cover image: Evelina / by Fanny Burney / illustrated by / Hugh Thomson / 1903

Frances (Fanny) Burney bridged the gap between the mid-18th-century novelists—Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith and so on—and Jane Austen. Who, in turn, bridged the gap between Fanny Burney and the whole torrent of mid-19th-century novelists. The Intro­duction by Austin Dobson tells the whole story of how Evelina, the author’s first novel, came into being.

In spite of her long life and early success, Fanny Burney (1752–1840) only wrote a handful of novels. Evelina and Cecilia (1778 and 1782) were followed after a long gap by Camilla in 1796, and finally The Wanderer in 1814. In between came eight plays and an assortment of journals and letters—both her own and those of her father, musicologist Charles Burney, which she edited after his death. In 1793 she married French emigré Alexandre d’Arblay; in 1810 she survived a mast­ectomy. (Years ago, I read her first-person account of the procedure. I do not propose to read it ever again.)

Preliminary Material (this page):
Introduction by Austin Dobson
Contents
List of Illustrations
Dedication
To the Authors of Reviews
Preface

Volume I (Letters I–XXXI)

Volume II (Letters XXXII–LXI)

Volume III (Letters LXII–LXXXIV)

Publisher’s Advertising (this page)

As late as the turn of the (twentieth) century, there was a flurry of illustrated editions of Evelina, featuring some fairly well-known artists. Since then, the book has pretty well gone out of fashion. But there’s really nothing wrong with it, setting aside the trifling objection that its heroine is completely and utterly devoid of personality. And Fanny Burney was hardly the only writer to be guilty of that transgression.

Illustrations

Hugh Thomson signature The 1903 Macmillan edition used as the basis for this ebook is loaded with full-page drawings by the ever-charming Hugh Thomson (1860–1920). The cover image at the top of the page is also from this edition.

I have added illustrations from two other editions of similar vintage:

William Cooke signature From 1893 comes the two-volume Dent edition (Volume I, Volume II), illustrated by William Cubitt Cooke (1866–1951). Watch out! His long lifespan means that his pictures are still under copyright in Life + 70 (or more) countries. Unlike the other two, Cooke’s illustrations are grayscale paintings. Depending on your device, captions may also appear in a different font.

Arthur Rackham signatureIn between came the 1898 Newnes edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1867–1939), relatively early in his career. Don’t expect the gorgeous paintings of later decades; here we have simple line drawings.

Each edition had its own frontispiece. (The two-volume Dent edition had, as might be expected, two.) I’ve distributed them among the three volumes: Macmillan with Volume I; Dent (“Portrait of Miss Burney”) with Volume II; Newnes with Volume III. The second Dent frontispiece went near the text it illustrates.

“Evelina”

Fanny Burney did not invent the name “Evelina”; she only popularized it, as Richardson had done with “Pamela” a generation earlier. There is an attested older English name Aveline, related to the family name Evelyn.

Today “Evelina” rhymes with “Christina”. In 1778—or, for that matter, in 1863 when the song “Sweet Evelina” was popular in America—it would have rhymed with “Carolina”. But wait; it gets worse. Though the book never says so outright, Our Heroine seems to have been named in memory of her mother, whose maiden name was Caroline Evelyn. Considering the English pronunciation of “Evelyn” (and similarly “Everest”), it is all too possible that the first syllable was pronounced “Eve”.

And speaking of names . . . For reasons best known to herself, the author called one character “Belmont” while another, wholly unrelated character is “Beau­mont”. Fortunately they never appear in the same scene.

The place Evelina calls “Marybone Gardens” is elsewhere generally known as “Marylebone”. She is similarly unsure whether Bristol’s spa is Hotwell, singular, or Hotwells, plural.

Linguistic quirk: Anomalously for its time, the word “discover” always has its modern sense of “find” rather than its older sense of “reveal”.

The recurring “In Continuation” in the letter headings doesn’t necessarily mean it is a very, very long letter. It is just as likely to mean that two consecutive letters are written to the same person.

Formalities

This ebook is based on the single-volume 1903 Macmillan edition illustrated by Hugh Thomson, with additional illustrations as described above. I have divided it into three parts to agree with the original three-volume publication. I have also changed the printed book’s ‘single quotes’ back to “double quotes”. (I say “changed back” because single quotes or ‘inverted commas’ were not yet in use in Fanny Burney’s time.)

Page numbers in [brackets] indicate full-page illustrations that have been moved to the nearest paragraph break.

Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each Letter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space. “Corrected from 1810 edition” means that I had doubts, so I checked the Macmillan reading against the earliest edition I could find (Volume I, Volume II).

