Infamous Scribblers

women writers of the long eighteenth century

On Scribbling

Bluestockings as Muses Richard Samuel 1778

In a letter to a female friend, Jonathan Swift wrote of Eliza Haywood, author of Love in Excess and The Female Spectator,

“Mrs. Haywood I have heard of as a stupid, infamous, scribbling woman, but have not seen any of her productions.”

Infamous, indeed. Thank you, Swift, for the provocative title. While the likes of Swift and Alexander Pope participated in an elitist, boys club writing group known as the Scribblerians, they were rather free and coarse with the term scribbler, especially when they applied it as an epithet to women writers like Haywood. Contemporary scholars and fans of the eighteenth century have frequently appropriated and employed the appellation as a means of recovering, recuperating, and (re?)celebrating eighteenth-century women and their work. The term is used so frequently, in fact, that it may now border on trite. It doesn’t matter. I’m still going to use it here, because it’s amazing.

Come, let us scribble together not only about eighteenth-century women, but also other women in history!

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