FRANCES BURNEY: The Life in the Works by Margaret Anne Doody

FRANCES BURNEY: The Life in the Works

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A first-rate literary biography of 18th-century English novelist Frances Burney (also known as Madame d'Arblay) that asks us to reconsider the peripheral status that Burney's works (Evelina, Camilla, The Wanderer) have been given in literary history. Doody tells of Burney's domination by her father, musicologist Dr. Charles Burney; her friendship with Hester Lynch Thrale; her restless years in the court of King George III; family rumblings; and her contented marriage at age 41 to an impoverished French emigrÉ--all the while demonstrating how Burney's works are intimately bound up with her personal experiences. Doody, herself a novelist (The Alchemists) and scholar (The Daring Muse: Augustan Poetry Reconsidered), sensitively interlaces Burney's life and works in a deft union of biography and literary criticism. While relying heavily on Burney's own copious diaries and letters for insights into the novelist's character, Doody is nevertheless able to see through Burney's moments of self-deception, revealing how the novelist suppressed her own desires during a rocky courtship in order to conform to the codes of polite feminine behavior. Yet Doody also credits Burney with a large measure of social awareness, arguing that several years later, in Camilla, Burney repainted the broader social implications of her tortuous affair. Here; the author works hard to free Burney from under the shadow of Jane Austen and other Victorian novelists (to whom she is often unfavorably compared), placing Burney's works within the context of 18th-century literature and tracing her influences on authors like Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Doody achieves a high standard of literary biography here, convincing us that Frances Burney must be rescued from the sidelines of English literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1988
ISBN: 0813513553
Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press