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not near fifteen when my poor head began to be turned by adulation, in consequence of my supposed favour. In the year 1759, on the late Princess of Wales's birthday, November 30, I ought to have been in my nursery, and I shall ever think it was unfair to bring me into the world while a child. Au reste, I am delighted to hear the King is so well, for I am excessively partial to him. I always consider him as an old friend that has been in the wrong: but does one love one's friend less for being in the wrong, even towards oneself? I don't, and I would not value the friendship of those who measure friendship by my deservings. God help me if all my friends thought thus.”
FRANCES BURNEY, AFTERWARDS MADAME
Evelina published anonymously–Miss Burney's excitement at its success
She becomes a " lion "-Dr. Johnson's approval—Her play, The Willings, adversely criticised-Her second novel, Cecilia, widely read-She makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Delany-Presented to the King and Queen-Offered a post in her Majesty's household—Her desire to refuse—She accepts reluctantly-She is unhappy at CourtThe Schwellenberg-I11-health-Her resignation is accepted-A small pension granted—M. d'Arblay_Miss Burney attracted by himThey become engaged-Her father's opposition withdrawn—Marriage -The birth of a son-Mme. d'Arblay's tragedy, Edwy and Elvine, a failure-Her third novel, Camilla, financially successful-In ParisMme. d’Arblay returns to England—Death of Dr. Burney–d'Arblay joins his wife-His death-Alexander d'Arblay_Mme. d'Arblay in old age-Edits her father's Memoirs-Her Diary.
THERE appeared anonymously in January 1778 a work of fiction, bearing the title, Evelina ; or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World. The manuscript had been refused by James Dodsley, who would have nothing to do with a work to which no name was attached, and it had been offered to Lowndes, who agreed to publish it. The book created a very considerable stir in literary and social circles, and speculation was rife as to the authorship. Sir Joshua Reynolds expressed himself willing, even anxious, to pay fifty pounds for the name of the writer. The author was in a seventh heaven of delight, but her sense of humour saved her from losing her head.
“The year 1778 was ushered in by a grand and most important event !” she wrote, in high glee, in her Diary. “At the latter end of January the literary world was favoured with the first publication of the ingenious, learned, and most profound Fanny Burney! I doubt not
but this memorable affair will, in future times, mark the period whence chronologers will date the zenith of the polite arts in this island! This admirable authoress has named her most elaborate performance, Evelina ; or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World. Perhaps this may seem a rather bold attempt and title for a female whose knowledge of the world is confined, and whose inclinations, as well as situation, incline her to a private and domestic life. All I can urge is, that I have not presumed to trace the accidents and adventures to which a'young woman' is liable, but what it appears to a girl of seventeen : and so far as that, surely any girl who is past seventeen may safely do? The motto of my excuse shall be taken from Pope's 'Temple of Fame':
'In every work, regard the writer's end ;
Of course the secret was soon out. In fact, the proud
away, although his daughter wrote to him, “ As to Mrs. Thrale—your wish of telling her quite unmans me; I shook so when I read it that, had anybody been present, I must have betrayed myself.” This simple maiden of five-and-twenty was a little given to running out of the room when a reference to Evelina was made ; but all the same she very naturally enjoyed the fuss made of her, and was at pains to write down in the Diary each and every compliment paid to her.
And the compliments were many. No less a person than Dr. Johnson signified his approval, and that in no uncertain terms—he protested there were passages in the novel which might do honour to Richardson. Miss Burney was summoned to Streatham by Mrs. Thrale to meet Johnson at dinner. The great man was at his kindliest, and soon put the young authoress at her ease.
He was also at his most gallant. Talking of her book, “Oh, Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith is the man!” cried he, laughing violently. Harry Fielding never drew so good a character ! Such a fine varnish of low politeness! Such a struggle to appear a gentleman! Madam, there is no character better drawn anywhere—in any book, or by any author.” Again speaking to the Thrales, he said, “I admire her for her observation, for her good sense, for her humour, for her discernment, for her manner of expressing them, and for all her writing talents.” Not only Johnson, but all the Streatham set delighted to say pretty thingsReynolds, William Seward, Topham Beauclerk, and Sheridan, who advised her to write a play.
She was as much praised and as conspicuous at Tunbridge Wells or Bath as in town.
Evelina was a financial success—at least, for the publisher; and it ran into three editions in a very short space of time. “Evelina continues to sell in a most wonderful manner; a fourth edition is preparing, with cuts, designed by Mortimer just before he died, and executed by Hall and Bartolozzi,” the author wrote proudly. She had received £20 for the book, and later on was presented with a further sum of £10. The publisher naturally was desirous of another book from her, but she was not to be hurried.
She took the advice of Sheridan, and wrote a play, The Witlings, with the assistance of Arthur Murphy. Before sending the manuscript to Sheridan, she had the good sense to submit it to her father and to Samuel Crisp, himself a disappointed dramatist.
Dr. Burney would have none of it, and his daughter accepted his verdict. “The fatal knell, then, is knolled, and 'down among the dead men' sink the poor 'Witlings '—for ever, and for ever, and for ever !” she wrote to him.
I give a sigh, whether I will or not, to their memory! ! for, however worthless, they were mes enfants, and one must do one's nature, as Mr. Crisp will tell you of the dog.” Miss Burney took it well. “Partial faults may be corrected,” she said; but what I most wished was, to know the general effect of the whole ; and, as that has so terribly failed, all petty criticisms would be needless. I shall wipe it all from my memory, and endeavour never to recollect that I ever wrote it.”
Crisp endorsed the judgment of Dr. Burney. Now, then, to the point,” he wrote bluntly, “I have considered, as well as I am able, what you state as Mrs. Thrale's idea of new-modelling the play; and I observe what you say, that the pursuing this project is the only chance you have of bringing out anything this year, and that with hard fagging perhaps you might do that. I agree with you that for this year you say true ; but, my dear Fanny, don't talk of hard fagging. It was not hard fagging that produced such a work as Evelina !—it was the ebullition of true sterling genius—you wrote it because you could not help it-it came, and so you put it down on paper. Leave fagging and labour to him.”
Miss Burney at once gave up for a while all idea of writing for the stage ; but, “ fagging or not, she could not refrain from writing. She devoted herself to the composition of another novel, and in the summer of 1782 appeared Cecilia, in five volumes. Two thousand copies were printed, and the edition was exhausted within three months. It had a great vogue, and was widely read, but, as regards merit, it is not to be compared with Evelina. It enhanced her popularity notwithstanding, and brought her the acquaintance of Mrs. Delany, eighty-two years of age at this time, the introduction being made by Mrs. Chapone. This friendship