At the beginning of 1778 twenty-five-year-old Fanny Burney was an unknown. By year's end, however, she had emerged as the author of Evelina, or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World, a universally acclaimed novel which admirers ranked with the works of Fielding and Richardson.
This third of twelve projected volumes of a critical edition of Burney's journals and letters covers the period from January 1778 to December 1779. It reveals Burney's striking transformation to a "celebrity" as she is welcomed into London's literary society, and her mixed delight and terror at this reception. As Burney becomes a regular at the Streatham Park home of Henry and Hester Thrale, she is befriended by another regular visitor, Samuel Johnson, and given the opportunity to observe and record the playful and affectionate side of Johnson's character, a side largely missed by Boswell. Burney is urged by the Streathamites to write a comedy for the London stage and responds with "The Witlings," a satiric portrait of London's bluestockings. Alarmed by the prospect of disapproval from the powerful bluestocking Elizabeth Montagu, Burney's father and her friend Samuel Crisp dissuade her from releasing the piece. Her disappointment is eased by the whirling social life that she enjoys in the company of the Thrales at Streatham and at Brighton, on which she comments with characteristic perception and humour.
Fanny Burney's journals and letters are an invaluable source for the social and literary history of her time, and are justly regarded as literature in their own right. All volumes in this series will be of specific interest to scholars in literary criticism, feminist studies, and music and social history.