Harman, Claire Fanny Burney: A biography

ISBN 13: 9780002556903

Fanny Burney: A biography

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9780002556903: Fanny Burney: A biography

‘Dazzling… full of special delights. Harman excels in the vivid presentation of scenes, the selection of detail… [a] marvellous and beautifully written book’ Elspeth Barker, Independent on Sunday

On 13 June 1767, her fifteenth birthday, Fanny Burney made a bonfire of all her works, ‘with the sincere intention to extinguish for ever in their ashes her scribbling propensity’. Fanny was genuinely worried that she might turn into an author, a fate incompatible – for a woman – with respectability.

Her hope was in vain. Not only was she to write four novels (Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla and The Wanderer), all of which are still in print, but she also kept a voluminous diary for the next 70 years and was a prolific letter-writer. Daughter of the eminent music historian Dr Charles Burney; editor of his infamous Memoirs; friend of Sheridan, Garrick, Burke, Boswell and Johnson; second keeper of the robes to George III’s Queen Charlotte; wife to a refugee French aristocrat; detained for ten years in revolutionary France; victim of a mastectomy without anaesthetic… Fanny Burney’s life was as eventful as any novel.

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"Fanny was a good deal of what about a century later was called a 'Feminist'" noted Percy Scholes in his entertaining and erudite biography of Fanny Burney's father, The Great Doctor Burney (1948). It is this quality that has endeared her to a succession of modern biographers, from Joyce Hemlow (whose pioneering 1958 The History of Fanny Burney began the revival of interest in her life and works) up to and including Claire Harman. Like others before her, Harman has had to face the difficulty that Fanny Burney chronicled her own life so minutely there seems little left for a biographer to discover. Yet with Fanny Burney: A Biography she has produced a valuable addition to the growing Burney bibliography, steering a middle course between modern feminist lionising of Burney's pioneering works and 19th-century condemnation of her later effusions (described even by a sympathetic Macaulay in 1843 as written in "the worst style that has ever been known among men"). Harman achieves some real psychological insights. Fanny's ardent desire to remain unknown following the publication of her first novel Evelina, she notes, was more than simple diffidence: anonymity was to be prized for the freedom it allowed her as an author. When this freedom was eroded by Fanny's growing fame, as well as her reactionary attitude to social mores, it inhibited her strong feminist instincts, and the quality of her writing deteriorated. This tension between asserting herself as an artist and socially appropriate conduct for women exists throughout her work. Even Burney's excruciating journal account of her mastectomy in 1811 is seen by Harman as "a testimony to the inviolability of the ego".

To her contemporaries Burney was the author of Evelina and Cecilia, the most celebrated novelist of her generation: to posterity she became the diarist of dinner-party small-talk among London's literary set, but to a new generation of biographers, among whom Harman stands out as one of the most balanced and insightful, Fanny Burney is a great deal more than simply the "little character-monger" so beloved of Dr Johnson. --Mark Walker


‘A superb, highly intelligent, readable study…if a biography can claim perfect pitch, this one can’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

‘Excellent..unlikely to be bettered for years to come’ Kathryn Hughes, New Statesman

‘This scholarly, judicious and entertaining book is all that a biography should be’ Ian McIntyre, The Times

‘A great achievement’ Andrew Marr, Observer

‘Excellent’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

‘A thoroughly entertaining as well as scholarly book’ Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph

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Harman, Claire
ISBN 10: 0002556901 ISBN 13: 9780002556903
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)

Book Description HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0002556901

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