Most people are familiar with Addison and Steele’s periodical The Spectator, but have you ever heard of The Female Spectator?
Tremendously popular in her own time, Eliza Haywood was one of the first female novelists. Yet she fell out of recognition in the ensuing centuries. Only recently has scholarship begun to take her writing seriously and contemporary editions of her works have just become available. Haywood wrote prolifically, producing novels such as Love in Excess and The History of Betsy Thoughtless, as well as a satire of Richardson’s best-selling novel Pamela, entitled Anti-Pamela, or, Feign’d Innocence Detected. In between writing novels, Haywood produced issues of The Female Spectator, which consisted of a single informal essay that was released once a month.
Periodicals were very prevalent in the mid-eighteenth century. Aimed at a variety of audiences, it was not unusual for periodicals to be directed towards women. However, even female-oriented periodicals were mostly written by men. Haywood’s The Female Spectator is unique in that it is a periodical addressed to women, written by a woman. Although Haywood is the sole author, she created four fictional characters who ostensibly write the essays.
Special Collections owns a second edition of The Female Spectator, which consists of four volumes. The second edition is dated 1748; The Female Spectator was first published monthly from 1744-1746.