Madame D’Arlay (Fanny Burney)
English Authoress and Social Leader
1752 – 1840 A.D.
Frances Burney was born at Lynn Regis, in Norfolk, England, 1752. Her mother was of distant French descent and died when she was but nine years old; her father was a professor of music. Her sisters were sent to school, but she, as she tells it herself, “never was placed in any seminary, and never was put under any governess or instructor whatever.” At ten years of age she had taught herself to read and write, and became an incessant scribbler both of prose and verse, and ardently fond of reading.
Six years after his wife’s death her father married again; and from her fifteenth year onward, Fanny lived in the midst of an exceptionally brilliant social circle, which included the chief musicians, actors, and literary men of the day, and not a few were of her father’s aristocratic patrons. Her father’s drawing room was in fact Fanny’s only school, and not a bad one.
Her first published novel, Evelina, was published clandestinely, and had been received and praised everywhere before her father knew of the event. Her fame spread. Johnson had declared that there were passages in Evelina which might do honor to Richardson; Sir Joshua Reynolds could not be persuaded to eat until he had finished the story; and Burke had sat up all night to read it. The second story, Cecelia, greatly increased her popularity.
In 1786 Miss Burney obtained a post in the service of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, and seven years later became the wife of M. D’Arblay, a French officer of artillery, who with Madame de Staël, Talleyrand and other refugees, lived at “Juniper Hall,” Dorking. Her only child, afterward the Rev. A. D’Arblay, was born in 1794.
Madame D’Arblay died at Bath, 1840, and her celebrated Journal and Letters were edited by her niece and published in 1842-1846. Her memoirs, the rambling recollections of an old lady, are full of imperfections; but despite these and her extraordinary affections of style, the book gained considerable popularity.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.