Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Injur'd Husband and Lasselia

As this edition of The Injur'd Husband and Lasselia draws together two Eliza Haywood novels, so I will review them together (and also because Lasselia is really short and this would be a really short blog post if I didn't.

The Injur'd Husband; or, The Mistaken Resentment (1723): This is a sexy, naughty little novel about a very evil woman. The Baroness has about six lovers going on at once. What is amazing is that none of the men ever figure it out. Of course, she gets her comeuppance (in a rather public manner), but the real fun of this novel lies in her (mostly successful) scheming. The "heroine" of the novel is a wet blanket in comparison, until she decides to flirt with cross-dressing as a man. This isn't my favourite Haywood novel (that distinction still goes to The Adventures of Eovaai, over Betsy Thoughtless), this is a whole lot of fun. And I really appreciated it's depiction of female sexual desire - while the sexual Baroness is evil, sexual desire in women is not seen as a bad thing because she doesn't really feel genuine sexual desire for anyone. Montamour, who feels genuine sexual desire for Beauclair, is seen as the exemplar (and, some have argued, represents Haywood herself).

Lasselia; or, The Self-Abandoned (1723): This is a slighter novel, both in length and in subject manner. Lasselia falls in love with a married man, and this novel charts both their histories and their love-affairs. There is an inset narrative which is loosely connected to the main action, but seems rather shoe-horned in (although I found the story of the sisters much more interesting than the story of Lasselia). While Haywood was extraordinarily prolific (she wrote a novel every three months for most of the 1720s), most of her novels don't seem rushed. Except for this one. I have the feeling that there is a more complex novel somewhere in Lasselia, but it never comes to fruition, and the novel ends rather abruptly. As it is so short, however, it's a very easy read, despite the incoherency.

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