Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

JUNE 13th  

On this day in history in 1752, was born Fanny Burney.

Burney was a diarist and author who pioneered the literary art of ’the novel of manners’.  

Frances Burney was born on 13th June 1752 at Kings Lynn, Norfolk, the daughter of a moderately successful musician and academic, and Esther Sleepe Burney, a socialite of distinction. In 1760, the family moved to, the then fashionable, Queens Square, Holborn, where they mixed in the company of Dr Johnson, David Garrick and Edmund Burke. Burnett was home taught, to some extent, but largely self-educated, having access to her father’s extensive private library.  

In 1778, Burney published her first novel, Evelina, a story of a gauche young woman stumbling to make her way in polite society, what we would now call a ‘coming of age’ novel. The work follows the career of the eponymous heroine, her difficulties, her misjudgements, and the traps of destiny into which the naïve young woman, it would appear almost willingly, becomes ensnared. At the denouement, Evelina, of course, marries the man of her choice and reaches fulfilment. This work was much admired by high society and particularly by Queen Charlotte, who invited her to the court to become one of her ladies in waiting.  

At court, Burney kept a secret journal of the goings on, with all the stimulating and prurient detail, which the regal officials would rather be kept quiet. The insanity of George III features in this work and the trial of Warren Hastings, with its attendant gossip, plays a small part. After amassing, but not publishing, sufficient detail, Burney asked to be released from her duties on health grounds. In the obscurity of retirement, Burney wrote and published further novels, on the same theme as before, titled Cecilia, Camilla and The Wanderer. Jane Austen greatly admired the characterisation and the precision of the plots, fulsome praise indeed from the most accomplished practitioner of the genre.  

Burney married Alexandre D’Arblay, a refuge from the French Revolution, and built Camilla Cottage at Bookham, Surrey, from the proceeds of her writing, where she lived until her death in 1840. Burney’s court diaries, when published posthumously, caused a minor sensation but she will be chiefly remembered for being the originator of ‘the novel of manners’, that is the story of the ways of society. 

Burney is buried in Walcot Cemetery, Walcot Street, Bath Somerset BA1 5BG. (Jane Austen’s father is buried in this cemetery).

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