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Frances Burney S First And Most Enduringly Popular Novel Is A Vivid, Satirical, And Seductive Account Of The Pleasures And Dangers Of Fashionable Life In Late Eighteenth Century London As She Describes Her Heroine S Entry Into Society, Womanhood And, Inevitably, Love, Burney Exposes The Vulnerability Of Female Innocence In An Image Conscious And Often Cruel World Where Social Snobbery And Sexual Aggression Are Played Out In The Public Arenas Of Pleasure Gardens, Theatre Visits, And Balls But Evelina S Innocence Also Makes Her A Shrewd Commentator On The Excesses And Absurdities Of Manners And Social Ambitions As Well As Attracting The Attention Of The Eminently Eligible Lord Orville Evelina, Comic And Shrewd, Is At Once A Guide To Fashionable London, A Satirical Attack On The New Consumerism, An Investigation Of Women S Position In The Late Eighteenth Century, And A Love Story The New Introduction And Full Notes To This Edition Help Make This Richness All The Readily Available To A Modern Reader

10 thoughts on “Evelina, or, The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World

  1. says:

    This is a very good 18th century epistolary novel The prose is precise and elegant, the voices of the various letter writers are well delineated and individualized, and the author makes us admire the heroine and fret over the difficulties which obstruct her happiness The two lovers the naive Evelina and the elegant Lord Orville exhibit sentiment and good sense even in the midst of misunderstandings in a way that looks forward to Austen, and the misunderstandings themselves are both credible and interesting.The novel is, however, not completely successful Some of the comic characters Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval, for example are so crude in conception and so coarse in their behavior that they appear to have traveled here from a very different novel, making the charming Evelina sometimes look like a Disney princess surrounded by escapees from a Warner Brothers Looney Tune These zanies soon take a back seat, however, and the novel resolves itself in a way that is both harmonious and satisfying Evelina is clearly within the tradition of the sentimental novel Characters are continually commenting on the delicacy of sensibility that may serve to distinguish the superior person from the ordinary one It is easy to make fun of this literary fashion, but some of the events in the novel I m thinking of the abduction, terrorizing and humiliation of the middle aged Mme Duval as a practical joke and the wager of two respectable noblemen on a race between two infirm old ladies are treated in such a cavalier fashion by even this well bred young female author that I have become convinced that eighteenth century society desperately needed the sentimental impulse and its embodiment in popular fiction as a civilizing force.

  2. says:

    Once upon a time in a rural home, many miles from any city lived a girl of seventeen of exquisite beauty with a country parson the humble Reverend Arthur Villars, a kindly old man of the cloth, her foster parent Evelina of obscure birth, the rest of her name in doubt, maybe Anvilleno, it s as good as any, besides one is required she loved and knew no other guardian from an epistolary novel of 1778 This lady needless to say unsophisticated in the ways of the world is about to set hearts beating faster when she makes a visit, her first to the great metropolis of uncountable attractions, none better than she London A crisis before that though , her sleazy grandmother, Madame Duval a woman who abandoned the orphan girl, is arriving from France, to take over from the parson, the old lady smells money, the reluctant Rev Villars dreads the change Scared , uncomfortable child than an adult brought there by a family friend Mrs Mirvan, and her daughter Maria almost a sister to the uneasy Evelina Another element to put in the pot and stir the plot, Mrs Mirvan s husband , a rough, salty sea captain is returning after seven long years, the uncouth man, no gentleman, likes causing troubleand does..Grandmother and the captain spark trouble, like a forest fire, when they meet in the city.The nightmare begins every man whom she sees, wants to seduce her, especially the bored rich, powerful Lords and Sirs , an a very elegant, but quite irritating fop too, Mr Lovel, well dressed , much better than the ladiesBlushes are common on the pretty face of the girl, tongue tied, feeling faint, she runs away but gets further into the trap The wealthy privileged men think they re entitled to all of the lower classes Young gangs of boys are tormentors of Evelina when she is out in the streets with her friends, viewing the sights Sir Clement Willoughby doesn t know the meaning of no, always trying to make Evelina do things not in her naturebesides hating this arrogant aristocrat who follows her from the city to the country , even to the seaside town of Bristol The girl in only six or seven months finds herself becoming very well educatedknowledgeable of high society and trying to defend herself, against the pretensions of members who in reality are not the best of the nation However there is another Lord, young , good looking, manners that never offend, a charming, debonair man Lord Orville, but can he be trusted or is he just another phony This surprisingly well written, biting satire, nevertheless an entertaining book by Fanny Burney, as she dives deep into the upper crust and shows its shortcomings, warts and all, and the people of 18th century England , they reveal a complex society of good and badlike everywhere and every age.

