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Evelina (1778)

af Frances Burney

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2,112335,430 (3.72)1 / 250
Good-looking, kind-hearted Evelina Anville has grown up in rural obscurity as the ward of a country parson. At the age of seventeen, she begins her progress from provincial life to fashionable London ― a transition that's complicated by vulgar relatives and her own naiveté. Evelina's shrewd intelligence, however, perceives the hypocrisy behind the refined façades as she learns to balance the honesty and simplicity of her upbringing with the sophisticated etiquette of high society. Written in the form of letters, this 1778 novel offers an intimate look at coming-of-age among England's eighteenth-century upper crust. Evelina's comic misadventures provide a subtle commentary on some of the problems faced by her contemporaries, from women's limited roles to class snobbery and prejudice. Fanny Burney's witty approach to manners and mores was a significant influence on Jane Austen, and her deft combination of satire, sentimentality, and farce provides sparkling entertainment.… (mere)
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Viser 1-5 af 32 (næste | vis alle)
No review/didn't finish. I gave this a good shot, hoping for a sublime Jane Austen-ish reading experience, since Fanny Burney was supposedly a big influence on her. But what this novel lacked in the charm and wit that characterize Austen's work, it made up for in volume- it seemed to be about 5 million pages long. I finally gave up at about the 2 million page mark. It occurred to me while I was reading that if you lived in Burney's time, this was probably riveting stuff. But for modern audiences, it hasn't aged well.
  AngeH | Jan 2, 2020 |
I picked this one up because it said “World’s Classic” on the cover and I’d never heard of it. Evelina is a young (17) orphan girl entering society (the subtitle is “or a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World”) in 1778. She goes to Balls, Operas, and Plays. She encounters a Rough-Mannered Sea Captain, a Rakish Aristocrat, Comical Foreigners, Venal Bourgeoisie, a Mysterious Scotsman, a Noble Lord, and some Ladies of Negotiable Virtue. After some turns of fortune, she is discovered to be an Heiress, marries the Noble Lord, and all Ends Happily.


Reading a novel like this is almost like reading science fiction about the social habits of space aliens. The customs of the time are so different from what we’re used to that the characters might as well be Martians. The class distinctions are ironclad; not one servant in the book has a name (they’re “the maid”, “the footman”, “the coachman”, etc.). There is, of course, almost no mention of the underside of London life at the time; there are no poor people, no criminals, no dirt, no squalor (I say “almost” because Evelina does meet some ladies who are no better than they should be, and it is assumed at one point that one character has written a letter while intoxicated.) Oddly, for a time in which religion is much more important than nowadays, none of the characters ever goes to church (perhaps it’s just so natural that it’s assumed). The epistolary style is an exotic antique (although it was used, probably for its anachronistic value, in the recent The Egyptologist). The morals of the time can be amusing; it’s horribly improper for a young lady to dance with a gentleman unless they’ve been introduced, which creates a sort of chicken-and-egg problem; who does the first introduction? For some odd reason, (perhaps the formality of manner) the whole thing reminds me of The Tale of Genji; there’s a similar glimpse into a very different world.


Reading something like this, in addition to is value as literary and social history, raises some questions about our own society. What will we look like to people 200 years hence? Will some of our cherished values seem laughable? Will the people of 2206 gasp in horror because we allowed abortions? Or because we didn’t fully support a woman’s right to choice? Will they roll on the floor in hysterics over the prurience of Sex in the City, or be disgusted by its permissiveness? Will our clothing styles be prudish or pornographic?


No Jane Austen, but at least three stars for the entertainment value. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 8, 2017 |
This 1778 novel reminded me of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, except for the epistolary writing. Despite the somewhat predictable plot, the satirical social commentary is a lot of fun (especially for those who are familiar with the social mores of Georgian England). ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 21, 2017 |
Another book that's been on my shelf for an age without the time or excuse to read it. I hadn't even heard of it when I picked it up used--I think I just liked the copy and cover. The 18th century was, as far as I can tell, exceptionally weird. It was also, on occasion, very funny. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Written more than thirty years before Austen’s first novel was published, it concerns eighteenth century society rather than nineteenth century. As such, I found myself constantly at a loss. Before reading this book, I thought I had a good handle on the manners of the period. I know the difference between a barouche, a phaeton, and a curricle, and that a lady would never stand up and leave a conversation, and that men knew classical languages and women, only modern. And yet, I was utterly confused by Evelina. (The following block of text contains spoilers, so beware.)A major piece of the plot is that Evelina (a young girl only just out into society) receives the following note:

