Eliza Haywood (1693? – 1756) was a prolific British author of the 18th century. She published over 70+ works, and was primarily known as a novelist. Many details of her life seem to be disputed, including the year she was born.
Haywood enjoyed a successful writing career. Her first and most famous novel, was Love in Excess. However, she did eventually fall into obscurity and wasn’t rediscovered until the 1980s.
The most important part of her legacy is that she helped to innovate the romance novel. This can be seen because Love in Excess has a lot of the tropes you find in modern historical romance novels.
Fantomina; or Love in a Maze is another important work of hers – it’s a short story that follows a woman that takes on various identities to observe how differently a man will treat her. This was the first work I read by her – I thought it was enjoyable to read although it did end poorly.
Throughout the story the power of female sexuality is shown but by the end it becomes a typical fallen woman story. However, I wouldn’t say the story is all that pro-woman anyway since the main character is a woman desperate for the attention and validation of a man.
Fantomina along with Love in Excess probably get studied the most. Although, you can find some of her other work in anthologies and such.
Even though some scholars are fascinated by Haywood, I’ve noticed that reaction to her work online seems to be mixed to negative. For example, Love in Excess has low ratings on both Goodreads and Amazon.
However, I think if you’re interested in women and literature she is a good figure to check out due to the fact she was fairly innovative and successful.