The Wanderer

Stonehenge, drawing by Thomas Hearne, engraved W. Byrne & T. Medland, 1786)

Burney and the Gothic; The Opening Scene: An Apparently Black Heroine; Stonehenge; Ten Years in France: Looking Forward to The Wanderer; Fanny and Her Booksellers; The Wanderer: The Later Bad Reviews; Burney's Journals: 1815 & Last Years with D'Arblay & The Wanderer: An Eighteenth Century Sensibility At Times Still; Why the Original Good Reviews and Early Success; Burney Section 214-July 1815 Revisited with Harman's biography; The Wanderer: Fanny and her two Alexes; Simon Jarvis on Claire Harman; The Romance of Ilfracombe, or Ariadne on her Rock; Burney's Romantic Style; Her "Adoration" of "Her" Men; Claire Harman's Fanny Burney: A Life: The Wanderer A Novel Written Originally or Begun in French; Claire Harman's Fanny Burney: A Life Enjoyable and Iconoclastic About the Diaries and Journals as well as recent critical views of the novels and plays

To: trollope-l

January 30, 1999

Re: Burney and the Gothic

Since I first brought up The Wanderer I guess I will take up the position of being its defendant. Currently, I am writing about it as a major part of my dissertation on the Gothic. Its place in the Gothic tradition has largely been ignored up until I have taken it up. However, lots of wonderful things about this novel have been ignored because after the critics condemned the novel in 1814, it remained out of print until 1988. Since then it has been resurrected and proclaimed as an important early feminist text and as a response to the Romantic poets. I personally think it is a response to the Romantics that rejects Romanticism in favor of more Gothic traditions.

Actually, the novel was a big seller when it first came out but during the second printing the reviews condemned it and then it was forgotten. One of the major criticisms is the writing style, considered to be typical 18th century style that didn't fit in with the Romantic writing of people like Scott. Notably, the novel appeared the same year as Waverley. Another major criticism of the novel, probably connected to its five volume length, is that we never learn the heroine's name until the third volume. However, I feel this is a major strength of the novel. Margaret Anne Doody, who has probably done more than anyone else to support Burney's position in the canon, declares that Burney keeps Juliet's true identity secret until the third volume because she is trying to create an Everywoman character in the novel. She also does this by placing Juliet in numerous working positions for women such as lady's companion, seamstress, music teacher, shop girl, etc. and she shows all the miseries of the working world for women to create a masterly example of social criticism.

Unfortunately, because of the critics, the novel probably had no major influence upon the novelists who succeeded Burney. However, I know of at least one short piece in the journal Notes and Queries that suggests there are similar passages between The Wanderer and Wuthering Heights. It is also notable that Juliet is given the name Ellis in the novel by the characters who, not knowing her real identity, need to call her something. Doody has suggested that Ellis means Elle (French for she) + Is, meaning She is or Woman Exists. Could it be more than a coincidence then that Emily Bronte chose the pen name of Ellis Bell?

Anyway, admittedly, the first couple hundred pages are a little hard to get through, but I have read the novel twice and find the other six or seven hundred pages really delightful, and with the possible exception of Evelina, I think it is Burney's finest work.

Tyler Tichelaar

To: trollope-l

To answer Ellen's question about why people or like or dislike certain books, I think for me, it initially may have to do with first impressions and also with writing styles.

I've been an omnivorous reader since I was a child so I always loved English courses, but many (most I'm afraid) kids do not. I think they are forced to read things in school which turns them off from them. I've had lots of students in my college classes who come up to me at the end of the semester to tell me how they hated Shakespeare or Beowulf in high school and now they love it. Part of it, then has to do with maturity and the time in life when you read a book and simply the mood you are in. For example, the first time I read A Tale of Two Cities_ I was fifteen and liked it. I read it again at 26 and found it tedious, and then read it yet again at 27 and absolutely loved it. oddly enough.

I also think tastes are formed in early childhood. I tend to prefer British to American novels. One book I absolutely cannot stand is Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. I got this book as a birthday present in 4th grade and I thought it was a horrible book. I was completely disgusted by the swear words in it, being young and naive. In 11th grade I had to read it again for AMerican Lit and still hated it, simply because the style was boring. I could tell a similar story about Call of the Wild by Jack London. However, an exception is Robert Louis Stevenson. It took me weeks to get through the tediousness of Treasure Island and Kidnapped in 4th or 5th grade, making me decide I hated Stevenson. Then, when my grandfather died, I found a complete set of Stevenson's novels in his house published in 1912 and in perfect, brand new condition. They were such attractive volumes I just coiuldn't part with them and decided I would suffer through reading one volume a year (there are 26 volumes all together). Since then, I've discovered Treasure Island is still dull, but I have enjoyed some of his other works like the New Arabian Nights.

I guess then there's no real reason why a person does or doesn't like a certain book. Tastes change according to age, mood, and life experience.

Tyler Tichelaar

Re: Burney and the Gothic

I rather liked the opening chapters of The Wanderer. The reason I never went on, is I really didn't have the time. I would like to persuade the group who are reading novels and other texts by Austen's contemporaries to go for The Wanderer, but I'm afraid some of them were very put off by Cecilia. I think Burney's style is difficult for modern readers; it's too abstract. The pleasures of her text are often not idiosyncratically psychological in the way of 19th century novels; she indulges in types, figures from drama, grotesques. We are supposed to meditate the long Johnsonian discourses which are brilliant. We mean to try Camilla in the coming summer, but I fear The Wanderer has a bad reputation despite the fervor on behalf of it that some people on Austen-l bore witness to.

Gothic is an elastic term. The original usage grows out of late 18th century romances by people like Radcliffe which focuses on externals; we then get people defining an internal gothic (like Eva Figes); gothic itself becomes an element in other genres and connects to the ghost, horror, romance of terror and other subgenres of the novel. On this list we read Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas which he introduces by saying he is writing in the tradition of Radcliffe; Elizabeth Bowen qualifies that by calling Uncle Silas a romance of terror. I didn't see many traditional or Radcliffian gothic elements in Evelina or Cecilia. I would be curious if when Tyler has time he tells us what is specifically gothic in The Wanderer. Many people who study Burney appear to have a different favorite. Although I have not read the complete diaries and letters (just an old 3 volume abridgement), between Evelina, Cecilia and these diaries and letters my favorite thus far of her texts remains the autobiographic kind.

While Tyler's comment that no one read The Wanderer after it was damned by the critics seem to be true, Burney was known in the 19th century. Literary people read and loved the autobiographical writings; Macaulay's essay kept her before the public eye. In Vanity Fair Amelia and Becky exchange comments about Cecilia and we can assume there were people who knew the relatively light Evelina. Her biography or edition of her father's writings was also known. I would guess that like Thackeray, Trollope would have read the diaries and letters, the Macaulay, and either Evelina or maybe Cecilia which remained respectable since Burke and Johnson made such a fuss over it.

There are some remarkable books on Burney -- The Iron Pen comes to mind. I love the chapters on Burney's saving herself from drowning and her masectomy without anaesthesia. Talk about pain and blood . . . And the vivid retelling of it. Wow.