EVELINA

publisher’s device: McM & Co.

title page (text below)

Text of Title Page

EVELINA

OR
THE HISTORY OF A YOUNG LADY’S
ENTRANCE INTO THE WORLD
BY
FANNY BURNEY

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
AUSTIN DOBSON
AND
ILLUSTRATIONS BY
HUGH THOMSON

LONDON
MACMILLAN & CO LIMITED

NEW YORK THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

vii

maidservant holding a door open for young lady

INTRODUCTION

EVELINA; or, A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.1—was first published at the end of January, 1778, by Thomas Lowndes of 77 Fleet Street, who, fourteen years earlier, had issued another popular and anonymous work, Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto. Evelina was certainly fortunate in the moment of its birth. At the date of its appearance, the literary horizon was as bare of rivals as it had been when, in November, 1740, Richardson burst upon a public exhausted by French romances with his real-life story of a virtuous servant-girl. viii Between Pamela and Evelina an entire generation of novelists had arisen and disappeared,—like the stars of Béranger. Following the printer of Salisbury Court had come Fielding and Smollett and Sterne and Goldsmith, extending, developing, and completing, in its full compass, the new form of fiction. But in 1778 all these were dead, and their mantles had fallen upon no worthy successors, unless, indeed, we are to account that amiable and tearful simulacrum of Sterne, Henry Mackenzie, a legitimate descendant of the inventor of Mr. Shandy and “my uncle Toby.” It is true that with the story which was afterwards to be known as The Old English Baron, Miss Clara Reeve was, very tardily, continuing in a modified form the Gothic Romance of Walpole; but its full expansion, under Mrs. Radcliffe, was still to come. When Evelina “entered the world,” Maria Edgeworth was a school-girl of eleven, learning embroidery at Mrs. Lattifière’s at Derby; and Jane Austen was playing in the nursery at Steventon. Meanwhile the market was filled with the fatuous and dreary productions which represented the degradation of the great masters,—flimsy tales and histories in which, without any of the qualities of their models, the writers strove to copy Fielding and Smollett; or, as “corresponding Misses,”

Caught in a delicate soft silken net

By some lewd earl, or rake-hell baronet,

“filled their reams” with far-off imitations of Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison. What was present in the majority of these worshipful performances, was a certain jaded dexterity in the manipulation of commonplaces,—a certain easily-reached level of mawkish mediocrity: what they lacked was genius, humour, insight into character, constructive ability of every kind. The verdict of Cowper in the entire passage from the Progress of Error, of which a couplet has been quoted, was confirmed seven years later by Canning in No. 26 of the Microcosm. The fiction of the day, he epigrammatically declared, was composed exclusively of “stories without invention, anecdotes without novelty, observations without aptness, ix and reflections without morality.” Its effect had been to bring novel-writing into undeserved contempt—especially for women; and to banish it almost entirely to the baleful shadow of those “evergreen trees of diabolical knowledge”—the circulating libraries. Into this environment and condition of things Evelina was born.

Strangely enough, its author, Frances or Fanny Burney, had, at first, no higher ambition than to cater for the above-named institutions. “I thought,” she told a friend, “Evelina’s only admirers would be school-girls, and destined her to no nobler inhabitation than a circulating library.” But she had builded better than she knew. A reserved, delicate, emotional young woman of five-and-twenty, long backward both mentally and physically, and almost entirely self-educated, she had been wont, from a very early age, to amuse herself by composing, without thought of publication, an endless series of sketches, tales, and dramatic scenes, all of which, prepared in the strictest secrecy, were confided only to the discreet ears of her admiring sisters. Her father, an energetic musician and music-master, left her much to herself, save when he required her services as an amanuensis; and no small amount of manuscript had been gradually accumulated when her stepmother, whose literary leanings stopped short at composition, discovered that a great deal of “scribbling” was going on in the establishment, much to the prejudice of the stitching and sewing which then constituted the chief occupation of middle-class households. Thereupon came a friendly but firm monition to Fanny and her sister Susan not to waste time in idle crude inventions. As a consequence, the young author, as docile as she was diffident, made dutiful bonfire of her filed-up papers in the paved play-court of her father’s house at Poland Street; and, with dry eyes, proceeded to devote herself without remission to “flourishing upon catgut” and the contriving of fresh costumes in lilac tabby or silver-light lutestring.

Not even with fire, however, is nature expelled: and the proscribed habit of the pen found speedy relief in diary-keeping, x very much to the profit and development of a native sense of the ridiculous, and a perceptive faculty preternaturally acute. The result of all this was that the pages of Fanny’s journal soon passed from jejune records of sentiment and reflection to long reports of interesting conversations, and detailed portraits of the personages, notable or otherwise, who frequented her father’s house. Given but some superficial difference of disposition or demeanour,—some well-marked twist or ply of character,—and it forthwith found a place in this young lady’s gallery of oddities. Presently the practice of what she calls “dramatising” her chronicle, revived the old desire to embody her impressions in a fitting atmosphere of fiction. Among the stories she had burned had been a so-called History of Caroline Evelyn,—a girlish effort probably very much upon the model of the works which issued from Mr. Bell’s library in the Strand, subject of course to the reservation that its writer was a refined young lady of punctilious and even prudish disposition. It contained the regulation wicked baronet; there was also in it a secret marriage and a burnt marriage certificate. But there was, besides,—and this must have distinguished it from the “half-bound volumes, with marble covers,” so dear to Lydia Languish and my Lady Slattern Lounger,—a real conflict of character. Caroline Evelyn’s mother had been a barmaid who had married a gentleman; and the result of this “fair conjunction” (upon which “Heaven did not smile”) was to leave Caroline Evelyn’s daughter, who had been brought up as a lady, with a good many undesirable relatives on the maternal side. This, the only novelty in what was, no doubt, an extremely juvenile and immature production, continued to linger in the author’s mind. She found herself unable to desist from speculating on the singular situation in which the child of Caroline Evelyn would find herself between the elegant connections of her mother and the vulgar ones of her grandmother. As time went on, the story grew and expanded in her mind; and in spite of the discredit attaching to feminine authorship, she felt constrained to write it down.