  3. says:

    A delightful read A mix of Wilde s humor, Austen s perception, and Collins intrigue Even in those moments where I suspected exactly where the story was going, I felt so much pleasure in watching it unfold that it was not a moment s concern Poor Evelina, thrust upon the world without any armor but her good character to save her from the assaults of unscrupulous men, wanton women, ignorant relations and downright cruel associates, plods her way through the maze with a grace that makes you laugh when you ought to cry Her innocence causes her to make some remarkably bad choices, but it could not be obvious that she will need to trust to it for her deliverance Even the well intended in this story fall short of offering the assistance Evelina needs to navigate this world of pot holes.It is said that Burney was an influence on Austen, and I can certainly see that she was Her character development and story line puts you in mind of Miss Jane right away During some of the bantering between characters, I caught glimpses of that sharp humor that is so typical of Oscar Wilde and makes his plays such a joy Example O pray, Captain, cried Mrs Selwyn, don t be angry with the gentleman for thinking, whatever be the cause, for I assure you he makes no common practice of offending in that way Zing She paints her buffoons and her true gentlemen with a broad brush, and she gives us every degree of coarseness and gentility side by side I find nothing to complain of in Ms Burney s writing or style My only disclaimer would be that it is very 19th Century which I love , but if you are aggrieved by the state of a woman s lot during that time, you will find this frustrating I kept wanting to advise Evelina myself to take the next carriage heading in the opposite direction I give this a 4.5, only because I am very stingy with 5 star awards Read it You will be glad.

  4. says:

