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The book represents the personal diary of Frances Burney, married D'Arblay, covering the period from 1779 to 1840. Spanning from her early adolescence, it gives away some intimate details, Fanny's reactions on the publication of her novels, and also how she came to the Queen's notice and hence into her service. The diary is a priceless resource for historians offering some insights into the life in royal service, and providing an eye-witness account of George III as seen from Fanny's position as second keeper of the robes to Queen Charlotte. Frances Burney (1752-1840) was an English satirical novelist, diarist and playwright. She is best known for her novels Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla and The Wanderer. Burney's novels explore the lives of English aristocrats, and satirize their social pretensions and personal foibles, with an eye to larger questions such as the politics of female identity. She has gained critical respect in her own right, but she also foreshadowed such novelists of manners with a satirical bent as Jane Austen and Thackeray.
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The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay
Fanny Burney (by Austin Dobson)
Table of Contents
(1778) Miss Burney Publishes Her First Novel and Finds Herself Famous
(1779) The Author of “Evelina” in Society: She Visits Brighton and Tunbridge Wells
(1780–1781) A Season at Bath: Mr. Thrale’s Death
(1781–2) Miss Burney Extends The Circle Of Her Acquaintance
(1782–3-4-) “Cecilia”: a paean of praise: Lamentations
(1785–6.) Miss Burney is Favourably Noticed by the King and Queen
(1786) Miss Burney Enters Upon Her Court Duties
(1786.) Royal Visit To Nuneham, Oxford And Blenheim
(1786–7-) Court Duties At Windsor And Kew
(1787) Court Duties At St. James’s And Windsor
(1787–8.) Court Duties: Some Variations In Their Routine
(1788.) The Trial of Warren Hastings
(1788.) Royal Visit to Cheltenham
(1788–9.) The King’s Illness
(1789-) The King’s Recovery: Royal Visit to Weymouth
(1789–90.) Mr. Fairly’s’marriage: the Hastings Trial
(1790–1) Miss Burney Resigns her Place at Court
(1791–2.) Regained Liberty
(1792–3) The French Political Emigrants: Miss Burney Marries M. D’Arblay
(1793–6) Love in a Cottage: The D’Arblays Visit Windsor
(1797–8) “Camilla” Cottage. Sundry Visits to the Royal Family
(1798–1802.) Visits to old Friends: Westhamble: Death of Mrs. Phillips: Sojourn In France
(1812–14.) Madame D’Arblay and her Son in England
(1815) Madame D’Arblay again in France: Bonaparte’s Escape from Elba
(1815) At Brussels: Waterloo: Rejoins M. D’Arblay
(1815–8) At Bath and Ilfracombe: general D’Arblay’s Illness and Death
(1818–40) Years of Widowhood. Death of Madame D’Arblay’s Son. Her Own Death
Table of Contents
(Miss Burney’s first novel, “Evelina,” had been submitted in manuscript to the great publisher, Dodsley, who refused to look at an anonymous work. It was then offered to Lowndes, who published it. The negotiations with the publisher were carried on by Fanny’s brother Charles, and her cousin, Edward Burney. These two, with her sisters, and her aunts Anne and Rebecca (Dr. Burney’s sisters), appear to have been the only persons entrusted with the secret. It will be most convenient here, at the commencement of—“The Diary,” to give a few necessary details respecting the Burney family. By his first wife, Esther Sleepe, Dr. Burney became the father of seven children:—
1. Esther (“Hetty”), born 1749; married, in 1770, her cousin Charles Rousseau Burney, eldest son of Dr. Burney’s elder brother, Richard Burney, of Worcester. Hetty’s husband is always called “Mr. Burney” in the “Diary”. He was a musician.
2. James, the sailor, afterwards Admiral Burney, known to readers of “Elia.” He was born June 5, 1750; accompanied the great discoverer, Captain Cook, on his second and third voyages; served in the East Indies in 1783, after which he retired from active service. In 1785 he married Miss Sally Payne, and the rest of his life was devoted to literature and whist. His “History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean” is still a standard work. James died November 17, 1821.
3. Charles born June, 1751; died young.
4. “Frances” our “Fanny,” born June 13, 1752.
5. Susanna Elizabeth, the “peculiar darling of the whole house of Dr. Burney, as well as of his heart”—so Fanny writes of her favourite sister. She was born about 1755, and married, in the beginning Of 1781, Captain Molesworth Phillips, who, as Cook’s lieutenant of marines, had seen the discoverer murdered by savages, in February, 1779, and narrowly escaped with his own life on that occasion. Susan died January 6, 1800.
6. Charles, afterwards Dr. Charles, the distinguished Greek scholar; born December 4, 1757. After his death, in 1817, his magnificent library was purchased for the British Museum, at a cost Of 13,500 pounds.
7. Charlotte Ann, born about 1759. She married Clement Francis, in February, 1786. He died in 1792, and she married again in 1798, Mrs. Barrett, the editress of the “Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay,” was Charlotte’s daughter by her first marriage.
By his second wife, Elizabeth Allen, whom he married in 1767, Dr. Burney had two children—a son, Richard Thomas, and a daughter, Sarah Harriet. The latter followed the career of her famous half-sister, and acquired some distinction as a novelist. Cousins Richard and Edward were younger sons of Uncle Richard Burney, of Worcester. Edward was successful as an artist, especially as a book-illustrator. He painted the portrait of Fanny Burney, a reproduction of which forms the frontispiece to the present volume. Some of his work may be seen in the South Kensington Museum.
Chesington, where we shall presently find Fanny on a visit to Mr. Crisp, was an old roomy mansion, standing in the midst of a lonely common in Surrey, between Kingston and Epsom. It had belonged to Mr. Crisp’s friend, Christopher Hamilton, and on his death became the property of his unmarried sister, Mrs. Sarah Hamilton, who, being in poor circumstances, let part of the house to a farmer, and took boarders. Of the latter, Mr. Crisp was the most constant, boarding at Chesington for nearly twenty years, and dying there in 1783. Kitty Cooke, whose name occurs in the “Diary,” was the niece of Mrs. Hamilton, and resided with her at Chesington. Mrs. Sophia Gast, whom we find a frequent visitor there, was the sister of Mr. Crisp, and resided at Burford, in Oxfordshire.