"To Miss Anville.
"With transport, most charming of thy sex, did I read the letter
with which you yesterday morning favoured me. I am sorry the
affair of the carriage should have given you any concern,
but I am highly flattered by the anxiety you express so
kindly. Believe me, my lovely girl, I am truly sensible
to the honour of your good opinion, and feel myself deeply
penetrated with love and gratitude. The correspondence you
have so sweetly commenced, I shall be proud of continuing;
and I hope the strong sense I have of the favour you do me
will prevent your withdrawing it. Assure yourself, that I
desire nothing more ardently than to pour forth my thanks at
your feet, and to offer those vows which are so justly the
tribute of your charms and accomplishments. In your next
I intreat you to acquaint me how long you shall remain in
town. The servant, whom I shall commission to call for an
answer, has orders to ride post with it to me. My impatience
for his arrival will be very great, though inferior to that
with which I burn to tell you, in person, how much I am,
my sweet girl, your grateful admirer, "ORVILLE."


After reading this, she is horrified and flees London, overcome with shame. WHAT? Ok, so an unmarried woman would not correspond with an unmarried man to whom she was not related or engaged. But she’s so shocked that she says, “As a sister I loved him;-I could have entrusted him with every thought of my heart, had he deigned to wish my confidence: so steady did I think his honour, so feminine his delicacy, and so amiable his nature! I have a thousand times imagined that the whole study of his life, and whole purport of his reflections, tended solely to the good and happiness of others: but I will talk,-write,-think of him no more!” Yeah, that’s what I want in a man—feminine delicacy and brotherly love. Eew. Then, she shows the letter to her guardian, the milquetoast Mr. Villars, who says, "I can form but one conjecture concerning this most extraordinary performance: he must certainly have been intoxicated when he wrote it." "That a man who had behaved with so strict a regard to delicacy," continued Mr. Villars, "and who, as far as occasion had allowed, manifested sentiments the most honourable, should thus insolently, thus wantonly, insult a modest young woman, in his perfect senses, I cannot think possible.” WTF, dudes? God forbid the man you love should actually *write* to you, or in any way communicate his affection. Oh no! Some time later, after Evelina and Lord Orville have reconciled, her guardian sends a fire and brimstone letter, writing,

“Awake then, my dear, my deluded child, awake to the sense of your danger, and exert yourself to avoid the evils with which it threatens you:-evils which, to a mind like yours, are most to be dreaded; secret repining, and concealed, yet consuming regret! Make a noble effort for the recovery of your peace, which now, with sorrow I see it, depends wholly upon the presence of Lord Orville. This effort may indeed be painful; but trust to my experience, when I assure you it is requisite.

You must quit him!-his sight is baneful to your repose, his society is death to your future tranquility! Believe me, my beloved child, my heart aches for your suffering, while it dictates its necessity.”

Because clearly, falling in love MUST NEVER HAPPEN. You must be calm and passionless at all times. If you like someone, you must flee their company! How did anyone get married in these days? You can’t go up and introduce yourself—you must hope to be introduced by some mutual respectable friend. You must not dance with any one partner more than a couple times a night, nor may you find yourself in intimate conversations with anyone of the opposite sex. You cannot write to your love, not even the most innocent and affection-free of notes. You cannot hint that you like someone, until you actually ask them to marry you. Only *after* you are engaged may you show any hint of affection or partiality, or indeed, write or talk to your fiancee. ARRGH!

