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Only a Novel: The Life of Fanny Burney

“And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language. Northanger Abbey Fanny Burney later Madame D’Arblay (June 13, 1752-January 6, 1840) was an English novelist and diarist. She published her first novel Evelina anonymously in 1778. The revelation of its authorship brought her immediate fame. She published Cecilia in 1782 and Camilla in 1796. Her three major novels, much admired by Jane Austen, are about the entry into the world of a young, beautiful, intelligent but inexperienced girl. She was born Frances Burney, daughter of Dr Charles Burney, at King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Her mother, Esther (nee Sleepe) was granddaughter of a French refugee named Dubois. Fanny was the fourth child in a family of six. Of her brothers, James (1750-1821) became an admiral and sailed with Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages, and Charles Burney was a well-known classical scholar. In 1760 the family moved to London, and Dr Burney, a fashionable music master, took a house in Poland Street. Mrs Burney died in 1761, when Fanny was only nine years

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