Chesington Hall, the name the old manor house goes by in the locality, is still standing, and is a plain brick building with a small bell turret in the roof, but in other respects it has been somewhat modernized since the days of Fanny Burney. The common has been parcelled out into fields, and a picturesque country road now gives access to the front entrance to the house. From the lawn at the back a narrow avenue of venerable trees, which throw out their long arms in strange grotesque fashion, leads directly to the little village church where Mr. Crisp is buried.
This year was ushered in by a grand and most important event! At the latter end of January, the literary world was favoured with the first publication of the ingenious, learned, and most profound Fanny Burney! I doubt not but this memorable affair will, in future times, mark the period whence chronologers will date the zenith of the polite arts in this island!
This admirable authoress has named her most elaborate performance, “Evelina; or, a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.”
Perhaps this may seem a rather bold attempt and title, for a female whose knowledge of the world is very confined, and whose inclinations, as well as situation, incline her to a private and domestic life. All I can urge is, that I have only presumed to trace the accidents and adventures to which a “young woman” is liable; I have not pretended to show the world what it actually is, but what it appears to a girl of seventeen, and so far as that, surely any girl who is past seventeen may safely do? The motto of my excuse shall be taken from Pope’s “Temple of Fame “:
In every work regard the writer’s end
None e’er can compass more than they intend.
About the middle of January, my cousin Edward brought me a parcel, under the name of Grafton. I had, some little time before, acquainted both my aunts of my frolic. They will, I am sure, be discreet; indeed, I exacted a vow from them Of strict secrecy; and they love me with such partial kindness, that I have a pleasure in reposing much confidence in them. I immediately conjectured what the parcel was, and found the following letter.
Fleet-street, Jan. 7, 1778.
I take the liberty to send you a novel, which a gentleman, your acquaintance, said you would hand to him. I beg with expedition, as ’tis time it should be published, and ’tis requisite he first revise it, or the reviewers may find a flaw.—I am, sir, your obedient servant, Thomas Lowndes.
To Mr. Grafton,
To be left at the Orange Coffee-house.
My aunts, now, would take no denial to my reading it to them, in order to mark errata; and to cut the matter short, I was compelled to communicate the affair to my cousin Edward, and then to obey their commands.
Of course, they were all prodigiously charmed with it. My cousin now became my agent, as deputy to Charles, with Mr. Lowndes, and when I had made the errata, carried it to him.
The book, however, was not published till the latter end of the month. A thousand little odd incidents happened about this time, but I am not in a humour to recollect them; however, they were none of them productive of a discovery either to my father or mother.
My little book, I am told, is now at all the circulating libraries. I have an exceeding odd sensation, when I consider that it is now in the power of any and every body to read what I so carefully hoarded even from my best friends, till this last month or two; and that a work which was so lately lodged, in all privacy, in my bureau, may now be seen by every butcher and baker, cobbler and tinker, throughout the three kingdoms, for the small tribute of threepence.
My aunt Anne and Miss Humphries being settled at this time at Brompton, I was going thither with Susan to tea, when Charlotte acquainted me that they were then employed in reading “Evelina” to the invalid, my cousin Richard. My sister had recommended it to Miss Humphries, and my aunts and Edward agreed that they would read it, but without mentioning anything of the author.
This intelligence gave me the utmost uneasiness—I foresaw a thousand dangers of a discovery—I dreaded the indiscreet warmth of all my confidants. In truth, I was quite sick with apprehension, and was too uncomfortable to go to Brompton, and Susan carried my excuses.
Upon her return, I was somewhat tranquillised, for she assured me that there was not the smallest suspicion of the author, and that they had concluded it to be the work of a man! and Miss Humphries, who read it aloud to Richard said several things in its commendation, and concluded them by exclaiming, “It’s a thousand pities the author should lie concealed!”
Finding myself more safe than I had apprehended, I ventured to go to Brompton next day. In my way up-stairs, I heard Miss Humphries in the midst of Mr. Villars’ letter of consolation upon Sir John Belmont’s rejection of his daughter; and just as I entered the room, she cried out, “How pretty that is!”
How much in luck would she have thought herself, had she known who heard her!
In a private confabulation which I had with my aunt Anne, she told me a thousand things that had been said in its praise, and assured me they had not for a moment doubted that the work was a man’s.
Comforted and made easy by these assurances, I longed for the diversion of hearing their observations, and therefore (though rather mal à propos) after I had been near two hours in the room, I told Miss Humphries that I was afraid I had interrupted her, and begged she would go on with what she was reading.
“Why,” cried she, taking up the book, “we have been prodigiously entertained;” and very readily she continued.
I must own I suffered great difficulty in refraining from laughing upon several occasions, and several times, when they praised what they read, I was upon the point of saying, “You are very good!” and so forth, and I could scarcely keep myself from making acknowledgments, and bowing my head involuntarily. However, I got off perfectly safe.
Monday.—Susan and I went to tea at Brompton. We met Miss Humphries coming to town. She told us she had just finished “Evelina,” and gave us to understand that she could not get away till she had done it. We heard afterwards from my aunt the most flattering praises; and Richard could talk Of nothing else. His encomiums gave me double pleasure, from being wholly unexpected: for I had prepared myself to hear that he held it extremely cheap.
It seems, to my utter amazement, Miss Humphries has guessed the author to be Anstey, who wrote the “Bath Guide”! How improbable and how extraordinary a supposition! But they have both of them done it so much honour that, but for Richard’s anger at Evelina’s bashfulness, I never Could believe they did not suspect me. I never went to Brompton without finding the third volume in Richard’s hands; he speaks of all the characters as if they were his acquaintance, and Praises different parts perpetually: both he and Miss Humphries seem to have it by heart, for it is always à propos to Whatever is the subject of discourse, and their whole conversation almost consists of quotations from it.
Chesington, June 18.—I came hither the first week in May. My recovery from that time to this, has been slow and sure; but as I could walk hardly three yards in a day at first, I found so much time to spare, that I could not resist treating myself with a little private sport with “Evelina,” a young lady whom I think I have some right to make free with. I had promised Hetty that she should read it to Mr. Crisp, at her own particular request; but I wrote my excuses, and introduced it myself.
