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Editing Evelina

Hilary Havens et Peter Sabor
p. 285-306


Cet article examine les sept éditions principales parues au xxe siècle du roman de Frances Burney Evelina (1778), l’un de ceux qui eurent le plus de succès au xviiie siècle. La mise de ce texte au programme de l’agrégation montre que son importance est maintenant reconnue en France. Notre étude comparative a pour but d’orienter le choix de ceux qui voudraient mener des recherches sur ce roman. Nous attachant d’abord à l’édition de 1930 par Frank D. MacKinnon, nous mettons en lumière les forces et les faiblesses de l’établissement du texte et de l’appareil critique, en nous intéressant particulièrement à l’accent mis sur la contextualisation dans les éditions des années 1990.

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1Frances Burney’s first novel, Evelina (1778), differs in many ways from its three successors: Cecilia (1782), Camilla (1796) and The Wanderer (1814). A best seller on its initial publication, it was by far the most popular of Burney’s novels during her lifetime and has remained so to the present day. Her only epistolary fiction, Evelina is less than half the length of any of her other novels. It is also the only one to appear in several competing modern editions. There are no alternatives to the scholarly editions of Cecilia (1988), Camilla (1972) and The Wanderer (1991) published by Oxford University Press. Evelina, in contrast, first appeared in an Oxford edition in 1930, with subsequent Oxford editions, by different editors, published in 1968 and 2002. Further editions were published by Penguin (1994), St. Martin’s Press (1997), Norton (1998), and Broadview (2000). Our aim here is to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each of these editions, with their contrasting textual policies, introductions, commentaries, and ancillary material. Students of Evelina would be well advised to consult several of the modern editions, together with Jean Dixsaut’s excellent recent analysis of the novel in the Clefs concours – Anglais-Littérature series.

1. Evelina, ed. Sir Frank D. MacKinnon. Oxford: Clarendon, 1930. 590 pp

  • 1  The preface and introduction to MacKinnon’s Evelina are, oddly, unpaginated.

2This elaborate, deluxe edition of Evelina was published seven years after R.W. Chapman’s 1923 collected edition of Jane Austen’s novels, which it resembles in many ways. As the editor, Frank D. MacKinnon, notes in his preface, he has attempted to perform an editorial task similar to Chapman’s “and to follow his plan.”1 Unlike Chapman, however, who idolized his subject, MacKinnon had a strikingly low opinion of Burney’s novels, which had, he believed, “no pretensions to style: indeed she could not always write grammatically.” For MacKinnon, Evelina was of interest not as a novel per se but rather for “the picture it affords of contemporary life and manners.” For this reason, he furnished the volume with fourteen illustrations and eleven appendices, most of which are designed to illuminate the principal sites, places of entertainment, and pastimes featured in the novel.

3The copy-text for MacKinnon’s edition is the second of 1779, with eighteen corrections indicated in the notes. Four of these amendments stem from a list of 33 errata supplied in the first edition of Evelina; all of these errors were removed in the third edition, but four were inadvertently retained in the second. Another five alterations stem from additional corrections made in the third edition, while nine more are amendments made by MacKinnon to what he regarded as “mere misprints in the first three editions.” The basis for MacKinnon’s textual editing was a collation of those editions undertaken on his behalf by Frederick Page. An appendix lists the variants found by Page and is the first textual comparison of the early editions of Evelina. MacKinnon, a judge by profession, declares in his preface that scholarship of this kind was “a task of which I am sure I should have been incapable.”

4Instead, MacKinnon’s introduction is concerned with the composition and publication of Evelina, subsequent editions and translations, and contemporary reviews. He marvels at the rarity of the first edition, noting that at the sale of the Kern Library in 1929 a copy was purchased for $5,800: an astonishing price at the time. Extensive excerpts are provided from reviews of 1778 in the London Review, the Monthly Review, the Gentleman’s Magazine, and the Critical Review. Mackinnon has nothing, however, to say about the novel’s literary characteristics; he ignores its structure, characterization, and style. More helpful than the introduction are a series of five indexes (MacKinnon 586-90), modelled on those in Chapman’s Austen: of characters in the novel, “feigned places” (only Berry Hill and Howard Grove), real places, literary allusions and “real persons, not authors” – a misleading category, since it includes actors such as Samuel Foote and David Garrick who were also dramatists.

