Foundlings and fictional form: Eliza Haywood mothers Tom Jones

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The conventional view of Eliza Haywood's later career has been that she followed the new 'moral' turn in fiction in the 1740s, of which Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding were the chief exponents. However, Fielding's plot in Tom Jones (1748-9) can be shown to be inspired and influenced by Haywood's The Fortunate Foundlings (1744) and Life's Progress through the Passions: Or, the Adventures of Natura (1748). Fielding's dialogue with the reader in Tom Jones, one of the novel's most distinctive features, is modelled on Haywood's dialogue with the reader in The Female Spectator (1744-46). Haywood's and Fielding's works are both politically engaged and both serve partisan causes. They share constructions of gender and sexuality but differ sharply on the issues of courtship and marriage. For Fielding the possible power given to women in the courtship plot of salon romances must be averted, and for him, as a Whig in the Puritan tradition, marriage represents the ideal end-goal. Haywood is sceptical about the possibility of happy marriages for women, and she favours continental and Tory traditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-398
Number of pages15
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • eighteenth century
  • women
  • influence
  • fiction
  • politics
  • gender
  • marriage
  • persona
  • fielding
  • Haywood

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