Frances Burney

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Frances Burney
Portrait of Frances Burney reclining in a chair.
Frances "Fanny" Burney influenced many people with her books and talent at writing.
Born 13 June 1752
Died 6 January 1840
London
Resting place Walcot Cemetery, Bath

Frances Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840) was an English novelist, diarist and playwright. She was also known as Fanny Burney. After her marriage, she was known as Madame d’Arblay. She was born in King's Lynn, England. She was born to musician Dr Charles Burney (1726 – 1814) and Mrs Esther Sleepe Burney (1725 – 62). She mostly taught herself. She began writing what she called her "scribblings" when she was ten. Her first novel, Evelina, was published in 1778. This novel made her very famous. Cecilia came out in 1782. It was an even greater critical success. Her major novels, Evelina, Cecilia, and Camilla are about a young girl. The girls are clever and beautiful, but does not have a lot of experience. The girl goes out into the world and grows in character. Her books were liked by Jane Austen. In 1786, she became Second Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte. She wrote many journals and letters. Her journals and letters have interested historians. In 1793, she married a French exile, General Alexandre D'Arblay. They had a son in 1794. His name was Alexander. He was their only son. While living in France from 1802 to 1812, Burney wrote The Wanderer. It was a novel about the French Revolution. It was published in 1814. Her last published work was the Memoirs of Doctor Burney (1832). She died in London in 6 January 1840. She was buried in Bath near her husband and son.

Family life[change | change source]

On 13 June 1752, Frances Burney was born in King's Lynn. She was baptized on the 7th of July. Her older brothers and sisters were Ester (Hetty) (1749 – 1832) and James (1750 – 1821). Her younger brothers and sisters were Susanna Elizabeth (1755-1800), Charles (1757-1817) and Charlotte Ann (1761 – 1838). Susanna Elizabeth became Frances Burney's close friend. James Burney became an admiral. He sailed with Captain James Cook on his second and third trips. The younger Charles Burney was a scholar. Her younger half-sister, Sarah Burney (1772 – 1844), also became a novelist. She published five works that she wrote herself.[1] Esther Sleepe Burney also had two boys who died at birth.

First mother[change | change source]

Esther Sleepe Burney was three years older than Charles Burney. She had her oldest daughter, Esther, with Charles before they married.[2] Frances Burney kept this as a "family secret". She even said nothing about the date of her father's marriage. Also, she did not say when his children were born in the Memoirs.[2] Some people have thought that she hid the dates to make everyone believe she published Evelina when 17.[2]

Her mother suddenly became sick. She took a trip to Bath and Bristol Hot Wells. This is where main character in Evelina go to try to become healthy again.[2] However, she did not get better. The sickness was thought to be tuberculosis. It is also possible that it was cancer.[2] In 1760, her mother, Esther Sleepe Burney, died.[2][3] She was described by historians as a gentle woman of "warmth and intelligence". It is possible that Esther Burney's French birth influenced Burney's writing. One example is the conflicts between Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan in Evelina.[4] It may also have been one reason for her love of and marriage to Alexandre D'Arblay. Fanny was very shocked and sad when she heard that her mother was dead. Her neighbor, Mrs. Pringle, commented. She later said, "...she never saw such affliction" and that Fanny would "take no comfort--& was almost killed with [sic] Crying".[2] Her father, Charles Burney, was also very unhappy. He comforted himself with writing sad poems about his wife.[2]

Father[change | change source]

Her father was respected by many people as a musician. He was also well-educated. He wished to show that a musician could be a gentleman.[4] Frances Burney often saw many opera singers, dancers, musicians, and actors (like actors Garrick or Christopher Smart), that spoke in many kinds of languages. She mentioned him in Evelina: "Well may Mr. Garrick be so celebrated, so universally (everywhere) admired—I had not any idea of so great a performer...every look speaks!...I am afraid you will think me mad (crazy), so I won't say any more; yet I really believe Mr. Garrick would make you mad too, if you could see him."[4] She also saw more of the world than most "young ladies" could. She wrote down many rude things people said in her diaries. Traveller Richard Twiss once embarrassed the family by talking about improper things. He said that an immodest book, The Dictionary of Love, was very good. After Twiss left, Burney wrote in her Diary, 'Even my gentle & candid (truthful) Father says that he has quite mistaken the Thing, & that he will never see a Table Cloth in his House again'.[5]