5The most striking feature of MacKinnon’s Evelina is its cornucopia of illustrations and appendices. The illustrations include the three frontispieces designed by John Hamilton Mortimer for each volume of the fourth edition of 1779; the reproductions, on glossy paper, are beautifully clear. Other illustrations include one of Vauxhall Gardens by Thomas Rowlandson, reproduced in colour and used as a frontispiece for the volume. There are also fine prints of the Rotunda at Ranelagh (from a drawing by Canaletto), the Little Theatre, Haymarket, Marylebone Gardens, and various sites at Bristol and Bath. The “great cushion” (33) that Evelina has pinned to her swept-up hair as she adapts to London fashions is mirrored in a striking portrait of Lady Clifton, while Lord Merton’s phaeton is represented through a painting by Stubbs.

6These illustrations are complemented by informative appendices on Ranelagh, Cox’s Museum, the Pantheon, Vauxhall Gardens, Marylebone Gardens, and Bristol Hotwells and Clifton Hill. The name of the heroine and the chronology of the novel are the subjects of two further appendices, as is “filial piety.” MacKinnon is astonished by the heroine’s devotion to her father, Sir John Belmont, “this monster of iniquity” (575), and he also finds Mr. Villars “a very tiresome old man” (574, n.1). In addition, MacKinnon supplies over thirty pages of notes, some of them miniature essays on places mentioned or frequented by Evelina, such as Sadler’s Wells theatre, White’s Conduit House and Bagnigge Wells. Mr Lovel’s horror at the idea of wearing a wig, a fashion obsolete by 1778, inspires some remarkably irrelevant editorial reflections: “Personally I regretted the decree, when lady barristers came into existence, that they should wear wigs. It seems absurd to impose on them a purely masculine fashion” (543). Happily, such outpourings are rare; and though in some respects as dated as the wigs that Lovel deplores, MacKinnon’s Evelina remains an absorbing though seldom consulted resource for students of the novel.

2. Evelina, ed. and intro. Edward A. Bloom. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. xlii + 436 pp

7Almost forty years after Frank MacKinnon’s edition appeared, Oxford University Press published a new edition of Evelina edited by Edward A. Bloom. Unlike MacKinnon, who used the second edition of 1779 as his copy-text, Bloom rightly chose the first edition of 1778. This was, after all, the text that made the novel and its author famous, and the stylistic changes that Burney undertook in subsequent editions are not necessarily for the better. In reviewing Bloom’s Evelina, André Parreaux welcomed his choice of a text “plus spontané et plus direct que ceux de 1779, comme le lecteur s’en convaincra aisément en consultant la liste des variantes” (Parreaux 557).

8Bloom revised his copy-text in various ways, carefully delineated in a note on the text (Bloom xxxv-xxxvii). First, the corrections and alterations made by Burney and listed in the first-edition errata sheet are incorporated. Second, the long “s” is modernized. Third, and more disquietingly, what Blooms terms “obvious misprints” have been modernized, but with no indication of their nature or frequency. Fourth, some additions made to the text in the second edition of 1779 are inserted in square brackets. This was an unfortunate decision; the bracketed insertions look odd on the page, and as they formed no part of the first edition, they should not have been included. It is also regrettable that the title page reproduces the text of the third, not the first edition. A facsimile of the first-edition title page, furnished here as a frontispiece, provides the original title: “Evelina, or, a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.” In the third edition, Burney altered this to “Evelina, or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.” The addition of the word “History” is of interest and could have been discussed in the notes, but the original title should have been used for the text of the edition. Mortimer’s illustrations are reproduced at the beginning of each volume of the novel, but the reproductions are considerably murkier than those in MacKinnon’s edition.

9An invaluable feature of Bloom’s Evelina is a fourteen-page list of textual notes (407-21), far more extensive than the collation prepared by Page for MacKinnon. The left-hand column here provides first-edition readings, while the right-hand column lists revisions and insertions in both the second and third editions of 1779. From this list we find, at the outset, that the novel’s subtitle changed twice: first to “a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World. In a series of letters,” and then, removing the reference to epistolarity, to “the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.” Burney made numerous small but intriguing textual changes, few of which have attracted any critical attention. No subsequent edition of the novel contains a textual analysis of the kind undertaken by Bloom; thus although dated in many other respects, his edition of Evelina has not yet been superseded.

