Sunday, February 24, 2008
9. Love in Excess
The title: Love in Excess
The author: Eliza Haywood (ed. David Oakleaf)
Publication: Broadview Press, 2000 (originally 1719)
Got it from: David, who got it at a university bookstore (Buffalo?)
Back when I was a fresh young undergrad, I remember reading Haywood's The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless for my Writing by Women class. I could probably sum up all 500 pages of that book with: "Oh no! I have heedlessly gotten myself into this situation where I am about to be raped! Who will save me now?" Seriously, I wanted to kick that crap out of Betsy. Once or twice going off into the garden with sketchy guys? Okay, that I can forgive you for. Continuing to do so over and over and OVER again? That's just dumb. She is the original Too Stupid to Live heroine of modern romance novels.
Okay, this novel reads at a bunch of different levels. First, I feel like throwing a party for the author for beating down the doors of the men's literary world and continuing to write even in the face of intense criticism. That misogynistic schmuck Pope actually wrote a poem about her as the prize cow in a pissing contest, for which I hope someone pisses on his grave. Cheers to you, Eliza, for telling everyone to eff off by writing whatever the heck you wanted. This book is also frustratingly hard to read because it was published in 1719. It took me a good year to get through it because I kept getting bogged down by sentences that ran for half a page and characters that kept popping up out of nowhere.
In the end, though, as much as I admire the themes and sentiments tackled by this book, I was extremely frustrated by the characters. The book basically centres around this Count D'Elmont, who has women swooning all over themselves trying to get into his pants. Some of them actually die pining for him. There's all the usual 18th-century stuff: love triangles (x10), wailing and gnashing teeth and cursing over love, epic swordfights, main characters dying off left and right, seductions, attempted rapes, lots of letter writing and romantic misunderstandings that take place in gardens, horny heiresses and the inevitable cross-dressing woman. Which sounds like a good time, but again: 1719! Page-long sentences! Confusing grammar and syntax! A year's worth of reading! So I stamp thee, Love in Excess: B.