From the first entry in the diary of a sixteen-year-old girl to the last letter written by an old lady seventy-one years later, Fanny Burney’s record of her experiences covers an enthralling range of personalities and events. As a daughter in the talented household of Dr. Charles Burney, the first music historian, a literary young woman in Dr. Johnson’s London, a lady-in-waiting at the court of King George III, the wife of a French exile after the Revolution, a resident in Paris during the Empire, and finally a lonely widow in Jane Austen’s Bath, Fanny Burney d’Arblay was a perceptive and witty observer behind the scenes that have become history. Her remarkable balance of passionate involvement and ironic detachment achieved a unique synthesis of autobiography and social history.
The diary begins with a young girl’s self-dramatization in its statement of purpose: “To have some account of my thoughts, manners, acquaintance and actions, when the hour arrives in which time is more nimble than memory, is the reason which induces me to keep a Journal. A Journal in which I must confess my every thought, must open my whole heart!” With innate literary discrimination, she realized that it would be more effective if addressed to an imaginary intimate; but the only confidante to whom she could reveal all her secrets was “Nobody.”To Nobody, then, will I write my Journal! since to Nobody can I be wholly unreserved—to Nobody can I reveal every...
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