Evelina: Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World

Evelina: Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World

3.8 28
by Fanny Burney
     
 

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A work by turns hilarious and grim, Evelina tells the story of a young woman’s education in the ways of the world, vividly rendering life in eighteenth-century England. Raised by a pastor after her mother died and her father abandoned her, Evelina leaves the seclusion of the country for her first season out, encounters all manner of people–from prospective

Overview

A work by turns hilarious and grim, Evelina tells the story of a young woman’s education in the ways of the world, vividly rendering life in eighteenth-century England. Raised by a pastor after her mother died and her father abandoned her, Evelina leaves the seclusion of the country for her first season out, encounters all manner of people–from prospective husbands to rakes to vulgar relatives–and endures all manner of trials before she achieves her final triumph.

“Before Evelina,” W. D. Howells proclaimed, “the heart of girlhood had never been so fully opened in literature.” Samuel Johnson called Burney “a real wonder” and Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote, “We owe to [Burney], not only Evelina, Cecilia, and Camilla, but also Mansfield Park and The Absentee.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Students like the format and selection of notes. The information given seems pertinent and helpful. I like the illustrations included in the edition."—D. Fulkerson, Ohio Northern Univ.

"An excellent edition - fine introduction, notes, and chronology. Both scholarly and easy to read."—Robert Mayer, Oklahoma State University

"This is a most attractive and useful edition of an increasingly central text of the early English novel. I wholeheartedly urge adoption of this version for students at all levels."—Laura Dabundo, Kennesaw State College

"The best edition on the market."—David Mazella, University of Houston

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780192833969
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
06/25/1998
Series:
Oxford World's Classics Series
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Volume I

Oh author of my being!-far more dear
To me than light, than nourishment, or rest,
Hygieia’s blessings, Rapture’s burning tear,
Or the life blood that mantles in my breast!

If in my heart the love of Virtue glows,
’T was planted there by an unerring rule;
From thy example the pure flame arose,
Thy life, my precept-thy good works, my school.

Could my weak pow’rs thy num’rous virtues trace,
By filial love each fear should be repress’d;
The blush of Incapacity I’d chace,
And stand, recorder of thy worth, confess’d:

But since my niggard stars that gift refuse,
Concealment is the only boon I claim;
Obscure be still the unsuccessful Muse,
Who cannot raise, but would not sink, thy fame.

Oh! of my life at once the source and joy!
If e’er thy eyes these feeble lines survey,
Let not their folly their intent destroy;
Accept the tribute-but forget the lay.



To the Authors of the Monthly and Critical Reviews
Gentlemen,
The liberty which I take in addressing to You the trifling production of a few idle hours, will, doubtless, move your wonder, and, probably, your contempt. I will not, however, with the futility of apologies, intrude upon your time, but briefly acknowledge the motives of my temerity: lest, by a premature exercise of that patience which I hope will befriend me, I should lessen its benevolence, and be accessary to my own condemnation.

Without name, without recommendation, and unknown alike to success and disgrace, to whom can I so properly apply for patronage, as to those whopublicly profess themselves Inspectors of all literary performances?

The extensive plan of your critical observations,-which, not confined to works of utility or ingenuity, is equally open to those of frivolous amusement,-and yet worse than frivolous dullness,-encourages me to seek for your protection, since,-perhaps for my sins!-it entitles me to your annotations. To resent, therefore, this offering, however insignificant, would ill become the universality of your undertaking, though not to despise it may, alas! be out of your power.

The language of adulation, and the incense of flattery, though the natural inheritance, and constant resource, from time immemorial, of the Dedicator, to me offer nothing but the wistful regret that I dare not invoke their aid. Sinister views would be imputed to all I could say; since, thus situated, to extol your judgement, would seem the effect of art, and to celebrate your impartiality, be attributed to suspecting it.

As Magistrates of the press, and Censors for the public,-to which you are bound by the sacred ties of integrity to exert the most spirited impartiality, and to which your suffrages should carry the marks of pure, dauntless, irrefragable truth-to appeal for your MERCY, were to solicit your dishonour; and therefore,-though ’tis sweeter than frankincense,-more grateful to the senses than all the odorous perfumes of Arabia,-and though It droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath, I court it not! to your justice alone I am entitled, and by that I must abide. Your engagements are not to the supplicating author, but to the candid public, which will not fail to crave
The penalty and forfeit of your bond.

