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Sunday, March 8, 2015

*****Evelina, by Frances Burney

  • Frances Burney, 1752-1840, England
  • Evelina  was Frances Burney's first and most famous novel
  • First published in England by Thomas Lowndes in January 1778. Burney's brother posed as the author after Frances was rejected by another publisher. 
  • Evelina was initially published anonymously in order to avoid censure by her father and literary critics. At that time, it was not considered acceptable for women to read books, let alone write them. Once her novel received public awareness and acceptance, Burney revealed to the public that she was the true author.
  • An epistolary novel
  • Satire, humor and melancholy all pervade this lovely, morality infused, novel.  
  • Setting:  18th century, (London) England
  • Themes: Social class snobbery, female delicacy, women's reputations,  male chivalry, London Society: vice and virtue

My Review
What a wonderful book! It was so well conceived from beginning to end. There was never a dull moment. Every turn added another new piece to the puzzle, another mystery or entanglement, but without any hint as to its final outcome.  At no time previous have I found myself so intensely rooting for a heroine’s good fortune. Whether I did so in vain, I will not disclose here. I will share this, the ending concludes perfectly. Not because it is happy or sad, but because it was handled superbly. A novel’s finale often leaves me disappointed. So much thought is given to the first two-thirds, or more, of a novel and then…poof! is as if the author was too exhausted with all other efforts to attend properly to his or her ending. I was not disappointed with Evelina, such was the strength of Burney’s emotionally charged drama. Unquestionably brilliant!

  • Mr. Villars of Evelina: "Never can I consent to have this dear and timid girl brought forward to the notice of the world by such a method; a method which will subject her to all the impertinence of curiosity, the sneers of conjecture, and the stings of ridicule."
  • "But really, I think there ought to be a book of the laws and customs, a-la-mode, presented to all young people upon their first introduction into public company."
  • "But alas, my dear child, we are the slaves of custom, the dupes of prejudice, and dare not stem the torrent of the opposing world, even though our judgments condemn our compliance! However, since the die is cast, we must endeavor to make the best of it.
  • "Generosity without delicacy, like wit without judgment, generally gives as much pain as pleasure."
  • Lord Orville to Sir Clement, regarding Evelina: "She is not, indeed, like most modern young ladies, to be known in half an hour; her modest worth, and fearful excellence, require both time and encouragement to show themselves. She does not, beautiful as she is, seize the soul by surprise, but, with more dangerous fascination, she steals it almost imperceptibly."

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