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In The Diary and Letters of Mme D’Arblay, Frances “Fanny” Burney talks about her “beloved” father, Charles, a well-respected and learned man, a musician and historian. She is overcome at his praise for “Evelina,” her first novel, written anonymously at first and without his approval. His admiration upon reading it means more to her than “all the world put together.” (Chesington, June 18)
Burney was an unlikely authoress, having only learned her “letters” at age 8. Although dearly loved by her father and perhaps even been over-protected, her genius becomes apparent quite late. Her father sends her sisters to Paris but not Frances as he worries that her disposition is such that she may be overly affected by the Protestant element. Samuel Crisp, a family friend and local clergyman is also a father-figure for Burney She calls Crisp "Daddy Crisp." Her father and Crisp dissuade her from publishing some of her comedies or plays due to some of her works being apparently inappropriate for a lady. Despite this influence, she is well-received and successful.
Charles Burney has many visitors to the house when his children are growing up but this does not prevent Frances' shyness and she is far more reticent than her siblings, due to her father's desire to protect her, perhaps due to her short-sightedness and the fact that she "went unnoticed in the nursery;" in other words, she does not stand out. Burney's diaries will reveal many of the details of acquaintances and colleagues of her father.
His house is full of books and Fanny will effectively teach herself, inspired by her mother and sister and later, assisted by Daddy Crisp, with full access to her father's ample supply of books. Her father's own capacity to teach her is limited and he actually leaves her behind and takes her sisters to Paris for an education. At the death of her mother, Fanny is almost inconsolable and Charles Burney himself is distraught and finds solace in writing his own poetry and in the company of his colleagues. His second marriage is a disappointment to his children and Burney does not waste any illusion of romance in her descriptions.
Her first writing attempts are promptly burned when she is fifteen because of her concerns that the work is inferior and that she will irk her family, particularly her father. It is at her father's insistence that Fanny limits her own literary exposure at first and, having published her first book anonymously, without his permission, she never actively pursues her play writing career, other than once, during her lifetime. The tone of her diaries draws the reader in, convincing the reader of everything she says. Her devotion to her father is unmistakable if not conflicted and the impact he had on her life and her reputation is unmistakable.
In Westminster Abbey, a memorial panel verifies what Burney feels. She calls him "the pride of his family" and recalls that he has " a conscience without reproach."
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