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney, The Wanderer: The Opening Scene: An Apparently Black Heroine

This posting is just about the opening scene of The Wanderer whic his so vivid and effective, startling. Perhaps the first sentence of the book is a bit partisan:

"During the dire reign of the terrific Robespierre, and in the dead of night, braving the cold, the darkness and the damps of December, some English passengers, in a small vessel, were preparing to slide silently from the coast of France, when a voice of keen distress resounded from the shore, imploring, in the French language, pity and admission."

There ensues an attempt upon the part of this desperate young woman to be taken aboard in spite of vociferous protests on the part of the other passengers, fear-ridden demands that they set sail immediately and not wait to take her aboard, scorn for her obvious poverty and lone state (an Admiral says no respectable woman would be alone), and the demands of the pilot to be paid first. There is nothing sentimental about the conversation. She manages to get aboard nonetheless, just. An undercurrent of mockery is also given voice to as the woman begins to pray once the ship sets off:

"'She seems to be at prayers.'

'At prayers. She's a nun, then, depend upon it. Make her tell us the history of her convent'" (1991 Oxford World Classic, The Wanderer, ed M.A. Doody, et alia, pp 11-3).

This reminded me of Catherine's inability to "subdue the hope of some traditional legends, some awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun" (1995 Penguin, NA ed Butler, Ch 17, p 125).

In her preface to this book Burney says she "planned" and had "begun to write the book before the end of the last century" [before 1800]; by 1802 she took the materials she had to France, and between then and 1812, "though only at odd intervals" (doubtless like Austen hastily hiding it when anyone entered the room), she finished it. It is a highly polished book and by Chapter 3 it is clear it also is meant seriously to engage in the political debates of the period, one of which was about the nature of women and their roles in society.

To my queries: the heroine seems to be black by which I mean West Indian or to use an old-fashioned term (lest I be misunderstood) mulatto or perhaps Negro. She is not black in the sense Austen uses of Henry Crawford or Bronte of Heathcliff. I cannot be mistaken because Burney harps upon her physical appearance and her origins and race through the prejudice the other passengers exhibit towards her, e.g.,

"Just then the stranger, having taken off her gloves, to arrange an old shawl, in which she was wrapt, exhibited hands and arms of so dark a colour, that they might rather be styled black than brown....

"'Pray, Mistress,' Exclaimed Mr Riley, scoffingly fixing his eyes upon her arms, 'what part of the world might you come from? The settlements in the West Indies? or somewhere off the coast of Africa?...

She hurriedly puts on said gloves, but later when her head-covering comes loose, people note and are turned off by her "dusky color" and laugh at her "fine eyes." Sarcastic remarks are hurled, such as no-one could "yclep her the Fair Maid of the Coast" (pp 19-20).

This is really astonishing for its period. I know it's a kind of trick (we will later discover the heroine is not black but is French); nonetheless, we are urged to sympathize with a black outcast heroine.

Ellen Moody

From: afjkm1@UAA.ALASKA.EDU
Subject: TROL Burney's The Wanderer
To: Cc: trollope-l

I agree with Tyler's endorsement of The Wanderer. I first read it in the original five small volumes in the North Library of the British Museum, using a lead weight to hold the volumes open--supremely uncomfortable reading conditions, but the story held me. Further, I was in London with my then 13-year-old son and used to tell him the story thus far every day when I got home, and he found it interesting, too. One of its striking qualities is that by withholding the heroine's identity Burney does some technically interesting writing--the point of view is Juliet's, but we only know about her what the other characters know at any given moment: that's why it takes so long for her name to be revealed. This seems to me a very sophisticated use of point of view, especially for this period. I've also taught the book successfully--the trick is to assign part every week, interspersed with other, shorter readings (this works for Paradise Lost and Clarissa, too--inevitably, some people become so caught up they read ahead, even though they have other assignments). It IS a long and encyclopedic work--those are qualities I like in a novel, but I suspect there are other temperaments who find them as repellant as I do attractive.

Judith Moore
Anchorage, Alaska

Subject: TROL The Wanderer as Gothic Novel

January 31, 1999

There's lots about The Wanderer by Burney that is Gothic, though some of it is admittedly arguable. I'll try to hit the main points here.

Burney definitely int4ended to use Gothic elements in both Camilla and The Wanderer. When she wrote Camilla in 1796, she was well aware of the popularity of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels so she thought that by using some Gothic elements in her novels, it would increase her own sales and popularity, although there are only a couple scenes in the novel that are Gothic.

The Wanderer has a long section about three-fourths of the way through the novel that builds upon typical Gothic novel scenes. Juliet, frightened that the evil French commissary who claims her as his wife, will find her must flee through a forest where she encounters numerous moments of terror from fear of being pursued or raped. She also falls into a situation where she fears she is among robbers and there are descriptive passages about her terror upon getting blood on her hand (fortunately, it turns out these people are merely poachers). These are the most Gothic sections of the novel, playing with typical Gothic motifs of robbers and banditti.

In addition, Burney's title has been read as a response to the wanderer figures of Romantic poetry, but it also conjures up images of the Wandering Jew character, who while he influences Romantic wanderers like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, also heavily influenced the Gothic. The Wandering Jew became popular after he was a character in Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796). This depiction inspired a great interest in immortal characters who are cursed with their immortality - among them are Rosicrucian characters like William Godwin's St. Leon (1799) and Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). Burney draws upon this tradition of the immortal Gothic wanderer in her depictions of Juliet who symbolically is able to metamorphosize herself from black to white, French to English, and in each of the various employment positions she holds. Consequently, Mrs. Ireton in the novel suggests that all of Juliet's metamorphoses mean she has supernatural abilities and maybe she is a "Wandering Jewess". Juliet's supposed immortality becomes a major theme in the novel toward the end when at Stonehenge, Juliet thinks about all the people who have been forgotten by time and the necessary belief that mankind's souls must be immortal in contrast to the supposed earthly immortality characters have suggested she contains.

Other Gothic elements exist in the novel, although they are not created within a Gothic atmosphere. Burney uses such stock Gothic motifs as mysterious identity, female confinement, concerns over inheritance and the continuance of family lines, and the importance of architecture in Gothic novels. Stonehenge itself, because of its ancient existence, becomes a type of Gothic architecture because it contains lost secrets and is itself a mystery regarding its original purpose. Finally, the novel is social gothic by using the Gothic to comment upon the horrors of life for working women.

Tyler Tichelaar

To Tyler and all,

First I thank Tyler for again answering my questions :).

The sequence of the heroine fleeing into the woods certainly sounds like Radcliffe. I think it's true even in Cecilia that although the atmosphere of Burney's novel is not gothic, there is a gothic undertow in the attitude of Burney towards men; her heroines are imprisoned and made vulnerable by their society. Eva Figes deals with this. I have heard about the Stonehenge sequence. The place conjures up an imaginative intensity because of its roots in pre-historic time. There is also a long debate about suicide, no?

The novel is too late to belong to 18th century studies, and too early for Victorian ones. It probably ought to be studied as a novel of the Napoleonic Regency period much like Edgeworth and Austen. I suppose another mark against it is its length. I thought on Austen-l many never started Cecilia because it was too long for them even to contemplate.

Thank you, thank you, Tyler.