No hackneyed writer, inured to abuse, and callous to criticism, here braves your severity;-neither does a half-starv’d garretteer, Oblig’d by hunger-and request of friends,-implore your lenity: your examination will be alike unbiassed by partiality and prejudice:-no refractory murmuring will follow your censure, no private interest be gratified by your praise.

Let not the anxious solicitude with which I recommend myself to your notice, expose me to your derision. Remember, Gentlemen, you were all young writers once, and the most experienced veteran of your corps, may, by recollecting his first publication, renovate his first terrors, and learn to allow for mine. For, though Courage is one of the noblest virtues of this nether sphere, and, though scarcely more requisite in the field of battle, to guard the fighting hero from disgrace, than in the private commerce of the world, to ward off that littleness of soul which leads, by steps imperceptible, to all the base train of the inferior passions, and by which the too timid mind is betrayed into a servility derogatory to the dignity of human nature; yet is it a virtue of no necessity in a situation such as mine; a situation which removes, even from cowardice itself, the sting of
ignominy;-for surely that courage may easily be dispensed with, which would rather excite disgust than admiration! Indeed, it is the peculiar privilege of an author, to rob terror of contempt, and pusillanimity of reproach.

Here let me rest,-and snatch myself, while I yet am able, from the fascination of Egotism,-a monster who has more votaries than ever did homage to the most popular deity of antiquity; and whose singular quality is, that while he excites a blind and involuntary adoration in almost every individual, his influence is universally disallowed, his power universally contemned, and his worship, even by his followers, never mentioned but with abhorrence.

In addressing you jointly, I mean but to mark the generous sentiments by which liberal criticism, to the utter annihilation of envy, jealousy, and all selfish views, ought to be distinguished.

Copyright 2001 by Frances Burney Introduction by Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace

Meet the Author

Susan Kubica Howard is an associate professor of English at Duquesne University, and the editor of Charlotte Lennox's The Life of Harriet Stuart, Written by Herself (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995).

