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I will not, however, with the futility of apologies, intrude upon your time, but briefly acknowledge the motives of my temerity; lest, by a premature exercise of that patience which I hope will befriend me, I should lessen its benevolence, and be accessary to my own condemnation.
Without name, without recommendation, and unknown alike to success and disgrace, to whom can I so properly apply for patronage, as to those who publicly profess themselves Inspectors of all literary performances? The extensive plan of your critical observations, — which, not confined to works of utility or ingenuity, is equally open to those of frivolous amusement, — and, yet worse than frivolous, dullness, — encourages me to seek for your protection, since, — perhaps for my sins!
To resent, therefore, this offering, however insignificant, would ill become the universality of your undertaking; though not to despise it may, alas! The language of adulation, and the incense of flattery, though the natural inheritance, and constant resource, from time immemorial, of the Dedicator, to me offer nothing but the wistful regret that I dare not invoke their aid.
Sinister views would be imputed to all I could say; since, thus situated, to extol your judgment, would seem the effect of art, and to celebrate your impartiality, be attributing to suspecting butney. As magistrates of the press, and Censors for the public, — to which you are bound by the sacred ties of integrity to exert the most spirited impartiality, and to which your suffrages should carry the marks of pure, dauntless, irrefragable truth — to appeal to your MERCY, were to solicit your dishonour; and therefore, — though ’tis sweeter than frankincense, — more grateful to the senses than all the odorous perfumes of Arabia, — and though It droppeth burneey the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath, — I court it not!
Your engagements are not to the supplicating authors; but to the candid public, which will not fail to crave The penalty and forfeit of your bond. No hackneyed writer, inured to abuse, and callous to criticism, here braves your severity; — neither does a half-starved garretteer, Oblig’d by hunger — and request of friends, — implore your lenity: Let not the anxious solicitude with francew I recommend myself to your notice, burnwy me to your derision.
Remember, Gentlemen, you were all young writers once, and the most experienced veteran of your corps may, by recollecting his first publication, renovate his first terrors, and learn to allow for mine.
Evelina, Or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World by Fanny Burney
For though Courage is one of the noblest virtues of this nether sphere; and though scarcely more requisite in the field of battle, to guard the fighting hero from disgrace, than in the private commerce of the world, to ward off that littleness of soul which leads, by steps imperceptible, to all the base train of the inferior passions, and by which the too timid mind is betrayed into a servility derogatory to the dignity of human nature!
Indeed, it is the peculiar privilege of an author, to rob terror of contempt, and pusillanimity of reproach. In addressing you jointly, I mean but to mark the generous sentiments by which liberal criticism, to the utter annihilation of envy, jealousy, and all selfish views, ought to be distinguished.
IN the republic of letters, there is no member of such inferior rank, or who is so much disdained by his brethren of the quill, as the humble Novelist; nor is his fate less hard in the world at large, since, among the whole class of writers, perhaps not one can be named of which the votaries are more numerous but less respectable. Yet, while in the annals of those few of our predecessors, to whom this species of writing is indebted for being saved from contempt, and rescued from depravity, we can trace such names as Rousseau, Johnson, 1 Marivaux, Fielding, Richardson, and Smollett, no man need blush at starting from the same post, though many, nay, most men, may sigh at finding themselves distanced.
The following letters are presented to the Public — for such, by novel writers, novel readers will be called, — with a very singular mixture of timidity and frannces, resulting from the peculiar situation of rrances editor; who, though trembling for their success from a consciousness of their imperfections, yet fears not being involved in their disgrace, while happily wrapped up in a mantle of impenetrable obscurity. To draw characters from nature, though not from life, and to mark the manners of the times, is the attempted plan of the following letters.
For this purpose, a young female, educated brney the most secluded retirement, makes, at the age of seventeen, her first appearance upon the great and busy stage of life; with a virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart, her ignorance of the forms, and inexperience in the manners of the world, occasion all the little incidents which these volumes record, and which form the natural progression of the life of a young woman of obscure birth, but conspicuous beauty, for the first six months after her Entrance into the world.
Perhaps, were it possible to effect the total extirpation crances novels, our young ladies in general, and boarding-school damsels in particular, frabces profit from their annihilation; but since the distemper they have spread seems incurable, since their contagion bids defiance to the medicine of advice or reprehension, and since they are found to baffle all the mental art of physic, save what is prescribed by the slow regimen of Time, and bitter diet of Experience; surely all attempts to contribute to the burhey of those which may be read, if not with advantage, at least without injury, ought rather to be encouraged than contemned.
Let me, therefore, prepare for disappointment those who, in the perusal of these sheets, entertain the gentle expectation of being transported to the fantastic regions of Romance, where Fiction is coloured by all ny gay tints of luxurious Imagination, where Reason is an outcast, and where the sublimity of the Marvellous rejects all aid from sober Probability.
The heroine of these memoirs, young, artless, and inexperienced, is No faultless Monster that the world ne’er saw; but the offspring of Nature, francs of Nature in her simplest attire. In all the Arts, the value of copies can only be proportioned to the scarcity of originals: In books, therefore, imitation cannot be shunned too sedulously; for the very perfection of a model which is frequently seen, serves but more forcibly to mark the inferiority of a copy.
To avoid what is common, without adopting what is unnatural, must limit the ambition of the vulgar herd of authors: The candour of my readers I have not the impertinence to doubt, and to their indulgence I am sensible I have no claim; I have, therefore, only to intreat, that my own words may not pronounce my condemnation; and that what I have here ventured to say in regard to imitation, may be understood as it is meant, in a general sense, and not be imputed to an opinion of my own originality, which I have not the vanity, the folly, or the blindness, to entertain.
Whatever may be the fate of these letters, the editor is satisfied they will meet with justice; and commits them to the press, though hopeless of fame, yet not regardless of censure. 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 drances for which she alone is answerable.
Her letter is violent, sometimes abusive, and that of you! The chief purport of her writing I will acquaint you with; the letter itself is not framces 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 francws 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 youwith whom she franes 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, evslina a time when a mother’s evellna was peculiarly necessary for her peace and her reputation.
Notwithstanding I was personally acquainted with all the parties concerned in that affair, burnry subject always appeared of too delicate a nature to be spoken of with the gurney I cannot, therefore, satisfy Mrs. Mirvan otherwise than by applying to you. By saying that you may send the child, Madame Duval aims at conferringwhere 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 franfes 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.
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 burneu this effect: 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: I have long known that she has persuaded herself to harbour an aversion for me — Unhappy woman!
Frajces 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 framces 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, ubrney 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:. 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.
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 bh 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. 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 fraces had hitherto been strangers, soon grew weary of such usage; and rashly, and drances 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 Evdlina — he did. 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 ftances gave birth to her infant, put an end at once to the sorrows and the life of its mother.
Evelina by Fanny Burney
The rage bunrey 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 francez 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 farnces 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. eevlina
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 francess 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: Such, Madam, is my tenderness, and such my weakness! YOUR last letter gave me infinite pleasure: 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.