Frances Burney

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Journals (1768-1840)

Evelina (1778)

Cecilia (1782)

Camilla (1796)

Frances Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840), also known as Fanny Burney and, after her marriage, as Madame d’Arblay, was an English novelist, diarist and playwright. She was born in Lynn Regis, now King’s Lynn, England, on 13 June 1752, to musical historian Dr Charles Burney (1726–1814) and Mrs Esther Sleepe Burney (1725–62). The third of six children, she was self-educated and began writing what she called her “scribblings” at the age of ten. In 1793, aged forty-two, she married a French exile, General Alexandre D'Arblay. Their only son, Alexander, was born in 1794. After a lengthy writing career, and travels that took her to France for more than ten years, she settled in Bath, England, where she died on 6 January 1840.


Overview of her career

Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist and playwright. In total, she wrote four novels, eight plays, one biography and twenty volumes of journals and letters. In addition to the critical respect she receives for her own writing, she is recognised as a literary precursor to prominent authors who came after her, including Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray. She published her first novel, Evelina, anonymously in 1778. When the book's authorship was revealed, it brought her almost immediate fame due to its unique narrative and comic strengths. She followed with Cecilia in 1782, Camilla in 1796 and The Wanderer in 1814. All of Burney’s novels explore the lives of English aristocrats, and satirise their social pretensions and personal foibles, with an eye to larger questions such as the politics of female identity. With one exception, Burney never succeeded in having her plays performed, largely due to objections from her father, who thought that publicity from such an effort would be damaging to her reputation. The exception was Edwy and Elgiva, which unfortunately was not well received by the public and closed after the first night’s performance.

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