Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Evelina, Or, the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World - by Fanny Burney

I know many of us wish there were more Jane Austen to read!  And I don’t mean Lizzie with zombies or re-written (as was just announced) by Joanna Trollope.  (No offense toward Trollope’s other work; I just don’t think Jane needs to be updated to remain appealing as Nancy Drew does.)

Perhaps the next best thing is to read what Austen read and we know she read novels by Fanny Burney who wrote Evelina, Or, the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World. (US Edition) (UK Edition)

This is from the first part of the novel:

Your Ladyship will not, I am sure, be surprised at this answer. Madame Duval is by no means a proper companion or guardian for a young woman: she is at once uneducated and unprincipled; ungentle in temper, and unamiable in her manners. I have long known that she has persuaded herself to harbour an aversion for me-Unhappy woman! I can only regard her as an object of pity!

It is an epistolary novel with letters flying between all parties.

Miss Mirvan was soon engaged; and presently after a very fashionable gay looking man, who seemed about thirty years of age, addressed himself to me, and begged to have the honour of dancing with me. Now Maria's partner was a gentleman of Mrs. Mirvan's acquaintance; for she had told us it was highly improper for young women to dance with strangers at any public assembly. Indeed it was by no means my wish so to do: yet I did not like to confine myself from dancing at all; neither did I dare refuse this gentleman as I had done Mr. Lovel, and then, if any acquaintance should offer, accept him: and so, all these reasons combining, induced me to tell him-yet I blush to write it to you!-that I was already engaged; by which I meant to keep myself at liberty to a dance, or not, as matters should fall out.

I suppose my consciousness betrayed my artifice, for he looked at me as if incredulous; and, instead of being satisfied with my answer and leaving me, according to my expectation, he walked at my side, and, with the greatest ease imaginable, began a conversation in the free style which only belongs to old and intimate acquaintance. But, what was most provoking, he asked me a thousand questions concerning the partner to whom I was engaged. And at last he said, "Is it really possible that a man whom you have honoured with your acceptance can fail to be at hand to profit from your goodness?"

I felt extremely foolish; and begged Mrs. Mirvan to lead to a seat; which she very obligingly did. The Captain sat next her; and to my great surprise, this gentleman thought proper to follow, and seat himself next to me. "What an insensible!" continued he; "why, Madam, you are missing the most delightful dance in the world!-The man must be either mad or a fool-Which do you incline to think him yourself?"

Indeed!  Read on to find out . . .

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  1. I read Evalina a couple of years ago and enjoyed it-not a flawless book but worth reading-I think you might like a very Austin like book by Junichiro Tanizaki-it is set in Osaka in the preWWII years and is about the efforts of four sisters to get their older sister married as the custom is they cannot marry until she does

  2. This sounds great! I will look for it.


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