Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For Credit: The Narrator and Beauplaisir

Eliza Haywood

Note that the story of Fantomina (as we'll call her) is related by a third person narrator.  Some unnamed, unspecified voice tells the story of who Fantomina is, what she does, where she goes.  That narrator doesn't have as much to say about Beauplaisir, but the narrator does, inevitably, relate his role in the story as well.

What is the narrator's attitude toward Beauplaisir?   How does the telling of the story nudge the reader to interpret his actions?  Here are three possible ways to describe the depiction of Beauplaisir:

1. Beauplaisir is a dog, scumbag, player...you name it.  Whatever you think of Fantomina's shenanigans, Beauplaisir deserved to be played like she played him.

2. Boys will be boys.  What can you do?

3. Boys will be boys--but Beauplaisir is a pretty upstanding guy, considering the circumstances.

Does one of these possibilities accurately convey your sense of what Haywood is doing with her male character?  If so, which one?  Or would you like to suggest a different way of understanding this character?  You can start the conversation by writing a couple of sentences to support your choice (it's a good idea to include a quote or two from the story that will back up your claims).  Or you can take issue with someone else's response (kindly and collegially, please!

Keep in mind that the way you judge Beauplaisir may not be the way that Haywood (or the eighteenth-century reader) judges him.  For that reason you need to be attentive to the tone and precise wording of the passages that you consider in forming your response. 

Deadline: Thursday (8/25), start of class.


  1. When Beauplaisir is first introduced in the text, he is perceived as a man of difference. The narrator explains that Fantomina is fantasized by many different men, but they are all the same. However, when Beauplaisir is mentioned, the narrator describes how he is different and how Fantomina is enchanted by his character. "In fine, they were infinitely charm'd with each other. He was transported to find so much Beauty and Wit in a woman" (2-16). The narrator later explained that she enjoyed having conversations with him. Towards the middle of the text, Beauplaisir had difficulties telling the difference between Sex and being able to prolong desire, which I feel is relatable for college students reading this text. This situation that the narrator presented could reflect similar scenarios at the U of I. When a man and woman enjoy eachother's company it becomes difficult to know at which stage to progress the relationship and take it a step further into a sexual state. I agree with the second bullet point: boys will be boys. It's a heart wrenching ordeal, but many women have dealt with denial. "She easily perciev'd his coldness, and the reason why he prentened her going would be inconvenient, and endur'd as much from the Discovery as any of her Sex could do" (6-16). Being ignored and coming to grips with denial is difficult and the narrator explains Fantomina's struggles with Beauplaisir and understanding male emotions and thoughts mirror present day romantic relationship struggles.

    Gina C

  2. I'll agree with Gina's comment to the degree that there does seem to be a level of confusion in Beauplaisir concerning the difference between the prolonging of desire/feelings of affection versus the simple satisfaction of sex. I'll agree with the notion that "boys will be boys" because to be quite frank I would have to say it's true more often than not. A guy's eyes will wander and his desires and actions may soon follow. However I think the 3rd option, that he was a pretty upstanding guy given the circumstances, is probably the most accurate way to explain the narrator's depiction of Beauplaisir. The thing is, on the one hand, yeah, Beauplaisir is quadruple timing what he believes to be 4 different mistresses. And yes, he does lie to the different mistresses to juggle all of them, which is a sort of betrayal, hence "Fantomina's" exclamation, "Traytor! (cry'd she.) as soon as she had read them, 'tis thus our silly, fond, believing Sex are serv'd when they put Faith in Man: So had I been deceiv'd and cheated, had I like the rest believ'd, and sat down mourning in Absence, and vainly waiting recover'd Tendernesses," (Section 20) but the fact of the matter is that he is ultimately, in a messed up, twisted sort of way, the victim of the situation. "Fantomina" has completely engineered all of these affairs, and has ensured that he sleep with all her different personalities, and "cheat" on each of them. She knows he's going to be attracted to "so much Beauty and Wit in a woman", perhaps regardless of if the woman is Fantomina, Incognita, the actual Lady putting on all these ruses, or whomever. It's already been established that he finds her qualities especially charming. So I find it hardly a defensible position to flag Beauplaisir as the bad guy, because the whole thing was a calculated experiment in a vacuum. That being said, once he does learn of what's happened he immediately assumes the role of responsible, concerned father, "...he took his Leave, full of Cogitations, more confus'd than ever he had known in his whole Life. He continued to visit there, to enquire after her Health every Day..." (Section 29). So yeah, boys will be boys, but Beausplaisir demonstrates a good deal of concern and affection at the end considering he's been duped into knocking up some chick he hardly knows.