To Eighteenth Century @Yahoo

Date: Tue, 06 Aug 2002
Subject: [EighteenthCentury] Stonehenge and The Wanderer Reply-To:

There has been an interesting thread on Victoria on the uses of Stonehenge in 19th century English novels. There are a number of 18th century books which take Stonehenge to belong to druidical culture (a couple center on the history of Bath), but Burney uses Stonehenge in her The Wanderer to some extent in the manner of Hardy: it is intended to place particular people and their story against a vast sweep of natural time, space and nature's strength, and connects to what we will see in Burney's Ulfracombe journal.

Ellen Moody

May 18, 2002

Re: Burney, On Journal Entries 194-195 [from Troide and Sabor's abridged Penguin Frances Burney: Journals and Letters]: Ten Years in France: Looking Forward to The Wanderer

So often in Burney's diaries she makes herself the heroine of dramatic scenes. She favors crises too: we saw that in the earliest parts of the diary when, for example, a carriage was overturned. It has been suggested by less pious readers that perhaps Burney made things up since after all none of this was published until well after most of the people in the diary were long dead. The suspicion was first aroused when after Burney's piece on how she almost drowned but for her own heroic efforts to save herself (this will come later), someone wrote to deny the possibility of what she had written. I have been told by Lars Troide (on C18-l) that in fact beyond this incident whatever can be checked up does show that Burney basically told the truth; Prof Troide maintains the near-drowning incident is basically true too. What Burney did was heighten the incidents, write them up in a way that brought out all sorts of inward qualities and interpretative feelings and thoughts as well as working (using heightened memory) on the visuals so that the experience is caught artistically. We come near novel-making in this. In this light consider the attractive and very hard-worked-upon passage:

"To enter a police office with so ferocious a wretch; alone, helpless, unprotected, unknown, to be probably charged with planning some conspiracy with the Enemies of the State -- my poor Alexander away, and not knowing what must have become of me; my breath was gone, my power of movement ceased; my Head- or understanding, seemed chaos, bereft of every distinct or discriminating idea, and my feet, as if those of a Statue felt riveted to the Ground, from a Vague, but overwhelming belief I was destined to incarceration in some Dungeon, where I might sink ere I could make known my situation to my friends, while Alex, thus unaccountably abandoned, might be driven to Despair, or become the prey to nameless mischiefs".

For myself I can more easily enjoy these later parts of the diary more than the earlier ones. The sequences at the Court are powerful, gripping; we are fascinated, appalled, lured and occasionally amused. Our emotions are worked upon. But Fanny is strongly inhibited and is keeping from herself as much as from us her strongest motivations. The result is a very tense enigmatic text. After she is released from her death-in-life imprisonment, the diary relaxes and gradually (or so it seems to me) a more mature woman emerges. Thus the dramatic scenes from 1792 on more resemble Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer because Fanny is now more in the position Bachelard said an artist needs to be: (to switch to Wordsworth's wording): "recollecting" intense emotion "in tranquillity" and from a calmer perspective, one where she doesn't hide that much from herself. In the earliest parts of the diary -- especially at Streatham -- she is either withholding truer attitudes or aware she is writing down what is ugly (the scapegoating). She is fascinated and repelled but has not thought out any position and is a kind of reacting rabbit. A curious nervous fear or tension runs through the diaries from the earliest up to the court. I don't know that she has faced up to herself or examined her mores with a critical eye any more than she did earlier; she is however so much more comfortable with herself, that there is a letting go at the same time as an ability to criticize others more frankly, a new level of awareness, as for example in this sentence from her description of the mastectomy: "[M. Dubois] uttered so many charges to me to be tranquil, and to suffer no uneasiness, that I could not but suspect there was room for terrible inquietude" (FB: Journals and Letters, abridged ed, Troide & Sabor, No 193, p. 432)

This week's instalment of our group reading consists of two long entries. The first includes a long description of David's portraits of Napoleon (No 194). Fanny is impressed with this conventional way of arranging one's materials. Fanny's way of talking about pictures reminds me how little her generation valued realism for itself: they looked to see for what an object stood for first. I am not sure which pictures Fanny is describing. The older witty woman comes out in her ironic portrait of Madame David:

Madame David, who, like her husband, was a rank Republican,could not herself be a thorough Votary of Bonaparte; though she wished his prosperity because he was the powerful protector of her Mate, and because he had crushed, at least, all Legitimate sovereignty. And she was probably also softened to him the more sincerely, by considering that though he was a Monarch, he was a Usurper (No. 194, p 449)

There is the voice of the narrator of Cecilia; what Fanny was willing to do in fiction, she now does in her diary, but in much plainer, more relaxed natural (though concise) English style.

The first half of Journal Entry No 195 returns us to Fanny's own perspective. I find in this entry much that looks forward to the opening of The Wanderer and the later parts of the diary where she is near Waterloo living within approachable distance of her husband, Alexandre. She paints a real portrait of the place; it's curious to find she experiences ennui while waiting to sail. She got bored when she wasn't writing: that's interesting, for a writer is someone who writes. She entertained herself observing the other people, and gives us a very lively picture of Alexandre who here does not sound like an 18 year old but a boy playing and running about in the streets:

"he ran, therefore, wildly about, at his leisure, to the Quay, the dockyard, the sea, the suburbs, the surrournding country; frequently visited the Miss Potts; found a favorite School fellow, who was waiting to sail with us, and accepted whatever other recreation came in his way; but chiefly his time was spent in skipping to the Marianne, our destined vessel and eseeing its preparations for departure" (No. 195, p. 450)

I like this in her. She's not into control; there's a free spirit in this woman.

But observation can entertain only so long so she writes to her ever faithful Alexandre and he wraps up very carefully the manuscript of The Wanderer and sends it to her. But now her problem is to take it with her to England. These are pre-computer days; pre- xerox copy days; pre carbon-copy days. This is the only MS she's got. If she loses it, she loses all this work. Her near loss of the MS before the suspicious inexorable authorities is retold in the Preface to The Wanderer. The picture here is of her putting up a strong calm face in order to win out:

He sputtered at the Mouth, and stamped with his feet so forcibly and vociferously, that no endeavours I could use could palliate the supposed offence sufficiently to induce him to stop his accusations of traiterous designs, till tired of the attempt, I ceased both explanation and entreaty, and stood before him with calm taciturnity (No 195, p. 452)

In Fanny's depictions of her adventures in the streets with the Spanish soldiers, she shows herself to be full of strong feelings and able to act with spontaneity and firmness to stand for what she believes in. She identifies with these refugees from the war; she thinks of them as anti-revolution so she goes over to give them money. If any of us have ever gone over to a group of people who we know are not necessarily going to allow everyday "norms" to control their behavior (as for various reasons they are beyond that), such moments of generosity and self-assertion can sometimes land you in mess with those you have tried to help -- either from them or from the authorities Perhaps Fanny over-writes this experience but I can see how she enjoyed the writing and the flow, energy, and psychic movement of the prose is something we don't much see in the novels after Evelina, e.g.,

"I impulsively, involuntarily, stopt. To enter a police office with so ferocious a Wretch; -- alone, helpless, unprotected, unknown; to be probably charged with planning some conspiracies with the Enemies of the State; -- my poor Alexander away, and not knowing what must have become of me; -- my breath was gone, -- and my power of movement ceased; my Head -- or Understanding, seemed a Chaos, bereft of every distinct or discriminating idea; -- and my Feet as if those of a Statue, felt rivetted to teh Ground, from a vague, but overwhelming belief I was destined to incarceration to some Dungeon, where I might sink ere I could make known my situation to my friends, while Alex, thus unaccountably abandoned, might be driven to despair, or become a prey to nameless mischiefs (No. 95, pp. 457-58).