xi

When she actually began her necessarily furtive and intermittent task, is difficult to say. But it is probable that it progressed by fits and starts, making its greatest advance when her father did not require her secretarial services; or when, as happened not unfrequently, she went to stay with one of his friends—Mr. Samuel Crisp—at a rambling old country house called Chessington Hall, in a secluded part of Surrey. When it was written in London, it was generally written in what was known to the Burney household as Sir Isaac Newton’s Observatory, a tiny rough-glazed turret with a leaden roof, which surmounted No. 1 St. Martin’s Street, where Fanny’s father then lived,—a house which many years before had been Newton’s residence.2 But wherever it was composed, it was composed with the greatest secrecy. No one save the writer’s sisters seems to have had the slightest inkling that the shy, retiring, short-sighted little person, whose gravity in her childhood had gained her the nickname of the “old lady,” was silently constructing a story which enthusiasts were to liken to the works of Richardson and Fielding. For this extreme reticence there were several reasons. Besides doubt of herself, and the stigma of novel-spinning, there was the warning of her stepmother. But what probably she feared most was the criticism of her father, himself an eager student of literature, and a practised writer of books.

Towards 1776 Miss Burney’s task had taken sufficient shape to make its author think vaguely of type. Her hand-writing at this date, from long transcribing for her father’s History of Music and other works, had, she fancied, grown familiar to the printers; and she was apprehensive that it might be detected at press—a terrible thought in such a deed of darkness as she designed. She consequently began to transcribe as much as xii she had completed “in a feigned hand.” Most of this laborious repetition was accomplished in the night-watches; and before it was finished, she had become so tired of her task that she grew anxious to know whether it was in the least likely that she would be able to obtain a publisher. She accordingly wrote an unsigned letter to Robert Dodsley of Pall Mall, offering him what she had already prepared; and undertaking to complete the whole in due course. Dodsley replied curtly that he could not consider an anonymous production. After consulting with her sisters, she resolved to try a less prominent bookseller, and fixed upon Thomas Lowndes of Fleet Street, who, as already stated, had issued Walpole’s Gothic Romance. Mr. Lowndes’s reply was to be addressed to an imaginary “Mr. Grafton,” at the Orange Coffee House in the Haymarket, which, of course, was close to St. Martin’s Street. It proved more encouraging than that of Dodsley. He asked to see the manuscript; and it was accordingly conveyed to him by night, with all fitting mystery, by Miss Burney’s younger brother. But though Mr. Lowndes allowed the ability shewn in the specimen submitted, he was naturally not prepared to go to press with an uncompleted effort. He contented himself with praising the cleverness of the sample, suggested certain modifications, and added that if a third volume were prepared “replete with Modern Characters,” he should be glad to look into the matter again.

This disappointment, which might have been anticipated, caused a momentary check in the progress of affairs. But, by and by, the writer set to work upon the concluding volume, which was duly completed and dispatched to the publisher, who immediately tendered for it the munificent sum of twenty pounds,—a sum the delighted author received rapturously “with boundless surprise at its magnificence.”3 Meanwhile, in much trepidation, she confessed to her father what she had done. He apparently, if surprised, was not greatly impressed by the xiii intelligence,—a circumstance in which he did not differ materially from other parents with children of unrevealed accomplishment. He laughed a little; professed no inconvenient curiosity; and left his daughter to her own devices, not even inquiring the name of her book. Lowndes proceeded to print an edition of five hundred copies,4—the usual number for a novel,—and at the end of January, 1778, the newspapers announced that Evelina was on sale, in three volumes, 12mo, the price being 7s. 6d. sewed, and 9s. bound. Miss Burney seems to have received no proofs; but shortly before publication, had been asked to supply a List of Errata for a printed copy, which was sent to her in sheets. Her next intelligence of her work was derived from hearing her stepmother read out the advertisement, probably from the St. James’s Chronicle, at the breakfast table. But as the good lady was absolutely without previous information or suspicion upon the subject, she made no remark, nor did her daughters.

