Denied by her aristocratic libertine father and raised by a clergyman in the English countryside, Evelina Anville is a stranger to fashionable London society. But with the arrival of her eighteenth year comes the time for her formal debut, whether or not she—or London—is ready. Through a series of societal faux pas, Evelina learns about the complexities of society and attracts the eyes of dashing and distinguished bachelors. Still, landing a man in the city won’t be easy . . .
This epistolary novel was the first by satirist Fanny Burney, acclaimed for her talent for comic fiction as well as her diaries chronicling eighteenth-century life among the aristocracy, in particular the struggles of women.
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Or, The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World
By Fanny Burney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
LADY HOWARD TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS
Howard Grove, Kent.
CAN ANY THING, MY good Sir, be more painful to a friendly mind, than a necessity of communicating disagreeable intelligence? Indeed it is sometimes difficult to determine, whether the relator or the receiver of evil tidings is most to be pitied.
I have just had a letter from Madame Duval; she is totally at a loss in what manner to behave; she seems desirous to repair the wrongs she has done, yet wishes the world to believe her blameless. She would fain cast upon another the odium of those misfortunes for which she alone is answerable. Her letter is violent, sometimes abusive, and that of you! — you, to whom she is under obligations which are greater even than her faults, but to whose advice she wickedly imputes all the sufferings of her much injured daughter, the late Lady Belmont. The chief purport of her writing I will acquaint you with; the letter itself is not worthy your notice.
She tells me that she has, for many years past, been in continual expectation of making a journey to England, which prevented her writing for information concerning this melancholy subject, by giving her hopes of making personal inquiries; but family occurrences have still detained her in France, which country she now sees no prospect of quitting. She has, therefore, lately used her utmost endeavors to obtain a faithful account of whatever related to her ill-advised daughter; the result of which giving her some reason to apprehend, that, upon her death-bed, she bequeathed an infant orphan to the world, she most graciously says, that if you, with whom she understands the child is placed, will procure authentic proofs of its relationship to her, you may sent it to Paris, where she will properly provide for it.
This woman is, undoubtedly, at length, self-convicted of her most unnatural behaviour; it is evident, from her writing, that she is still as vulgar and illiterate as when her first husband, Mr. Evelyn, had the weakness to marry her; nor does she at all apologize for addressing herself to me, though I was only once in her company.
Her letter has excited in my daughter Mirvan, a strong desire to be informed of the motives which induced Madame Duval to abandon the unfortunate Lady Belmont, at a time when a mother's protection was peculiarly necessary for her peace and her reputation. Notwithstanding I was personally acquainted with all the parties concerned in that affair, the subject always appeared of too delicate a nature to be spoken of with the principals; I cannot, therefore, satisfy Mrs. Mirvan otherwise than by applying to you.
By saying that you may send the child, Madame Duval aims at conferring, where she most owes obligation. I pretend not to give you advice; you, to whose generous protection this helpless orphan is indebted for every thing, are the best and only judge of what she ought to do; but I am much concerned at the trouble and uneasiness which this unworthy woman may occasion you.
My daughter and my grandchild join with me in desiring to be most kindly remembered to the amiable girl; and they bid me remind you, that the annual visit to Howard Grove, which we were formerly promised, has been discontinued for more than four years.
I am, dear Sir, with great regard, Your most obedient friend and servant, M. HOWARD.CHAPTER 2
MR. VILLARS TO LADY HOWARD
Berry Hill, Dorsetshire.
YOUR LADYSHIP DID BUT too well foresee the perplexity and uneasiness of which Madame Duval's letter has been productive. However, I ought rather to be thankful that I have so many years remained unmolested, than repine at my present embarrassment; since it proves, at least, that this wretched woman is at length awakened to remorse.
In regard to my answer, I must humbly request your Ladyship to write to this effect: "That I would not, upon any account, intentionally offend Madame Duval; but that I have weighty, nay unanswerable reasons for detaining her grand-daughter at present in England; the principal of which is, that it was the earnest desire of one to whose will she owes implicit duty. Madame Duval may be assured, that she meets with the utmost attention and tenderness; that her education, however short of my wishes, almost exceeds my abilities; and I flatter myself, when the time arrives that she shall pay her duty to her grand-mother, Madame Duval will find no reason to be dissatisfied with what has been done for her."
Your Ladyship will not, I am sure, be surprised at this answer. Madame Duval is by no means a proper companion or guardian for a young woman: she is at once uneducated and unprincipled; ungentle in temper, and unamiable in her manners. I have long known that she has persuaded herself to harbour an aversion for me — Unhappy woman! I can only regard her as an object of pity!