I told him it was a book which Hetty had taken to Brompton, to divert my cousin Richard during his confinement. He was so indifferent about it, that I thought he would not give himself the trouble to read it, and often embarrassed me by unlucky questions, such as, “If it was reckoned clever?” and “What I thought of it?” and “Whether folks laughed at it?” I always evaded any direct or satisfactory answer; but he was so totally free from any idea of suspicion, that my perplexity escaped his notice.
At length, he desired me to begin reading to him. I dared not trust my voice with the little introductory ode, for as that is no romance, but the sincere effusion of my heart, I could as soon read aloud my own letters, written in my own name and character: I therefore skipped it, and have so kept the book out of his sight, that, to this day, he knows not it is there. Indeed, I have, since, heartily repented that I read any of the book to him, for I found it a much more awkward thing than I had expected: my voice quite faltered when I began it, which, however, I passed off for the effect of remaining weakness of lungs; and, in short, from an invincible embarrassment, which I could not for a page together repress, the book, by my reading, lost all manner of spirit.
Nevertheless, though he has by no means treated it with the praise so lavishly bestowed upon it from other quarters, I had the satisfaction to observe that he was even greedily eager to go on with it; so that I flatter myself the story caught his attention: and, indeed, allowing for my mauling reading, he gave it quite as much credit as I had any reason to expect. But, now that I was sensible of my error in being ‘my own mistress of the ceremonies, I determined to leave to Hetty the third volume, and therefore pretended I had not brought it. He was in a delightful ill humour about it, and I enjoyed his impatience far more than I should have done his forbearance. Hetty, therefore, when she comes, has undertaken to bring it.
I have had a visit from my beloved Susy, who, with my mother1 and little Sally,2 spent a day here, to my no small satisfaction; and yet I was put into an embarrassment, of which I even yet know not what will be the end, during their short stay: for Mr. Crisp, before my mother, very innocently said, “O! Susan, pray Susette, do send me the third volume of “Evelina”; Fanny brought me the two first on purpose, I believe, to tantalize me.”
I felt myself in a ferment; and Susan, too, looked foolish, and knew not what to answer. As I sat on the same sofa with him, I gave him a gentle shove, as a token, which he could not but understand, that he had said something wrong—though I believe he could not imagine what. Indeed, how should he?
My mother instantly darted forward, and repeated “Evelina,—what’s that, pray?”
Again I jolted Mr. Crisp, who, very much perplexed, said, in a boggling manner, that it was a novel—he supposed from the circulating library—only a “trumpery novel.”
Ah, my dear daddy! thought I, you would have devised some other sort of speech, if you knew all! But he was really, as he well might be, quite at a loss for what I wanted him to say.
“You have had it here, then, have you?” continued my mother.
“Yes—two of the volumes,” said Mr. Crisp.
“What, had you them from the library?” asked my mother.
“No, ma’am,” answered I, horribly frightened, “from my sister.”
The truth is, the books are Susan’s, who bought them the first day of publication; but I did not dare own that, as it would have been almost an acknowledgment of all the rest.
She asked some further questions, to which we made the same sort of answers, and then the matter dropped. Whether it rests upon her mind, or not, I cannot tell.
Two days after, I received from Charlotte a letter the most interesting that could be written to me, for it acquainted me that My dear father was, at length, reading my book, which has now been published six months. How this has come to pass, I am yet in the dark; but, it seems, that the very Moment almost that my mother and Susan and Sally left the house, he desired Charlotte to bring him the “Monthly Review;” she contrived to look over his shoulder as he opened it, which he did at the account of “Evelina; Or, a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.” He read it with great earnestness, then put it down; and presently after snatched it up, and read it again. Doubtless, his paternal heart felt some agitation for his girl, in reading a review of her publication!3—how he got at the name, I cannot imagine.
Soon after he turned to Charlotte, and bidding her come close to him, he put his finger on the word “Evelina,” and saying, she knew what it was, bade her—write down the name, and send the man to Lowndes, as if for herself. This she did, and away went William.
He then told Charlotte, that he had never known the name of it till the day before. ’Tis strange how he got at it! He added that I had come off vastly well in this review, except for “the Captain.” Charlotte told him it had also been in “Kenrick’s review,”4 and he desired her to copy out for him what was said in both of them. He asked her, too, whether I had mentioned the work was by a lady?
When William returned, he took the books from him, and the moment he was gone, opened the first volume—and opened it upon the Ode! How great must have been his astonishment, at seeing himself so addressed!5 Indeed, Charlotte says he looked all amazement, read a line or two with great eagerness, and then, stopping short, he seemed quite affected, and the tears started into his eyes: dear soul! I am sure they did into mine, nay, I even sobbed, as I read the account.
I believe he was obliged to go out before he advanced much further. But the next day I had a letter from Susan, in which I heard that he had begun reading it with Lady Hales, and Miss Coussmaker, and that they liked it vastly!6 Lady Hales spoke of it very innocently, in the highest terms, declaring she was sure it was written by somebody in high life, And that it had all the marks of real genius! She added, “he must be a man of great abilities!”
How ridiculous! but Miss Coussmaker was a little nearer the truth, for she gave it as her opinion, that the writer was a woman, for she said there was such a remarkable delicacy in the conversations and descriptions, notwithstanding the grossness and vulgarity of some of the characters, and that all oaths and indelicate words were so carefully, yet naturally avoided, that she could not but suspect the writer was a female; but, she added, notwithstanding the preface declared that the writer never would be known, she hoped, if the book circulated as she expected it would, he or she would be tempted to make a discovery.
Ha! ha! ha!-that’s my answer. They little think how well they are already acquainted with the writer they so much honour! Susan begged to have, then, my father’s real and final opinion;—and it is such that I almost blush to write, even for my own private reading; but yet is such as I can by no means suffer to pass unrecorded, as my whole journal contains nothing so grateful to me. I will copy his own words, according to Susan’s solemn declaration of their authenticity.