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Evelina 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a wonderful novel. I had an equal share of drama, romance and, of course, humor. The characters are wondefully done. Mrs. Sewlyn, Madame Duval, the Branghtons and Captain Mirvan are done superbly. Even though it is done in letters, don't let that discourage you. It's not like any other letters. They have lots of detail so the reader is able to get a good picture of it in their head. However, it doesn't have too much description to make awfully dull and lifeless. Evelina is between Jane Austen and the Bronte's novels. They have that elegant sence like Austen novels but also have Bronte drama (but not too much drama.)People who like 'clean' novels are in for this. Even though it might be a little racy in the beginning between the English and French nothing else is wrong with it. No cursing, sexual scenes or anything like that. The only thing I did not like about it was probably that everyone LOVED her. Someone is always trying to get her to love the guy. Sir Clement Willouby, Lord Orville, Lord Merton and Monsieur de Bois are some of them. Other than that, it was a great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This tale begins on a winter day when the Rev. Villars (Evelina's guardian) receives the unwelcome news that Evelina's grandmother, Madame Duval, wishes to gain custody of her long lost granddaughter. For the last sixteen years since her birth in Rev. Villar's home Evelina has been cloistered in the township of Berry Hill - a land of innocence and happiness like the biblical Eden. In the spring Evelina travels with friends to London where her angelic beauty attracts much attention. Soon after her arrival she is invited to a private ball. While preparing for the ball as she frizzles her hair and puts on a party gown Evelina grows increasingly self-conscious because she is unused to mixing in the circle of high life. The adventures of that evening are hilarious and also painful to read. But Evelina laughs it off the next morning with her best friend. This novel explores the dark side of life but never loses its light-hearted, comical tone. London is not what Evelina had expected and a few months later she writes: 'I shall be very glad to quit this town.' Soon after, on her last day in the city Evelina receives a shocking letter that plunges her into the depths of depression. She laments to find herself in 'a world so deceitful, where we must suspect what we see, distrust what we hear, and doubt even what we feel!' Evelina travels back to her native Berry Hill broken-hearted and inconsolable. The Rev. Villars saddened by the change he observes in his ward states 'I see but too plainly, that though Evelina is returned, -- I have lost my child!' And he attempts to end her distress by prophesying '¿doubt not but that time will stand your friend, and all will end well.' The Rev. Villar's prophecy comes true and before two months have passed Evelina's spirits are restored. Evelina triumphs over every obstacle that she encounters during her adventures. This is partly because of luck but mostly because of her virtue, strength of character, and purity of heart. In the closing line of her last letter to her beloved guardian she writes the magical words 'All is over¿the chaise now waits¿' This novel is both a fairy tale and a black comedy. It was written in the eighteenth century and offers a fascinating view of that time period. Part of the charm of this story is that it is written as a series of letters - all ending with closings like 'Your most obedient and most humble servant.' Fanny Burney has populated this story with many fascinating characters ranging from the motherly Rev. Villars, the virago Madame Duval, the sadistic Captain Mirvan, the two-faced Sir Clement Willoughby, the sardonic Mrs. Selwyn, and the noble hero Lord Orville. Evelina can be classified as a romance novel but it will appeal to both women and men, the young and old, the jaded and the innocent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a classic and I love this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading the book but there were too many places with garbled characters. It needs to be edited to make it more readable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gemma_Tudor More than 1 year ago
This book is by far my most favorite book that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I've read thousands of books, and this trumps them all. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It has romance, courage, comedy, and adventure; everything that an avid reader looks for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One cannot help but simpathize with Evelina when she tries so hard but always seems to get into awkward (and sometimes humorous) situations. I think it is a very good book and I recomend it to anyone who enjoys classical literature. As soon as I picked it up I could not put it down!
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The_Felicitous_Readings More than 1 year ago
MOVE ASIDE JANE AUSTEN!! - This was a small novel written by Frances Burney, then called Fanny, that she feared would never be published or read. It should not be overlooked! It is written as a collection of letters from main character to main character about one young woman's introduction into society, Evelina. She is young and beautiful and has been a victim to harsh injustices yet is unmared and unblemished and has remained protected and innocent by protection from her adoptive father. How will she cope in London Society? What prospective marriage match can an illegitemate daughter make when her own father and grandmother refuse to acknowledge her birthright? Its wonderful!
SarahJay More than 1 year ago
I was obligated to read this book for my 18th century British Literature class. Needless to say, I was not expecting to be enthralled in the least, however I could not have been more wrong. Once I picked it up I quite literally could not put it down. "Evelina" reads just as quickly and easily as any modern-day romance novel, and while reading it I could not help but be reminded of a certain Jane Austen novel. After reading "Evelina" it seems quite apparent where Austen got her inspiration for the dashing Mr. Darcy. I recommend this book to any Austen fan, but also to anyone who is interested in romance novels with a little bit more culture and intellectual stimulation.

(Sidenote: "Evelina" is an epistolary novel, and normally I'm not into that kind of story-telling, but this book seems to be the exception to most rules).
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those who love Jane Austen, here comes a novel from the woman she loved best! Burney's Evelina is an epistolary novel (novel of letters) which is 'standard' for women authors during the late-eighteenth century. However, Burney (and Evelina) subverts this form even as she writes in it! At times a biting social satire, at others a comedy of manners, Burney's first novel will no doubt delight any reader, whether an Austen fan or not. While it is captivating as a first novel, Cecilia is, arguably, one of the best novels ever written...and Austen fans will find elements of all her six novels in this one Burney text.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Evelina! I have found it entertaining from cover to cover more than once. Because of the epistolary form, the reader is able to understand the thoughts of Evelina in a way that Jane Austen never managed to do. Evelina's story is also an interesting window into the customs and etiquette of 18th century society.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fanny Burney is a witty precursor to Jane Austen, and any who love Austen's work will love Burney's even more. Evelina is a charming and funny story. It is an epistolary novel, which may discourage some readers. However, it does not drag, as many other epistolary novels do. Action, humor, and suspense fill the novel. However, for a more traditional novel, read Cecelia by Burney. Do not be afraid of its length, for it is worth every minute of it. Camilla also is good, though not quite as enjoyable as Cecelia.