English novelist and diarist. She achieved success with Evelina, an epistolary novel published in 1778, became a member of Samuel Johnson's circle, and received a post at court from Queen Charlotte. She published three further novels, Cecilia (1782), Camilla (1796), and The Wanderer (1814).
Background She was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, the daughter of the musician Charles Burney (1726–1814). In 1760 the family moved to London. Fanny never went to school, but taught herself to read and write.
Early success Dr Johnson, who was her faithful friend and admirer, declared that some passages in Evelina would do honour to Samuel Richardson. The novel also won her the praise of the writer Horace Walpole, the politician Edmund Burke, and the painter Joshua Reynolds. In 1779 she wrote a play, The Witlings, containing some sharp-eyed satire on the bluestocking ladies who had taken her up after the publication of her novel; but her father and friends persuaded her against producing it. Her next work was another novel, Cecilia, or, Memoirs of an Heiress. In it she strove too hard not to disappoint her literary admirers; she portrayed a social milieu less familiar to her than that of Evelina, and her manner became self-conscious.
Later work From 1786 to 1791 Burney was second mistress of the robes to Queen Charlotte, a post that entailed much tedium and unhappiness. She resigned owing to ill health, and in 1793 married the French émigré General d'Arblay (1753–1818). Her tragedy Edwy and Elvira, produced in 1795, was a failure, but Camilla was a much-needed financial success. The Wanderer, or, Female Difficulties is highly melodramatic. Her diaries and letters appeared in 1842–46.
Burney, Fanny (Frances)
Dr Johnson and Fanny Burney
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