Fanny Burney Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207065-Burney.jpg Fanny Burney Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Frances (Fanny) Burney was the daughter of the musician and musicologist Charles Burney. Her mother died when she was ten years old (she had little rapport with her stepmother), at which time she began to write. She was persuaded to burn her youthful effusions, but she published her first novel, anonymously, in 1778: Evelina: Or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World. This picture of contemporary society was an immediate success. The narrative of the advancement of a charming heroine of obscure birth and humble surroundings to a position of social prominence obtained for the author the friendship and admiration of Dr. Samuel Johnson and a place in the intellectual life of London. Her second novel, Cecilia: Or, Memoirs of an Heiress was salvaged from the material of a rejected drama, The Witlings. It enjoyed less success, but these first two works helped establish a new genre, the novel of manners. In 1786, Burney accepted the position of lady-in-waiting to the queen, but the honor proved distasteful to her and she retired from the court in 1791. In 1793, she married Alexandre D’Arblay, a refugee from France; a son, Alexandre, was born in the following year. After D’Arblay reawakened his wife’s interest in writing, Burney produced Brief Reflections Relative to the Emigrant French Clergy, a politicosocial pamphlet; Edwy and Elgiva, a blank verse tragedy that failed after one performance; the dull but...

(The entire section is 431 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Frances Burney, the third of six children of Charles Burney and Esther Sleepe Burney, was born on June 13, 1752, at King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where her father served as church organist while recuperating from consumption. In 1760, his health completely restored, Burney moved his family to London, where he resumed his professional involvements in teaching, composition, and music history. After the death of their mother on September 28, 1761, two of the children (Esther and Susannah) were sent to school in Paris, while Frances (known as Fanny) remained at home. Apparently, Dr. Burney feared that his middle daughter’s devotion to her grandmother (then living in France) would bring about the child’s conversion to Catholicism. He seemed prepared to change that point of view and send Fanny to join her sisters when, in 1766, he married Mrs. Stephen Allen. The fourteen-year-old girl thus remained at home in London, left to her own educational aims and directions, since her father had no time to supervise her learning. She had, at about age ten, begun to write drama, poetry, and fiction; on her fifteenth birthday, she supposedly burned her manuscripts because she felt guilty about wasting her time with such trifles.

Still, Burney could not purge her imagination, and the story of Evelina and her adventures did not die in the flames of her fireplace. Her brother Charles offered the first two volumes of Evelina to James Dodsley, who declined to consider an anonymous work for publication; Thomas Lowndes, however, asked to see the completed manuscript. After finishing Evelina and then securing her father’s permission, Burney gave the work to the London publisher, who issued it in January, 1778, and paid the writer thirty pounds and ten bound copies. Its success and popularity owed some debt to Dr. Burney, who passed the novel on to Mrs. Thrale, a prominent figure in London’s literary society. From there, it made its way to the select seat of London’s intellectual empire, presided over by Dr. Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and Edmund Burke. Shortly afterward, Fanny Burney met Mrs. Thrale, who took the new novelist into her...

(The entire section is 875 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Fanny Burney Published by Gale Cengage

Fanny Burney was born on June 13, 1752, in King’s Lyn, Norfolk, England. She was the daughter of Esther Sleepe and Charles Burney, who held...

(The entire section is 585 words.)