise and masquerade are prevalent themes in much eighteenth-century literature (and amatory fiction in particular); here and elsewhere, they offer the protagonist a liberating and empowering ability to control both her own identity and sexual agency.

The fluidity with which she moves between social realms, and transforms her appearance, recalls the cultural significance of theatrical performance as a contemporary motif; it is no coincidence that the protagonist first notices Beauplaisir, and carries out her first deception, at the theatre.

The protagonist is eventually brought to an important self-realisation concerning her use of disguise, one that allows Haywood to overwrite the formulaic model of amatory fiction itself. Though initially motivated simply by her love for Beauplaisir.


“She could not forbear laughing heartily to think of the tricks she had played and applauding her own strength of genius and force of resolution, which by such unthought of ways could triumph over her lover’s inconstancy the most violent passion, if it does not change its object , in time will wither. Possession naturally abates the vigour of desire, and I should have had, at best , but a cold, insipid, husband-like lover in my arms; but by these arts of passing on him a new mistress whenever the ardour, which alone makes love a blessing, begins to diminish for the former one, I have him always raving, wild, impatient, longing, dying. O, that all neglected wives and fond abandoned nymphs would take this method!”

In her realisation that her plight is the same as that of other females, Haywood’s protagonist is presented as the female protagonist in all amatory fiction in which knowing males manipulate innocent and passive females who consciously rejects this position. This is not to suggest that Haywood merely inverts the model and posits the Triumph of the female sex over the male. Beauplaisir is a willing – if also unwitting – accomplice to his own seduction. Moreover, the narrative’s conclusion witnesses a sort of downfall for the protagonist; she is ‘undone’ by neither the sexual impropriety of her behaviour nor by Beauplaisir but, instead, by external factors – the unexpected arrival of her mother and the biological imperative of pregnancy. Despite these factors, nowever, as Ballaster and other critics have suggested, the conclusion of Fantomina is one of the least melancholy of Haywood’s endings’.

That this is the case is due in part to Haywood’s challenge to the literary conventions of amatory fiction; it is also due, arguably, to the narrative’s foregrounding of the Creative authority of the writer herself over all other forms of power. Haywood’s manipulation of literary form in Fantomina – the deeply contrived nature of this narrative – consciously interrogates the relationship between literary representation and the reader’s expectations. The reader is Beauplaisir, endlessly and willingly diverted by novelty and artifice in pursuit of other pleasures. As Beauplaisir is duped by Fantomina’s cursory changes in appearance, so the reader is happy to accept the highly contrived nature of Haywood’s settings and plot.

In parallel with the conventions of amatory prose fiction, Haywood’s urban landscapes and interior scenes represent little more than theatrical backdrops to the narrative’s action while the plot progresses through a series of seduction episodes. The reader’s expectations are constantly titillated by additional narrative details that Haywood can contrive at a moment’s notice: for example, a bed is instantly and conveniently situated in the room where the Widow Bloomer faints, and the protagonist’s Bath country dialect is particularly convincing because ‘having been bred in these parts, (she] knew very well how to imitate it’.

This reading gains further significance in the final seduction episode in which Beauplaisir finds himself being quite literally ‘kept in the dark’ by the mysterious masked Incognita. He resolves to wake early, to catch a glimpse of her face before she dons’ the mask, only to find himself outwitted again as she has contrived to keep him in an artificially darkened bedroom. Turning day into night, she once again slips away unrecognised. Despite the ‘disappointment of his curiosity’ concerning his lover’s true identity, the narrator informs us that Beauplaisir continues the affair with Incognita ‘for about a fortnight. His plight is the reader’s own. In order to satisfy their own ends, readers knowingly suspend their disbelief and submit to any number of literary contrivances and stratagems in the hope of delaying the moment which concludes their reading pleasure. It is a pleasure based, in part, on the knowledge that texts have the power to manipulate the emotional responses of individual readers even as they present scenes, plots and characters that are deeply implausible.

Put another way, a consciously artificial literary text does not deny the presence of a realm in which diverse individual experience exists, it merely places a beautifully elaborate and curious mask in front of that experience. The conclusion of Fantomina may mark the final unmasking’ of this remarkable female protagonist, but leaves firmly in place the creative power of the author herself.



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