For some time Fanny Burney heard no more of Miss Anville and her history. In February the London Review, then managed by the writer whom Macaulay styles the “envious Kenrick,” gave it a good notice of three lines; and in March the Monthly Review, of which the proprietor and editor was Goldsmith’s old master Mr. Ralph Griffiths, “at the Sign of the Dunciad,” devoted a brief but entirely favourable paragraph to its merits. Then, making inquiry at Bell’s Library, the Burney sisters found that Evelina was in circulation, and that—to use the author’s own words—“every butcher and baker, cobbler and tinker, throughout the three kingdoms, might now see it for the small tribute of threepence.” After this, in May, having helped to nurse her father through a fever, and having herself suffered from inflammation of the lungs, Fanny went off to Chessington xiv Hall to recruit. Whether she had seen the above-mentioned reviews is not clear, though she had probably heard of the second. But the book was manifestly making slow way; and while in Surrey, she eventually, in response to repeated requests, received an elegantly bound copy, which was subsequently followed by others. Then, at last, her father’s attention was somehow drawn to Evelina; and Fanny’s sister Susan writes off exclamatory accounts of his views and opinions, his emotion over the speedily discovered Dedication to himself, and his attitude generally. He thought the Preface to the Reviewers “vastly strong and well written.” As he progressed, his admiration increased; and we have the comments of the ladies to whom he was reading the book. Finally he finishes it in a burst of enthusiasm. He does not think improvement possible; delights in Mr. Villars and Lord Orville; “blubbers” over Sir John Belmont; and declares that, Fielding excepted, Evelina is the best novel in the language, new in style, and “for a young woman quite wonderful!” After this Mrs. Thrale of Streatham, with whom Dr. Johnson is staying, and to whose daughter Queenie Dr. Burney gives lessons, gets hold of it upon the recommendation of Mrs. Cholmondeley, Peg Woffington’s clever sister, who is trumpeting it everywhere. Then Mrs. Thrale recommends and lends it to—of all persons—the unsuspecting Mrs. Burney, and long letters go off to Fanny describing how her honoured parents are studying Evelina in bed in the morning. Finally Dr. Burney obtains his daughter’s leave to tell Mrs. Thrale, which involves telling Mrs. Burney. Forthwith arrives a highly complimentary letter from Mrs. Thrale, conveying, in addition to her own opinion of Evelina’s “probability of story, elegance of sentiment, and general power over the mind,” the astounding intelligence that Dr. Johnson is not only reading the book, but is eager for the denoûment, and, in fact, is hard at work on volume three. Moreover, that he has positively been understood to say that there are passages in Evelina which might do honour to his old friend Richardson. When this last information reaches the author at Chessington, xv it almost “crazes her with agreeable surprise,” producing “such a flight of spirits” that she then and there, to the no small amazement and diversion of Mr. Crisp, “without any preparation, music, or explanation,” dances a jubilant jig on the lawn.5

From this point the literary success of Evelina was assured. How Reynolds left his painting to read it, declared he would give fifty pounds to know who wrote it, and finally sat up all night to finish it; how Burke did the same—as far as sitting up was concerned; how it was read by Gibbon in one day; how Johnson quoted it on all occasions, and protested that it rivalled not only Richardson but Fielding; how Mrs. Thrale, in a transport of enthusiasm, annexed and exhibited the author,—has all been told before. But what is not so well known is, that a great literary coup may co-exist with a very gradual commercial success. In spite of the popularity of Evelina during the latter half of 1778, it does not appear that a second edition was reached until the following year, when the sale grew more rapid. In May, 1779, Miss Burney speaks of a fourth edition as in preparation, which, of course, supposes the expected exhaustion of a third edition before that date. After the third edition, Mr. Lowndes paid the author ten pounds, making a total of thirty pounds, and apparently thought himself exceptionally liberal. The price, of course, was miserable enough; but the absence of definite information as to the methods of the market makes it difficult to speak precisely on the subject of the sales. It seems, however, that the first three editions amounted in all to no more than from two thousand to two thousand three hundred copies, which, in these days, would scarcely be regarded as an extraordinary circulation for a popular novel. And in 1778 Evelina was the most popular novel which had appeared for a considerable time, having probably a larger number of educated readers than Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield.

To-day Miss Burney’s book is more than a century old, and any detailed examination of it would be superfluous,—particularly xvi in the present case, where it makes its re-appearance with all the prestige of a specially sympathetic pictorial interpreter. But it may, for a moment, be interesting to revive some of the criticisms of contemporary readers, who, after all, must be regarded as the most competent judges of a novel of manners. As far as one can gather, it was the characters of Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan, and the picture of the Branghton group (including the Holborn beau, Mr. Smith), which attracted most attention with the readers of 1778. We hear of Mrs. Cholmondeley and others interlarding their talk with Duval Ma Fois and superlatives; and we hear of Johnson quoting “Only think, Polly! Miss has danced with a Lord!” Mr. Villars and Lord Orville had also their adherents; but we must assume them to have been chiefly favourites with the old votaries of the Richardson school. As to Captain Mirvan’s fidelity to life, there was evidently considerable difference of opinion. The Monthly Review, in fact, declared that the manners of this particular “son of Neptune” were “rather those of a rough uneducated country squire, than those of a genuine sea captain”; and this was naturally the view of the navy gentlemen themselves. Captain Cotton, Mrs. Thrale’s cousin, good-humouredly told Miss Burney at Bath that all his colleagues resented her portrait as that of a typical sea officer, and Admiral Byron (of the Narrative), though he admired the book, “was not half pleased with the Captain’s being such a brute.” Even Dr. Burney admitted that his behaviour to Lovel went too far. Nevertheless the author, who had a brother in the service, was not convinced; and, in her journal, testifies impenitently to the absolute veracity of the portrait. All the captains she knew, she declares, were given “to roasting beaux, and detesting old women.” As to the accuracy of Evelina’s social sketches, which has sometimes been questioned, we have the testimony of Mrs. Thrale, given before she had made the author’s acquaintance. “There’s a great deal of human life in this book, and of the manners of the present time,” she said; and she further affirmed that it was written “by somebody who knew the top xvii and the bottom, the highest and lowest of mankind.” Upon a question of this sort, at all events, Mrs. Thrale must be held to be an unimpeachable authority.