“Upon my word I think it the best novel I know, except Fielding’s, and, in some respects, better than his! I have been excessively pleased with it; there are, perhaps a few things that might have been otherwise. Mirvan’s trick upon Lovel is, I think, carried too far,—there is something even disgusting in it: however, this instance excepted, I protest I think it will scarce bear an improvement. The language is as good as anybody need write—I declare, as good as I would wish to read. Lord Orville’s character is just what it should be—perfectly benevolent and upright; and there is a boldness in it that struck me mightily, for he is a man not ashamed of being better than the rest of mankind. Evelina is in a new style too, so perfectly innocent and natural; and the scene between her and her father, Sir John Belmont, is a scene for a tragedy! I blubbered at it, and Lady Hales and Miss Coussmaker are not yet recovered from hearing it, it made them quite ill: indeed, it is wrought up in a most extraordinary manner.”
This account delighted me more than I—can express. How little did I dream of ever being so much honoured! But the approbation of all the world put together, would not bear any competition, in my estimation, with that of my beloved father.
July 25.—Mrs. Cholmondeley has been reading and praising “Evelina,” and my father Is quite delighted at her approbation, and told Susan that I could not have had a greater compliment than making two such women my friends as Mrs. Thrale7 and Mrs. Cholmondeley, for they were severe and knowing, and afraid of praising a tort et a travers, as their opinions are liable to be quoted.
Mrs. Thrale said she had only to complain it was too short. She recommended it to my mother to read!—how droll!—and she told her she would be much entertained with it, for there was a great deal of human life in it, and of the manners of the present times, and added that it was written “by somebody who knows the top and the bottom, the highest and the lowest of mankind.” She has even lent her set to my mother, who brought it home with her!
By the way, I have again resumed my correspondence with my friend Mr. Lowndes. When I sent the errata I desired to have a set directed to Mr. Grafton, at the Orange Coffee-house, for I had no copy but the one he sent me to make the errata from, which Was incomplete and unbound. However, I heard nothing at all from him; and therefore, after some consideration, and much demure I determined to make an attempt once more; for my father told me it was a shame that I, the author, should not have even one set of my own work; I ought, he said, to have had six: and indeed, he is often enraged that Lowndes gave no more for the MS.—but I was satisfied,—and that sufficed.8
I therefore wrote him word, that I supposed, in the hurry of his business, and variety of his concerns, he had forgotten my request, which I now repeated. I also added, that if ever the book went through another edition, I should be glad to have timely notice, as I had some corrections and alterations to propose.
I received an immediate answer, and intelligence from my sisters, that he had sent a set of “Evelina” most elegantly bound. The answer I will copy.
Fleet-street, July 2, 1778.
Sir,—I bound up a set for you the first day I had them, and hoped by some means to hear from you. The Great World send hereto buy “Evelina.” A polite lady said, Do, Mr. Lowndes, give me “Evelina,” I am treated as unfashionable for not having read it. I think the impression will be sold by Christmas. If meantime, or about that time, you favour me with any commands, I shall be proud to observe them. Your obliged servant, J. Lowndes.
To Mr. Grafton.
(Fanny Burney to Miss S. Burney.)
Chesington, Sunday, July 6.
Your letter, my dearest Susan, and the inclosed one from Lovirrides, have flung me into such a vehement perturbation, that I hardly can tell whether I wake or dream, and it is even with difficulty that I can fetch my breath. I have been strolling round the garden three or four times, in hopes of regaining a little quietness. However, I am not very angry at my inward disturbance, though it even exceeds what I experienced from the “Monthly Review.”
My dear Susy, what a wonderful affair has this been, and how extraordinary is this torrent of success, which sweeps down all before it! I often think it too much, nay, almost wish it would happen to some other person, who had more ambition, whose hopes were more sanguine, and who could less have borne to be buried in the oblivion which I even sought. But though it might have been better bestowed, it could by no one be more gratefully received.
Indeed I can’t help being grave upon the subject; for a success so really unexpected almost overpowers me. I wonder at myself that my spirits are not more elated. I believe half the flattery I have had would have made me madly merry; but all serves only to almost depress me by the fullness of heart it occasions. I have been serving Daddy Crisp a pretty trick this morning How he would rail if he found it all out! I had a fancy to dive pretty deeply into the real rank in which he held my book; so I told him that your last letter acquainted me who was reported to be the author of “Evelina.” I added that it was a profound secret, and he must by no means mention it to a human being. He bid me tell him directly, according to his usual style of command—but I insisted upon his guessing.
“I can’t guess,” said he——“may be it is you.”
Odd so! thought I, what do you mean by that?
“Pooh, nonsense!” cried I, “what should make you think of me?”
“Why, you look guilty,” answered he.
This was a horrible home stroke. Deuce take my looks! thought I—I shall owe them a grudge for this! however I found it was a mere random shot, and, without much difficulty, I laughed it to scorn.
And who do you think he guessed next?—My father!—there’s for you!—and several questions he asked me, whether he had lately been shut up much-and so on. And this was not all—for he afterwards guessed Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Greville.9
There’s honour and glory for you!—I assure you I grinned prodigiously.
July 20.—I have had a letter from Susan. She informs me that my father, when he took the books back to Streatham, actually acquainted Mrs. Thrale with my secret. He took an opportunity, when they were alone together, of saying that Upon her recommendation, he had himself, as well as my mother; been reading “Evelina.”
“Well!” cried she, “and is it not a very pretty book? and a Very clever book? and a very comical book?
“Why,” answered he, “’tis well enough; but I have something to tell you about it.”
“Well? what?” cried she; “has Mrs. Cholmondeley found out the author?”
“No,” returned he, “not that I know of, but I believe I have, though but very lately.”
“Well, pray let’s hear!” cried she, eagerly, “I want to know him of all things.”
How my father must laugh at the him!—He then, however, undeceived her in regard to that particular, by telling her it was “our Fanny!” for she knows all about our family, as my father talks to her of his domestic concerns without any reserve.
A hundred handsome things, of course, followed; and she afterwards read some of the comic parts to Dr. Johnson, Mr. Thrale, and whoever came near her. How I should have quivered had I been there! but they tell me that Dr. Johnson laughed as heartily as my father himself did.
