Thursday, November 3, 2016

From the Library of Marie Antoinette: Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World

Today's Book: Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World

Title: Evelina, or The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World (French Title: Evelina)

Author: Frances Burney (1754-1840)

Publication: First published in English in 1778; the 3 volume set in Marie Antoinette's library is from 1780.


The novel tells the story of Evelina, the legitimate but unacknowledged daughter of an English aristocrat who has been raised in seclusion until her 17th birthday because of her father's refusal to acknowledge her. Evelina travels to London but finds herself the source of ridicule when she makes amusing but thoroughly embarrassing social mistakes in front of her peers. As she struggles to come into her own while facing the trials and tribulations of London society, she meets a serious of both new and familiar faces who may help or hinder her on her way to a happy life.

The book was originally published anonymously by Burney due to the potential for backlash if she openly acknowledged her authorship. Burney went to great lengths to keep her authorship a secret from the general public, even going so far as to use fake identities and having her brother go in disguise to sign the publishing contract. It was a "private secret" among Burney's circle that she had written Evelina, but it was not until George Huddesford named her as the author in a footnote of a single line in his work 'Warley, a Satire' ("Or gain approbation from dear little Burney*? [* The Authoress of Evelina.]") that her name was publicly connected with the book. Whether Huddesford knowingly revealed the secret out of malice or simply breached etiquette without realizing it, Burney was not pleased--she referred to his work as a "vile poem" in a letter.

Where you can read it: You can read the original English edition on Project Gutenburg.

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