The Popular Genres In The 18th Century English Literature Essay
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Schulz's description of Haywood's works relates to the romance novels of the time period. He notes that, "the extravagancies of romance were thus replaced by new outrages against common sense, nature, and morality," (90). This is clearly evident in Love in Excess. Verbal language in Eighteenth Century society was associated with a more masculine connotation, because men were able to "voice" their opinion, while women were left to stand quietly aside. Haywood exposes this female weakness through the letters the women write in Love in Excess. Letter writing could be considered one of the most destructive forms of communication that women used in the Eighteenth Century, because it restricts their voice. At the beginning of the novel, Alovisa writes a letter to D'elmont in hopes it would, "let her into the secrets of his heart, without the shame of revealing her own," (Haywood 39). In this instance,
Haywood depicts male characteristics in a female character. In traditional society, men were the
ones that played the active role in pursuing women in order to begin a courtship. Here, Alovisa is seen attempting to "court" D'elmont, a masculine quality. The letter reveals the degree to
which the traditional language of love in amatory fiction denies women the authority to begin a courtship. But Haywood still keeps the amatory style, when Alovisa waits for a response from
D'elmont. Alovisa "was in all the anxiety imaginable, she counted every hour, and thought 'em
ages, and at the first dawn of day she rose," (40). Haywood first gives Alovisa a male quality, but disguises it with the traditional female quality found in a romance novel. Haywood gives Count D'elmont feminine qualities when he receives and read the second letter that Alovisa writes him. It is revealed to him that it is not Amena that is writing these secret letters. He began to wonder who she was, "'till by making a shew of tenderness he began to fancy himself really touched with a passion he only designed to represent. 'Tis certain this way of fooling raised desires in him little different from what is commonly called love," (46-47). D'elmont is experiencing the feeling of love, something that normally would not be revealed among men in Eighteenth Century society. Haywood "was acutely aware of the social dangers of making passion public," (Harrow 283). It is because of her awareness that she chose to use D'elmont as a character that feels passion and love. By showing passion and love through him, she is able to show the way women in society felt about passion and love. Haywood also gives D'elmont feminine qualities when she reveals, "D'elmont having never experienced the force of love, could not presently comprehend the truth of this adventure," (40). Here, D'elmont is seen having the qualities of a naÃ¯ve girl that would be easily influenced by the feeling of love, simply because
she knows little about it. But letter writing can also be seen as restricting the verbal language of women, because they entrap female writers to only express their feelings through written words, leaving them unable to "voice" their words.
Women's words exist within a larger skepticism about language as a whole. Potter points out that "a consistent narrative commentary repeatedly devalues both spoken and written words," (171). Through the limited speech among women in Haywood's novel, she portrays further the derogatory view of women's role among society in the Eighteenth Century. John Richetti notes that "speech is marked as masculine, a sign of fraudulent and manipulative self invention rather than authentic self expression, (267). Going even further, Potter notes that "Haywood's narrative illuminates and challenges the lack of a public space for discourses considered inappropriate for public demonstration in a specifically gendered linguistic division: the language of desire in women and of powerful emotion, even love, in men," (171). There is many times in the novel, however, where the male characters are left unable to speak, mostly because of an overwhelming of emotions. After he learns of the letter that Sanseverin had written to Frankville saying that Melliora had left the convent, Count D'elmont "spoke not for some time, one word, either prevented by the rising passions in his soul, or because it was not in the power of language to express the greatness of his meaning; and when, at last, he opened his mouth, it was but to utter half sentences," (184). Language has escaped him, because his passions overwhelmed him. Here, the Count is portrayed in a feminine light, being that passion was normally a feeling expressed by women, who lacked the voice of language in Eighteenth Century society. Through the Count's speechlessness, "Haywood uses the trope of confinement to reconceptualize the
power of language in relation the female desireâ€¦she grants authority to women's intellect and to
passion," (Harrow 279). By reversing the gender roles of the time period, Haywood is able to reveal the restrictions that were placed upon females in society. Richetti goes further, noting that "female language lacks definition, since there is no genderlect spoken by the female population in a society, which differs from the dominant, or male, language," (263). From this statement, it is reaffirmed that Haywood was writing her narrative to expose the lack of female voice in Eighteenth Century society.
One of the biggest issues in Love in Excess is Haywood's depiction of female desire. The women in the novel are portrayed with masculine qualities, often putting them in the role of the seducer. Moon notes that "in thus assuming the masculine role, they are able to transform the gender roles by forcing men into the more passive and feminine role," (167). Frankville, being overwhelmed by his love for Camilla, writes in a letter to her that, "how poor is language to express what 'tis I think, thus raptured with thy idea, thou best, thou brightest-thou most perfectâ€¦thou far surpassing all that words can speak," (204). It can be clearly seen that his passion for Camilla has taken him over, something normally only expressed by women. Further, he writes the letter to Camilla, because he has no words to describe her. This parallels the idea that women weren't allowed to voice themselves in a male dominant society. So Haywood's female characters write letters to express themselves. Because Frankville has to express his emotions through a letter, he represents the gender reversal of the social roles in the Eighteenth Century, and Haywood uses this to portray the lower societal roles of women.
