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Written for the audience it portrays, The Excursion introduces the heroine, Maria Villiers, to London's "gentle" society and its glittering pastimes. For her novel's overarching plot structure, Brooke drew upon the English courtship novel in the tradition of Eliza Haywood, Henry Fielding, and Frances Burney. But instead of concentrating on Maria's romantic adventures, she experiments with unusual treatments of subplots and unconventional characters. This is one of the few portraits of a woman with literary ambitions by an early woman writer, and Brooke's wry narrative voice foreshadows that of Jane Austen. The editors' introduction places the novel firmly in the tradition of the English novel, provides a fresh biography of Brooke, and brings together the most important eighteenth- and twentieth-century criticism of Brooke's work. Frances Brooke (1724-1789), journalist, translator, playwright, novelist, and even co-manager of a theater, was described as "perhaps the first female novel-writer who attained a perfect purity and polist of style." Today Brooke is known primarily for The History of Emily Montague ,one of the earliest novels about Canada, where she lived for a number of years. But it is her third novel, The Excursion, that is an important example of the fashionable and popular English novels of the late 1770s. Paula R. Backscheider is Pepperell-Philpott Eminent Scholar in English at Auburn University and the author of numerous books, including Spectacular Politics: Theatrical Power and Mass Culture in Early Modern England. Hope D. Cotton is a doctoral student in English at Auburn University.