Fantomina Summary and Analysis of Part 4: The Second and Third Disguises


In time, Beauplaisir eventually begins to grow bored with her. It is time for him to go to Bath for the summer, and when Fantomina offers to go with him, he makes excuses about why she should not. Fantomina is hurt by this but conceals her feelings and sends him off, all the while laying plans to follow him. She desperately wants Beauplaisir to be infatuated with her again. As soon as he leaves, she tells her aunt that she is going to visit another relative and sets off, accompanied by two servants whom she quickly dismisses.

Before arriving in Bath, the protagonist assumes her second disguise, adopting a country accent and unfashionable clothes. She goes to the house where she knows Beauplaisir is lodging and offers to work as servant; the landlady hires her to attend to the male guests by bringing them their breakfasts and making their beds every morning. This role brings the disguised Fantomina, now going by the name of Celia, into close proximity with Beauplaisir, who is immediately attracted to her. The second morning that she comes into his room, he seduces her; after she feigns some shyness so as to maintain he disguise, the two have sex. Afterwards he gives her money, which she takes in order to avoid alerting his suspicions.

Beauplaisir plans to stay in Bath for a month; at first the two enjoy the affair, but he eventually becomes tired of Celia as well. Knowing this, the protagonist prepares a third plot. She quits her job and moves to a different house in the town in order to assume her new disguise. This time she poses as a widow, and when she knows Beauplaisir is on his way back to London, she arranges to be at an inn just outside of the town. When his carriage is passing by, she stops it and calls out to him, asking for help.

Beauplaisir is surprised by this request, since the widow appears prosperous, but he is eager to help. The disguised protagonist explains her story: she is a widow from Bristol and is trying to get to London so that she can claim her inheritance before the brother of her deceased husband squanders her. However, she has not been able to secure a coach and is now stranded; she asks if Beauplaisir would be willing to let her travel in his carriage. He readily agrees, but is disappointed to find that, once she enters the carriage, she weeps, laments, and will only talk about her dead husband. Hoping to distract her, he brings up the subject of love, and is surprised and pleased to notice how passionately she talks about love.

Beauplaisir now hopes to seduce the attractive widow, but he takes a much less direct tactic. He gradually indicates his interest, and when the two stop to spend the night at an inn, he makes bolder overtures. In order to maintain her disguise, the protagonist pretends to faint. He takes her to lie down, and when she has recovered, the two have sex.

The protagonist is so skilled at disguising herself that Beauplaisir does not see any connection between her and his previous lovers. They return to London together and promise to continue seeing each other. Beauplaisir gives her an address at which to contact him, and the protagonist promises to provide her details as soon as she has determined where she will be staying.


This section reveals that the protagonist has been right to doubt the sincerity and fidelity of Beauplaisir. In the traditional trope of the rake, he cannot remain interested in a woman for very long, and as soon as he loses interest, he tries to find a way out of the relationship. What makes Haywood's narrative innovative and unexpected is how her protagonist responds to him losing interest. She is very self-aware and notices that he is no longer attracted to her. Rather than being frustrated or angry, she reacts coolly, immediately starting to calculate how best to win him back. She is not critical of Beauplaisir for his lack of fidelity, and in fact seems to view it as the natural result. At the same time, however, she is committed to continuing the relationship rather than also moving on and finding another lover. Patricia Comitini connects this unexpected devotion to a central debate at the heart of the text: "knowing Beauplaisir is a rake whose interest in women is transitory does not stop the Lady from pursuing him over and over again. The conundrum of the novella is that knowledge does not always lead to rational action" (p. 79).

The protagonist's second disguise is even bolder than her first. It involves a more dramatic shift of class position and requires her to be very shrewd about understanding how to completely change her self-presentation in order to adopt a position at the opposite end of the social scale. Beauplaisir's response also reveals how class positions intersected with sexuality in this time period. In her first disguise, he assumed he was free to have sex with the protagonist because she earned money from sex. A maidservant earns wages in a different way, but he also assumes that she will not say no to a wealthy and powerful man. Again, he offers money to the protagonist after they have sex; this time, she accepts it because she assumes that is what the woman as whom she is disguised would accept it. This shows how much less idealistic she has become: she is now willing to do whatever it takes to maintain secrecy and hold onto Beauplaisir’s interest.

Beauplaisir’s identity as a rake is further confirmed when he loses interest in Celia just as he lost interest in Fantomina. The protagonist simply concocts another plan, displaying her willingness to try different types of disguises to see what else might appeal to him. Her various disguises play into the different stereotypes of women: from an innocent and coy maidservant, she then adopts the guise of a wealthy widow. Predictably, Beauplaisir finds this new opportunity for seduction an appealing challenge. His wide-ranging appetite suggests that he is largely fueled by a constant search for novelty: almost any woman can be appealing to him if she represents the new and unexpected.

Beauplaisir’s strategy for seducing the widow is also telling. With both Fantomina and Celia, he was very direct and assertive, assuming that their class positions made them unlikely to say no. With the widow, he takes a much more subtle and gradual approach, assuming that a woman of a higher social position will be more wary. In an ironic twist, while he is performing the kind of seduction that he thinks will be most effective, the protagonist is also performing the kind of reaction she thinks he will expect, including pretending to faint in shock and horror. These deceptions and counter-deceptions reveal that social conventions prevent both men and women from acting naturally and being honest with one another.