The Fatal Enquiry takes an entirely different turn from the Love in Excess portion of Haywood's narrative. In this section, Haywood depicts the domesticated realm of society. In
The second part of Haywood's novel depicts D'elmont's meeting Melliora, and the passion he feels for her. "When D'elmont first sees her, he thinks her to be "the most lovely person in the world," (86). He is feeling something that men in society would not normally express, as Richetti notes that "men and women must have different relationships to language and use it in different ways," (263). Though that may be true, clearly Haywood was crossing the gender lines of speech to show that both genders can have equal relationships to language, especially when it comes to love. In traditional amatory fiction, it is always the woman that is overwhelmed with passion for a man, and is seduced by him. While D'elmont does not seem to be seduced by Melliora, he does exhibit some passion towards her. By producing passion in D'elmont, it brings the masculine role in emotion to the same level as the feminine, and further emphasizes Haywood's attempt to use her novel as a vehicle to show the changes beginning in eighteenth century society. Soon after, though, it seems that passionate love has taken over both of them: "The first sight of Melliora gave a discomposure he had never felt beforeâ€¦when her eyes met his, the god of love seemed there to have unitedâ€¦each other's perfections was mutual," (86). Haywood quickly adds this mutual love to help hide the fact that D'elmont actually felt passion first. She shifts to traditional amatory fiction in order to keep her readers entertained, while at the same time pointing out to them the societal problems of the time period. Lubey notes that, "even as they are seduced by characters' feelings, readers are to approach characters and events with a readiness to interpret significant detail," (316). Though Haywood kept her opinions on society subtle, there is "significant detail" in her words that readers need to identify, or at least be exposed to. But she also uses women's intense passion to influence the passion that
men felt in the novel.
Following the traditional amatory novel, Haywood presents passion as a real danger for women. Yet, the women in Love in Excess exhibit some control over passion, and "Haywood presented her female characters as emotionally powerful precisely because of their cultural limits," (Richetti 264). Because they had control, they were able to confront D'elmont with a seduction of their own, leaving D'elmont sometimes helpless from his own emotions, therefore presenting himself as a feminine figure. Melliora tells him that she wants to go back to the monastery where she had graduated. D'elmont is devastated, as "every word she spoke, was like a dagger to his [D'elmont's] heart," (106). Later, D'elmont speaks to Melliora of what his view of love and friendship are. He tells Melliora that, "friendship and love, where either are sincere, vary but little in their meaning; there may indeed be some distinctions in their ceremonies, but their essentials are still the same," (110). Later, when D'elmont goes too far in his advances toward Melliora, he realizes his mistake, and "was now sensibile of his error in going so far." But , following the traditional male role in amatory novels, the Count "thought it best at once to throw off a disguiseâ€¦and by making a bold and free confession of his real sentiments, oblige her to a discovery of hers," (111). While his technique works, it comes off as very feminine. D'elmont, "seeing her about to rise, "by all my sleepless nights, and restless days, by all my countless burning agonies; by all the torments of my galled, bleeding heartâ€¦" (111). His passions become so intense that, "He had reclined his head on her lap, possibly to hide those [tears] that forced their way thro' his eyes, at the same timeâ€¦" (112). Men's sexual behavior in the eighteenth century was a straight forward, get in and get out type of mentality. They were
not seen to put that much emotion into a relationship. Yet here, D'elmont clearly takes on the
feminine role, becoming so emotional that he cries. Moon believes that, "In this way Haywood overwrites the seduction narrative of aggressive males and suffering females, and creates another kind of story where both men and women seem to enjoy, as far as sexual passion is concerned, a more egalitarian relationship," (168). By doing this, Haywood is gaining a much bigger market in people seeking entertainment value, while at the same time projecting her ideals upon eighteenth century society.
Haywood uses this bigger market to project her excessively passionate characters to the masses. She produces such passionate characters in order to keep her readers' attention to every detail, provide a way for them to interact with her text, and offer instructions on love and passion through their interaction with the text. While paying close attention to the characters, "readers must "be sensible" of-that is, both aroused and detached from-their own passionate "falling" into the immoderate states of excess about which they read," (Lubey 310). Haywood uses her narrator to give readers' the instruction over love, saying that, "passion is not to be circumscribed; and being not only, not subservient, but absolutely controller of the willâ€¦when love once becomes in our power, it ceases to be worthy of that name; no man really possest with it, can be a master of his actionsâ€¦" (185). Haywood is opening up readers' to the notion that passion and love can easily overtake the mind and body, and that when a person is taken hold by these emotions, they will have no control of their thoughts or actions, whether they are male or female.