10Bloom’s introduction (vii-xxxi) begins with a detailed account of the composition, publication, and initial reception of Evelina, paying close attention to Burney’s own descriptions of the positive reviews her novel received from the Johnson circle. Bloom subsequently co-edited, with Lillian D. Bloom, volume 7 (1812-14) of The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame d'Arblay) 1791-1840. In the remainder of the introduction, he undertakes a reading of Evelina as a Bildungsroman, in which the heroine, as Villars persistently reminds her, “must learn to judge and act for herself” (xxii). Drawing on Joyce Hemlow’s influential article “Fanny Burney and the Courtesy Books” (1950), the interpretation now seems dated. So too does Bloom’s conclusion, in which he contrasts Burney’s achievement with that of Austen, while referring to them both by their first names:

With her superior comic vision, acute psychological understanding, and sheer craftsmanship Jane has overshadowed her predecessor. But it is pleasant to realize that Fanny, though somewhat obscured by Jane’s lustre, continues to glow softly in the light of her own achievement. (xxxi)

11Of greater significance than his introduction is Bloom’s commentary on Evelina, which, as he notes in his acknowledgements, is based on that of MacKinnon and “prepared in collaboration with Lillian D. Bloom” (422). Bloom, however, goes beyond MacKinnon by citing occasional readings from an early draft of the novel at the Berg Collection, New York Public Library – including the information that the heroine’s name there originally appears as “Eveline” (422). Bloom’s edition takes a much stronger interest in Burney’s language than MacKinnon’s does; the commentary makes good use of the Oxford English Dictionary to explain obsolete and unfamiliar usages. Also helpful is a two-page “Chronology of Frances Burney” (xli-xlii), which traces her long life from her birth in King’s Lynn in 1752 to her death in London and burial in Bath in 1840. The bibliography, however, is perfunctory, and overlooks the first stirrings of a new interest in Burney and Evelina underway in the 1960s and early 1970s.

12Bloom’s Evelina has had a complex afterlife. It was reissued as a World’s Classics paperback in 1982 and then again in 1998. In these reprints, the illustrations, a key feature of the 1968 edition, were removed, presumably to cut costs. So too were the textual notes, important for scholars, but apparently considered irrelevant for the general reader. The bibliography, however, was expanded from fourteen to over thirty entries in the 1998 printing. The author’s name, regressively, was changed from Frances, her baptismal name, to Fanny, her nickname, on both the title page and covers of the paperbacks. And in another unaccountable change, the name of the editor’s wife and fellow Burney scholar was added to the title page (though not the back cover), so that the volume was now listed as edited by Edward A. Bloom “with the assistance of Lillian D. Bloom.” The only new material in these paperbacks, however, is the expanded bibliography, which is hardly sufficient to account for the change. Further complicating this bibliographical tangle, in 2002 Oxford reissued the text as a World’s Classics paperback, with new introductory material and annotations by Vivien Jones. In this edition, Edward A. Bloom is given sole credit, on the title page and the back cover, for preparing the original edition, while Burney’s first name reverts from the Fanny of 1982 and 1998 to the Frances of 1968.

3. Evelina, ed. Edward A. Bloom; introduction and notes by Vivien Jones. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2002. xliv + 455 pp

13The text of this volume is the one prepared by Bloom for his 1968 edition of Evelina. In her note on the text (xxxiv), Vivien Jones attributes that edition jointly to Edward A. and Lillian D. Bloom, although it was originally published under his name alone. She has, she states, “corrected a very few minor transcription errors,” without specifying their nature or recording them in her commentary. Her bibliography, current up to 2001 (Jones xxxvii-xxxix), lists many innovative works by feminist scholars. A list of general studies of eighteenth-century culture and fiction will aid students wishing to locate Burney in the context of women writers and gender issues. Equally valuable is a five-page, double-column chronology (xl-xliv). Here the principal events of Burney’s life are printed opposite historical and cultural events of the same year. Burney’s 1811 mastectomy for breast cancer, for instance, took place in France at the time that the Prince of Wales became regent in England, while her son Alexander died in 1837 in the same year that Queen Victoria acceded to the throne.