I dare not hesitate at a request from Mrs. Mirvan; yet, in complying with it, I shall, for her own sake, be as concise as I possibly can; since the cruel transactions which preceded the birth of my ward can afford no entertainment to a mind so humane as her's.
Your Ladyship may probably have heard, that I had the honour to accompany Mr. Evelyn, the grandfather of my young charge, when upon his travels, in the capacity of a tutor. His unhappy marriage, immediately upon his return to England, with Madame Duval, then a waiting- girl at a tavern, contrary to the advice and entreaties of all his friends, among whom I was myself the most urgent, induced him to abandon his native land, and fix his abode in France. Thither he was followed by shame and repentance; feelings which his heart was not framed to support; for, notwithstanding he had been too weak to resist the allurements of beauty, which nature, though a niggard to her of every other boon, had with a lavish hand bestowed on his wife; yet he was a young man of excellent character, and, till thus unaccountably infatuated, of unblemished conduct. He survived this ill- judged marriage but two years. Upon his death-bed, with an unsteady hand, he wrote me the following note:
"My friend, forget your resentment, in favour of your humanity; — a father, trembling for the welfare of his child, bequeaths her to your care. O Villars! hear! pity! And relieve me!"
Had my circumstances permitted me, I should have answered these words by an immediate journey to Paris; but I was obliged to act by the agency of a friend, who was upon the spot, and present at the opening of the will.
Mr. Evelyn left to me a legacy of a thousand pounds, and the sole guardianship of his daughter's person till her eighteenth year; conjuring me, in the most affecting terms, to take the charge of her education till she was able to act with propriety for herself; but, in regard to fortune, he left her wholly dependent on her mother, to whose tenderness he earnestly recommended her.
Thus, though he would not, to a woman low-bred and illiberal as Mrs. Evelyn, trust the conduct and morals of his daughter, he nevertheless thought proper to secure to her the respect and duty to which, from her own child, were certainly her due; but unhappily, it never occurred to him that the mother, on her part, could fail in affection or justice.
Miss Evelyn, Madam, from the second to the eighteenth year of her life, was brought up under my care, and, except when at school under my roof. I need not speak to your Ladyship of the virtues of that excellent young creature. She loved me as her father; nor was Mrs. Villars less valued by her; while to me she became so dear, that her loss was little less afflicting than that which I have since sustained of Mrs. Villars herself.
At that period of her life we parted; her mother, then married to Monsieur Duval, sent for her to Paris. How often have I since regretted that I did not accompany her thither! Protected and supported by me, the misery and disgrace which awaited her might perhaps have been avoided. But, to be brief — Madame Duval, at the instigation of her husband, earnestly, or rather tyrannically, endeavoured to effect a union between Miss Evelyn and one of his nephews. And, when she found her power inadequate to her attempt, enraged at her non-compliance, she treated her with the grossest unkindness, and threatened her with poverty and ruin.
Miss Evelyn, to whom wrath and violence had hitherto been strangers, soon grew weary of such usage; and rashly, and without a witness, consented to a private marriage with Sir John Belmont, a very profligate young man, who had but too successfully found means to insinuate himself into her favour. He promised to conduct her to England — he did. — O, Madam, you know the rest! — Disappointed of the fortune he expected, by the inexorable rancour of the Duvals, he infamously burnt the certificate of their marriage, and denied that they had ever been united.
She flew to me for protection. With what mixed transports of joy and anguish did I again see her! By my advice, she endeavoured to procure proofs of her marriage — but in vain; her credulity had been no match for his art.
Every body believed her innocent, from the guiltless tenor of her unspotted youth, and from the known libertinism of her barbarous betrayer. Yet her sufferings were too acute for her slender frame; and the same moment that gave birth to her infant, put an end at once to the sorrows and the life of its mother.
The rage of Madame Duval at her elopement, abated not while this injured victim of cruelty yet drew breath. She probably intended, in time, to have pardoned her; but time was not allowed. When she was informed of her death, I have been told, that the agonies of grief and remorse, with which she was seized, occasioned her a severe fit of illness. But, from the time of her recovery to the date of her letter to your Ladyship, I had never heard that she manifested any desire to be made acquainted with the circumstances which attended the death of Lady Belmont, and the birth of her helpless child.
That child, Madam, shall never, while life is lent me, know the loss she has sustained. I have cherished, succoured, and supported her, from her earliest infancy to her sixteenth year; and so amply has she repaid my care and affection, that my fondest wish is now circumscribed by the desire of bestowing her on one who may be sensible of her worth, and then sinking to eternal rest in her arms.
