This essay highlights the role that Enlightenment conjectural histories and liberal concepts of contractual exchange play in Nancy Armstrong’s revisionist description of the rise of the novel. It urges scholars of the novel to follow the example of Desire and Domestic Fiction and remember more often the eighteenth-century narrative experiments that unfolded when liberalism was still new. Eliza Haywood’s novel of amorous (and sapphic) intrigue The British Recluse (1722) suggests one reason to do that remembering. To see how Haywood uses the figure of the contract—very differently from Samuel Richardson and Jane Austen—is to better apprehend how in the early eighteenth century the marriage plot’s ideal of heterosexual complementarity had not yet become the only game in town.

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