    Written than thirty years before Austen s first novel was published, it concerns eighteenth century society rather than nineteenth century As such, I found myself constantly at a loss Before reading this book, I thought I had a good handle on the manners of the period I know the difference between a barouche, a phaeton, and a curricle, and that a lady would never stand up and leave a conversation, and that men knew classical languages and women, only modern And yet, I was utterly confused by Evelina The following block of text contains spoilers, so beware A major piece of the plot is that Evelina a young girl only just out into society receives the following note To Miss Anville With transport, most charming of thy sex, did I read the letterwith which you yesterday morning favoured me I am sorry theaffair of the carriage should have given you any concern,but I am highly flattered by the anxiety you express sokindly Believe me, my lovely girl, I am truly sensibleto the honour of your good opinion, and feel myself deeplypenetrated with love and gratitude The correspondence youhave so sweetly commenced, I shall be proud of continuing and I hope the strong sense I have of the favour you do mewill prevent your withdrawing it Assure yourself, that Idesire nothing ardently than to pour forth my thanks atyour feet, and to offer those vows which are so justly thetribute of your charms and accomplishments In your nextI intreat you to acquaint me how long you shall remain intown The servant, whom I shall commission to call for ananswer, has orders to ride post with it to me My impatiencefor his arrival will be very great, though inferior to thatwith which I burn to tell you, in person, how much I am,my sweet girl, your grateful admirer, ORVILLE After reading this, she is horrified and flees London, overcome with shame WHAT Ok, so an unmarried woman would not correspond with an unmarried man to whom she was not related or engaged But she s so shocked that she says, As a sister I loved him I could have entrusted him with every thought of my heart, had he deigned to wish my confidence so steady did I think his honour, so feminine his delicacy, and so amiable his nature I have a thousand times imagined that the whole study of his life, and whole purport of his reflections, tended solely to the good and happiness of others but I will talk, write, think of him no Yeah, that s what I want in a man feminine delicacy and brotherly love Eew Then, she shows the letter to her guardian, the milquetoast Mr Villars, who says, I can form but one conjecture concerning this most extraordinary performance he must certainly have been intoxicated when he wrote it That a man who had behaved with so strict a regard to delicacy, continued Mr Villars, and who, as far as occasion had allowed, manifested sentiments the most honourable, should thus insolently, thus wantonly, insult a modest young woman, in his perfect senses, I cannot think possible WTF, dudes God forbid the man you love should actually write to you, or in any way communicate his affection Oh no Some time later, after Evelina and Lord Orville have reconciled, her guardian sends a fire and brimstone letter, writing, Awake then, my dear, my deluded child, awake to the sense of your danger, and exert yourself to avoid the evils with which it threatens you evils which, to a mind like yours, are most to be dreaded secret repining, and concealed, yet consuming regret Make a noble effort for the recovery of your peace, which now, with sorrow I see it, depends wholly upon the presence of Lord Orville This effort may indeed be painful but trust to my experience, when I assure you it is requisite You must quit him his sight is baneful to your repose, his society is death to your future tranquility Believe me, my beloved child, my heart aches for your suffering, while it dictates its necessity Because clearly, falling in love MUST NEVER HAPPEN You must be calm and passionless at all times If you like someone, you must flee their company How did anyone get married in these days You can t go up and introduce yourself you must hope to be introduced by some mutual respectable friend You must not dance with any one partner than a couple times a night, nor may you find yourself in intimate conversations with anyone of the opposite sex You cannot write to your love, not even the most innocent and affection free of notes You cannot hint that you like someone, until you actually ask them to marry you Only after you are engaged may you show any hint of affection or partiality, or indeed, write or talk to your fiancee ARRGH Reading a romance set in a different century is really a trip As a reader, I usually know who is being cast as the romantic lead, who is secretly evil, who will unexpectedly assist the main character, etc But in this book, all the signals I rely upon were gone, or meant something else entirely The man who seeks out Evelina s company, befriends her friends, and tries to make her happy, is apparently a dissolute and foolish rake The man who is cold, thinks of her as a sister, and has nothing to do with her for 8 9ths of the novel, is her love interest His very coldness and lack of partiality is what is explicitly stated by several characters as his most romantic aspect Her guardian, Mr Villars, swears that the outside world is too indelicate and dangerous for her and tries to keep cloistered forever in the country, with only him for company The first ten pages of Evelina show him refusing to allow Evelina out of his sight Among many creepy assertions, he writes, She is one, Madam, for whom alone I have lately wished to live and she is one whom to serve I would with transport die Restore her but to me all innocence as you receive her, and the fondest hope of my heart will be amply gratified He clutches her to his bosom all the time When she writes about feeling affection for another man, he responds, my Evelina, sole source, to me, of all earthly felicity How strange, then, is it, that the letter in which she tells me she is the happiest of human beings, should give me most mortal inquietude That reads as serious jealousy to me Then Evelina s father who abandoned her mother many years ago writes It seldom happens that a man, though extolled as a saint, is really without blemish or that another, though reviled as a devil, is really without humanity Perhaps the time is not very distant, when I may have the honour to convince your Ladyship of this truth, in regard to Mr Villars and myself Which again, reads to me that Mr Villars is not what he seems And yet, through to the end, all of the characters continue to think Mr Villars is the most moral and high minded of men He is never revealed to have ulterior motives His counsel is much sought after and well regarded Weird.Overall, Evelina is a very fun read I could hardly put it down, and I d definitely recommend it to anyone Nevertheless, it contains some very creepy messages Evelina s beauty is praised, but what everyone finds the most attractive about her is her timid inability to say what she thinks or be negative in any way She constantly gets into trouble and in fact, is almost raped due to her na ve and bashful nature, yet it is exactly what everyone likes best, and what critics of this book call and exceedingly moral message Any character who speaks clearly Captain Mirvan, Mrs Selwyn is thought of as very uncouth Neither character has patience for the long, drawn out methods of polite society, and mock the pretentions of the fops and would be aristocrats Mrs Selwyn is particularly effective at exposing the ignorance and foolishness of Evelina s companions, and so of course she is described as unpleasantly masculine and rapidly shut out from truly nice society I have some very strong feelings about this book, and I m not the only one apparently there have been FLAME WARS about this novel, which is freaking awesome I have an insuperable aversion to strength, either of body or mind, in a female Faith, and so have I, said Mr Coverley for egad, I d as soon see a woman chop wood, as hear her chop logic So would every man in his senses, said Lord Merton, for a woman wants nothing to recommend her but beauty and good nature in everything else she is either impertinent or unnatural For my part, deuce take me if ever I wish to hear a word of sense from a woman as long as I live It has always been agreed, said Mrs Selwyn, looking round her with the utmost contempt, that no man ought to be connected with a woman whose understanding is superior to his own Now I very much fear, that to accommodate all this good company, according to such a rule, would be utterly impracticable, unless we should choose subjects from Swift s hospital of idiots How many enemies, my dear Sir, does this unbounded severity excite

  5. says:

    3.5 This is the oldest work I have ever read by a female writer.I enjoyed this book at the start 18th century life particularly in London really came alive for me I admired Evelina s courage when she was left vulnerable in so many situations the way through my enjoyment started to ebb This is because Evelina was left vulnerable in so many situations By this time I had realised duh that I was reading a satire, but a lot of it felt quite repetitive I was thinking, Just get on with it when our heroine was yet again accosted Evelina was accosted a lot The epistletory format was also starting to seem strained I don t think this method works well in novels it is just too limited.I can totally see that Burney inspired both Austen Heyer, but I think both surpassed her I enjoyed this well enough to try another novel by Burney in the future.