She is thrilling to her own danger; I wonder how afraid she really was. She is worried over her son: what will happen if she doesn't get back to him. That's a fear many a woman who has been a mother may have experienced when a sudden calamity occurs while the child is in the playground. She expressed great relief when she gets back to him. Now had she only written this way in Camilla or The Wanderer no one would have mocked her and her books would be read genuinely by many people beyond specialists, Burney-ites and historically interested readers.

She does not spend much time or description on the harrowing trip. That she put into The Wanderer -- the opening chapter of The Wanderer is compelling reading.

When Burney reached the shore she kissed a pebble, feeling grateful joy at returning home. Funny emotions these: Lacan was right about how we live far more in what our minds make of things than in the real experiences of them. This kind of nostalgic nationalistic emotionalism lasts very briefly.

Cheers to all,

From Jill Spriggs:

Re: Burney, Journals and Letters, Sections 203-204: Fanny and Her Booksellers

In section 203 we have a series of exchanges between Fanny and her bookseller, William Lowndes. In the first she gently remonstrated with Lowndes for writing in a forward to a new edition of Evelina, a history of her life which first would have been better postponed until she was dead, and second, was filled with errors. But the errors did not bother her enough to prevent her from requesting copies of the edition for her husband and her son.

In the second letter she refused to correct the mistakes of which she had told Lowndes in her first letter, saying that she had not wish to bring her "obscure" life further into the public eye.

In section 204 are letters to the publisher Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, about the premature release of the first volume of _The Wanderer_. She always had given her family and close friends advance copies of her works, and was chagrined to find Mme. de Staël, Lord Holland, Sir James Macintosh, and others had received copies of the first volume of the unfinished work. Fanny pleaded for the return of the pirated copies, and delay in the publication of her work until it was complete.

She diplomatically professed to be flattered at the great interest which this, her last book (of course, she didn't know this) had excited. She expressed a fluttery pleasure at a very complimentary letter from Sir James Mackintosh which her publisher had forwarded. She seemed to be somewhat mollified with her publisher's precipitance, but firmly insisted that they not "try the experiment" again.

--Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney, Journals and Letters, Sections 203-204: Fanny and Her Booksellers

The letters on The Wanderer reveal that Fanny really meant this book to make money for her. She is doing all she can to make as much as possible. She denied reading the critics, but it's clear she is also very upset. She points out that the "big voices" of the earlier period who praised her so strongly publicly (Johnson, Reynolds, Burke) are now gone: this shows she knows how important a few voices can be. She may not know the details (for she couldn't very well rewrite The Wanderer which Hazlitt's strictures on her style would demand), but she knows her work is being treated very roughly. I'd like to say that I half-expected the book to take place in France and was disappointed when it turned out to be another novel about a virgin (this one also married) living in England having the same kinds of struggles as Cecilia. I didn't expect politics but I did think she would use her experiences in France: she may not have lest she upset D'Ablay's endless quest for place and salary.

Subject: [EighteenthCentury] Burney's Journals and Letters, Entries 205 - 207
From Jill Spriggs:

Entry 205 is a downright buoyant letter Fanny wrote to her cousin Charles, thanking him for his kind offer to escort her to Windsor to present Queen Charlotte with the five volume edition of The Wanderer, whose set had unfortunately not yet arrived. His letter offering this service had missed her, and hers in response must necessarily miss him. Think of all the misunderstanding and troubles telephones have averted!

Fanny's father continued ailing; this was the one sad note in the letter.

Fanny was hopeful that news would soon arrive of peace in France, which it in fact did with Napoleon's exile to Elba on April 20, two and a half weeks later.

Some teasing ensued about Charles' hopes for a bishopric, but the news which was the real reason for the letter ensued; Fanny's publisher had decided to issue a second edition, because the first of 3,000 was sold out, and orders for 800 more had already come in.

Unhappily, Fanny's elation was premature; bad reviews (and these I can understand; this is a very difficult novel to read) slowed the sales to a trickle, and finally ten years later the remaining 465 copies were trashed. Fanny's profit for the novel ended up being £2,000.

Date: Thu, 23 May 2002
Subject: [EighteenthCentury] Burney's Journals and Letters, Entry 213

The partiality of one's family is always a comfort, and Fanny wrote to her brother James to thank him for defending her, a fact which came to light through the offices of her son Alexander, who was residing with James at that time. Apparently William Hazlitt of the Edinburgh Review had harshly reviewed Fanny's The Wanderer and James had written a letter to Hazlitt ending their friendship. Alexander had sent a copy of the letter to his mother.

The fact remains, however, that The Wanderer is an inferior book to, as Fanny put it, its "elder sisters". It has almost an air of a book rushed into publication before it was ready. Could you imagine how Jane Austen could have "lopt and chopt" it into shape? It is too long by at least a third. Fanny's publishers were seduced into precipitancy by her great popularity; it would have been wise to delay publication by six months or a year, until it had a lot of excess verbiage pruned away. It's too bad that apparently it occurred to no one to withdraw the book, do some serious whittling, and then re-offer it.

Fanny herself did not seem to understand the reasons for the near-universal panning of her book. She guessed that the public wanted a political novel about the French Revolution, a fact to which Trollope's unfortunate foray into the genre (La Vendée) around fifty years later gives the lie. She had been lulled into complacency by the good reviews of the first volume which had been released to a select few by her excited publishers. The first volume is good; it is later on that it meanders into mediocrity.

Fanny also attributed the book's lack of success to its being overpriced by publishers eager for exorbitant profit. She also felt that "envy and jealousy" from less highly priced authors worked against her, a fact which I find unlikely. How influential could fellow authors be? It is the readers éwho count.

Any author regards her (or his) books as almost their children, and having them scorned must have been almost as painful as having someone tell you your kid is ugly as a stump.

--Jill Spriggs

To EighteenthCentury

May 25, 2002

Re: The Wanderer: The Later Bad Reviews

There were two things that the reviewers found unacceptable about The Wanderer: first the style. It is stilted and too abstract and elaborate. Such a style was acceptable when the paradigm for fiction still came out of the moral essay; by the 1810s the paradigm had become psychological and meditative. People had been reading the sort of mode in which Radcliffe enters into subjectivity which leads to intimacy and not primarily ethical placements at all.

Second, one that doesn't quite become explicit but is clearly there in all the reviews at the time. Madame D'Ablay is still writing about an innocent young lady's entrance into the world. When Fanny Burney was identified with her heroine, Evelina (although somewhat older), she was understandably writing about child-like girls, but for a married women to still fob off this censored pre-marital (pre-sex) stuff and in an era which had seen very adult books, books which did indeed engage confrontationally with the unspeakable in life, this book was like reading so much blockage.

Yes if she had cut and cut, condensed and condensed, and centered her book on the Mary Wollstonecraft character and plot (still of vital concern), she might have had a chance. She seems to have had no idea that her sense of decorum in public was obsolete. Hence for example the even more stultifying style of her biography of her father.