As regards the excellence of the accounts of public places, we have Dr. Burney’s own verdict, and he, again, as a musician and professional man, was speaking of what he knew thoroughly. They were “very animated and natural,” he said, “and not common.” This is undoubtedly true; and Miss Burney reproduces, we may be sure, pretty much the talk that went on at Marylebone Gardens and the Pantheon,—at Vauxhall and Ranelagh. Yet it is observable that she gives very little actual description of these resorts,—less, indeed, than we find in Fielding and Smollett. Nay, sometimes, she does not give us the details which are needful. In that description of Mr. Smith at Vauxhall in chapter xlvi., which Johnson so much enjoyed, we have no hint of the painting at which the company were looking, although a reference to any old Vauxhall guide shows at once that it must have been Hayman’s allegorical representation of Admiral Hawke’s defeat of the French at Quiberon Bay. It may of course be objected that this is a refinement of narrative art, which does not concern itself with non-essentials, and that it was no more necessary for Miss Burney to describe the new room at Vauxhall or the little theatre in the Haymarket, than it would be for a contemporary Trollope to give an account of Rotten Row or Hurlingham, supposing his characters happened to be in those neighbourhoods. But the fact remains, that Miss Burney, who copies people and their talk so vividly, does not describe places or buildings as much as many of the writers of her time; and that consequently, there is a certain lack of topographical background in her story. We have seen this peculiarity attributed, in respect to her Diary, to the short sight from which she suffered, and it is just possible that defective vision may have had something to do with the matter.

Costume and local colouring enter so largely into the novel of manners, that some notice of its contemporary illustrators xviii is generally of interest. From this point of view, Evelina was unfortunate. Stothard’s career had not yet begun; and the earliest designs supplied to Evelina were by John Hamilton Mortimer, by whom they were prepared just before his death in February, 1779. Why this artist—whose gifts, according to the dictionaries, lay chiefly in the presentment of “banditti and monsters”—should have been selected for such a task, is difficult to comprehend, especially as his three frontispieces to Evelina’s three volumes, when engraved by Hall, Walker and Bartolozzi, cost Mr. Lowndes seventy-three pounds, or just forty-three more than he had given for the copyright of the novel. Mortimer’s original drawings are still in existence. The first is allegorical; the others depict the Lovel episode, and Mme. Duval helped out of the ditch by the heroine. But although the designer had been enjoined to “make Evelina as elegant as his mind could conceive,” it must be admitted that, upon this occasion, Mr. Lowndes was not well advised in his venture. In 1780, Miss Burney’s cousin, Edward Francis Burney, prepared three “stained drawings” for the same purpose, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in that year. One of these, a most delicate little picture intended for volume three, and depicting Evelina and her father, we have seen. Edward Burney’s designs, however, do not appear to have been used. In 1787 there was a report that Angelica Kauffmann had been commissioned by Catherine II. of Russia to execute a series of compositions from Evelina. This piece of information the author declined to credit,—not without reason. For although “Miss Angel” certainly did some pictures for the famous Hermitage on the Neva, we have found no trace of any scenes from Fanny Burney’s novel.

Austin Dobson.

Ealing, October, 1903.

1 The sub-title was subsequently altered to The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.

2 No. 1 St. Martin’s Street, now No. 35, still exists,—not very far from the building whence this volume is issued. Newton lived in it from 1710 to 1725; the Burneys from 1774 until the Doctor removed to Chelsea Hospital. The observatory—if it ever was the observatory—has long since disappeared.

3 One is reminded of Jane Austen’s “prodigious recompense for that which had cost her nothing,” à propos of the sum she received for Sense and Sensibility. That sum, however, was £150.

4 Miss Burney says eight hundred (Diary and Letters, 1892, iii. 578). But the above is derived from an unpublished letter to Dr. Burney from Lowndes, who should have known the facts, and who, moreover, told Miss Burney’s sister Charlotte that five hundred was the “common number for a novel” (Early Diary of Frances Burney, 1889, ii. 307).

5 She confirmed this forty-eight years later to Sir Walter Scott (Journal, 1891, i. 309).

Notes and Corrections: Introduction

skip to Contents

Richardson burst upon a public exhausted by French romances with his real-life story of a virtuous servant-girl
[For a given definition of real life, anyway. The “French romances” are the ones that had such an unfortunate effect on Arabella, the Female Quixote. It cannot be denied that they are even less realistic than Pamela.]

is eager for the denoûment
[Consulting the nearest French dictionary, I was surprised to learn this is an accepted variant spelling—at least for the second syllable. Whether you spell it -noue- or -noû-, the first “e” really does need an acute accent.]

it was the characters of Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan, and the picture of the Branghton group (including the Holborn beau, Mr. Smith), which attracted most attention with the readers of 1778
[It is seldom a good sign when the secondary characters are the ones who attract attention. (Looking at you, Mr. Dickens.)]