Thus it has happened, that the education of the father, daughter, and grand-daughter, has devolved on me. What infinite misery have the two first caused me! Should the fate of the dear survivor be equally adverse, how wretched will be the end of my cares — the end of my days!
Even had Madame Duval merited the charge she claims, I fear my fortitude would have been unequal to such a parting; but being such as she is, not only my affection, but my humanity, recoils, at the barbarous idea of deserting the sacred trust reposed in me. Indeed, I could but ill support her former yearly visits to the respectable mansion at Howard Grove: pardon me, dear Madam, and do not think me insensible of the honour which your Ladyship's condescension confers upon us both; but so deep is the impression which the misfortunes of her mother have made on my heart, that she does not, even for a moment, quit my sight without exciting apprehensions and terrors which almost overpower me. Such, Madam, is my tenderness, and such my weakness! — But she is the only tie I have upon earth, and I trust to your Ladyship's goodness not to judge of my feelings with severity.
I beg leave to present my humble respects to Mrs. and Miss Mirvan; and have the honour to be,
Madam, your Ladyship's most obedient and most humble servant, ARTHUR VILLARS.CHAPTER 3
[Written some months after the last]
LADY HOWARD TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS
Howard Grove, March 8.
DEAR AND REV. SIR,
Your last letter gave me infinite pleasure: after so long and tedious an illness, how grateful to yourself and to your friends must be your returning health! You have the hearty wishes of every individual of this place for its continuance and increase.
Will you not think I take advantage of your acknowledged recovery, if I once more venture to mention your pupil and Howard Grove together? Yet you must remember the patience with which we submitted to your desire of not parting with her during the bad state of your health, tho' it was with much reluctance we forbore to solicit her company. My grand- daughter in particular, has scarce been able to repress her eagerness to again meet the friend of her infancy; and for my own part, it is very strongly my wish to manifest the regard I had for the unfortunate Lady Belmont, by proving serviceable to her child; which seems to me the best respect that can be paid to her memory. Permit me, therefore, to lay before you a plan which Mrs. Mirvan and I have formed, in consequence of your restoration to health.
I would not frighten you; — but do you think you could bear to part with your young companion for two or three months? Mrs. Mirvan proposes to spend the ensuing spring in London, whither for the first time, my grandchild will accompany her: Now, my good friend, it is very earnestly their wish to enlarge and enliven their party by the addition of your amiable ward, who would share, equally with her own daughter, the care and attention of Mrs. Mirvan. Do not start at this proposal; it is time that she should see something of the world. When young people are too rigidly sequestered from it, their lively and romantic imaginations paint it to them as a paradise of which they have been beguiled; but when they are shown it properly, and in due time, they see it such as it really is, equally shared by pain and pleasure, hope and disappointment.
You have nothing to apprehend from her meeting with Sir John Belmont, as that abandoned man is now abroad, and not expected home this year.
Well, my good Sir, what say you to our scheme? I hope it will meet with your approbation; but if it should not, be assured I can never object to any decision of one who is so much respected and esteemed as Mr. Villars, by
His most faithful, humble servant, M. HOWARD.CHAPTER 4
MR. VILLARS TO LADY HOWARD
Berry Hill, March 12.
I AM GRIEVED, MADAM, to appear obstinate, and I blush to incur the imputation of selfishness. In detaining my young charge thus long with myself in the country, I consulted not solely my own inclination. Destined, in all probability, to possess a very moderate fortune, I wished to contract her views to something within it. The mind is but too naturally prone to pleasure, but too easily yielded to dissipation: it has been my study to guard her against their delusions, by preparing her to expect — and to despise them. But the time draws on for experience and observation to take the place of instruction: if I have in some measure, rendered her capable of using one with discretion, and making the other with improvement, I shall rejoice myself with the assurance of having largely contributed to her welfare. She is now of an age that happiness is eager to attend, — let her then enjoy it! I commit her to the protection of your Ladyship, and only hope she may be found worthy half the goodness I am satisfied she will meet with at your hospitable mansion.
