Evelina: Towards a Calendar

Sketch of Covent Garden by Fanny Burney, 16 October 1766

To Austen-l

January 19, 1998

Re: Burney: Evelina Is she using an almanac for the Year 1774?

I delighted in John Sutherland's two books on fiction in which on several occasions he carefully works out the year in which a given more exacting or careful novelist sets his novel, and then extrapolates from that usage, some very interesting observations upon that novel, and have been drawing out Austen's calendars for each of her novels, and come across essays which use some presumed years as the basis for Richardson's calendar in Clarissa and Grandison. Thus when I came across the first dates in Evelina in which we are given month, date, and day, I had a look to see which years these fit. I don't know which year Burney had in mind, but she is following an almanac; we will probably not be able to eliminate enough years to get down to one or two possibilities unless we are told when Easter or some other festival holiday occurs, but I'd like at least to air the following thoughts:

We have by now been given several dates which are complete enough for us to eliminate years; for example, April 2nd is a Saturday, April 5th, a Tuesday, and April 12th, a Tuesday. Well I went back from 1778 to 1743 and found the in the following six years the above concatenations occurred: 1743, 1748, 1757, 1763, 1768, and 1774.

I didn't go back any earlier than 1743 because the events and places and things referred to as explicated in Doody's notes do not refer to anything much before 1747. If Burney did as Austen and simply used the almanac that was most convenient, the year would be 1774. This would fit the reference to the Pantheon which, we are told, first opened in 1772; we are also told in the notes that Burney, her step- mother, and sister first went to the opera to see the opening of Armida in 1774.

Still the play referred to twice was first staged in 1747, and a number of the other places mentioned were opened in the years just after mid-century, so I went back to 1743 to get a fuller range of possibilities.

Ellen Moody

Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: Ursula Rempel
Subject: Burney: Evelina: The London Scene

Ellen writes of the musical details we are given in _Evelina_ which I, too, find intriguing. The reference in Letter 12 to the opera she attends seems to imply a substitution: she heard an _opera seria_ because the " 'comic' first singer was ill." This puzzles me. Does this mean that they attended a different production? I assume there could have been no last-minute operatic substitution by the same company. I'd like to look up what was happening in London in the "year" of Evelina_ Can Ellen--or someone else--confirm what year it's supposed to be? I thought 1778, but am not sure.

There are some excellent sources for what was going on in the multi-volume reference work edited by Philip Highfill, _A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and other Stage Personnel in London: 1660-1800 (16 volumes, I think), and The London Stage: 1660-1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces together with Casts, Box Receipts, . . ..

Ursula Rempel

Date: Sun, 5 Apr 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
 From: Ursula Rempel
Subject: Evelina Chronology

In a post today Ellen Moody asks for further evidence in dating the year for Evelina. We've had discussions about 1774 as a possibility, and a few weeks ago I posted a brief note about Signor Millico (the castrato who appears in Volume I) whom Evelina and the Branghtons heard at the opera. Millico performed in London in the Spring of 1772 (at that time unfavourably received--see Mr. Branghton's reaction as well!). I'm beginning to suspect some in-jokes in Evelina! Millico returned to London in 1774 when his reception had decidedly improved.

I've been doing a bit more sleuthing today, but only with my resources at home: Fiske's English Theatre Music in the Eighteenth Century, two editions of Grove's _Dictionary of Music and Musicians_ (1 and 5), Hartnoll's The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, and the excellent Bedford edition of Evelina edited by Kristina Straub. I think a solution to the year of Evelina could be resolved by consulting The London Stage and/or Highfill. Both are multi-volume works to be found in any university library.

Some things I found out:

1. Marylebone Gardens closed in 1776 (Fiske)
2. Garrick retired in 1776 (10 June) (Hartnoll)
3. Colman (_The Deuce is in Him_) retired from Covent Garden in 1774
and took over the Haymarket in 1776) (Hartnoll)
4. Barthelemon became leader of Vauxhall Gardens in 1770
and left England in 1776 (Grove's 1)
5. Barthelemon became leader at Marylebone Gardens in 1770
and left England in 1776 (Grove's 5); he could have held both positions.
6. M. Torme "was a print-seller who also specialized in spectacular fireworks displays at Marylebone Gardens between 1772
and 1774." (Straug note to Vol. II, XXI)
7. "Between 1770 and 1773, Burney enjoys family outings to Ranelagh, Marylebone Gardens, Vauxhall, the opera, and theater.
She also spends many pleasurable evenings listening to the fine musicians who frequent her father's house.
(Straub: chronology to her edition of Evelina)
8. It seems that Millico was *not* in London in 1773.

I'm beginning to wonder if Burney had 1772 in mind as the year for Evelina (not 1774)?

I've only read snippets of her diaries, but surely they would also help with the chronology.

Ursula Rempel

Subject: Burney: Dating Evelina: The London Musical Scene

In response to Ursula's request for what year Evelina takes place in, so that she could try to work out "what was happening in the year Evelina "takes place," I'd like again to suggest, this time a bit less tentatively, that the year is 1774.

