Eliza Haywood "Fantomina"
Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina” is a narrative about a female character who disguises herself as different women including Fantomina, Celia, a widow named Bloomer, and Incognita, an anonymous woman. This female character appears to be quite inexperienced, innocent and naturally curious at the outset. She wants to visit the theatre in order to discover what men are really like. In this narrative Fantomina appears overconfident. For example: “In this Manner did she applaud her own Conduct, and exult with Imagination that she had more Prudence than all her Sex beside” (Haywood 606). An interesting thing that I noticed about her was that she did not seem to mind that Beauplaisir, the man she loved believed that she was actually a different person and he assumed that he was having sexual relations with many different women. She disguised herself well enough to convince her lover to believe that he had been with many different women. It is only when she receives replies from two different letters she had sent to Beauplaisir that she exclaims: “’TRAITOR!”[…] as soon as she had read them, ‘tis thus our silly, fond, believing Sex are served when they put Faith in Man: So had I been deceived and cheated…” (610). This is very surprising because she is the one who initiates the interactions with her lover and knew all along what she was doing with him. Amazingly, she does not focus on the issue that her lover grows easily tired of each woman but instead, she actually thinks that he is a good man for continuing to have a relationship with Fantomina and the widow Bloomer. She believes that most men end relationships and she explains, “…for the most part, when they are weary of an Intrigue, break it entirely off, without any Regard to the Despair of the abandoned Nymph” (Haywood 611). It is interesting that her confidence continues as she believes that she is in complete control. She says: “…O that all neglected Wives, and fond abandoned Nymphs would take this Method! – Men would be caught in their own Snare, and have no Cause to scorn our easy, weeping, wailing Sex! – Thus did she pride herself as if secure she never should have any Reason to repent the present Gaiety of her Humour” (Haywood 613). “Fantomina” provides a fascinating insight into the world of a woman who takes control of her life and manages several situations with her lover. However, in the end she is punished by the moral consequences of her actions and becomes pregnant and is sent to a Monastery. As discussed in class, this makes Haywood’s story interesting because it about a woman taking control and managing in a man’s world but it can also be seen as a moral lesson.