Fantomina Study Guide

Fantomina is a novel written by Eliza Haywood in 1725. The book mainly revolves around an unnamed character who becomes intrigued by the men she sees in a playhouse in London. She then pretends to be a prostitute and enjoys talking to a man called Beauplaisir. He believes her to actually be a prostitute and rapes her despite her protests. She (the unnamed main character) is worried about her reputation and so tells Beauplaisir that her name is Fantomina. Beauplaisir tires of her and leaves for Bath, but she follows him. She disguises as herself as a maid at the inn Beauplaisir is staying at and manages to sleep with him again after he is interested in her. After Beauplaisir leaves Bath, he meets the unnamed main character again on his journey home, but now she is disguised as a widow. Beauplaisir ravishes her again and she becomes pregnant. The unnamed character's mother finds out, and she is sent to live in a French monastery.

Haywood wrote the book to illustrate how one woman's initial mistake could become her passion as a result of love, which is unguided in this storyline. Furthermore, the she wanted to portray a story of a 'persecuted maiden' and display how women were treated during the 18th century.

The book was received very well by critics and fans. Indeed, Eliza Haywood was one of the four bestselling authors of the first half of the 18th century. She has received widespread recognition for Fantomina since the rise of feminist literary criticism, and Fantomina has appeared in many anthologies since the 1980s.