Nothing can be more ridiculous than the scenes in which I am almost perpetually engaged. Mr. Crisp, who is totally without suspicion, says, almost daily, something that has double the meaning he intends to convey; for, as I am often writing, either letters, Italian, or some of my own vagaries, he commonly calls me the scribe, and the authoress; asks when I shall print; says he will have all my works on royal paper, etc.; and the other day, Mrs. Gast, who frequently lectures me about studying too hard, and injuring my health, said—
“Pray, Miss Burney, now you write so much, when do you intend to publish?”
“Publish?” cried Mr. Crisp, “why, she has published; she brought out a book the other day that has made a great noise ‘Evelina’—and she bribed the reviewers to speak well of it, and set it a going.”
I was almost ready to run out of the room; but, though the hit was so palpable in regard to the book, what he said of the reviewers was so much the contrary that it checked my alarm: indeed, had he the most remote idea of the truth, he would be the last man to have hinted at it before a room full of people.
“Oh!” cried I, as composedly as I could, “that is but a small part of my authorship—I shall give you a list of my folios soon.”
They had all some jocularity upon the occasion, but I found I was perfectly safe; indeed my best security is, that my daddy concludes the author to be a man, and all the rest follow as he leads.
Mr. Burney,10 yesterday, after dinner, said—“Gentlemen and ladies, I’ll propose a toast”; then filling his glass, he drank “to The author of ‘Evelina’!”
Had they known the author was present, they could not have more civilly accepted the toast; it was a bold kind of drollery in Mr. Burney, for I was fain to drink my own health in a bumper, which he filled for me, laughing heartily himself.
August 3—I have an immensity to write. Susan has copied me a letter which Mrs. Thrale has written to my father, upon the occasion of returning my mother two novels by Madame Riccoboni.11 It is so honourable to me, and so sweet in her, that I must COPY it for my faithful journal.
Streatham, July 22.
I forgot to give you the novels in your carriage, which I now send. “Evelina” certainly excels them far enough, both in probability of story, elegance of sentiment, and general power over the mind, whether exerted in humour or pathos; add to this, that Riccoboni is a veteran author, and all she ever can be; but I cannot tell what might not be expected from “Evelina,” were she to try her genius at comedy.
So far had I written of my letter, when Mr. Johnson returned home, full of the praises of the book I had lent him, and protesting there Were passages in it which Might do honour to Richardson. We talk of it for ever, and he feels ardent after the d’enouement; hee “could not get rid of the rogue,” he said. I lent him the second volume, and he is now busy with the other.
You must be more a philosopher, and less a father, than I wish you, not to be pleased with this letter; and the giving such pleasure yields to nothing but receiving it. Long, my dear sir, may you live to enjoy the just praises of your children! and long may they live to deserve and delight such a parent! These are things that you would say in verse——but poetry implies fiction, and all this is naked truth.
My compliments to Mrs. Burney, and kindest wishes to all your flock, etc.
How, sweet, how amiable in this charming woman is her desire of making my dear father satisfied with his scribbler’s attempt! I do, indeed, feel the most grateful love for her. But Dr. Johnson’s approbation!—It almost crazed me with agreeable surprise—it gave me such a flight of spirits that I danced a jig to Mr. Crisp, Without any preparation, music, or explanation;—to his no small amazement and diversion. I left him, however, to make his own comments upon my friskiness without affording him the smallest assistance.
Susan also writes me word, that when my father went last to Streatham, Dr. Johnson was not there, but Mrs. Thrale told him, that when he gave her the first volume of “Evelina,” which she had lent him, he said, “Why, madam, why, what a charming book you lent me!” and eagerly inquired for the rest. He was particularly pleased with the Snow-hill scenes, and said that Mr. Smith’s vulgar gentility was admirably portrayed; and when Sir Clement joins them, he said there was a shade of character prodigiously well marked. Well may it be said, that the greatest winds are ever the most candid to the inferior set! I think I should love Dr. Johnson for such lenity to a poor mere worm in literature, even if I were not myself the identical grub he has obliged.
I now come to last Saturday evening, when my beloved father came to Chesington, in full health, charming spirits, and all kindness, openness, and entertainment.
In his way hither he had stopped at Streatham, and he settled with Mrs. Thrale that he would call on her again in his way to town, and carry me with him! and Mrs. Thrale said, “We all long to know her.”
I have been in a kind of twitter ever since, for there seems something very formidable in the idea of appearing as an authoress! I ever dreaded it, as it is a title which must raise more expectations than I have any chance of answering. Yet I am highly flattered by her invitation, and highly delighted in the prospect of being introduced to the Streatham society.
She sent me some very serious advice to write for the theatre, as, she says, I so naturally run into conversations, that “Evelina” absolutely and plainly points out that path to me; and she hinted how much she should be pleased to be “honoured with my confidence.”
My dear father communicated this intelligence, and a great deal more, with a pleasure that almost surpassed that with which I heard it, and he seems quite eager for me to make another attempt. He desired to take upon himself the communication to my daddy Crisp, and as it is now in so many hands that it is possible accident might discover it to him, I readily consented.
Sunday evening, as I was going into my father’s room, I heard him say, “The variety of characters—the variety of scenes—and the language—why, she has had very little education but what she has given herself,-less than any of the others!” and Mr. Crisp exclaimed, “Wonderful!—it’s wonderful!”
I now found what was going forward, and therefore deemed it most fitting to decamp. About an hour after, as I was passing through the hall, I met my daddy (Crisp). His face was all animation and archness; he doubled his fist at me, and would have stopped me, but I ran past him into the parlour.
Before supper, however, I again met him, and he would not suffer me to escape; he caught both my hands, and looked as if he would have looked me through, and then exclaimed, “Why you little hussy,—you young devil!—an’t you ashamed to look me in the face, you Evelina, you! Why, what a dance have you led me about it! Young friend, indeed! O you little hussy, what tricks have you served me!”
I was obliged to allow of his running on with these gentle appellations for I know not how long, ere he could sufficiently compose himself after his great surprise, to ask or hear any particulars—and then, he broke out every three instants with exclamations of astonishment at how I had found time to write so much unsuspected, and how and where I had picked up such various materials; and not a few times did he, with me, as he had with my father, exclaim, “wonderful!”