In 1780, Miss Burney’s cousin, Edward Francis Burney, prepared three “stained drawings” for the same purpose, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in that year.
[They were Edward Burney’s first appearance at the Royal Academy; he would exhibit sporadically through 1803. Each is listed unhelpfully in Graves as “Sketch from Evelina”.]

xix

seated man reading while maidservant looks on, with text “CONTENTS”

LETTER PAGE
1. Lady Howard to the Rev. Mr. Villars 1
2. Mr. Villars to Lady Howard 3
3. Lady Howard to the Rev. Mr. Villars 9
4. Mr. Villars to Lady Howard 10
5. Mr. Villars to Lady Howard 12
6. Lady Howard to the Rev. Mr. Villars 13
7. Lady Howard to the Rev. Mr. Villars 14
8. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 15
9. Mr. Villars to Evelina 17
10. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 18
11. Evelina in Continuation 22
xx 12. Evelina in Continuation 29
13. Evelina in Continuation 36
14. Evelina in Continuation 48
15. Mr. Villars to Evelina 56
16. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 59
17. Evelina in Continuation 72
18. Evelina in Continuation 77
19. Evelina in Continuation 80
20. Evelina in Continuation 86
21. Evelina in Continuation 93
22. Evelina in Continuation 116
23. Evelina in Continuation 119
24. Mr. Villars to Evelina 132
25. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 134
26. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 139
27. Lady Howard to the Rev. Mr. Villars 142
28. Mr. Villars to Lady Howard 144
29. Mr. Villars to Evelina 149
30. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 149
31. Lady Howard to Sir John Belmont, Bart. 150
32. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 152
33. Evelina in Continuation 155
34. Evelina in Continuation 173
35. Sir John Belmont to Lady Howard 181
36. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 181
37. Mr. Villars to Evelina 184
38. Mr. Villars to Lady Howard 185
39. Mr. Villars to Evelina 188
40. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 189
41. Evelina to Miss Mirvan 198
42. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 199
43. Evelina in Continuation 208
xxi 44. Evelina in Continuation 214
45. Evelina in Continuation 220
46. Evelina in Continuation 227
47. Evelina in Continuation 246
48. Evelina in Continuation 255
49. Mr. Villars to Evelina 259
50. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 261
51. Evelina in Continuation 271
52. Evelina in Continuation 278
53. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 289
54. Evelina in Continuation 293
55. Evelina in Continuation 302
56. Mr. Villars to Evelina 306
57. Evelina to Miss Mirvan 306
58. Evelina in Continuation 309
59. Evelina in Continuation 314
60. Evelina in Continuation 318
61. Evelina in Continuation 325
62. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 327
63. Evelina in Continuation 333
64. Evelina in Continuation 339
65. Evelina in Continuation 352
66. Evelina in Continuation 356
67. Mr. Villars to Evelina 367
68. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 369
69. Evelina in Continuation 376
70. Evelina in Continuation 378
71. Evelina in Continuation 385
72. Evelina in Continuation 386
73. Mr. Villars to Evelina 401
74. Lady Belmont to Sir John Belmont 402
75. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 405
xxii 76. Evelina in Continuation 413
77. Evelina in Continuation 422
78. Evelina in Continuation 438
79. Evelina in Continuation 445
80. Evelina in Continuation 449
81. Evelina in Continuation 457
82. Evelina in Continuation 460
83. Mr. Villars to Evelina 476
84. Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars 477
xxiii

young lady walking along mirrored wall, with text “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS”

PAGE
I had scarce shut the garden gate Frontispiece
A waiting-girl at a tavern 4
Thus it has happened that the education of the father, daughter, and granddaughter has devolved on me 7
Dressing my hair 20
“Madam—may I presume?” 23
“What have you done with your lovely partner?” 31
At Ranelagh 34
“Is that he?” 40
With an air of gallantry 45
“My God! what shall I do?” 50
“Hark you, Mrs. Frog, you’d best hold your tongue” 53
Introduced by the name of Monsieur Du Bois 58
Their conversation was supported with great vehemence 60
Held a candle to Madame Duval, that he might have a more complete view of her disaster 70
The young ladies began to examine my dress 75
xxiv Madame Duval, accompanied by Monsieur Du Bois 81
Monsieur Du Bois making his defence 84
“Doubtless, Ma’am, everything must be infinitely novel to you” 88
“So we’ve caught you at the glass” 94
Her eyes sparkled with fury 97
Again I stood suspended 110
“For Heaven’s sake, what is the matter?” 113
As if I had addressed myself wholly to him 121
“O you creature!” 127
M. Du Bois put his hand upon his sword 136
“Come here, child” 140
“Pray, ladies, don’t be frightened, for I will walk my horse” 153
Sir Clement caught my hand 162
Madame Duval implored their mercy 166
“Mr. Mirvan, I have brought a petitioner” 175
She endeavoured to adjust her head-dress 178
She called me to account very roughly 186
The Captain took me aside 190
The violence of their mirth 195
In profound and melancholy meditation 203
Most officiously handed me to a great chair 206
“Pray don’t be so coy” 209
M. Du Bois walked by the side of the chair 215
“Well, now, ladies, I think we sit very well” 218
Seated on a window with Mr. Brown 221
We were followed by Mr. Smith, who came to make excuses 226
Mr. Smith ran away with me 229
The Miss Branghtons screamed 232
“O ho, my little runaway, have I found you at last?” 238
“I can’t think where she can be” 241
As fast as ever they could tear her along 243
“Pray, Sir, won’t you sit down yourself” 249
xxv Young Branghton burst into a loud laugh 253
“Madam!—for Heaven’s sake” 257
His behaviour is more unaccountable than ever 262
Mr. Smith sat indolently quiet on his chair 265
“I’ve the greatest mind in the world to box your ears” 267
In vain his daughter pleaded 274
They frequently looked back 280
We were moved on between them 284
Tormenting Mr. Brown 287
A shower of rain made us hasten 295
“Ah, tu me rends la vie!” cried he 304
Raising his eyes in thankfulness towards heaven 308
Everybody I see takes notice of my being altered 313
My good friends tease me about my gravity 316
Planning for the future 320
Much incommoded by three gentlemen 328
Surrounded the chair of Lady Louisa Larpent 345
They pranced about the room, making bows 349
In our way downstairs 354
Lord Merton caught my hand, saying the day was his own 373
The young lady entered the pump-room 380
Followed by a party of young men 389
A copy of verses had been dropped in the pump-room 392
Presented one of them to Lord Orville, another to me 418
Vehemently demanded him to return it 423
I found myself already before him 441
“Miss Anville, don’t you walk with us?” 450
Miss Mirvan and I jumped on our chairs 470
xxvii