  3. I find it very difficult to take a position on this text and the character of Beausplaisir, for whatever reason, I am not quite sure. I am intrigued by the Fantomina, who is introduced in as an innocent girl, probably very naive, and she goes on to cleverly dupe Beausplaisir time and again. At first, I thought it was impressive for a girl of her social standing and position to take such control of her sexuality, but over the course of the story, her sexuality and happiness becomes dependent on Beausplaisir. She is not in reality as progressive as I initially thought, but rather, she is trapped in the limitations she places on herself because of her obsession with a man that clearly cannot devote himself to her.

    Neither character is innocent. Beausplaisir is a "player," yes, and I do not respect that aspect of him, but I do find it decent that he took on the role of father in the end. I am having a very difficult time answering this question because of how complex the story is. Both characters are flawed, and they are trapped by the limitations they place on themselves due to the games they play.

  4. In the beginning of the text, Beausplaisir seems to be introduced as sort of "just another guy." But quickly we find out that he is more important than "Fantomina's" narrator lets on. When he is with Fantomina, Beausplaisir fits more of the "upstanding gentleman" category. But, as his desires wane for her, we see more and more of the player side to him.

    As the text goes on, the narrator seems to be pushing the reader more towards the player aspect of Beausplaisir, how he writes to both Mrs. Bloomer and Fantomina, telling both sort of a "I miss you so much" story. It sounds sort of like a bad drama of today, when a guy, or girl, is seeing perhaps more than one individual at a time. You tell them you miss them, can't wait to see them, but you're telling 2 - x amount of people this. This is the sort of thing that's happening with Beausplaisir.

    Overall, I think we start feeling one way about Beausplaisir, but then end feeling another. Saying only one possibility conveys him, leaves out a completely different side of his personality.

  5. I agree with Noble that of the three descriptions given, the best representation the narrator's attitude toward Beausplaisir is the third. The woman "Fantomina" actually creates situations in which she knows Beausplaisir will be tempted to "cheat" on his mistress, who he began a relationship with because he thought she was a prostitute. I think that the clearest example of where the narrator expresses her opinion of Beausplaisir is in the 22 section: "This, indeed, must be said of Beauplaisir, that he had a greater Share of good Nature than most of his Sex, who, for the most part, when they are weary of an Intreauge, break it entirely off, without any Regard to the Despair of the abandon'd Nymph." Even though Beauplaisir had moved on to what he thought was a different partner, he still kept in contact with Fantomina, something most men in his position would not have done. In the end, I think that the narrator wants readers to leave the story with a sense that both men and women can play with the affections of the other sex when it comes to love and sex.

  6. I want to try and say "boys will be boys. But Beauplaisir is an upstanding guy." By all means, I'm not saying I like this fellow and the things that he did to Fantomina. But I find it amazing that he keeps falling in "love" with the same woman. (Which makes me wonder if his love for her is real.) Although she puts on different guises, in the end, it is still her. I find the story a bit unbelievable because Beauplaisir can't recognize Fantomina in her different disguises but the fact that he keeps trying to keep in touch with all of them to ensure their "security" can be honorable in a way. It is terribly wrong for him to keep having affairs but him trying so hard to "keep up" with all his women (woman) shows that he is not that callous of a man. Although I did have my suspicions about that as well when it showed us that he was getting sick and tired of Fantomina. This story makes me think about guises and how everybody is not what they appear to be. Fantomina is actually not Fantomina. And Beauplaisir seems to be a well-versed liar.

  7. I feel like many of the responses are ignoring the circumstances in which the relationship was concieved. "Fantomina" opened the relationship in deception and swayed back and forth in her intentions with Beauplaisir from the very beginning. While I'm not saying that the situation is entirely her fault, I feel it is unfair to portray Beauplaisir as THE bad guy. "Boys will be boys," but in this case "Girls will be girls" as well. In no way am I applying this situation to anyone but Fantomina or trying to attack women, but how can we blame Beauplaisir for being tricked? The narrator (in my opinion) sets us up to begin to view Fantomina as unsure of herself, but ultimately tries to pass the blame for the situation to Beauplaisir - when they are really both equally at fault.