He has, since, made me read him all my letters upon this subject. He said Lowndes would have made an estate had he given me one thousand pounds for it, and that he ought not to have given me less. “You have nothing to do now,” continued he, “but to take your pen in hand, for your fame and reputation are made, and any bookseller will snap at what you write.”
I then told him that I could not but really and unaffectedly regret that the affair was spread to Mrs. Williams and her friends.12
“Pho,” said he, “if those who are proper judges think it right, that it should be known, why should you trouble yourself about it? You have not spread it, there can be no imputation of vanity fall to your share, and it cannot come out more to your honour than through such a channel as Mrs. Thrale.”
(An introduction to Mrs. Thrale was practically an introduction into the most brilliant literary circle of the day. Literary lions of all sizes, from the monarch Johnson downwards, were wont to resort to Streatham, to eat Thrale’s dinners, and to enjoy the conversation of his lively wife. At Streatham Dr. Burney had been a welcome guest since 1776, when he commenced his intimacy with the family by giving music lessons to the eldest daughter, Hester Thrale (Johnson’s “Queenie”). The head of the house, Henry Thrale, the wealthy brewer and member of Parliament for Southwark, was a sensible, unassuming man, whom Johnson loved and esteemed, and who returned Johnson’s attachment with the sincerest regard. His acquirements, in Johnson’s opinion were of a far more solid character than those Of his wife, whose wit and vivacity, however, gave her more distinction in those brilliant assemblies to which Fanny is now, for the first time, to be introduced. Mrs. Thrale was in her thirty-eighth year at the date of Fanny’s first visit.
August.—I have now to write an account of the most consequential day I have spent since my birth: namely, my visit.
Our journey to Streatham, was the least pleasant part of the day, for the roads were dreadfully dusty, and I was really in the fidgets from thinking what my reception might be, and from fearing they would expect a less awkward and backward kind of person than I was sure they would find.
Mr. Thrale’s house is white, and very pleasantly situated, in a fine paddock. Mrs. Thrale was strolling about, and came to us as we got out of the chaise.
“Ah,” cried she, “I hear Dr. Burney’s voice! and you have brought your daughter?—well, now you are good!”
She then received me, taking both my hands, and with mixed politeness and cordiality welcoming me to Streatham. She led me into the house, and addressed herself almost wholly for a few minutes to my father, as if to give me an assurance she did not mean to regard me as a show, or to distress or frighten me by drawing me out. Afterwards she took me upstairs, and showed me the house, and said she had very much wished to see me at Streatham, and should always think herself much obliged to Dr. Burney for his goodness in bringing me, which she looked upon as a very great favour.
But though we were some time together, and though she was so very civil, she did not hint at my book, and I love her much more than ever for her delicacy in avoiding a subject which she could not but see would have greatly embarrassed me.
When we returned to the music-room, we found Miss Thrale was with my father. Miss Thrale is a very fine girl, about fourteen years of age, but cold and reserved, though full of knowledge and intelligence.
Soon after, Mrs. Thrale took me to the library; she talked a little while upon common topics, and then, at last, she mentioned “Evelina.”
“Yesterday at supper,” said she, “we talked it all over, and discussed all your characters—but Dr. Johnson’s favourite is Mr. Smith. He declares the fine gentleman manqué was never better drawn; and he acted him all the evening, saying he was ‘all for the ladies!’ He repeated whole scenes by heart. I declare I was astonished at him. O, you can’t imagine how much he is pleased with the book; he ‘could not get rid of the rogue,’ he told me. But was it not droll,” said she, “that I should recommend it to Dr. Burney? and tease him, so innocently, to read it?”
I now prevailed upon Mrs. Thrale to let me amuse myself, and she went to dress. I then prowled about to choose some book and I saw upon the reading-table, “Evelina.”—I had just fixed upon a new translation of Cicero’s “Laelius,” when the library-door was opened, and Mr. Seward13 entered. I instantly put away my book, because I dreaded being thought studious and affected. He offered his service to find anything for me, and then, in the same breath, ran on to speak of the work with which I had myself ‘favoured the world!’
The exact words he began with I cannot recollect, for I was actually confounded by the attack; and his abrupt manner of letting me know he was au fait equally astonished and provoked me. How different from the delicacy of Mr. and Mrs. Thrale.
When we were summoned to dinner, Mrs. Thrale made my father and me sit on each side of her. I said that I hoped I did not take Dr. Johnson’s place;—for he had not yet appeared.
“No,” answered Mrs. Thrale, “he will sit by you, which I am sure will give him great pleasure.”
Soon after we were seated, this great man entered. I have so true a veneration for him, that the very sight of him inspires me with delight and reverence, notwithstanding the cruel infirmities to which he is subject; for he has almost perpetual convulsive movements, either of his hands, lips, feet, or knees, and sometimes of all together.
Mrs. Thrale introduced me to him, and he took his place. We had a noble dinner, and a most elegant dessert. Dr. Johnson, in the middle of dinner, asked Mrs. Thrale what were some little pies that were near him.
“Mutton,” answered she, “so I don’t ask you to eat any, because I know you despise it.”
“No, madam, no,” cried he, “I despise nothing that is so good of its sort; but I am too proud now to eat of it. Sitting by Miss Burney makes me very proud today!”
“Miss Burney,” said Mrs. Thrale, laughing, “you must take care of your heart if Dr. Johnson attacks it for I assure you he is not often successless.”
“What’s that you say, madam?” cried he; “are you making mischief between the young lady and me already?”
A little while after he drank Miss Thrale’s health and mine, and then added: “Tis a terrible thing that we cannot wish young ladies well, without wishing them to become old women!”
“But some people,” said Mr. Seward, “are old and young at the same time, for they wear so well that they never look old.”
“No, sir, no,” cried the doctor, laughing; “that never yet was; you might as well say they are at the same time tall and short. I remember an epitaph to that purpose, which is in-”
(I have quite forgot what,—and also the name it was made upon, but the rest I recollect exactly:)
“——lies buried here; So early wise, so lasting fair, That none, unless her years you told, Thought her a child, or thought her old.”