TO —— ——

Oh author of my being!—far more dear

To me than light, than nourishment, or rest,

Hygieia’s blessings, Rapture’s burning tear,

Or the life-blood that mantles in my breast!

If in my heart the love of Virtue glows,

’Twas planted there by an unerring rule;

From thy example the pure flame arose,

Thy life, my precept—thy good works, my school.

Could my weak pow’rs thy num’rous virtues trace,

By filial love each fear should be repress’d;

The blush of incapacity I’d chace,

And stand, recorder of thy worth, confess’d:

But since my niggard stars that gift refuse,

Concealment is the only boon I claim;

Obscure be still the unsuccessful Muse,

Who cannot raise, but would not sink, thy fame.

Oh! of my life at once the source and joy!

If e’er thy eyes these feeble lines survey,

Let not their folly their intent destroy;

Accept the tribute—but forget the lay.

xxix

TO THE AUTHORS OF THE MONTHLY AND CRITICAL REVIEWS

Gentlemen,—The liberty which I take in addressing to You the trifling production of a few idle hours, will, doubtless, move your wonder, and, probably, your contempt. I will not, however, with the futility of apologies, intrude upon your time, but briefly acknowledge the motives of my temerity: lest, by a premature exercise of that patience which I hope will befriend me, I should lessen its benevolence, and be accessary to my own condemnation.

Without name, without recommendation, and unknown alike to success and disgrace, to whom can I so properly apply for patronage, as to those who publicly profess themselves Inspectors of all literary performances?

The extensive plan of your critical observations,—which, not confined to works of utility or ingenuity, is equally open to those of frivolous amusement,—and yet worse than frivolous dulness,—encourages me to seek for your protection, since,—perhaps for my sins!—it entitles me to your annotations. To resent, therefore, this offering, however insignificant, would ill become the universality of your undertaking, though not to despise it may, alas! be out of your power.

The language of adulation, and the incense of flattery, though the natural inheritance, and constant resource, from time immemorial, of the Dedicator, to me offer nothing but the wilful regret that I dare not invoke their aid. Sinister views would be imputed to all I could say; since, thus situated, to extol your judgment, would seem the effect of art, and to celebrate your impartiality, be attributed to suspecting it.

As Magistrates of the press, and Censors for the public,—to which you are bound by the sacred ties of integrity to exert xxx the most spirited impartiality, and to which your suffrages should carry the marks of pure, dauntless, irrefragable truth—to appeal for your MERCY, were to solicit your dishonour; and therefore,—though ’tis sweeter than frankincense,—more grateful to the senses than all the odorous perfumes of Arabia,—and though

It droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath,——

I court it not! to your justice alone I am entitled, and by that I must abide. Your engagements are not to the supplicating author, but to the candid public, which will not fail to crave

The penalty and forfeit of your bond.

No hackneyed writer, inured to abuse, and callous to criticism, here braves your severity;—neither does a half-starved garretteer,

Oblig’d by hunger—and request of friends,—

implore your lenity: your examination will be alike unbiassed by partiality and prejudice:—no refractory murmuring will follow your censure, no private interest be gratified by your praise.

Let not the anxious solicitude with which I recommend myself to your notice, expose me to your derision. Remember, Gentlemen, you were all young writers once, and the most experienced veteran of your corps, may, by recollecting his first publication, renovate his first terrors, and learn to allow for mine. For, though Courage is one of the noblest virtues of this nether sphere, and, though scarcely more requisite in the field of battle, to guard the fighting hero from disgrace, than in the private commerce of the world, to ward off that littleness of soul, which leads, by steps imperceptible, to all the base train of the inferior passions, and by which the too timid mind is betrayed into a servility derogatory to the dignity of human nature; yet is it a virtue of no necessity in a situation such as mine; a situation which removes, even from cowardice itself, the sting of ignominy;—for surely that courage may easily be dispensed with, which would rather excite disgust than admiration! Indeed, it is the peculiar privilege of an author, to rob terror of contempt, and pusillanimity of reproach.

xxxi

Here let me rest,—and snatch myself, while I yet am able, from the fascination of Egotism,—a monster who has more votaries than ever did homage to the most popular deity of antiquity; and whose singular quality is, that while he excites a blind and involuntary adoration in almost every individual, his influence is universally disallowed, his power universally contemned, and his worship, even by his followers, never mentioned but with abhorrence.

