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2020/21 Group Reads - Archives > Evelina - Week 7

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message 1: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1380 comments Mod
Well, we've reached the end of Evelina. What did you think overall? Did anything surprise you?

message 2: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1380 comments Mod
I docked a star for the melodramatic language especially in this section (the parts with her father were too over the top for me), and because every other dialog tag was "cried."

message 3: by Abigail (last edited Jul 12, 2020 11:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 681 comments Ugh, yes, hard not to laugh at the daddy-reconciliation scene.

One thing that struck me was the final, extended drawing-room scene (leaving aside for now the monkey, which upset me very much all around). The scene seems to come out of comic theater and makes it seem that Evelina's story and its happy ending were secondary to the social satire. It's weird that it comes after the resolution of her troubles, not before. Maybe an indication of what really interested Burney and impelled her to write; Evelina's story being secondary to what she had to say about "polite" society.

message 4: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 2896 comments Mod
I think the monkey scene wasn't necessary at all. For me it ruined the final section of the book.

message 5: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1380 comments Mod
I have to admit I laughed out loud when the Captain first brought it out as Lovel's double. But of course, because the Captain has to Captain, he dragged it out too far and ruined the whole thing, scaring the women and abusing the animal.

Theresa (theresas) | 26 comments Yes, the monkey scene was truly awful, even though Lovel was such a buffoon and so disliked. I enjoyed the book, but was weary of the overboard prose. May they all live happily ever after.

Bill Kupersmith | 173 comments Normally I give any book that achieves classical status five stars, being a classic is proof and if we later readers fail to enjoy it, the fault is ours. But the early English novel offers some particular critical problems. As the name 'novel' shows, it was regarded as a new species of writing and appropriate artistic standards were still evolving. Amongst literary scholars the subject is much disputed, including whether 'the novel' is a distinct form different from other kinds of prose fiction, such as the romance. It's really only in the 19th century that novels come to maturity. Many of us would pick Middlemarch as the first true masterpiece of the genre. Some of the faults that contemporary readers find in novel Evelina, especially lack of realistic dialogue (though Captain Mirvin certainly speaks vernacular English) and characterisation, as well as scenes of low comedy intermixed with very elevated style, would not have bothered readers of the time. What I love is Burney's making moral virtue attractive without being preachy, especially in the character of Lord Orville. The character Evelina seems to me very much to prefigure Jane Austen's Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. Readers who don't like one usually don't like the other, and that may tell us more about the readers than the characters.

message 8: by Alice (new) - added it

Alice | 82 comments I was surprised by the complete disappearance of Madame Duval and company, at the end of the novel. They were so significant earlier that I just assumed they would reappear at or near the end. I expected Madame Duval to be involved, somehow, in the way Evelina’s story resolved. For the different branches Burney presents—of story, of family, etc.—not to converge in the end just feels so sloppy to me! But, this could be me expecting a more modern novel; imposing later standards on something which predates them. Not really fair to Burney. Was anyone else bothered by the disappearance of Madame Duval?

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 681 comments I hadn't thought about it, Alice, but you make a good point about Mme Duval's disappearance! If she could bring back Captain Mirvan, she could bring back Mme Duval.

As to a comparison between Evelina and Fanny Price, I can see it in a very limited way but to me they are very different. They are in similarly ambiguous social positions, but Evelina seems effortlessly or at least artlessly virtuous, while Fanny constantly struggles to defeat rage and jealousy and has to overcome temptation--her virtue is hard-won. That makes her a much more admirable person than Evelina in my eyes.

message 10: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Robin P | 2208 comments Mod
I was also disturbed by the histrionics of Evelina's father, being unable to stand her, throwing himself on the sofa and weeping, etc. Was this supposed to be considered gentlemanly behavior? Or is it punishment for his mistake? It wasn't really his fault but now he seems like a jerk. I did appreciate that the other young lady also wasn't at fault and it would be unfair to suddenly disown her. And I had a cynical question - Apparently Evelina looks exactly like her mother, which does happen - but how does that prove who her father is? Did he know that her mother was pregnant by him and then died, so that she couldn't have had another child? I admit, I lost track of the complications around Evelina's birth.

message 11: by Trev (last edited Jul 13, 2020 05:27AM) (new)

Trev | 338 comments Well, the distastefully whimsical monkey ending just summed up the whole nature of the book. I must say that Lord Orville rather blotted his copybook by throwing the monkey out of the room. Maybe Captain Mirvan’s cruelty was finally rubbing off on him. If the novel is to be accepted as satire then it would just about get away with the plethora of unrealistic situations, characters and predictable outcomes. Was there anyone who hadn’t worked out that Macartney was probably her brother or near relative after he had told his story?
I had hoped for greater realism, but, thinking of ‘Clarissa’ that would have meant that Evelina would probably have (view spoiler)
My biggest disappointment with the end section was the way that Evelina had no control over anything that happened. She was tossed around like a paper bag in a storm. Everyone made decisions for her. Her deference to her father, who had not only abused her mother, but many other women as well, was shocking. Poor Mr. Villars didn’t even get an invite to the wedding! I much prefer an Ann Radcliffe female protagonist who would take control and decide for herself how to overcome the direst of situations, even if they were rather far fetched.
I think Lord Orville was borrowed to a certain extent from Richardson’s ‘Sir Charles Grandison‘ but without the fullness of character.
The excursion to Bath rang some warning bells for the future happy couple. Evelina liked Bath, apart from the bathing, but Lord Orville did not. Will her youth and sense of fun marry well with the older, retiring, unadventurous Lord? Could they turn out like Georgiana and William Cavendish, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire? Things could turn Grey for Evelina if she spends too much time in Bath without Orville.