We left Streatham at about eight o’clock, and Mr. Seward, who handed me into the chaise, added his interest to the rest, that my father would not fail to bring me next week. In short I was loaded with civilities from them all. And my ride home was equally happy with the rest of the day, for my kind and most beloved father was so happy in my happiness, and congratulated me so sweetly, that he could, like myself, think on no other subject: and he told me that, after passing through such a house as that, I could have nothing to fear—meaning for my book, my honoured book.
Yet my honours stopped not here; for Hetty, who, with her sposo, was here to receive us, told me she had lately met Mrs. Reynolds,14 sister of Sir Joshua; and that she talked very much and very highly of a new novel called “Evelina”; though without a shadow of suspicion as to the scribbler; and not contented with her own praise, she said that Sir Joshua, who began it one day when he was too much engaged to go on with it, was so much caught, that he could think of nothing else, and was quite absent all the day, not knowing a word that was said to him: and, when he took it up again, found himself so much interested in it, that he sat up all night to finish it! Sir Joshua, it seems, vows he would give fifty pounds to know the author! I have also heard, by the means of Charles,15 that other persons have declared they will find him out!
This intelligence determined me upon going myself to Mr. Lowndes, and discovering what sort of answers he made to such curious inquirers as I found were likely to address him. But as I did not dare trust myself to speak, for I felt that I should not be able to act my part well, I asked my mother to accompany me. We introduced ourselves by buying the book, for which I had a commission from Mrs. G——. Fortunately Mr. Lowndes himself was in the shop; as we found by his air of consequence and authority, as well as his age; for I never saw him before.
The moment he had given my mother the book, she asked him if he could tell her who wrote it.
“No,” he answered; “I don’t know myself.”
“Pho, pho,” said she, “you mayn’t choose to tell, but you must know.”
“I don’t indeed, ma’am,” answered he “I have no honour in keeping the secret, for I have never been trusted. All I know of the matter is, that it is a gentleman of the other end of the town.”
MY mother made a thousand other inquiries, to which his answers were to the following effect: that for a great while, he did not know if it was a man or a woman; but now, he knew that much, and that he was a master of his subject, and well versed in the manners of the times.
“For some time,” continued he, “I thought it had been Horace Walpole’s; for he once published a book in this snug manner; but I don’t think it is now. I have often people come to inquire of me who it is; but I suppose he will come Out soon, and then when the rest of the world knows it, I shall. Servants often come for it from the other end of the town, and I have asked them divers questions myself, to see if I could get at the author but I never got any satisfaction.”
Just before we came away, upon my mother’s still further pressing him, he said, with a most important face,
“Why, to tell you the truth, madam, I have been informed that it is a piece of real secret history; and, in that case, it will never be known.”
This was too much for me——I grinned irresistibly, and was obliged to look out at the shop-door till we came away.
How many ridiculous things have I heard upon this subject! I hope that next, some particular family will be fixed upon, to whom this secret history must belong! However, I am delighted to find myself so safe.
Streatham, Sunday, Aug. 23—I know not how to express the fullness of my contentment at this sweet place. All my best expectations are exceeded, and you know they were not very moderate. If, when my dear father comes, Susan and Mr. Crisp were to come too, I believe it would require at least a day’s pondering to enable me to form another wish.
Our journey was charming. The kind Mrs. Thrale would give courage to the most timid. She did not ask me questions, or catechise me upon what I knew, or use any means to draw me out, but made it her business to draw herself out, that is, to start subjects, to support them herself, and to take all the weight of the conversation, as if it behoved her to find me entertainment. But I am so much in love with her, that I shall be obliged to run away from the subject, or shall write of nothing else.
When we arrived here, Mrs. Thrale showed me my room, which is an exceedingly pleasant one, and then conducted me to the library, there to divert myself while she dressed.
Miss Thrale soon joined me: and I begin to like her. Mr. Thrale was neither well nor in spirits all day. Indeed, he seems not to be a happy man, though he has every means of happiness in his power. But I think I have rarely seen a very rich man with a light heart and light spirits.
Dr. Johnson was in the utmost good humour.
There was no other company at the house all day.
After dinner, I had a delightful stroll with Mrs. Thrale, and she gave me a list of all her “good neighbours” in the town of Streatham, and said she was determined to take me to see Mr. T—, the clergyman, who was a character I could not but be diverted with, for he had so furious and so absurd a rage for building, that in his garden he had as many temples, and summer-houses, and statues as in the gardens of Stow, though he had so little room for them that they all seemed tumbling one upon another.
In short, she was all unaffected drollery and sweet good humour. At tea we all met again, and Dr. Johnson was gaily sociable. He gave a very droll account of the children of Mr. Langton.16 “Who,” he said, “might be very good children if they were let alone; but the father is never easy when he is not making them do something which they cannot do; they must repeat a fable, or a speech, or the Hebrew alphabet; and they might as well count twenty, for what they know of the matter: however, the father says half, for he prompts every other word. But he could not have chosen a man who would have been less entertained by such means.”
“I believe not!” cried Mrs. Thrale: “nothing is more ridiculous than parents cramming their children’s nonsense down other people’s throats. I keep mine as much out of the way as I can.”
“Yours, madam,” answered he, “are in nobody’s way—no children can be better managed or less troublesome; but your fault is, a too great perverseness in not allowing anybody to give them anything. Why should they not have a cherry, or a gooseberry, as well as bigger children?”
“Because they are sure to return such gifts by wiping their hands upon the giver’s gown or coat, and nothing makes children more offensive. People only make the offer to please the parents, and they wish the poor children at Jericho when they accept it.”
“But, madam, it is a great deal more offensive to refuse them. Let those who make the offer look to their own gowns and coats, for when you interfere, they only wish you at Jericho.”
“It is difficult,” said Mrs. Thrale, “to please everybody.” She then asked whether—Mr. Langton took any better care of his affairs than formerly?
“No, madam,” cried the doctor, “and never will; he complains of the ill effects of habit, and rests contentedly upon a confessed indolence. He told his father himself that he had ‘no turn to economy;’ but a thief might as well plead that he had ‘no turn to honesty.’”