14Jones’s introduction is of a very different kind from the ones by MacKinnon and Bloom that it replaces. Far from condescending to Evelina, like her predecessors, Jones regards it as an exceptionally accomplished work, in which Burney’s use of language is of especial interest. Burney’s first novel, she declares,

[…] is a daring, experimental, and at times disturbing text which defies any easy categorization. And at the heart of its diversity is a linguistic richness and exuberance, a precise ear for different forms of expression, which can be traced back to its author’s early facility in catching and recreating the idioms of spoken language. (ix-x)

15Under the heading “A young lady’s entrance into a world of entertainments” (x), Jones recounts the story of the composition and publication of Evelina while also analysing the plot of the novel: the “young lady” here is both Burney and her heroine. Two subsequent sections, “Polite culture and the entertainments of satire” and “Shared entertainments and the ideal of sensibility,” provide a fine close reading of the novel, with many original observations. Jones rightly notes that the sentimental ideal in Evelina is challenged throughout by “the novel’s other voices, the voices of satire, cruelty, vulgarity,” which “are not to be easily silenced” (xxx). In the final volume, “altogether darker than the previous two,” the “sympathetic ideal is most seriously challenged, and […] the novel’s recurrent question about legitimate forms of entertainment is most rigorously investigated” (xxxi-xxxii).

16Jones’s richly informative commentary on the novel is presented in the form of endnotes, running to fifty closely-printed pages (407-55). At the outset there is a “Note on Money” (407), of particular relevance for a novel in which several of the characters are obsessed by admission prices, the cost of food and drink and various other expenses. Jones provides a guide to prices in relation to revenues, observing that a tradesman such as Mr Branghton would make an annual income of at least £200. Other notes draw on Jones’s extensive knowledge of Frances Burney and her family (especially her father, the music historian Dr. Charles Burney), of eighteenth-century culture in general, and of tropes common to Evelina and earlier novels. For instance, in an explanation of Evelina’s alarm during Sir Clement Willoughby’s abduction attempt, Jones observes that such scenes “were a fictional commonplace in the period,” and finds examples in Eliza Haywood’s The Female Spectator (1744), Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (1752), Samuel Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison (1753-54), and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818), in which “Austen uses the topos more light-heartedly” (429). In general Jones’s commentary is a model of clarity, with material that will appeal both to first-time readers of Evelina and to scholars well versed in Burney and the eighteenth century.

4. Evelina, ed. and intro. Margaret Anne Doody. London: Penguin Classics, 1994; re-impression, 2004. xlii + 502 pp

17The author of the most frequently cited book on Burney, Frances Burney: The Life in the Works (1988), as well as the co-editor of Cecilia and The Wanderer, Margaret Anne Doody is exceptionally well equipped to edit Evelina. The strength of her edition lies in its introduction and commentary; it does not include a chronology, appendices or illustrations. There is a brief list of further reading, updated in a 2004 re-impression of the edition. This revised bibliography, however, lists none of the other editions of Evelina, including that of Jones, who in turn ignores all of her predecessors, including Doody – “bizarrement” in the words of Dixsaut (153).

18Doody mentions, without naming, previous editions of Evelina in her note on the text, where she remarks that “other publishers have produced copies of the first edition” (Doody xli). Her copy-text, instead, is the third edition of 1779, which she describes as “a corrected and slightly amplified version that was still close to the first sprightly running.” The rationale is sound, but regrettably “sparing alterations” were made “to ensure regularity, principally in punctuation, especially around speech.” Spellings are standardized when the third edition has variations, and “Penguin house style” on occasion prevails. Although some of these alterations are said to derive from an edition of 1784, there are no textual notes to indicate where they occur. The more conservative textual editing of Bloom, retained in Jones’s Evelina, is much to be preferred.

