Eliza Haywood "The History of Miss. Betsy Thoughtless"
Eliza Haywood’s “The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless” is a fascinating narrative. There are interesting similarities between this novel and “Fantomina.” Haywood uses letters in each. There is a letter written by R. Wildly that is signed as “An everlasting slave” (105). In “Fantomina” Beauplasisir also ended one of his letter’s as: “Your everlasting Slave” (613). The female character in “Fantomina” writes a letter to Beauplasisir and identifies herself as ‘Incognita’ (612-613). When she meets Beauplasisir, she wears a mask and does not want to reveal her true identity and meets him in the dark (614). In “The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless,” Miss. Flora writes Mr. Trueworth a letter and calls herself ‘Incognita’ (305). Miss. Flora disguises herself at first in order to meet with Mr. Trueworth while not revealing her true identity. “I should before now have acquainted my reader, that the lady was not only masked, but also close muffled in her hood […]” (307). It is strikingly similar when Mr. Tureworth says he “[…] could not help thinking he had heard before accents very like those with which he was now entertained, though where, or from what mouth they had proceeded, he was not able to recollect” (312); To “Fantomina,” when Beauplasisir says: “[…] he did fancy he observed in the Face of the latter, Features which ere not altogether unknown to him, yet he could not recollect when or where he had known them [...]” (609).
Early in “The History of Miss. Betsy Thoughtless,” it is clear that Miss. Betsy is playful and very focused on herself: “Hurried by an excess of vanity, and that love of pleasure so natural to youth, she indulged herself in liberties, of which she foresaw not the consequences” (56). Miss. Betsy does not want to rush into marriage and toys with her different suitors. For example, “[…] all the idea she had of either of them, served only to excite in her the pleasing imagination how, when they both came to address her, she should play the one against the other, and give herself a constant round of diversion, by their alternate contentment or disquiet” (101). Miss. Betsy “[…] played with her lovers, as she did with her monkey, but expected more obedience form them […]” (296). Even though she appears to be a caring person, she does not spend too much time reflecting about events that might have been to her benefit to think more on. For example, she: “But alas! Those serious considerations were but of short duration […]” (236).
There are clear lessons about the importance of a woman’s reputation. Mr. Goodman explains to Miss. Betsy “[…] that the honour of a young maid like you, is a flower of so tender and delicate a nature, that the least breath of scandal withers and destroys it” (174). Mr. Trueworth also comments on Miss. Betsy’s reputation when he explains: “This caution ought to be more peculiarly observed in persons of your sex, as reputation in you once lost, is never to be retrieved” (232). Some of the advice or lessons provided in the novel are interesting. One instance is when Miss. Betsy reflects “It reminded her how inconsiderate she had been, and shewed the folly of not knowing how to place a just value on any thing, till it was lost, in such strong colours before her eyes, as one would scarce think it possible an incident in itself so merely bagatelle could have produced” (289-290). Another part that I found profound is: “There is an unaccountable pride in human nature, which often gets the better of our justice, and makes us espouse what we know within ourselves is wrong, rather than appear to be set right by any reason, except our own” (294).
It is disheartening that Miss. Betsy or (Mrs. Munden) when she finally does get married is unhappy. “Is this to be a wife? Is this the state of wedlock? – Call it rather an Egyptian bondage; - the cruel task-masters of the Israelites could exact no more. – Ungrateful man!’ pursued she, bursting into tears, ‘is this the love – the tenderness you vowed?’” (501). After Mrs. Munden is widowed she explains “[…] that if ever I become a wife again, love, an infinity of love, shall be the chief inducement’” (630). The reunion between Mr. Trueworth and Mrs. Munden is very moving: “[…] Oh Trueworth! – Trueworth!’ added she, ‘I have not merited this from you.’ – ‘You merit all things,’ – said he, ‘let us talk no more of what is past, but tell me that you now are mine […]” (631). It is exciting that the two lovers marry in the end.
“The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless” is very interesting because of the many different events and outcomes that happen. I enjoy the development of the plot and like the ending.