Reading a romance set in a different century is really a trip. As a reader, I usually know who is being cast as the romantic lead, who is secretly evil, who will unexpectedly assist the main character, etc. But in this book, all the signals I rely upon were gone, or meant something else entirely. The man who seeks out Evelina’s company, befriends her friends, and tries to make her happy, is apparently a dissolute and foolish rake. The man who is cold, thinks of her as a sister, and has nothing to do with her for 8/9ths of the novel, is her love interest. His very coldness and “lack of partiality” is what is explicitly stated (by several characters) as his most romantic aspect. Her guardian, Mr. Villars, swears that the outside world is too indelicate and dangerous for her and tries to keep cloistered forever in the country, with only him for company. The first ten pages of Evelina show him refusing to allow Evelina out of his sight. Among many creepy assertions, he writes,
“She is one, Madam, for whom alone I have lately wished to live; and she is one whom to serve I would with transport die! Restore her but to me all innocence as you receive her, and the fondest hope of my heart will be amply gratified. “
He clutches her to his bosom all the time. When she writes about feeling affection for another man, he responds, “my Evelina,-sole source, to me, of all earthly felicity. How strange, then, is it, that the letter in which she tells me she is the happiest of human beings, should give me most mortal inquietude!” That reads as serious jealousy to me. Then Evelina’s father (who abandoned her mother many years ago) writes “It seldom happens that a man, though extolled as a saint, is really without blemish; or that another, though reviled as a devil, is really without humanity. Perhaps the time is not very distant, when I may have the honour to convince your Ladyship of this truth, in regard to Mr. Villars and myself.” Which again, reads to me that Mr. Villars is not what he seems. And yet, through to the end, all of the characters continue to think Mr. Villars is the most moral and high-minded of men. He is never revealed to have ulterior motives. His counsel is much sought after and well regarded. Weird.

Overall, Evelina is a very fun read. I could hardly put it down, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. Nevertheless, it contains some very creepy messages. Evelina’s beauty is praised, but what everyone finds the most attractive about her is her timid inability to say what she thinks or be negative in any way. She constantly gets into trouble (and in fact, is almost raped) due to her naïve and bashful nature, yet it is exactly what everyone likes best, and what critics of this book call and exceedingly moral message. Any character who speaks clearly (Captain Mirvan, Mrs. Selwyn) is thought of as very uncouth. Neither character has patience for the long, drawn out methods of polite society, and mock the pretentions of the fops and would-be aristocrats. Mrs. Selwyn is particularly effective at exposing the ignorance and foolishness of Evelina’s companions, and so of course she is described as unpleasantly masculine and rapidly shut out from truly nice society*. I have some very strong feelings about this book, and I’m not the only one—apparently there have been FLAME WARS about this novel, which is freaking awesome.


*'"I have an insuperable aversion to strength, either of body or mind, in a female."

"Faith, and so have I," said Mr. Coverley; "for egad, I'd as soon see a woman chop wood, as hear her chop logic."

"So would every man in his senses," said Lord Merton, "for a woman wants nothing to recommend her but beauty and good-nature; in everything else she is either impertinent or unnatural. For my part, deuce take me if ever I wish to hear a word of sense from a woman as long as I live!"

"It has always been agreed," said Mrs. Selwyn, looking round her with the utmost contempt, "that no man ought to be connected with a woman whose understanding is superior to his own. Now I very much fear, that to accommodate all this good company, according to such a rule, would be utterly impracticable, unless we should choose subjects from Swift's hospital of idiots."

How many enemies, my dear Sir, does this unbounded severity excite!' ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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Bloom, Edward A.Redaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Doody, Margaret AnneRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Gibbs, LewisIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Jones, VivienIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Good-looking, kind-hearted Evelina Anville has grown up in rural obscurity as the ward of a country parson. At the age of seventeen, she begins her progress from provincial life to fashionable London ― a transition that's complicated by vulgar relatives and her own naiveté. Evelina's shrewd intelligence, however, perceives the hypocrisy behind the refined façades as she learns to balance the honesty and simplicity of her upbringing with the sophisticated etiquette of high society. Written in the form of letters, this 1778 novel offers an intimate look at coming-of-age among England's eighteenth-century upper crust. Evelina's comic misadventures provide a subtle commentary on some of the problems faced by her contemporaries, from women's limited roles to class snobbery and prejudice. Fanny Burney's witty approach to manners and mores was a significant influence on Jane Austen, and her deft combination of satire, sentimentality, and farce provides sparkling entertainment.

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