Theresa (theresas) | 26 comments I wondered why Burney doesn't give us the identity of Mr. Macartney's mother, or at least when his birth occurred in relation to Evelina's. We assume he was born out of wedlock, and maybe that was going too far to discuss openly, so she just gave us enough to be able to figure it out.

It does also seem that Mme. Duval should have been present for the conclusion, or accounted for a bit more thoroughly.

message 13: by Alice (new) - added it

Alice | 82 comments Yes Theresa, exactly! The ends were just not tied up neatly at all. I also expected to learn more about the family history, including information about Evelina’s half-brother, as well as about her grandmother . . . Earlier, I had suspected Madame Duval, and Mr. Villars as well, of some entanglement in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity involving neither of them. I do think Burney hinted, from time to time, at something nefarious. I felt excited to discover the way all the unique threads and perspectives might ultimately interconnect. But then—poof!—they didn’t. No payoff.

message 14: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1875 comments Mod
Agreed, while I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would (I joined the reading feeling I ought to have read Burney) I was also somewhat disappointed that more endings weren't tied up, as discussed above.

Did anyone else find that Evelina cried "Good God" a lot? It jarred with me, but perhaps having grown up in a religious family where taking the Lord's name in vain was frowned upon, I was surprised it would be in such common usage for a well-bred young woman.

Yes, there had been some suggestion about something nefarious about Mr Villars by Evelina's father-perhaps it was just that her father thought Villars was trying to foist someone else's child on him!

Overall, though, an enjoyable read, particularly with such a good discussion and explanations of some of the more esoteric points and quotations.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 681 comments I enjoyed the discussions as well!

And I think you're right, Belmont implied that there was something nefarious about Mr. Villars because he believed Villars was trying to foist an impostor child onto him. But he certainly could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by saying so!

message 16: by Alice (new) - added it

Alice | 82 comments Yes, he could have. Despite complaints about the ending, I did really enjoy the book. I had such a hard time stopping at the right point each week in order to participate in the discussion without confusion (as discussed in last week’s thread). I did so want to just keep going! I also found myself fortifying my library with a used copy of Cecilia while in the middle of this one. There it sits, with such a promising look. I suspect some of the issues I have with Evelina might resolve in this (more mature) second book . . .

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 681 comments Cecilia is certainly a more interesting heroine! For one thing, she's not good-looking--a real departure for the era.

message 18: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1380 comments Mod
I enjoyed the book overall, too, with a few caveats. I might give Cecilia a try at some point.

message 19: by Rosemarie, Moderator (last edited Jul 15, 2020 06:17AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 2896 comments Mod
I enjoyed the book overall. It was a lot lighter than I thought it would be, not melodramatic.
I could really have done without the slapstick, which was very heavy handed and not funny.

Thanks for leading the discussion, Lori.

message 20: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1380 comments Mod
You're welcome! The book was a nice escape from reality, as is Ayala's Angel.

message 21: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Robin P | 2208 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I enjoyed the book overall. It was a lot lighter than I thought it would be, not melodramatic.
I could really have done without the slapstick, which was very heavy handed and not funny.

Thanks for..."

Yes, my thoughts exactly!

Daniela Sorgente | 126 comments I enjoyed the book but I did not like the end. All the part in Bath was unnecessary in my opinion, not to mention the monkey scene. I did not understand Belmont attitude, crying about his lost Evelyn when he left her. Lord Orville seemed to tolerate Captain Mirvan or at least he did not condemn his beahaviour, I was disappointed by this.

Daniela Sorgente | 126 comments I agree with Robin and Rosemary (I am using the cell so I do not have the "reply" function) . Thank you so much Lori and you all, reading with you was really interesting!

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 681 comments You’re so right, Daniela, about Belmont’s character making no sense!

As for Captain Mirvan, I think there was a lot of respect for naval men, and allowances were made for their years spent at sea making their manners rougher. Also Lord Orville was a friend of Mrs Mirvan, who was the daughter of a peer, which would make excluding Captain Mirvan awkward.

Thanks to Lori for your sure hand guiding the conversation!

Theresa (theresas) | 26 comments I echo everyone's feelings about the ending, but am glad I read it, and overall it was entertaining. And thank you again, Lori, for keeping us on track.

Jenny | 125 comments I don’t have anything original to add as I agree with much of the above.
I do want to reiterate thanks for Lori and everyone who contributed. This was a very enjoyable, thought provoking and informative discussion. As always, my reading experience gained by sharing it with this group!

message 27: by LiLi (new) - rated it 4 stars

LiLi | 277 comments indeed, thank you, Lori, for leading the discussion!

I echo everyone's feelings about the end, too. The disappearance of Mme Duval and the monkey business at the end both felt sloppy.

I wonder if Mr Lovel's "comeuppance" mightn't have worked better in a play, which was the dominant art form at the time.

message 28: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Kupersmith | 173 comments Can’t imagine its being staged though there were lots of performing animals in the 18th century. But as we’ve seen, the dramatis personae of Evelina includes a comedy troupe and the monkey scene is Burney’s last chance to ‘send in the clowns’ as they say in theatre.

message 29: by Trev (new)

Trev | 338 comments Yes, and I think that Lord Orville, (who seemed very adept at handling the monkey) was probably worrying that Evelina might want a menagerie of exotic animals on at least one of their estates to keep her amused. He got rid of the monkey just in time before the pestering started.
His plan, of course, is to persuade her that it would be better for her to open a shelter for injured and exhausted participants of the aristocrats’ old ladies races, which occur far too frequently for his liking.

message 30: by LiLi (new) - rated it 4 stars

LiLi | 277 comments :D

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