19Doody’s incisive and informative introduction is written with her customary verve. A special feature is its use of manuscript drafts of Evelina. These include a sheet at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, written in the “feigned hand” that Burney used to ensure that her authorship would not become known to her publisher, Thomas Lowndes (xii). Several of the novel’s other editors mention Burney’s disguising her handwriting, but only Doody describes the surviving manuscript, noting that the feigned hand “is clear, spiky, much more up-and-down than Frances Burney’s ordinary cursive style. The effect striven for is more authoritative, more ‘masculine’ perhaps, less rounded and flowing” (xiii). Doody also uses manuscript drafts of Evelina at the Berg Collection in her discussion of the novel’s composition. In Doody’s account, we see Burney altering and reshaping her prose in order to create particular stylistic effects; this is a far cry from MacKinnon and his claim that Burney could not write grammatically.

20In her analysis of the novel’s characters, Doody explores the ways in which Evelina brings different strata of English society into contact, often to the embarrassment of all parties. Burney’s satire, she observes, “makes us see at last not how unlike the Branghtons are to the fashionable folk (though Evelina herself wishes, at first, to emphasize the difference) but how like” (xxvii). Doody also writes especially well on Dr. Johnson’s favourite character, the would-be gentleman Mr Smith, noting that “his performance is an exact parallel to the performance of Sir Clement Willoughby in the upper ranks of society” (xxviii).

21Doody’s commentary on the text, which extends to over fifty pages (451-505), continues to pay close attention to Burney’s manuscript revisions. She notes at the outset, for example, that the opening line of the dedicatory poem, “Oh author of my being! – far more dear,” was originally “Friend of my Soul, & Parent of my Heart.” Doody’s source is a manuscript at the British Library, with “4 in the Morng” pencilled on the back; she suggests that Burney “was inspired to write this prefatory piece after a night of writing or revision, probably when publication was imminent” (451). Students of Evelina will find much else of interest in Doody’s endnotes, often interpretative in nature rather than purely explanatory. In volume one, for example, the heroine sees a performance of King Lear, which “has made me very sad” (42). While both Jones and Doody provide information on Garrick’s popularity in the title role, Doody adds: “As King Lear deals with a daughter denied by her father, Evelina has personal reasons for emotional response” (459). Her commentary should be read in conjunction with that by Jones, as well as with the textual notes in Bloom’s edition.

5. Evelina, ed. and intro. Kristina Straub. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. xv + 693 pp

  • 2  In her review of recent editions of eighteenth-century women’s novels, Ros Ballaster also praises (...)

22Between 1997 and 2000 three new editions of Evelina were published, all supplemented with cultural and literary contextual material designed for readers (often students) unfamiliar with the eighteenth century (Rizzo 200). These editions clarify the complex language, politics and behavioural norms of eighteenth-century England. Annotations appear in the form of footnotes, rather than endnotes, making them immediately accessible. The first, and in some ways still the best, of these editions is that edited by Kristina Straub, whose influential study of Burney was published in 1987, a year before Doody’s biography. Straub’s Evelina (1997) forms part of the Bedford Cultural Editions, a series that addresses the “need to ‘historicize’ literary texts”: “The Bedford Cultural Editions represent an effort to make available for the classroom the kinds of facts and documents that will enable teachers to use the latest historical approaches to textual analysis and cultural criticism” (Straub v). Bedford Cultural Editions are characterized by their “inclusion of a generous selection of historical documents that contextualize the main text in a variety of ways” (vi). The lengthy appendices (439-686) in Straub’s volume are divided into three sections: “The Young Lady,” “The Fashionable World,” and “Beyond the Fashionable World.” The first section, “The Young Lady,” contains three excerpts from influential conduct books by James Fordyce and Thomas Gisborne and two selections from Burney’s journals, which delineate expectations for women’s behaviour in the eighteenth century. The second section on “The Fashionable World” features ten accounts by eighteenth-century writers, such as Joseph Addison, Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett, providing examples of fashionable dress and places in eighteenth-century England. The third section, “Beyond the Fashionable World,” is misleadingly titled; all of the other appendix subsections have parallels within the introduction, while this section, rather than discussing the violence and war underlying British gentility and leisure, contains accounts of four visitors to London (like Evelina), as well as perspectives of sailors like Captain Mirvan who had fought against France. Students will be well served by the material in all of these appendices.2