Baron D'espernay represents the archetypal male figure in Haywood's novel. He is "a master of "designs" and "artifice," committed only to "the gratification of his wishes,"
(Black 215). The Baron exhibits all the trademark characteristics found in the early eighteenth century masculine society. When he found out what had gone on between D'elmont and Melliora, he realizes that if D'elmont furthers his pursuit for Melliora, he will have the opportunity to seduce Alovisa. He does not even acknowledge the fact that D'elmont is essentially cheating on Alovisa with Melliora, but instead, helps to ignite D'elmont's love for Melliora, so that he might have a chance with Alovisa. He tells D'elmont that, "Women are taught by custom to deny what most they covet, and to seem angry when they are best pleased; believe me, D'elmont that the most rigid virtue of 'em all, never yet hated a man for those faults which love occasions," (113-14). The Baron's reasoning is simple; if a man cheats on his wife, or leaves her, as long as the man did it under the guise of love, it is considered okay. It may seem okay to the male driven eighteenth century society, and though D'elmont follows the Baron's advice, he still regrets his behavior.
After the death of Alovisa, Melliora resolves to return to the monastery, while D'elmont travels to Italy and "hoped that garden of the world might produce something to divert his sorrows," (163). He writes letters to Melliora constantly, but it does little to curb his sadness. He secludes himself from the public, and "preferred a solitary walk, a lonely shade, or the bank of some purling stream, where he undisturbed might contemplate on his beloved Melliora," (166). D'elmont is finally realizing his true love for Melliora, and shies away from his traditionally masculine views of love and passion. He tried to avoid, "all the possible conversation with men, or correspondence with the women," (166). In his seclusion from society, D'elmont is able to make sense of things without having the popular views of love and
passion in society pressed upon him. According to Potter, "Haywood does not limit inexpressibility to women, but instead uses moments of speechlessness to articulate the difficulty of moving into the public realm that which has traditionally remained private," (171). Being separated from the public realm, D'elmont can express himself in the way that he feels is best, not was society tells him he must feel. By creating these separate realms of public and private space, "Haywood articulates a public, at least partially degendered, language of love and desire through both the language of her narrator and the plotted events of her tale," (174). Haywood takes D'elmont out of society so that she could use him as a vessel to portray feminine qualities of love and passion, therefore beginning to bridge the gap in gender lines.
It is late in the novel that Count D'elmont's feminine portrayal hits its peak. Melliora had been abducted from the monastery by the Marquess, and D'elmont is determined to find her. The night before he and his group were to depart on their search, "he [D'elmont] was in bed,
forming a thousand various idea's, tho' all tending to one object (object being Melliora)," (249). It seems that his love for Melliora has completely taken hold of him, revealing a vulnerability to love and passion, a fate that women would normally succumb to in amatory fiction, simply because of their weakness to male advances. Yet here, the sexually powerful Melliora has the advantage over her male counterpart. That night, she sneaks into D'elmont's room and proceeds to offer him sex. He refuses, telling the anonymous women that it, "is a happiness I neither
deserve, nor much desire at any timeâ€¦thereforeâ€¦to oblige me, you must leave me to the
freedom of my thoughts," (249). This too, is a feminine trait that D'elmont exhibits. While men
during the eighteenth century were known for their affairs and sexual desires, here, D'elmont is
the exact opposite. He is taking the female role of traditional amatory text as the one being pursued, and he must resist the strong passionate advances of other women. Surprised by his response, Melliora asks if, "this is the courtly, the accomplished Count D'elmont? So famed for complaisance and sweetness? Can it be he, who thus rudely repels a lady, when she comes to make him a present of her heart?" (249). Though she already knows that she has secured D'elmont for herself, Melliora tries to tempt D'elmont into going back to his old, not adulterous,
but shameful ways. Once he realizes that the anonymous woman is in fact Melliora, he jumps out of bed "and almost stifled her with kisses." The narrator soon interrupts the scene to inform readers that, "those who have ever experienced any part of the transport, D'elmont now was in, will know it was impossible for him to give her any other answer, than repeating his caresses," (250). D'elmont's emotions are so powerful, that even speech escapes him. What's more important is the fact that a male role is experiencing this speechlessness due to overwhelming
passion. For the traditional amatory novel, Haywood's audience would primarily be composed
inadequacy of their writing in the face of female experience at its most intenseâ€¦and can illustrate the irrelevance of language and related cultural accomplishments for depicting female suffering," (267). By placing D'elmont in this weaker feminine role, Haywood is opening up the idea that men can experience, and become overwhelmed by the embrace of passionate love.
Potter notes that, "Love in Excess embodies in a distinctly feminised form, a discourse from
which women were traditionally excluded in a masculinist culture that endeavored to keep language formalised, and women's positions liminal," (169). While her novel may take on that "feminised discourse" appearance, Haywood is clear to add in a type of discourse that both men
and women suffer from; even when the societal roles of women were seen as lower than men.
The amatory fiction genre developed in the early eighteenth century, portraying a new breed of romance novel where innocent women could be warned of the aristocratic men that might try to take advantage, as well as a novel that taught women about the act of love. Eliza Haywood's novel, Love in Excess, embodies this amatory narrative, while at the same time utilizing it to expose the harsh treatment placed on women by men in early eighteenth century society. By portraying the male character, Count D'elmont as having female emotional tendencies, and portraying Melliora as a sexually powerful woman, Haywood is able to bridge gender lines, as well as societal roles. By using the sexualized amatory narrative as a cover, she is able to depict the female role in a masculine society, while at the same time, market her book to traditional romance readers of the period.