Re: Burney's Journals: 1815 & Last Years with D'Arblay & The Wanderer: An Eighteenth Century Sensibility At Times Still

The 18th century aesthetic at work in Belinda brings to mind something which struck me in reading this week's instalment of Burney's journals in the very much abridged edition of Troide and Sabor: how 18th century is Burney's sensibility. Belinda is redolent of Sir Charles Grandison everywhere; we have had all sorts of allusions to 18th century works, and the style informal as it is has a strong rationative and elegant verve which marks it as 18th century English. But Belinda came out in 1801. There was an enormous change in sensibility and outlook across the Napoleonic era: how more different could two novels by women of the gentry be than Belinda and Frankenstein. When Frankenstein was first published in 1818, here's how a typical reviewer, John Croker, wrote of it:

'a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity', though he had to admit 'it cannot be denied that this is . . . nonsense decked out with circumstances and clothed in language highly terrific . . . Frankenstein has passages that appall the mind and make the flesh creep.'

Hester Thrale found it confounding; she was genuinely astonished. She didn't know what to make of this new book. Scott's was one of the few cultured voices who brought over the older 18th century aesthetic and could respond to the new one which Mary Shelley was giving full philosophic voice to:

'An extraordinary tale, in which the author seems to disclose to us uncommon powers of poetic imagination . . . [it is a work which genuinely] excites new reflections and untried sources of emotion'

Now take a look at Fanny's entry No 214: The scenery is lovely, but it is highly controlled and stylized in the eighteenth century manner. It could have appeared in Austen's Sense and Sensibility much of which was written in 1797-98:

Almost every eminence was crowned with an ancient Castle or Fortress, whose falling Turrets and scattered fragments, moss grown, and widely spread around, gave as much interest and as great charm to the scene, as they caused, on the other hand, sorrow, resentment, and even horror to the reflections: for these Ruins were not the indispensable effect of all conquering irresistible Time, to which we All bow, or, rather, are bowed down, but of wanton, aggressive, invading War, and of insatiable ambition (Frances Burney, Journals and Letters, Penguin ed, Troide & Sabor, No 214, p. 493).

Note that moralizing ending -- so sure is Fanny that she knows or understands the sources of what has happened in this war. It is morality gone wrong while the universe remains an essentially good place, even if we eventually must grow old and die (she is thinking of D'Arblay so broken and sick with the years and strain of exile and loss).

And what works does she allude to? the Constantinople letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a mid-century work, to a minor 18th century "gay" play.

Why did The Wanderer fail to sustain itself with the public of the early 19th century? Probably because it was an 18th century work whose roots and even writing occurred before the great divide of the terrors of the Revolution and what it meant -- what the behavior that was unleased had taught people -- of the wars across Europe, and of the world that was emerging. When people opened The Wanderer they expected intelligent perception and vision based on this: what they got was more Cecilia, more 1780s experience which even in the 1780s was slightly retrograde in its ultimate feel.


Date: Wed, 29 May 2002
Subject: Burney's Journals: 1815 & Last Years with D'Arblay & The Wanderer:
Why the Original Good Reviews and Early Success

Ellen told us this morning:

Why did The Wanderer fail to sustain itself with the public of the early 19th century? Probably because it was an 18th century work whose roots and even writing occurred before the great divide of the terrors of the Revolution and what it meant -- what the behavior that was unleased had taught people -- of the wars across Europe, and of the world that was emerging. When people opened The Wanderer they expected intelligent perception and vision based on this: what they got was more Cecilia, more 1780s experience which even in the 1780s was slightly retrograde in its ultimate feel.

I think the first volume of The Wanderer did give its readers "intelligent perception and vision". This is the reason for the first good reviews. But it is as though Fanny couldn't keep up the effort, and relapsed into formulaic writing that recalled her earliest novels. So sad, after such a good start. 183 pages out of 763!


Date: Thu, 30 May 2002
Subject: [EighteenthCentury] Burney Section 214-July 1815 Revisited with Harman's biography

Dear Everyone,

This morning I delved into Harman's biography of Burney and discovered how many of the details of the Waterloo campaign, have escaped my notice. It is a dark time for Fanny and her fears for her husband's return to duty, when he was not in perfect health, were justified. While d'Arblay was away on duty, ("...transferred to duty at Treves (Triers) to mediate between the anti-French Prussian army and the French population in the lower Rhine" p337) Fanny remained in Brussels, and Harman reveals that she wrote to him the news of the main campaign against Napoleon. She was always desiring to be reunited with her husband, and just when she was making plans to do so, she received word about the injury that had befallen d'Arblay. He had been kicked by a new horse in the leg, while it was eating oats. The injury had become infectious (344) and a fevered d'Arblay had asked for his wife to attend him. The details of her remarkable journey alone to Treves that has been commented upon by Joan and Ellen in earlier posts, seem even more remarkable now. It is true that she just got up and left, with very little money and into unfamiliar surroundings. I had missed the description of the war torn countryside beside the Rhine. I can see the significance of the scenery now after reading Ellen's recent post. There were beautiful surroundings interspersed with war and ruin, that must have brought both a tender and horrified response from Fanny. She had lived through the war and she now could see with her own eyes the ravished landscape.

Fanny was reunited with her husband on July 21st, and the sight of his changed looks and "tortured leg" must have been horrible. When d'Arblay was well enough to travel ,they made plans to return to Paris. Fanny's husband made contact with his superior officers and obtained an an honorable discharge and was retired from service.

In October they returned to England and settled for a time in Bath. The letters from our section 216-218 belong to this period. Harman picks up on two of these letters and reveals the failed relationships between Fanny, and Mrs Piozzi and her son Alex. In letter 218, Fanny records her icy meeting with Mrs Piozzi. She was in mourning dress for her husband, who had been dead for six years. Fanny states that she was received with an "air of petrifying coldness" and she made many attempts in conversation to revive their former friendship. Harman details that Fanny made great attempts and this was seen by Mrs Piozzi, but she could not let go of the pains of the past. Fanny was not forgiven.

In letter 220 we have what might on first appearance be a typical letter from a mother to a son, who has been neglecting their duty to write. Harman's biography has outlined the strained relationship between mother and son, had been brewing for many years. Fanny had been disappointed over Alex's failing grades at Cambridge. She had her own wishes and plans for her son, but he was unable to live up to her expectations. Alex had an excellent mind, but he was unable to settle and diligently apply himself to study. Harman states that Alex had never had to focus on learning as a consequence of his life with his parents during their forced stay in France. Fanny in her love for her son, seemed to only push him further away. This may have been a consequence of her dominating attempts to force him to study. Harman records that Fanny remained in England in October, to watch over her son, while d'Arblay was in France attempting to arrange a marriage.

