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An investigation into the character of Fanny Burney

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Chapter II


The First Two Novels

Evelina; or, A young Lady's Entrance into the World offers ample opportunity for us to become acquainted with Fanny Burney's views on life at the age of twenty-five. In March 1778 she wrote in her diary:

"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 dof

This passage in her private diary is important. It shows that we have to expect a picture of life as seen through the eyes of a woman, though in this case a very young and inexperienced woman. This is totally different from the earlier novels where we only get to know the situation as seen by men. All the great novelists were men and even the lady-novelists did not treat their subjects from a specially feminine point of view. Mrs. Manley for example Charlotte Lennox and Hannah More wrote political and social satires. But Fanny Burney had no interest in politics and knew very little about them. She considered this too masculine a subject for a woman. Macaulay justly said:

"Evelina was the first tale written by a woman and purporting to be a picture of life and manners, that hved or deserved to live." 1

* Edinburgh Review, Jan. 1843.