23Straub carefully replicates the texts of the appendices either from “the original editions or the most authoritative scholarly editions.” For the eighteenth-century selections, her only editorial intervention is to replace “the long s in these selections but […] otherwise [leave] them as found in the copy text” (49). The text of Evelina, however, is merely reprinted from that of the Oxford edition edited by Bloom, retaining its corrections of obvious misprints, modernization of the long s, and rebarbative use of square brackets to indicate Burney’s additions in the second edition. Straub adds footnotes “when the text refers to events, objects, and people that might be unfamiliar to modern readers, or when eighteenth-century usage differs from that of the present day” (49). These notes, sufficient, but not overwhelming, generally contain translations from foreign languages and glosses on archaic words and allusions, while also providing necessary contexts. For example, Evelina’s remark that “we never dine till the day is almost over” (102) is elucidated in the context of eighteenth-century dining practices: “Tea, often a substantial meal in eighteenth-century London, was commonly served in the early evening, while dinner, the heavy meal of the day, was served at midday. Evelina’s late, town hours move this schedule back by several hours, so that dinner might occur at the usual hour for tea.”

24As in the footnotes, the Bedford edition’s focus on historical elements can be seen in its chronology and illustrations. Straub’s “Chronology of Burney’s Life and Times” covers major events from Burney’s life and British history during her lifetime. While it is a generous thirteen pages in length (35-48) and contains much relevant material, some of it is too late for Evelina, such as the entries “1807 Gas lighting is first used in London” (44), and “1831 Opening of New London Bridge” (48). Straub also includes thirteen illustrations, including two maps of London, a facsimile of the first-edition title page, and portraits of Burney and Edward Boscawen (the latter is a strange choice, even though Boscawen’s correspondence is briefly excerpted in the appendices). The majority of the illustrations are contemporary depictions of eighteenth-century pleasure grounds, which also feature among the plates in MacKinnon’s edition.

25Straub’s introduction unites these paratextual materials and firmly situates Evelina within its time, emphasizing the novel’s status as a “cultural narrative”: “a story that helps communities organize and articulate their social and moral values. Cultural narratives are stories about human life that implicitly or explicitly teach people to make certain value judgments about kinds of people or behaviors” and must be read alongside their historical and cultural contexts (3). Thus, according to Straub, “Evelina and the materials accompanying it in this edition are not changeless artefacts that we can understand apart from their social contexts, but are a product of the lives lived by Frances Burney and others like her” (5). Straub’s contention, that Evelina’s contexts are essential for a full understanding of the novel, informs the rest of the introduction, which is divided into four further sections. The first, “The World of Urban Leisure and Trade” (6-13), describes English economic expansion in the eighteenth century through “the narrative of rational progress and the narrative of luxury and decadence” (10). Both narratives, Straub argues, place the eighteenth-century woman in impossible situations “by giving her a no-win choice between non-participation and roles that threaten her very worth as a young lady” (13). The second section of her introduction, “Beyond the World of Leisure,” focuses on underlying violence within the text and in eighteenth-century British society, such as the old woman’s race and Sir Clement’s attempted abduction of Evelina, which are set against Britain’s participation in the slave trade and military actions against France.

  • 3  In her review of Straub’s edition, the only weakness that Amanda Gilroy notes is a “pedagogic tend (...)

26The final two sections of Straub’s introduction centre on the figure of the “young lady,” embodied in both Evelina and Burney herself. The third section, “The Young Lady Makes her Entrance,” which emphasizes the importance of conduct books and eighteenth-century ideals of femininity, is supported by excerpts from Burney’s journals and “The Young Lady” appendix. The title of Straub’s final section, “A Woman Novelist Makes her Entrance,” highlights the similarity between Burney and Evelina, a parallel Burney herself makes in the novel’s prefatory material. This section compares Burney’s experience of writing and publishing Evelina with that of other eighteenth-century novelists, describes her work in other genres, and examines her reception history. Late in the introduction, Straub emphasizes that “Gender is the primary category through which the reception of Burney’s novels has been filtered, and we might ask what impact this ‘feminization’ of her novels had on Burney’s career as a writer” (29). This introduction encapsulates the merits and shortcomings of the Bedford edition: it provides substantial (and sometimes more than substantial) historical material, which is useful especially for new readers, but at the cost of reading the text primarily as a cultural artefact rather than as a witty and stylistically astute work of literature.3