I am certain that Alex resented his mother's anxiety. Harman states they were on different levels of understanding and this was apparent while Fanny was in Brussels in early 1815 and Alex in England. Harman includes a letter that Fanny received from her son that contained " ... a youthfully sarcastic but astute summary" (Harman 341)of his father's loyalty to the King of France. This letter was received with great anger by Fanny and Harman notes that she may not have understood her own son's predicament. He was a young man and had very different ideas of loyalty than his parents. While separated from his parents he had been forced to drift in and out of homes in Cambridge due to an outbreak of infection at the university. Harman outlines that Alex was also affected by his mother's failed novel The Wanderer and had even written a "private critique" of her work. (Harman 343)

Joanne Pope

Re: Burney's Journals: The Wanderer: Fanny and her two Alexes

In reply to Jill,

I felt about The Wanderer the way I found myself responding to Edgeworth's Belinda, The Absentee and Ennui: all start off with striking even startling scenes, true to life and filled with adventure, transgression, accurate insights about people and society. Belinda quickly turns into a distorted unconscious lesbian fiction by a frustrated woman who has strong impulses to violence and power surrounded by her father's wives who allured her. The Absentee and Ennui collapsed into didacticism, with a simple prudential definition of ennui controlling the latter. With The Wanderer we get a depiction of a group of people fleeing France on a boat across the Channel -- which flight is their way of literally saving themselves from death or a harsh imprisonment. And then about 100 pages into the book it falls off sharply or takes a turn that is not that interesting at all or moves back and forth from moments of power to very conventional (to me irritating partly because it's so transparent) didacticism.

I wonder if the problem is that neither Burney nor Edgeworth had the courage to carry on what they had begun or themselves did not see what was valuable in the original vision so as to elaborate on that. I can say that The Wanderer does pick up again here and there; I read it skippingly and skimmingly through and there are a found some very interesting good scenes with a Mary Wollstonecraft character who is not treated as dismissively as Harriet Freke but with some sympathy and respect. It ends on a vision of Stonehenge which looks forward to Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

I have read the moving description of Fanny in the unabridged diaries and journals and Joyce Hemlow's biography where Fanny just about simply putting on her cloak and heading out for her husband upon hearing of his new injury and illness. He was very sick and weak indeed. He never got over the cart incident. Now that recalls an incident in a Chrétien romance we are reading on WomenWritersAndRomance where a hero similarly never gets over an encounter with a cart, though in the case of the romance hero it is a matter of imaginative self-respect: in D'Arblay's case he was badly injured. Then he fell sick from the strain of his job which was a misery: he had to deal with petty, stupid corrupt people and a violent ugly situation. When the horse kicks him, he is probably already ill with the cancer that killed him in Bath. Since Fanny has a way of not recording what is at the crux of her traumas only reflecting it indirectly I expect she knows all this without writing it down. She knew he was dying somewhere in her when they got to Bath.

However, I had not read her son's letter: despite its great length the unabridged diaries and journals still leave out some matter. I shall look to see if Alex's letter is contained in those volumes of the unabridged edition I own. They may not as often the 20th century editors elect to leave out letters to Fanny in order to include more of what she wrote. An exception to this is Volume II of Hemlow's later set whose texts are equally by Fanny and D'Arblay père. Sometimes these letters by others are included in appendices, but again not always.

I am persuaded that Fanny presents her son with the same obtuseness she presents many of the people in these diaries. The scene between her and Hester Thrale Piozzi gives us enough so that we see beyond what Fanny sees: Fanny only sees a hard frozen woman who refuses to look back and forgive; however, she gives enough of Hester's words to allow us to see that Hester doesn't want to look back because she feels ashamed of how they behaved at Streatham. Fanny derides Hester as a gloomy kind of methodist not to want to laugh once more. We may infer Hester has decided it wasn't so laughable ever -- even then. But the scenes and comments on Alex are censored more thoroughly if unconsciously by Fanny and the reader cannot get her son's side of the story. He is presented as inexplicably obstructive -- or just plain lazy, mysteriously unloving or ungrateful. We can see from Fanny's letter to her husband where he has proposed a wife for Alex whom Fanny knows very well would make Alex miserable that the husband had even less awareness of his son as a separate real person from himself with very different values of his own.

I find Joanne's summary of what Harman writes of great interest. I will repost part of it:

" Harman states that Alex had never had to focus on learning as a consequence of his life with his parents during their forced stay in France. Fanny in her love for her son, seemed to only push him further away. This may have been a consequence of her dominating attempts to force him to study. Harman records that Fanny remained in England in October, to watch over her son, while d'Arblay was in France attempting to arrange a marriage. I am certain that Alex resented his mother's anxiety. Harman states they were on different levels of understanding and this was apparent while Fanny was in Brussels in early 1815 and Alex in England. Harman includes a letter that Fanny received from her son that contained " ... a youthfully sarcastic but astute summary" (Harman 341)of his father's loyalty to the King of France."

The statement that Alex had not had to focus on learning and had not been disciplined may be found in Hemlow, Chisholm and Doody. The problem with it is it blames Alex: it assumes the problem was simply a matter of lack of discipline. But when Joanne goes on to comment about Alex's response to his mother's (probably overtly aggressive) anxiety and Harman's comment that they were on different levels of understanding this is something new. It's clear to me that Fanny is smarter than her husband, more perceptive about people's subtler psychology, but our Fanny has her limitations: I have wondered if her son wasn't brighter than she and certainly less blinded by the mores which controlled his mother's behavior to her father, led to her behaving to Hester Thrale Piozzi in a way that was cruel and she had no right to. I would like to read Alex's "youthfully sarcastic but astute summary" (Harman 341) of his father's loyalty to the King of France. I see many of D'Arblay's worst miseries as brought on himself. Napoleon has a couple of funny sarcastic ways of referring to D'Arblay which show that this astute man saw how manipulable and from the point of view of the powerful naively gullible was D'Arblay.

Joanne also writes:

"This letter was received with great anger by Fanny and Harman notes that she may not have understood her own son's predicament. He was a young man and had very different ideas of loyalty than his parents. While separated from his parents he had been forced to drift in and out of homes in Cambridge due to an outbreak of infection at the university. Harman outlines that Alex was also affected by his mother's failed novel The Wanderer and had even written a "private critique" of her work. (Harman 343)"

This is very interesting. I'd like to read that critique.

At one point in her letters Jane Austen comes across Madame d'Arblay's son. As usual the comment left us gives just about nothing away: it occurs in a context where she talks about an exhibition of pictures and she says maybe she will get all dolled up like the women in these "or perhaps I may marry young Mr D'arblay." Here he's a young man about town who is attractive, marriageable, amusing.


Date: Fri, 31 May 2002
Subject: [EighteenthCentury] Fanny Burney's Journals: Simon Jarvis on Claire Harman

In one of Fanny's entries (I can't remember whether it's in Troide and Sabor's abridgement or the "complete" edition of the letters and journals edited and supervised by Hemlow), in what appears to be a way of winning her son over to do what she wants or confide in her, Fanny offers to sign herself his sister. She says he should regard her as mother and sister.

I found this intriguing, and today have found a review of Claire Harman's biography by Simon Jarvis (it appeared in a TLS for 6 October 2000, p 40), in which Jarvis praises Harman for her unusually perceptive and unflinching portrayal of some of the hitherto unnoticed or obscured aspects of Fanny's relationship with her son. For this week's instalment we have a deeply moving account of his part in rescuing his mother from drowning. But this is a moment of transport and relief. Jarvis quotes an exchange between the young Alex and Fanny which shows them in competition with one another. She rebukes her son because his letters are too artful, i.e., to her way of thinking both courtier-like and phony:

"I remember you once wrote me a letter so very fine from Cambridge, that if it had not made me laugh, it would certainly have made me sick."

