I Thank My Publishers for Publishing My Silly Scribblings

Frances “Fanny” Burney was among the most influential authors of her era. Living at a time when it was considered very scandalous for women to indulge in writing fiction—or reading it for that matter, she nevertheless published her groundbreaking novel Evelina or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World, (London: T. Lowndes) in 1778. The book was very highly praised by the beau monde.
Described as “the Mother of English Fiction” by Virginia Woolf in 1918[1], Fanny Burney was also acclaimed by Anna Letitia Barbauld, a prominent English poet, essayist, literary critic, editor, and children’s author, a hundred years earlier:

“Scarcely any name, if any, stands higher in the list of novel-writers than that of Miss Burney.[2]

Fanny Burney helped to promote the status of women’s writing, but the introduction to her last novel, The Wanderer, reveals her lifelong ambivalence towards writing which she associated with “degradation”:

 “I struggled against the propensity which […] impelled me into its toils.”

When her first novel made her a celebrity at the age of twenty-six in 1778, she danced for joy around a mulberry tree but hid her novel from view to save herself the embarrassment of having to own up as its author.
I have recently begun reading Fanny Burney’s novels, having lately received an introduction to them through, of all places, my Amazon Suggested Reading List.
As a writer and editor, who has struggled with dedications, let alone dedications to publishers, I thought I would share with you one of the most fascinating dedications I’ve read to date—not because it was brilliant, but because it was so self-effacing.
I had to use a snipping tool in two parts to copy it from the PDF, so please forgive the huge gap right in the middle.

Do you not find this delightful? Of course, I find this so because those of you who know me, know that I am ever so fond of Jane Austen, the Bronte’s, and other so-called Regency and Victorian writers.  (Charlotte Bronte, was born the year before Jane Austen died (1817), Emily Bronte the year after, and their sister Ann Bronte was borne a few years later still. Charles Dickens was five years old when Jane died and George Eliot was born two years later.)

I suppose I can be called an anglophile as I greatly admire all things British (except for the food perhaps). 

I did mention to my mother the other day that I watch so much BBC America and Masterpiece Theater, that I am surprised when I watch a program where the characters don’t use the Queen’s English.

So there it is.

[1] The Essays of Virginia Woolf, ed. by Andrew McNeillie, 4 vols (London: Hogarth Press 1986-94), II, p.314.
[2] The British Novelists, Anna Letitia Barbauld, 50 vols (London: F.C. & J. Rivington, 1810) XXXVIII.
Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  

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