Fanny Burney: Contribution as English Novelist

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      Fanny Burney's, (1752-1840) novels were immensely popular during the late eighteenth century. However, Burney herself had to overcome family disapproval in order to make a name among English literary circles. Her father, Charles Burney, a renowned musicologist, discouraged his daughter's literary activity and provided her with no formal education. In spite of this, she read widely and began writing at a young age. But at the age of fifteen, in response to her father's and perhaps her stepmother's objections to imaginative poetry, plays, and stories, she dramatically sacrificed all of her writings to a huge bonfire. Not completely deterred, she resumed writing and anonymously published her first novel, Evelina (1778), which became a great success. Evelina won Burney not only her father's approval, but also writer and critic Dr. Samuel Johnson's. She went on to secure a place in Queen Charlotte's court and in English literary society. She later left court to marry French migr General Alexandre D'Arblay (1791) and lived until the age of eighty-seven.

      Fanny Burney's novels deal with women's roles in relation to the British aristocracy, marriage, wealth, and power. Her successful works influenced other women writers, including Jane Austen, whose name is among the list of subscribers to Camilla.

      Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress. By the Author of Evelina. London: Printed for T. Payne and Son, and T. Cadell, 1782. 5 vols. First edition. Burney's second novel, Cecilia, concerns a heroine who, in order to save her inheritance from her guardians, must marry a man who will take her name. In her writing, Burney uniquely abandons the common epistolary (or letter writing) first person form to use authorial narration, and becomes one of the first novelists to employ style indirect libre, or free indirect speech.

      Camilla: Or, a Picture of Youth by the Author of Evelina and Cecilia. London: Printed for T. Payne, T. Cadell, and W. Davies, 1796. 5 vols. First edition.

      Burney's fourth published novel involves the "courtship of lighthearted Camilla by somber Edgar. Led by his tutor Marchmont, a misogynist, to demand perfection and the full possession of his lady's heart before he declares himself, Edgar puts Camilla through a series of tests and suffers torments of misapprehension and jealously, for the girl has been warned by her father never to let her feelings show" (Doody).

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