Jarvis's juxtaposition brings out how Alex took this as his mother's jealousy of his style:

"Alex, perhaps unsurprisingly, was later to be found drafting a lengthy private criticism of the prose style of "the last work of the Author of Evelina"

Among the less publicly unmentioned and often unrecorded aspects of parent-child relationships is competition, envy, jealousy and the acts such motives bring forth. It's a commonplace in novels that mothers are jealous of their daughters and vice versa and many stories are spun out of the attempt at counter-destruction these emotions cause. What is Freud's Oedipus Complex but about intense rivalry between son and father over the mother? But one can be in rivalry over more than sex.

Ellen Moody

To EighteenthCentury

June 3, 2002

Re: Burney, Journal Entry: The Romance of Ilfracombe, or Ariadne on her Rock
(Burney's Romantic Style)

Since we have been talking about if and how Burney's work relates to the high romantic and post-Napoleonic war literature of her era, I found myself reading this famous description in terms of the aesthetic of Burney's era. It does dramatize a point of view which offers a peculiarly feminine take on the new wild irrationality, the sense of the universe as alien and indifferent to man, of extreme moments as far more meaningful than the ordinary, of the experience of the natural world sheerly as romance -- all of which are fundamental to poetry by people like Byron whom Burney alludes to.

Burney also tells us she wrote of her near-death encounter, heroinism and last-minute rescue 6 years after it occurred and because her now dead husband asked her to. (She is writing in 1823, D'Arblay died in 1818, the incident occurred, is dated and placed in the diary in the year 1817.) This in itself is curious: suddenly she needs a justification for writing her experiences down: she didn't need that before. At any rate it does help explain why the enunciation (meaning the way the piece is elaborated) is so literary: it is beautifully written up, and reads like magnficent romance. No one could mock this style either: it is natural in syntax, not overdone and strained in the least -- which The Wanderer is. Except Evelina which was epistolary and provided a mask and her one comedy, A Busy Day, also a masked form, Burney puts stilts in in public; drawns a curtain of lexical distancing she doesn't need to when she fears no immediate publication. There is a significant allusion at its opening to Byron's Prisoner of Chillon, a romance where a man is chained to a pillar in a dungeon and stays there for years and years. His only company are small animals: spiders. Diane the dog fills in for Byron's spider. All the uses of the word "Banditti" for people who might be about and thus causing our herione much fear show memories of Salvador Rosa's paintings as seen through the prism of Radcliffe's imagination.

Another aspect of this piece is the female archetype at the center of it. We have been talking about archetypal figuring and how such thematic structures organize texts. Recently I have been reading a group of critics who remind me that the famous ones remain those which lend themselves to male interpretations and male points of view in stories: Daphnis and Chloe, Tristan and Iseult, Cupid and Psyche come from early male works. Female archetypes which are repeatedly found in works by women are often marginalized, do not get the same universal consent and yet they are as significant because as frequent and central to women's work. One of these is Arachne, the woman punished for her hubris, who wove scenes of women at climactic moments against Athena's weaving. She was turned into a spider. Another is Ariadne. Burney does not present herself as the ruthless savage male turning suicidal and having visions which are political: she is Ariadne on her rock thinking of her beloved husband and son; she is holding out not aggressive; she is not suicidal; she takes out time to care for a dog who herself goes off to care for her young and returns.

I know this is much disputed by Burneyites but it should be noted that there is contemporary and documentable evidence to suggest that Burney exaggerated her danger -- both from the point of view of the actual landscape and terrain. Something like this probably happened, but it is much written up -- and that's all right, life-writing is often more than a little fictionalize; like all writing it must be shaped by memory and imagination. This incident is shaped by the romantic aesthetic and romantic insights into the natural world as deflected or shaped by an intensely feminine imagination.

Go back and compare the eighteenth century landscape and point of view Burney created in her journey towards D'Arblay in 1815 from last week:

Almost every eminence was crowned with an ancient Castle or Fortress, whose falling Turrets and scattered fragments, moss grown, and widely spread around, gave as much interest and as great charm to the scene, as they caused, on the other hand, sorrow, resentment, and even horror to the reflections: for these Ruins were not the indispensable effect of all conquering irresistible Time, to which we All bow, or, rather, are bowed down, but of wanton, aggressive, invading War, and of insatiable ambition (Frances Burney, Journals and Letters, Penguin ed, Troide & Sabor, No 214, p. 493).

with this:

the profound silence all around me, the heaviness of the solitude, and the vast monotony of the view, joined to the relentless necessity of remaining motionless, might have calmed my senses to a species of torpor that must inevitably have invited sleep. I should then have lost my ballance -- and my waking start must have plunged me into the Sea . . . With my bag of curiosities, I next made a Cushion for Diane [note: is this possible on a tiny promontory of rock?], which, however, little luxurious, was softness itself compared with her then resting place. She, also could take no repose, but from the period I made her tolerably happy, by carresses and continual attentions.

They are like "shipwrecked Mariners" and Fanny wishes she had some language by which she could wile away the time for them and tell Diane a story (so does Byron want to tell his spiders of himself)

But no sooner had every vestige of the dying beams of the sun vanished from the broad Horizon, than a small gentle Rain began to fall, and not alone the brightness of the Great Luminary of the Universe became invisible, but the light, as well as the brightness of the Day became obscured by darkling clouds wandering in wavering directions in the vast expanse before me, and already lowering in the distance, as if preparing to meet the Waters of the Deep (No 224, pp. 522-23).

This is a different kind of beauty, the beauty of fear, of strangeness, of power. The infolded point of view here is central to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- with of course the important difference that Shelley moves away from the Ariadne archetype and into a Promethean one which grows out of a frank departure from diurnal realism and into the supernatural metaphysical realms Fanny just glimpses, peers at with awe, but stands still and waits for others to retrieve her back. But Fanny does glimpse and record them before being "brought back". That is my point.

Now too bad she bring a new novel out of this.


Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002
Subject: [EighteenthCentury] Fanny Burney's Journals 227 Ilfracombe 24 Sept 1817:
Her "Adoration" of "her" Men

Fanny's adoration--I can call it no less--of the male of the species who is either her father, husband or son is truly amazing. I really begin to understand why men kept us under submission for so long. They must have been having a glorious time in the role of a god rather than a plain human being. When I read someone of Fanny's intellect and experience writing "The latest desire that was pronounced, with respect to the use of my Pen, by Him whose every express desire I now execute as a Law, though with pleasure" when she is writing of a frightening experience of hers "in the year 1817--the last year of my happiness--" five years after her husband's death. Although she manages to keep herself safe by thought and action she continues to demean herself as I am only a woman and so therefore cannot be expected to be able to escape from this terror. When will my son come to rescue me? She really does quite well, manages to save her life but happily gives the credit away to her son.

Fanny takes Alexander to Ilfracombe in Devonshire for lessons. While he is away with his tutor, she decides to go look for some curiosities from the coast to bring back to her husband for his collection. She and her dog, Diane, explore the caves made by the water in the coastline and she finds a new one. Not realizing that the tide is coming in, Fanny goes too deep in the cave even though Diane is trying to tell her by pulling at her skirt that there is danger ahead. Diane escapes through a small hole to go home to feed her puppies after Fanny has realized that the tide is indeed coming in.

