Fanny Burney: A Biography

Claire Harman s full scale biography of Fanny Burney, the first literary woman novelist and a true child of eighteenth century England and the Enlightenment, is rich with insights and pleasures as it brings us into the extraordinary life 1752 1840 of the woman Virginia Woolf called the mother of English fiction.We are present at Mrs Thrale s dinner party when the twentClaire Harman s full scale biography of Fanny Burney, the first literary woman novelist and a true child of eighteenth century England and the Enlightenment, is rich with insights and pleasures as it brings us into the extraordinary life 1752 1840 of the woman Virginia Woolf called the mother of English fiction.We are present at Mrs Thrale s dinner party when the twenty six year old Fanny has the incomparable thrill of hearing Dr Johnson himself admiringly acknowledge her authorship of Evelina, her first novel, anonymously published for fear of upsetting her adored father, and now the talk of the town We see her growing up, daughter of the charming and gifted musician and teacher Dr Charles Burney, who was the very embodiment of a new class talented, energized, self educated, self made, self conscious, socially ambitious and easily endearing himself to aristocratic patrons.We see Fanny partly enjoying, partly rejecting the celebrity engendered by Evelina, and four years later by Cecilia If you will be an author and a wit, says Mrs Thrale, you must take the consequences And we see her mingling with the most famous men and women of the time, not only Dr Johnson but Joshua Reynolds, Sheridan, David Garrick, Mrs Siddons, Horace Walpole and, later, Chateaubriand and Madame de Sta l.For five years, during the time of George III s madness, Fanny Burney held a position in the Royal Household as Second Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte For her father, Fanny s going to court was like going to heaven, but for Fanny it was an incarceration Her journals, published posthumously in 1842, gave her some solace She saw herself as an eavesdropper Dr Johnson wryly called her a spy Her marriage at forty one to a penniless Catholic exile, Alexandre d Arblay, resulted in trans Channel crossings that left her stranded for almost a decade in Napoleon s France, and then, after a dramatic flight from Paris, trapped in Brussels on the eve of Waterloo.Claire Harman s biography of Fanny Burney is as lively as it is meticulously researched and authoritative It gives us the woman, her world and the early blooming artist whose acute grasp of social nuance, gift for satire, drama and skillful play among large casts of characters won her comparison with the best of Smollett, Richardson and Fielding, the admiration of Jane Austen and Lord Byron and a secure place in the pantheon of the English novel.
Fanny Burney A Biography Claire Harman s full scale biography of Fanny Burney the first literary woman novelist and a true child of eighteenth century England and the Enlightenment is rich with insights and pleasures as it

  • Title: Fanny Burney: A Biography
  • Author: Claire Harman
  • ISBN: 9780679446583
  • Page: 387
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 1 thought on “Fanny Burney: A Biography”

    1. I was drawn into reading this biography of Fanny Burney after reading, and loving, her Journals and Letters. I wanted to read a little more on her background and context; and, to be honest, I think I wanted to see how far her extraordinary account of her life checked out against the historical truth. I got more than I bargained for in Clare Harman’s biography, which seems preoccupied by the question of the reliability of Burney’s record of her life almost to the point of obtuseness. Harman i [...]

    2. Anyone who sets up to be a biographer of a Burney had better be a speed reader: the entire Burney clan had a genetic predisposition to logorrhea. The most famous (today) member of the family—Fanny Burney, author of Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer—wrote continuously from her teens till her death in her eighties. Aside from the four novels, each longer than the last, there are plays, memoirs, screeds, and volume after volume of diary and letters.For this superior biography, Claire [...]

    3. Having just finished, and greatly enjoyed, Burney's novel "Evelina" I am compelled to find out more about this author whose time, life circumstances and far-from-idle mind promise a fascinating study. Well educated and widely read, the daughter and amanuensis of a noted musical scholar whose acquaintance included a substantial Bohemian element (artists and actors), Burney was well placed to observe and consider people and society in all their colourful diversity. But her own personal experiences [...]

    4. One of the better examples of a biography that I've read lately, Harman's book examines not only Fanny Burney's life, but gives us a wonderful glimpse of the wider world in which she found herself. It's well-written, with some lovely clear prose. I think the aspect of the book which I liked the most, however, was that Harman displayed a clear empathy with Burney, and a respect for her, but at the same time didn't allow that to blind herself to other aspects of the woman's personality. Harman has [...]

    5. This is an interesting biography of a fascinating woman. Her life is almost as intriguing as her novels. Harman makes an attempt to analyze and understand what she terms "this complex, wordy woman," but recognized that, as Fanny has said, "precise investigation of the interior movements by which I may be impelled" was of questionable value, for as Fanny wrote:the intricasies of the human Heart are various as innumerable, & its feelings, upon all interesting occasions, are so minute & com [...]

    6. This is a very well-written and comprehensive biography of an interesting subject, but I think it requires some independent historical context and knowledge of Miss Burney's works in order to appreciate it. For a reader lacking that basic background of Georgian politics and literature, I think it might be hard to get through. Not that you have to be an expert on this period of British history, but some knowledge is helpful. I found the book is more informative than entertaining.

    7. An amazing diary of an interesting historical figure. I laughed at her running away from King George through the garden. I can't imagine the absurdity of life as a king or queen. Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in the time period. Her account of Samuel Johnson is also fascinating.

    8. This was a fair-minded and well written biography. It was especially interesting to learn about Burney's many creative neologisms.

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