In addressing you jointly, I mean but to mark the generous sentiments by which liberal criticism, to the utter annihilation of envy, jealousy, and all selfish views, ought to be distinguished.—I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant, * * *   * * * *

Notes and Corrections: To the Authors

lest, by a premature exercise of that patience
text has left
[Since this edition dates from 1903, this is obviously not an f-for-ſ typo—as common in the long-s era as “n” for ”u”. Call it an editorial misreading; other editions of similar vintage get it right.]

xxxiii

decorative text “PREFACE”

In the republic of letters, there is no member of such inferior rank, or who is so much disdained by his brethren of the quill, as the humble Novelist: nor is his fate less hard in the world at large, since, among the whole class of writers, perhaps not one can be named of which the votaries are more numerous but less respectable.

Yet, while in the annals of those few of our predecessors, to whom this species of writing is indebted for being saved from contempt, and rescued from depravity, we can trace such names as Rousseau, Johnson,1 Marivaux, Fielding, Richardson, and Smollet, no man need blush at starting from the same post, though many, nay, most men, may sigh at finding themselves distanced.

The following letters are presented to the public—for such, by novel writers, novel readers will be called,—with a very singular mixture of timidity and confidence, resulting from the peculiar situation of the editor; who, though trembling for their success from a consciousness of their imperfections, yet fears not being involved in their disgrace, while happily wrapped up in a mantle of impenetrable obscurity.

To draw characters from nature, though not from life, and to mark the manners of the times, is the attempted plan of the following letters. For this purpose, a young female, educated xxxiv in the most secluded retirement, makes, at the age of seventeen, her first appearance upon the great and busy stage of life; with a virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart, her ignorance of the forms, and inexperience in the manners of the world, occasion all the little incidents which these volumes record, and which form the natural progression of the life of a young woman of obscure birth, but conspicuous beauty, for the first six months after her Entrance into the world.

Perhaps were it possible to effect the total extirpation of novels, our young ladies in general, and boarding-school damsels in particular, might profit from their annihilation: but since the distemper they have spread seems incurable, since their contagion bids defiance to the medicine of advice or reprehension, and since they are found to baffle all the mental art of physic, save what is prescribed by the slow regimen of Time, and bitter diet of Experience, surely all attempts to contribute to the number of those which may be read, if not with advantage, at least without injury, ought rather to be encouraged than contemned.

Let me, therefore, prepare for disappointment those who, in the perusal of these sheets, entertain the gentle expectation of being transported to the fantastic regions of Romance, where Fiction is coloured by all the gay tints of luxurious Imagination, where reason is an outcast, and where the sublimity of the Marvellous rejects all aid from sober Probability. The heroine of these memoirs, young, artless, and inexperienced, is

No faultless Monster, that the world ne’er saw,

but the offspring of Nature, and of Nature in her simplest attire.

In all the Arts, the value of copies can only be proportioned to the scarceness of originals: among sculptors and painters, a fine statue, or a beautiful picture, of some great master, may deservedly employ the imitative talents of younger and inferior artists, that their appropriation to one spot may not wholly prevent the more general expansion of their excellence; but, among authors, the reverse is the case, since the noblest productions of literature are almost equally attainable with the meanest. In books, therefore, imitation cannot be shunned too sedulously; xxxv for the very perfection of a model which is frequently seen, serves but more forcibly to mark the inferiority of a copy.

To avoid what is common, without adopting what is unnatural, must limit the ambition of the vulgar herd of authors: however zealous, therefore, my veneration of the great writers I have mentioned, however I may feel myself enlightened by the knowledge of Johnson, charmed with the eloquence of Rousseau, softened by the pathetic powers of Richardson, and exhilarated by the wit of Fielding, and humour of Smollet; I yet presume not to attempt pursuing the same ground which they have tracked; whence, though they may have cleared the weeds, they have also culled the flowers, and though they have rendered the path plain, they have left it barren.

The candour of my readers I have not the impertinence to doubt, and to their indulgence I am sensible I have no claim: I have, therefore, only to entreat, that my own words may not pronounce my condemnation, and that what I have here ventured to say in regard to imitation, may be understood, as it is meant, in a general sense, and not be imputed to an opinion of my own originality, which I have not the vanity, the folly, or the blindness, to entertain.

Whatever may be the fate of these letters, the editor is satisfied they will meet with justice; and commits them to the press, though hopeless of fame, yet not regardless of censure.

1 However superior the capacities in which these great writers deserve to be considered, they must pardon me that, for the dignity of my subject, I here rank the authors of Rasselas and Eloïse as Novelists.

Notes and Corrections: Preface

Rousseau, Johnson, Marivaux, Fielding, Richardson, and Smollet
spelling “Smollet” unchanged
[She will spell it this way consistently.]

The heroine of these memoirs, young, artless, and inexperienced, is
“s” in “is” missing or invisible

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Notes and Corrections: Publisher’s Advertising

The advertising section was originally printed at the end of the (single) volume. At least three of the listed titles have made their way onto this site—although not necessarily in the editions presented here.

With Preface by Anne Thackeray Ritchie
[Daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray.]

CASTLE RACKRENT AND THE ABSENTEE.
[These are two separate titles, often published together.]

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.