  6. says:

    This reread struck me with just how thin the veneer of civilization is Burney was in her mid twenties when she wrote this and had probably been writing versions of it for ten years the central romance is very nearly bloodless, Evelina and Lord Orville being such paragons Their relationships is only interesting when Evelina thinks he wrote her an offensive letter, but one can just make out some human interest in the two when Orville keeps coming across Evelina in the most surprising places They scarcely exchange fifty words for nearly half the book, possibly longer, but his delicacy as he keeps coming to her rescue secures her interest, surrounded as she is by a vivid range of comical figures.When one considers that this novel, which was a huge best seller the instant it came out, did a great deal to make novels respectable, the reader gets a sense of just how rough and bawdy eighteenth century literature was Casual cruelty to animals, the race between old women a bet, arranged by people who purport to be part of high society , Captain Mirvan s persecution of Madam Duval and how funny everyone found it polite society was a dangerous place.Vivid and apparently realistic or at least recognizable within the confines of comedic broad strokes are the various marriages as well as what society was like for middle class, gentry, and lords and ladies Vauxhall was clearly in its decline Tom Branghton s gleeful recounting of what it was like there the last night of each season, when basically there was a riot and women running about skimper scamper screaming and people smashing out lights , Ranelagh was at its height we see a night at the opera and a couple of plays she talks about current favorites and names real performers , as well as Bath, bathing, etc.Also interesting is seeing the ghost of Jane Austen, as it were, for instance Orville s first, unconsidered put down of Evelina, who, being a total innocent, behaves oddly at her first ball, is a reminder of Darcy s put down of Lizzie Bennet the first time they all meet at a dance Certain lines also evoke Austen.

  7. says:

    The only thing that halts this from being a 5 star read is that while this book is clearly very satirical, there were some parts of the novel that somewhat made me uncomfortable view spoiler Not a big deal to be honest but I wasn t able to really laugh it off when people by people, I mean Willoughby kept physically grabbing Evelina whenever they pleased As this is almost an assault, I felt uncomfortable trying to find humor there hide spoiler

  8. says:

    Saw With Manners How in the world can you contrive to pass your time In a manner which your Lordship will think very extraordinary for the young lady reads First the good news Evelina is a story about introverts in love, and it has moments that are lovely I recognized my introverted wife in several passages Burney has an insightful touch with characterization, and an engaging writing style Evelina is rarely compelling to read, but it s usually pleasant.Now for the bad news unfortunately, the introverts in this book also happen to be wildly boring The infinitely lovely Evelina spends most of her time getting into awkward social situations she lacks the strength to disengage from, and then fainting about it especially in the first half, it s little than one excruciatingly uncomfortable, lengthy interaction after another It s like Saw with manners And the object of her constant mooning the cold, inanimate, phlegmatic Lord Orville, so described by one of the many supporting characters who are complete dicks but also at least slightly interesting than him conjures up no fantasy alluring than a lifetime of sitting around making polite conversation Nothing is so delicate as the reputation of a woman it is at once the most beautiful and most brittle of all human things The plot hinges again and again on misunderstanding leading to mortification, just like any number of modern situation comedies in which the whole thing could be cleared up instantly if people just communicated with each other like normal humans.It s not terrible, but there s only so much you can do with a story about boring people falling slowly into boring love.

  9. says:

    Maybe 3.5 I did enjoy this, but it took me a little while to get into for me the stronger section was the last quarter The letter form didn t entirely work for me, but Evelina is an interesting character, and it s a fun read I can certainly see how Burney inspired Jane Austen, although I have to say I much prefer Jane Austen

  10. says:

    I read this because I was curious to know about the novels Jane Austen herself read And I must say that while this book has its strong points, its main effect is to increase my respect for how Austen reshaped the novel form Burney s book is amusing, but the characters seem to be defined almost entirely by a single characteristic They are either all good or all bad, entirely proper or thoroughly vulgar, fully conscious or fainted dead away There is little development of character through the book, no fundamental changes in anyone s behavior Just two marriages to conclude the farce, with no one the wiser Austen, in contrast, treats us to real people, with all the nuance of character and emotional development that implies That said, I really enjoyed Mrs Selwyn s character Whenever she speaks I can almost imagine that I ve stumbled into an Oscar Wilde play A longer version of this review is available on my book blog,