  8. “Boys will be boys” is the take I would support. Although I would rather believe Christina’s idea that Beauplaisir (Beautiful Pleasure/ Pleasure Boy) may have had a real love for her since after all, he did always end up falling in bed…I mean LOVE… with our tragic heroine, one must wonder if he is falling in LOVE or if he is simply falling in LUST. Although she is the same person, under numerous guises, the narrator makes it a point to inform the readers that she was “so admirably skill’d in the Art of feigning, that she had the Power of putting on almost what Face she pleas’d, and knew so exactly how to form her Behaviour to the Character she represented.” Had he truly fallen in love and knew the woman he was in bed with was in fact, the same woman every time, then I believe the ending would not have concluded with our tragic femme in a nunnery, estranged from her family and child, while Beauplaisir continued his philandering ways. If anything, from his encounters with our mystery woman, I maintain that love (or love-making) is of convenience for him. He ran into a widow in a coach, a servant in his home, a woman at the theatre, and so forth. His earnest affections were given normally within a day and his appetite satiated soon after. Yes, he was kind and stayed in contact with the various versions of the young lady, but at the same time, perhaps he primarily did that in order to have a woman to go back to. In the letters written to the Widow and Fantomina, as readers, we can clearly see how Beauplaisir concluded each letter with “Your most faithful” and “Your ever faithful.” The tragic femme may have “played” him, but he had been playing her as well. She may have somewhat secured his affections for about nine months, but for her little game (which some may argue shows her ingenuity and strength to trick a man in order to overcome his philandering ways), she was sent to a nunnery in France for the rest of her life. She suffered the most for it, not Beauplaisir. Perhaps it would have been a different story had she been married to Beauplaisir to begin with and secured his VOWS (since securing affections seems an impossibility) and fidelity through trickery.
    I believe the narrator’s voice is almost a precaution. She constantly states Beauplaisir’s ennui and detachment upon having his conquest to the point in which it is almost acceptable and expected. “She presently perceiv’d it, but bore it as she had always done; it being but what she expeted, she had prepar’d herself for it.” The young lady had steeled herself for his inevitable dying affections because that is what Beauplaisir does- that is who he is. As the constant lover, that she is, she then had to find a different means of dealing with his inconstancy. Finally, in support of “boys will be boys,” the opening of this “Secret History” began in a Playhouse where readers were shown the many men that approached the young lady soon after she had changed her garb to resemble that of a prostitute. Any of those men could have been our lady’s “Beautiful Pleasure.” I’m even going to go so far as to attest that any of those men who had accosted her could have been fooled as Beauplaisir had been fooled. She had the femme be of a higher class to show that even the most brilliant woman could be used even though she might think, at the time, that she has the upper-hand. There is a reason why the narrator left out names. That woman could be any young lady, and Beauplaisir any man.

  9. I would say that Beauplaisir is depicted in a way that says "boys will be boys, but he's still upstanding". Of course the reader would love to see them fall in love at the end, but that would be quite a stretch. Beauplaisir was not trying to hurt the girl. In some respects she hurt herself by pretending to be other people and feeding these different characters to him.

    It definitely is disappointing that he doesn't propose in the end, but she was a ruined woman, and therefore no good for marriage. He was displaying the male norms of the time period.

  10. Having read this piece before and discussing it in some detail I feel as though perhaps we can say that Fantomina is the scumbag or player. I mean don't get me wrong, Beauplaisir is no perfect guy or anything, but Fantomina is very much manipulative and aware of what she is doing to these men. She is using them for her own personal motives and dropping them like flies. When Beauplaisir comes along, things are a little different and because things are not playing out the way she would have liked, the narrator may perhaps be portraying her as the victim. In any case, if the tables were turned and Beauplaisir was the "Fantomina" character and vice versa, would we still feel that he was dog, player, or scumbag? I think so, I mean guys are associated with those titles when they do disapproving things to women. However, put Fantomina back in that position, is she the Saint because she is a woman or is she just like Beauplaisir? I just feel that being a man or a woman plays heavily, during that time, how you reacted and did certain things.