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2020/21 Group Reads - Archives > Background Information

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message 1: by Lori, Moderator (last edited May 15, 2020 09:00AM) (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
Please post background information here.

I bought the Kindle version of Frances Burney's collected works on Amazon for $0.99. It's a bit hard to navigate, but okay if you're reading straight through. Evelina is also available on Gutenberg for free.

message 2: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
About Frances Burney, from Wikipedia (some parts cut for space):

Frances Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840), also known as Fanny Burney and later as Madame d'Arblay, was an English satirical novelist, diarist and playwright. Born in Lynn Regis, now King's Lynn, England, on 13 June 1752, to the musician Dr Charles Burney (1726–1814) and his first wife, Esther Sleepe Burney (1725–1762), she was the third of her mother's six children. She began her "scribblings" at the age of ten. In 1786–1790 she was an unusual courtier appointment as "Keeper of the Robes" to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, George III's queen. In 1793, aged 41, she married a French exile, General Alexandre D'Arblay. Their only son Alexander was born in 1794. After a long writing career, and travels in which she was stranded in France by warfare for over ten years, she settled in Bath, England, where she died on 6 January 1840. Of her four novels, the first, Evelina (1778), was the most successful, and remains the most highly regarded. Most of her plays remained unperformed in her lifetime. She also wrote a memoir of her father (1832) and many letters and journals, which have been gradually published since 1889.

Overview of career
Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist and playwright. In all, she wrote four novels, eight plays, one biography and twenty-five volumes of journals and letters. She has gained critical respect in her own right, but she also foreshadowed such novelists of manners with a satirical bent as Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray.

She published her first novel, Evelina, anonymously in 1778. During that period, novel reading was frowned upon as something young women of a certain social status should not do, while novel writing was out of the question. Burney feared that her father would discover what she called her "scribblings". When she published Evelina anonymously, she only told her siblings and two trusted aunts. Eventually her father read the novel and guessed that Burney was its author. News of her identity spread.[1] It brought Burney almost immediate fame with its unique narrative and comic strengths. She followed it with Cecilia in 1782, Camilla in 1796 and The Wanderer in 1814.

All Burney's novels explore the lives of English aristocrats and satirise their social pretensions and personal foibles, with an eye to larger questions such as the politics of female identity. With one exception, Burney never succeeded in having her plays performed, largely due to objections from her father, who thought that publicity from such an effort would be damaging to her reputation. The exception was Edwy and Elgiva, which unfortunately was not well received by the public and closed after the first night's performance.

Although her novels were hugely popular during her lifetime, Burney's reputation as a writer of fiction suffered after her death at the hands of biographers and critics, who felt that the extensive diaries, published posthumously in 1842–1846, offer a more interesting and accurate portrait of 18th-century life. Today critics are returning to her novels and plays with renewed interest in her outlook on the social lives and struggles of women in a predominantly male-oriented culture. Scholars continue to value Burney's diaries as well, for their candid depictions of English society.[2]

Throughout her writing career, Burney's wit and talent for satirical caricature were widely acknowledged: literary figures such as Dr Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Hester Thrale and David Garrick were among her admirers. Her early novels were read and enjoyed by Austen, whose own title Pride and Prejudice derives from the final pages of Cecilia. Thackeray is reported to have drawn on the first-person account of the Battle of Waterloo, recorded in her diaries, while writing Vanity Fair.[3]

Burney's early career was strongly affected by her relations with her father and the critical attentions of a family friend, Samuel Crisp. Both encouraged her writing, but used their influence in a critical fashion, dissuading her from publishing or performing her dramatic comedies, as they saw the genre as inappropriate for a lady. Many feminist critics have since seen her as an author whose natural talent for satire was somewhat stifled by such social pressures on female authors.[4] Burney persisted despite the setbacks. When her comedies were poorly received, she returned to novel writing, and later tried her hand at tragedy. She supported both herself and her family on the proceeds of her later novels, Camilla and The Wanderer.

message 3: by Lori, Moderator (last edited May 15, 2020 09:01AM) (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
We read mostly Victorian novels in here, but this is a Georgian novel, published in 1778 during the reign of George III. Globally, this was during the American Revolutionary War and just before the French Revolution.

The following description of the book comes from the British Library (link to full article at the bottom). The part I will post contains no spoilers (the full article DOES).

An introduction to Evelina
Article written by:
Chloe Wigston Smith

Frances Burney’s Evelina unveils the dizzying and dangerous social whirl of Georgian London, where reputations and marriages are there to be made and broken. Dr Chloe Wigston Smith investigates Burney’s critique of fashion culture and the demands it places on women, in a novel that prizes feminine resilience.

Creating Evelina
Evelina (1778) was the first novel that Frances Burney published, but it was not the first she wrote. As a teenager, she penned the story of her heroine’s mother, Caroline Evelyn. She gathered this story with her other childhood writings to burn it all at age 15. On 27 March 1768, she started a new diary which she famously addressed to ‘Nobody’:

To Nobody, then, will I write my Journal! since to Nobody can I be wholly unreserved – to Nobody can I reveal every thought, every wish of my heart, with the most unlimited confidence, the most unremitting sincerity to the end of my life! ... No secret can I conceal from Nobody, and to Nobody can I be ever unreserved.