Was not that excellent? At night, Mrs. Thrale asked if I would have anything? I answered, “No,” but Dr. Johnson said,
“Yes: she is used, madam, to suppers; she would like an egg or two, and a few slices of ham, or a rasher—a rasher, I believe, would please her better.”
How ridiculous! However, nothing could persuade Mrs. Thrale not to have the cloth laid: and Dr. Johnson was so facetious, that he challenged Mr. Thrale to get drunk!
“I wish,” said he, “my master17 would say to me, Johnson, if you will oblige me, you will call for a bottle of Toulon, and then we will set to it, glass for glass, till it is done; and after that, I will say, Thrale, if you will oblige me, you will call for another bottle of Toulon, and then we will set to it, glass for glass, till that is done: and by the time we should have drunk the two bottles, we should be so happy, and such good friends, that we should fly into each other’s arms, and both together call for the third!”
Now for this morning’s breakfast.
Dr. Johnson, as usual, came last into the library; he was in high spirits, and full of mirth and sport. I had the honour of sitting next to him: and now, all at once, he flung aside his reserve, thinking, perhaps, that it was time I should fling aside mine.
Mrs. Thrale told him that she intended taking me to Mr. T—‘s.
“So you ought, madam,” cried he; “’tis your business to be Cicerone to her.”
Then suddenly he snatched my hand, and kissing it, “Ah!” he added, “they will little think what a tartar you carry to them!”
“No, that they won’t!” cried Mrs. Thrale; “Miss Burney looks so meek and so quiet, nobody would suspect what a comical girl she is——but I believe she has a great deal of malice at heart.”
“Oh, she’s a toad!” cried the doctor, laughing—“a sly young rogue! with her Smiths and her Branghtons!”
“Why, Dr. Johnson,” said Mrs. Thrale, “I hope you are well this morning! if one may judge by your spirits and good humour, the fever you threatened us with is gone off.”
He had complained that he was going to be ill last night.
“Why no, madam, no,” answered he, “I am not yet well. I could not sleep at all; there I lay, restless and uneasy, and thinking all the time of Miss Burney. Perhaps I have offended her, thought I; perhaps she is angry—I have seen her but once and I talked to her of a rasher!—Were you angry?”
I think I need not tell you my answer.
“I have been endeavouring to find some excuse,” continued he, “and, as I could not sleep, I got up, and looked for some authority for the word; and I find, madam, it is used by Dryden: in one of his prologues, he says—‘And snatch a homely rasher from the coals.’ So you must not mind me, madam; I say strange things, but I mean no harm.”
I was almost afraid he thought I was really idiot enough to have taken him seriously; but, a few minutes after, he put his hand on my arm, and shaking his head, exclaimed, “Oh, you are a sly little rogue!—what a Holborn beau have you drawn!”
“Ay, Miss Burney,” said Mrs. Thrale, “the Holborn beau is Dr Johnson’s favourite; and we have all your characters by heart, from Mr. Smith up to Lady Louisa.”
“Oh, Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith is the man!” cried he, laughing violently. “Harry Fielding never drew so good a character!—such a fine varnish of low politeness!—such a struggle to appear a gentleman! Madam, there is no character better drawn anywhere—in any book or by any author.”
I almost poked myself under the table. Never did I feel so delicious a confusion since I was born! But he added a great deal more, only I cannot recollect his exact words, and I do not choose to give him mine.
About noon when I went into the library, book hunting, Mrs. Thrale came to me. We had a very nice confab about various books, and exchanged opinions and imitations of Baretti; she told me many excellent tales of him, and I, in return, related my stories.
She gave me a long and very entertaining account of Dr. Goldsmith, who was intimately known here; but in speaking of “The Good-natured Man,” when I extolled my favourite Croaker, I found that admirable character was a downright theft from Dr. Johnson. Look at “The Rambler,” and you will find Suspirius is the man, and that not merely the idea, but the particulars of the character, are all stolen thence!18
While we were yet reading this “Rambler,” Dr. Johnson came in: we told him what we were about.
“Ah, madam,” cried he, “Goldsmith was not scrupulous but he would have been a great man had he known the real value of his own internal resources.”
“Miss Burney,” said Mrs. Thrale, “is fond of his ‘Vicar of Wakefield.’ and so am I;—don’t you like it, sir?”
“No, madam, it is very faulty; there is nothing of real life in it, and very little of nature. It is a mere fanciful performance.”
He then seated himself upon a sofa, and calling to me, said “Come,—Evelina,—come and sit by me.”
I obeyed; and he took me almost in his arms,—that is, one of his arms, for one would go three times, at least, round me,—and, half laughing, half serious, he charged me to “be a good girl!”
“But, my dear,” continued he with a very droll look, “what makes you so fond of the Scotch? I don’t like you for that;—I hate these Scotch, and so must you. I wish Branghton had sent the dog to jail! That Scotch dog Macartney.”
“Why, sir,” said Mrs. Thrale, “don’t you remember he says he would, but that he should get nothing by it?”
“Why, ay, true,” cried the doctor, see-sawing very solemnly, “that, indeed, is some palliation for his forbearance. But I must not have you so fond of the Scotch, my little Burney; make your hero what you will but a Scotchman. Besides, you write Scotch—you say ‘the one’—my dear, that’s not English, never use that phrase again.”
“Perhaps,” said Mrs. Thrale, “it may be used in Macartney’s letter, and then it will be a propriety.”
“No, madam, no!” cried he; “you can’t make a beauty of it—it is in the third volume; put it in Macartney’s letter, and welcome—that, or any thing that is nonsense.”
“Why, surely,” cried I, “the poor man is used ill enough by the Branghtons.”
“But Branghton,” said he, “only hates him because of his wretchedness—poor fellow!—But, my dear love, how should he ever have eaten a good dinner before he came to England? And then he laughed violently at young Branghton’s idea.
“Well,” said Mrs. Thrale, “I always liked Macartney; he is a very pretty character, and I took to him, as the folks say.”
“Why, madam,” answered he, “I like Macartney myself. Yes, poor fellow, I liked the man, but I love not the nation.” And then he proceeded, in a dry manner, to make at once sarcastic reflections on the Scotch, and flattering speeches to me.19
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