What’s love got to do with it in Haywood’s Love in Excess?

‘Everything’ or ‘Not’, Depending on who you ask.


Ros Ballaster in “Preparatives to Love: Fiction as Seduction in Eliza Haywood’s Amatory Prose,” states, “From 1720 onwards women’s amatory fiction turned away from employing sexual desire as a substituting metaphor for political interest. Sexual desire, in these ‘new’ novels of the 1720s is too protean and absolute a quality to be the vehicle for any other form of ‘interest’” (Ballaster, 1992, p. 154 ).

If my reading is correct,  Ballaster goes on to explain that as the Whig ministry dominated the political scene, other rival parties, such as Haywood’s Tories, lost too much ground and organization to effectively launch a literary resistance campaign. With the death of literary-political writing, Ballaster says Haywood turned to social rather than “party political” myth and, thereby, contributed her “greatest innovation in the field of amatory fiction.” As Ballaster reads Haywood, “Female desire is no longer a ruling metaphor in her fiction, but rather the subject and generating ground of its plot” (p. 158).

So, I think that it is fair to say that if you ask Ballaster what’s love got to do with Haywood’s Love in Excess, she’d say, “Everything.”

Not so with Toni Bowers, if I read correctly her “Collusive Resistance: Sexual Agency and Partisan Politics in Love in Excess” (Saxton & Bocchicchio, 2000).  Bowers argues, “Love in Excess continues the tradition of Tory partisanship that had characterized Manley’s work, and indeed the tradition of amatory fiction, but in different form and for different purposes, in a changed political climate. Though it does not use allegory to make partisan arguments, Haywood’s novel nevertheless serves Tory agendas (p. 49)”

Throughout her essay, one of several in the collection of Haywood criticism entitled The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood, Bowers makes a case that Melliora represents the new form of “collusive resistance” adopted as a Tory strategy for “constructing ideological integrity and partisan resistance at a difficult time (p. 49).”  Bower gives an explanation of the political scene and offers evidence that Tory sentiment was still quite alive and active during Haywood’s amatory work.

Bowers takes on Ballaster directly in her discourse and explains, “In light of more recent historical work . . . the suggestion that Haywood’s amatory fiction is without partisan function because it is not explicitly political becomes inadequate. It no longer seems necessary that amatory fiction be overtly partisan in order to perform important partisan functions” (p. 54).

On her theory of “collusive resistance,” Bowers states:

“By 1719, when Love in Excess first appeared, this was a message that Tories desperately needed to hear, a thesis capable of acknowledging decades of capitulation yet still providing reassurance of ideological integrity and viability” (p. 63).

Bowers builds much of her case for this reading around the collusion, concession and capitulation enacted through Haywood’s characters in Love in Excess, with a major focus on Melliora.

The Whig/Tory politics are quite complicated and require much study for me. However, knowing that there might be something more going on beneath the surface of what sometimes appears to be bizarre behavior in Love in Excess, is somewhat helpful.  Maybe love and politics always go hand in hand?


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