Fanny continues to try to climb up the slippery rocks of the wall to see whether she can get out that way. During this time what she says she is most worried about is how worried Alexander is going to be about her! Finally, instead of giving in to this she "flew that thought" and continues on her upward way. She loses her shoes in the muck, cleverly retrieves them with her umbrella, and finally reaches the highest place that she can manage to climb. She is trying to reach a tuft of grass but cannot go that far. Diane reappears as Fanny watches the sea rising. Continuing to complain about being a "Female alone and past 60 years of age"!!!

The dog is shaking with fear, the storm seems to worsen until the last terrible wave crashes but finally the water start to recede. The tempest above also improves. She is exhausted, afraid of relaxing and going to sleep so she makes a bed for the dog out of her bag and realizes that she is hungry. She then is visited by many other fears that she won't be found and will not be rescued. In her shortsightedness she finally sees two people and is terrified that they might be bandits. She yells "Holla" and then finds out one of the two is her son. He decides to go for a boat to rescue her but is talked out of it by a mariner who comes over to Fanny and starts Diane off barking. This frightens the mariner. All is finally settled, she and the dog are out of their hole and Diane "fanned her tail with perpetual motion."

Then the natives of the area want to blood Alexander "because he had been destrait" but Fanny stops this. She revisits the spot to days later and finds that the waves and wind had changed the area so much that she would not have survived.


Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002
Subject: Re: [EighteenthCentury] Burney, No 224: Ilfracombe, or Ariadne on her Rock

Something like this probably happened, but it is much written up -- and that's all right, life-writing is often more than a little fictionalize; like all writing it must be shaped by memory and imagination.

I can easily believe this Ellen. It is such a dramatic piece. I enjoyed reading it twice and agree with you that it would have made a wonderful book. But then I really like the Journals much more than her books. The writing is so beautiful, it's as if she has let herself go even though she hopes somewhere that these will be published, that idea doesn't frighten her. She knows she's had an interesting life, she knows she writes very well, and she knows that she is an interesting figure.


To EighteenthCentury

Re: Claire Harman's Fanny Burney: A Life:
Parts of The Wanderer Originally Written in French

I am reading the above book and it's excellent in many ways. I hope to post separately about it. In the meantime (I'm not yet finished) I thought I'd post from Harman's account quotations from a piece of a critique of Burney's The Wanderer -- which came out in the same year as Scott's Waverley to which was according a rousing cheer (1814 also saw the publication of Austen's Mansfield Park and Edgeworth's Patronage). It's by Burney's son, Alex. He seems to have thought (or known that?) some of the early drafts of The Wanderer were in French, and he accounts for the style by first quoting a sentence which in English reads as stilted, and having an abstract painful general concision which the English reader has difficulty turning into comprehensible thought, and then turning it into French, a process he says comes simply to the French reader, and produces elegance. For example, Burney's strained description of one of her characters as having "the strong recommendation of being wholly natural; a recommendation as rare in itself as success is in its deviations" becomes in her son's translation: "Il est aussi rare d'être naturel que de réussir sans l'être" (Harman, p 328). Although Fanny says she began the book before she left for France, much of it was written while she was there.

Is The Wanderer an English translation of a mostly French book? The translator would have been exhausted, more than a little depressed (she was in England while her husband in France, her son not doing well, her father dead or dying); she cobbled some of it together from a manuscript written over a period of years in different places and times to pass the time away. The early parts are best, says Jill; were they written first and in English?

Someone should try to translate The Wanderer back into French :)


Re: Claire Harman's Fanny Burney: A Life Enjoyable and Iconoclastic About the Diaries and Journals as well as recent critical views of the novels and plays.

I finished this enjoyable book today. Most unexpectedly I found it was not simply a rehash of an earlier biography; it gives the reader a genuine new understanding of the papers of Fanny Burney, and Harman bravely brings out the fictionalizing of Burney's diary and shows she is less censorious and also more candid about Burney's family than the recent editors of the Early Journals and Letters. I recommend it as a fine recent biography of Burney.

Harman is in the line of books started by Hemlow. She is writing for the general reader and does not resort to difficult jargon. I found Kate Chisholm to basically be a rehash of Hemlow in a rather shallower or less emotional and more normalizing vein; she had more to say about the novels than Hemlow, but what she said was lifted from Doody (who she sneered at in her footnotes). Harman has an original and different conception of Burney -- as a highly original personality and strongly intelligent writer.

The most interesting parts of Harman's book for me were her commentaries on the fictionalizing of Fanny's diary: the difference between when an event happened and what it was and when Fanny wrote it down. Harman repeatedly emphasizes the reshaping by Fanny of her experience and reshaping and reshaping until we can scarcely quite tell what happened: what we can tell is Fanny's attitudes towards what happened at each stage of the writing and rewriting of the diaries, letters, journals. So the story of all the ohs and ahs over Evelina with no one knowing who this wonderful author is -- as we read it -- an exaggeration and rewrite. To me this makes sense of a puzzling text and anomalies in the early years of Burney's diary. Harman brings up the distance between what happened and Fanny's art in writing this up; how in the decades of the 18th century Fanny's writing enabled her to experience life with Susan. She explains Fanny's strange opening to her Ilfracombe description where she says she is writing this because her husband asked her to by showing how a number of Fanny's later journals were written up after D'Arblay died and indeed at his behest -- he wanted Fanny to have this writing as a release and knew she would love it as an occupation -- in her imagination she could relive the past and be with him and others who were dead once again.

As to the novels, she argues that Fanny's early anonymity enabled her to write Evelina in a fresh style. Later she could only do this in her journals -- hugging the conscious thought that it would not be published except in a highly censored form was the enabling stance. Snugship was what Fanny wanted, and nothing could compensate for powerful inhibitions which publicity after Evelina imposed on Burney's creative life.

Harman takes an interesting attitude towards Fanny's reading too:

Her 'writing passion' was partly a response to loneliness, partly, as is evident from the astonishing diversit fo the forms she tried, a form of interaction with the authors she read and admired. The extent of that interaction was unusual ... (Harman, Fanny Burney, pp. 44ff.)

Harman suggest that for Fanny reading was a serious moral experience -- this reminded me of George Sand, but also it is very like Samuel Johnson.

Harman does give the fullest and best sense of what kind of a person young Alex might have been. Harman suggests that Alex's pattern of life suggests not only heavy depressions but that he took drugs (perhaps he was at times addicted to opium). She is good on Fanny at court: she sees in Fanny's behavior something psychotic, edging beyond neurosis into a kind of blank hysteria at the end, a disabling of agency. She's fair to Charles Burney and presents him in a way that is convincing.

The real drawback of the book is it's too short and towards the end scants the last years of Fanny's life. She had too much material and ended up emphasizing the earlier years -- as so many do. Harman also has a tendency to make fun of more emotional approaches to Fanny's life: her brisk approach to sensibility makes her lose aspects of Fanny's experience and art which are validly melodramatic.

But these flaws are outweighed by the insights, the sophisticated approach to the papers, and Harman's style and voice too -- which are real pleasures.

Fanny is lucky in her biographers. But then again she left them so much rich material.

Cheers to all,

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 1 February 2003