Thus far, Madam, I cheerfully submit to your desire. In confiding my ward to the care of Lady Howard, I can feel no uneasiness from her absence, but what will arise from the loss of her company, since I shall be as well convinced of her safety as if she were under my own roof. — But can your Ladyship be serious in proposing to introduce her to the gaieties of a London life? Permit me to ask, for what end, or for what purpose? A youthful mind is seldom totally free from ambition; to curb that, is the first step to contentment, since to diminish expectation is to increase enjoyment. I apprehend nothing more than too much raising her hopes and her views, which the natural vivacity of her disposition would render but too easy to effect. The town-acquaintance of Mrs. Mirvan are all in the circle of high life; this artless young creature, with too much beauty to escape notice, has too much sensibility to be indifferent to it; but she has too little wealth to be sought with propriety by men of the fashionable world.
Consider Madam, the peculiar cruelty of her situation. Only child of a wealthy Baronet, whose person she has never seen, whose character she has reason to abhor, and whose name she is forbidden to claim; entitled as she is to lawfully inherit his fortune and estate, is there any probability that he will properly own her? And while he continues to persevere in disavowing his marriage with Miss Evelyn, she shall never, at the expense of her mother's honour, receive a part of her right as the donation of his bounty.
And as to Mr. Evelyn's estate, I have no doubt but that Madame Duval and her relations will dispose of it among themselves.
Excerpted from Evelina by Fanny Burney. Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Judging Character! Evelina was written in the late 1700’s by Franny Burney. It is an excellent book on character study, and it shows that judging human character is universal. The entire book is written through letters as seventeen-year old Evelina corresponds with her adopted father, Reverend Villars. She has left his countryside home to enter into society and she knows virtually nothing about her birth parents. He has entrusted her into the care of a couple of prominent women to introduce her to operas and plays in cities like London and Bath and the company of those in high society. Evelina meets amiable persons such as Lady Howard and Mrs. Mirvan and her daughter Miss Mirvan and the polished Lord Orville. But she also meets people who cause her great discontent such as her overbearing Madame Duval, the boisterous Captain Mirvan, the bickering Branghtons and the conniving Sir Willoughby whose intentions are not noble. Evelina eventually discovers that she is the child of a Sir John Belmont who is quite wealthy. Her mother is deceased, and he mistakenly thinks that another girl is his daughter but a wet nurse who exchanged the girls. After entering society, she learned how to judge the true intentions of others through interaction. Ultimately things come together as Evelina is restored to her right title as the heiress of the Belmont family and will marry the loyal Lord Orville with the Reverend Villars’ approval.
It took me quite awhile to get into this book, but my sister enthusiastically insisted that I read it. Evelina, which was written in 1778 and influenced the writing of Jane Austen, is the story of a girl who is coming out into society. This book is written in a flouncy, dramatic style. I can't picture this book being quite right any other way, even though the writing never exactly impressed me. It was also written in the form of letters, which allows Evelina (the main character, if you hadn't gathered that already from the title) to narrate in first person. Other characters also sometimes exchange letters, allowing the author to give voice to other characters besides her heroine. It was unusual, but I didn't exactly care for this aspect of the writing style, either.Evelina is a dreadfully irritating character. I absolutely loathed her and wanted to slap her. She was incredibly flighty and timid, and I can't imagine anyone possibly liking her. When she first meets Lord Orville, he seems exceedingly interested in her, though I can't fathom any reason why. She is too shy to speak a word or even look at him, and in the middle of their dance, she runs away, because she is so afraid. For the rest of the night, she is the embodiment of the essence of bad company, distancing herself from all conversation and running and hiding from everyone.Evelina is constantly running away from the tiniest of things (which aren't even problems of negative situations) because she is so very afraid. I have to wonder what she would do if presented with an ACTUALLY frightening instance. I liked the character of Lord Orville, even though I had to wonder what he could possibly see in our shallow heroine. His jealousy when Evelina is speaking to another man was endearingly funny, even though I couldn't believe how Evelina could be so stupid as to not realize what was going through her admirer's mind.The other men who seek Evelina's attentions, notably Sir Clement Willoughby and Mr. Loval, are also comical, especially Loval.The beginning of this book was pretty dry, and so was the middle. The end of the book, which suddenly struck up a flurry of events with mistaken and unknown identities, babies who were switched at birth, and other such things, was entertaining even though it seemed a bit rushed into.This book was average - it was funny at times, but I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it all that much.
Although the language is a bit stilted, it didn't take long to get involved in this young woman's story. Not only was the language different, so we're the times and values. Thank heaven women are not, primarily, considered property.
Written in a series of letters, this novel is witty, funny, romantic, and frustrating. Evelina, the main character, is new to society and without proper guidance. She's an orphan whose mom died after giving birth and whose father doesn't know about her.The different characters are very well developed, although written and described from Evelina's point of view. All in all, an exceptional novel.
An exellent example of the early novel, and very entertaining.