Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

'A champion of the sex' : Eliza Haywood's contribution to the development of the English novel

Mayrent, Sherry Lynn (1977) 'A champion of the sex' : Eliza Haywood's contribution to the development of the English novel. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94517) (KAR id:94517)


Eliza Haywood was Defoe's counterpart in every respect, and even exceeded his achievement in the internal coherence and dramatic symmetry of her novels. Yet because of a serious distortion of the novel's history, while he is acclaimed, she has been dismissed. The main reason for this distortion is modern criticism's emphasis on "realism." Haywood based her novels on the tradition of heroic romance. Using and adapting many of its conventions and devices, both thematic and stylistic, she developed a mode of fiction which was perfectly suited to reflect the problems of the newly literate women who made up a large proportion of her audience. Conventions such as the insertion of letters and the analysis of emotion enabled Haywood to depict with unusual clarity the inner lives of her heroines; her "realism" was psychological rather than material. Consequently, critics have been blinded by the outward forms of romance, and have dismissed these novels as vulgarized versions of the ungainly French works, without perceiving that she used those forms with conscious skill.

Haywood focused almost exclusively on women, and, using the techniques gleaned from the romances, developed a fictional "formula" which allowed her to express, almost symbolically, the potential tragedy of women's lives. Her novels of the 1720's, all closely based on this formula, are hyperbolic in order to reveal the fundamental reality of the conflicts she portrays. When Richardson and Fielding began to write, they both chose to deal with similar conflicts, and Haywood's formula became the basis of a literary dia­lectic which resulted in Clarissa and Tom Jones. As tastes changed in the 1730's and 1740's, Haywood realized that her formula could prove even more serviceable as the basis of a more uniformly realistic fiction, dealing in the compromises of ordinary life rather than the dramatic confrontations of tragedy. Betsy Thoughtless is her finest work in this vein, and the one which is most congenial to modern tastes. Fielding and Richardson soon followed in the same direction with Amelia and Grandison, and the stuff of Eliza Haywood's fiction became the very heart of the English novel.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94517
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2023 11:49 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2023 13:57 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.