This entry, like so much of Burney’s writing, reveals a complex desire to express herself unreservedly while underscoring, at the same time, the challenges of doing so.

Burney is often described as a reluctant writer, or at least one nervous to have her writing circulate in public. Her journals, and Evelina’s dedication to the often sharp book reviewers of her day, offer plenty of evidence to support this view: ‘I am frightened out of my wits from the terror of being attacked as an author, and therefore shirk, instead of seeking, all occasions of being drawn into notice’ (Diary, Berg, September 1778). But this portrait of a shy and retiring writer stands at odds with the clever insights and satirical voice that cut across her published and unpublished work. In addition to keeping up an extensive correspondence, Burney filled her journals with engaging records of her life, family and social circle. After Evelina, she went on to publish three more novels and wrote several plays (both comedies and tragedies) that were never performed. Burney’s prose reveals her wit and humour, and her precise sense of voice, telling detail and sensitivity to the world around her.

She recorded, for instance, the lively history of her negotiations with booksellers and the months following Evelina’s appearance. Nervous about the public response to her novel, the 24-year-old Burney was anxious to conceal her identity as its author, even from her father. Keeping her authorship secret was a challenge, as her handwriting was known by London printers (she had served as her father’s unpaid amanuensis, creating fair copies of his manuscripts for his books on music). After being turned down by her first-choice publisher, James Dodsley, Burney asked Thomas Lowndes, her eventual publisher, if he would be willing to receive a MS. Novel sent to you without any public Name, or private recommendation? ... And whether if, after reading, you should think it worth printing, you would buy the Copy without ever seeing, or knowing, the Author? ... I must beg you to direct your Answer to Mr King, To be left at the Orange Coffee House till called for.

Mr King was the pseudonym used by Burney’s cousin, Edward Francesco, who along with her brother, Charles Burney (using the name Mr Grafton), served as intermediaries during the negotiations with Lowndes. Charles donned an ‘old great coat, and a huge hat’ to muffle his appearance, and when Lowndes agreed to accept the full manuscript, Burney copied her work in a ‘feigned hand’. The novel received positive reviews, but Burney waited six months to reveal her authorship to her father. Her journals from this period document often comical attempts to gauge her father’s response, and those of other unknowing readers, to her writing. Samuel Crisp, close family friend of the Burneys and the ‘Daddy Crisp’ to whom Burney often turned to for advice and support in these years, took a teasing delight in both her literary success and desire for anonymity.

message 4: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
As will become apparent when Evelina goes to London, this novel is a satire. I will post a brief excerpt from an article on jstor: "Frances Burney as Satirist" by Julian Fung in The Modern Language Review (this part contains no spoilers; the full article probably does).

"Frances Burney was long considered a fastidious novelist of manners whose emphasis on sensibility verged on the sentimental. In the last thirty years feminist critics have with considerable justification claimed her as a proto-feminist writer. Her work has been acknowledged to contain satiric elements, but because they do not fit the concept of ‘Augustan satire’ that became dominant in the twentieth century, few critics have seen her novels as centrally driven by a strong satiric impulse. Reading Burney as fundamentally a satirist, I shall argue, significantly changes the way we interpret her works."

If you have access to jstor, you can read the full article here (I’m sure it must contain spoilers, though):

message 5: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
In Week 1, you might find it helpful to know something about ballroom etiquette. I found some articles about it. These are about Victorian ballroom etiquette, but it looks like many of the important points we will encounter in the book hadn't changed. (There are no spoilers in these links; they are only about Victorian ballroom etiquette, not about Evelina.)

message 6: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 675 comments Thank you for this wealth of useful information, Lori!

message 7: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
You're welcome! <3 I hope you enjoy the book.

message 8: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 675 comments It's a reread for me and I've read several biographies and studies. Based on that I thought your posts were very well considered, thorough, and balanced!

message 9: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 124 comments I enjoyed the ballroom etiquette links. So many novels of the time feature balls and yet I never realized the rigidity of a female’s inability to move around at her own discretion.

message 10: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "I enjoyed the ballroom etiquette links. So many novels of the time feature balls and yet I never realized the rigidity of a female’s inability to move around at her own discretion."

I had to look it up because I was a bit confused by a scene. I was completely ignorant of all this.

message 11: by Charlotte (last edited May 29, 2020 06:52AM) (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 160 comments BBC In Our Time has a podcast on Fanny Burney:

message 12: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
Charlotte wrote: "BBC In Our Time has a podcast on Fanny Burney:"

Thanks, Charlotte! That should be interesting.

message 13: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 729 comments I'm ready to start this and now I find I already have homework on ballroom etiquette!! Oh well, it is extra credit, and a brief look will suffice.

Actually, I will keep the first link handy as a reference as it has a Rules for the Ballroom that I can check if I run across some ballroom act that seems funky in the book.

message 14: by LiLi (new)

LiLi | 277 comments I really enjoyed the podcast. Thank you, Charlotte!

message 15: by Theresa (new)

Theresa (theresas) | 26 comments Lori, thanks so much for all the background info, and for the dance etiquette. It was great to see samples of the actual dancing style as well. I'm really enjoying the book.

message 16: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 160 comments Evelina Character List

Be aware of spoilers!

(view spoiler)

message 17: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 729 comments Thanks for putting the list in spoilers, Charlotte! I've been burned by spoiler info from a non-book character list before.

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