Degree Granting Department
Laura Runge, Ph.D.
Masquerade, Class, Confidant, Theatre, Novel
In Eliza Haywood's fiction, as in eighteenth-century Britain, social restrictions repress the sexual desires of upper class women and men. Therefore, the secret desires of this social class often rely on a different group: domestic servants. Sometimes acting as confidants and other times as active players in the scheming, these servants are privy to the inner secrets of the households in which they live. In Haywood's Love in Excess (1719), Lasselia (1723), Fantomina (1725), and The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751), the servant class plays significant roles in the narratives. Since the role of the servant is the central issue in my interpretation of Haywood's works, the historical background of the relationship between master and servant in the eighteenth-century is significant to my investigation. Conduct books, a popular genre of the times, were written to offer practical instruction to domestic servants.
Haywood's A Present for A Servant Maid; or the Sure Means of gaining Love and Esteem (1743), offers a view of Haywood's own attitude toward the servant class. In addition to her career as a writer of amorous intrigue, Haywood worked as both actress and playwright, and, because of her experience, elements of the stage can be seen in her works. I explore the influence of the theatre in Haywood's fiction and connect it to the prominent role of servants in her work. Though Haywood demonstrates that the servants' loyalty can be bought for the highest price, they are not ruled by the same sexual passion as are their employers. This area is of particular interest to my study. I explore whether the motive of financial gain is greater than sexual desire, or whether it is an awareness that aristocrats are not truly available to the servant class that accounts for the differences in erotic responses.
Additionally, I explore how servants affect Haywood's narrative by acting as agents of change and argue that the social restrictions placed on the upper class and the awareness of the sexual freedoms the servant class bring master and servant closer together.
Scholar Commons Citation
Iglesias, Marisa C., "Secret servants: Household domestics and courtship in Eliza Haywood's fiction" (2008). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.