To be specific, I respond that her dates do not at all preclude 1774. Several of your historical events suggest we have a book written between 1770 and 1776, but one (No 6) reduces our "window" to between 1772 and 1774.

Which is it? 1772, 1773, or 1774. Well we have now to turn to those dates in our novel wherein we are given not only the days of the week but the months and their dates. This kind of information is everywhere in _Evelina_ because it is an epistolary novel which is carefully embedded in diurnal reality. I went over the dates we are given and found that between 1743 and 1778 the only years that "fit" are 1743, 1748, 1757, 1763, 1768, and 1774. After 1778 will not do because of some other nuggets of information we have; before around 1740 is too early.

Austen used almanacs for her novels. She was probably led to do this in part because epistolary novels were so popular, her first efforts were probably epistolary, and Richardson's novels are sticklers for dates. It's true that the letters in Lady Susan are undated and one has to work with calendars of the period and the few annotations of days we are given to work out the year in which it is taking place, and then it remains speculative. In The Watsons we are given one spectacularly full date in the first sentence which nails the book to 1801, but are given no more. In the other books such nearly whole dates only occur intermittently, sometimes as part of a letter, and sometimes as part of an important event the characters are planning--when Fanny goes to the ball for example--or when the characters remember a similarly pivotal event--when Bingley remembers that the date of the Netherfield ball, the last time he saw Jane was November 26th, a Tuesday. At the same time the years in which the full novels take place can be dated; there are arguments as to which year but usually the dispute is over this or that and all agree that Austen had in mind a definite year and worked with an almanac.

My tenative common sense conclusion is that since she wrote and rewrote her novels, she didn't want us to realize that her books are in tiny ways slightly anachronistic or inconsistent when it comes to a few of the external references (as when Marianne is an intense enthusiast for both Cowper and Scott). So she kept only those dates in evidence which she wanted us to note carefully.

This is in contradistinction to Evelina. I cannot say anything about dating in Burney's other novels but it seems to me one of those pleasures Burney expected us to take away from her book are precisely those several of us have registered: we enjoy the trips to the theatre, the descriptions of fireworks, the references to real "stars" and musicians. Imagine the original audience. For us it is an effort of the imagination aided by history. For the contemporary reader there was the vividness of real details and experiences they shared with the heroine or a longing to go to London to know them at last. I imagine Austen as a girl in the country reading this book, and, whatever might be the ordeals and worries of our heroine, wishing she were Evelina in London.

Ellen Moody

Date: Mon, 6 Apr 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: Ursula Rempel
Subject: Burney: Dating Evelina

Thank you, Ellen, for your response today. It seems that there's no doubt that 1774 was the chronological year Burney had in mind for _Evelina_, but could she have used events/performers from 1772 and 1773 and fictitiously set them in 1774? I'm curious about this because she allows Mr. Branghton to criticise Millico (who was ill-received in 1772, and lauded in 1774). Of course Branghton is no judge of operatic performances, but what is Burney doing with this? If it's a 1772 performance, Branghton may be bang-on in his criticism; if it's a 1774 performance, Branghton's criticism then becomes ridiculous. I think this little episode can be taken both ways, perhaps. And either way we laugh at it. And how contemporary audiences of the novel must have laughed! And I think I'm writing myself into knots here!

When I have some time (!) I'll check the sources I mentioned last night. There are also playbills, newspaper announcements, concert reviews, which are available if one has the time to do the searches. I have lots of materials from the 1790s, but not--alas--from the 1770s. I am starting Evelina again to make a list of all events and performers.

Austen is much more illusive in her "real people" references. I have wondered for some time "which" music of Cramer is alluded to in Emma. And is the singer at the end of Persuasion the Miss Davis (or Miss Davies) she mentions in one of her letters?

Ursula Rempel

To Ursula and other Burneyites

Re: Burney: Dating Evelina:

Perhaps Burney then "worked" more like Austen. She would bring in activities or events that occurred around the time she set her novel in, and did not worry about accuracy in any overly exact way. As I recall in his books (Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?), John Sutherland singles out different attitudes towards time within the group of authors he says are realistic and try to provide a narrrowly defined milieu. Thus Trollope does have calendars in some of his novels, but is not too fussy if they are not quite consistent, and is willing to bring in details that might not belong in a given year. Collins, on the other hand, went to the trouble of rewriting a portion of one of his novels when a critic in the period proved he had "lost" two weeks, i.e., two weeks were unaccounted for in the time-scheme or calendar of his novel. I do think it's worth it to have a feel for how exact Burney meant to be. First of all you will get her ironies and meaning. Equally you will get a sense of how her imagination works, how she has ordered her materials and when she was writing Evelina more precisely.

Perhaps she began when she was around 20. Like Austen's novels, we have a text which underwent many revisions. That helps account for its high quality.


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