Some people have said that Burney may have been shy because of her father.[2] People said that Mr. Burney's only fault was "obsequiousness" (too much serving to men). Frances never openly criticized her father. She even carefully destroyed everything bad about him. In her Memoirs, she wrote that her father had no faults.[2] However, she wrote explanations and excuses for things her father thought were right.[2]

Second mother[change | change source]

In October 1767, her father married a rich widow. Her name was Elizabeth Allen. She already had three sons. The Burney children did not like their stepmother.[4] Hester, Frances's older sister, married her cousin. His name was Charles Rosseau Burney. He was a musician. She married him in September 1770. She probably did this to leave her home.[2][4] Because of this, Frances lost a sister who was like another mother.[4] The Burney children did a "secret war" with Mrs. Allen. They called her "Mrs. Precious", "Madam", and "the Lady". A letter from Frances Burney to her sister Hester said, "The excuse to be fudged up (made up, lied) for the purpose, I leave to your own ingenuity."[5] Although at this time Frances was 25 years old, she had to find an excuse to visit her married sister. Even their old friend, Samuel "Daddy" Crisp, joined in with mocking Mrs. Elizabeth Allen.

Education[change | change source]

Her father educated her sisters Esther and Susanna much more than Frances Burney. When she was eight, she still had not learned the alphabet. She was also so shy that visitors at her father's house called her the "old lady". Some scholars think she might have had a kind of dyslexia.[6] Her brother used to play tricks on her by pretending to teach her to read and giving her a book upside-down. She did not find out that it was actually upside down and tried to read it.[2] People said that "the little dunce" should be whipped. However, Esther Sleepe Burney always replied that "she had no fears about Fanny".[2] Her sister Susanna said that Fanny has "sense, sensibility, and bashfulness (shyness)".[2] She also added, "I am afraid...that my sister Fanny is too reserved".[2]

In 1763 or 1764, Samuel "Daddy" Crisp became close to the Burney family. He helped Frances write by asking for many journal-letters from her about her family and her life. He influenced her writing very much.

Works[change | change source]

Frances Burney d'Arblay made a new kind of English novel, recording things that happened from George III's madness to what happened after the Battle of Waterloo. She also wrote comedies that had a great influence on many writers to come. For example, Jane Austen found both the theme and the title for Pride and Prejudice in the last chapter of Frances Burney's novel Cecilia.[7] William Makepeace Thackeray, the writer of Vanity Fair, was also influenced by Burney. Her first novel, Evelina, was a new kind of fiction in English. It was a fiction where women in society were shown in realistic, modern ways - the novel of manners. "She showed the manners and morals of polite society with a relish (liking) for the ridiculous (funny) and a respect for the conventional (traditional)".(Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, p. 242) Burney was the first woman to make the writing of novels "respectable".[7] Her second novel, Cecilia, published in 1782, was an even greater critical success.[7] Her third novel, Camilla, was very popular; the sale was "4 times that of Evelina, & nearly double that of Cecilia".[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. Commire, Klezmer 228.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 Doody, Margaret Anne (1988). Frances Burney: The Life in The Works. United States of America: New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-1355-3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Introduction to Camilla by Edward A. Bloom, Oxford University Press 1972, Great Britain, Clays Lyd, St Ives plc, ISBN 978-0-19-955574-1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Introduction to Evelina by Margaret Anne Doody, Penguin Classics 1994, ISBN 978-0-14-043347-0
  5. 5.0 5.1 Early Journals and Letters, ed. L.E. Troide (Oxford, 1990), II.
  6. Julia Epstein,The Iron Pen: Frances Burney and the Politics of Women’s Writing.(Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989) 23.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Stobaugh, James P. (2005). British Literature. 127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, TN 3734-0115: Bob Jones University Press. pp. 92. ISBN 9780805458947.

Other Websites[change | change source]

Verses written with Hester Thrale Works by Fanny Burney at Project Gutenberg