6. Evelina, ed. Stewart J. Cooke. New York: Norton, 1998. x + 490 pp

27The Bedford edition of Evelina preceded the Norton Critical Edition by only a year. Since 1961, the Norton Critical Editions series – which numbers over 200 texts – has been renowned for its high editorial standards and helpful contextual materials, which generally include representative critical responses. The Norton Evelina, edited by Stewart J. Cooke, editor and co-editor of several volumes of Burney’s journals and letters and of her plays, is no exception. As with most Norton editions, Cooke’s appendices, which contain both contemporary and modern criticism, are the salient feature of the book. They are divided into two parts: “Contexts and Contemporary Reactions” and “Criticism.” The “Contexts and Contemporary Reactions” section is generally useful. It contains a standard selection of conduct-book material taken from texts by John Gregory, James Fordyce, Hester Chapone, and George Saville, Lord Halifax. The selections are ingeniously grouped by subject (modesty, passivity, wit, learning, aging, dangerous connections, inequality, love, amusements, theatre, and dancing), which makes the small collection a valuable reference tool for readers. This section of the appendix also includes relevant excerpts from Burney’s Memoirs of Doctor Burney (1832), from her journals and letters, and from contemporary reviews of Evelina.

28The second section of contextual materials, “Criticism” (365-485), is generous but in need of an update. The historical reviews by Anna Laetitia Barbauld and William Hazlitt are well chosen. John Wilson Croker’s review of The Wanderer is possibly the single most important review of any of Burney’s works, but it has little to do with Evelina, and his famous comparison between the two novels is not included in Cooke’s excerpt: “The Wanderer has the identical features of Evelina – but of Evelina grown old; the vivacity, the bloom, the elegance, ‘the purple light of love’ are vanished; the eyes are there, but they are dim; the cheek, but it is furrowed; the lips, but they are withered” (Croker 125-26). Virginia Woolf’s tribute to Burney is crucial because of her early recognition of Burney’s importance within the female literary tradition. Next, we are given an excerpt from Joyce Hemlow’s The History of Fanny Burney (1958); Hemlow was the first modern editor of Burney’s journals, and her book is one of the most influential studies of Burney. In the Norton excerpt, Hemlow gives a detailed account of Evelina’s composition, incorporating evidence from the surviving manuscript draft and Burney’s journals and letters. Even though this selection is more than fifty years old, it remains a key work of archival and biographical criticism.

29The same, however, cannot be said of the next six critical responses to Evelina, many of which employ critical methodologies from the 1980s. Martha Brown’s essay systematically discusses and refutes now outdated feminist readings of Evelina. Similarly, Kenneth Graham’s essay delineates two “plots” of the novel – the “Cinderella” marriage plot and the underlying “Bluebeard” plot in which violence towards women is perpetuated – that are informed by earlier readings of feminist binaries and double-binds enforced by conduct books. In an updated version of the Norton edition, more recent work on violence in Evelina could replace Graham’s essay, such as a selection from Barbara Zonitch’s Familiar Violence: Gender and Social Upheaval in the Novels of Frances Burney (1997) and one of the recent interpretations of Evelina’s “monkey scene,” such as Laura Brown’s “Shock Effect: Evelina’s Monkey and the Marriage Plot” (2009), Susan C. Greenfield’s “Monkeying Around in Evelina: Identity and Resemblance Again” (2009), or Patricia L. Hamilton’s “Monkey Business: Lord Orville and the Limits of Politeness in Frances Burney’s Evelina” (2007). Kristina Straub’s essay, like Graham’s, focuses on the novel’s fairytale ending, but she interprets it in light of the novel’s pessimistic depictions of marriage, such as Mr. Evelyn’s and Mrs. Mirvan’s, and conduct book advice. Gina Campbell’s essay on Burney’s “instructions to her critics in Evelina” is still useful. It focuses on the act of reading: of the novel (its reception history) and within the novel (using feminist binaries of desire / expression vs. modesty / suppression). Like Graham, Susan Fraiman discusses the novel’s latent violence through its disruption of female development: “Leaving its heroine in happy silence, Evelina challenges us to recuperate its other story of female destiny bound and abandoned, but not gagged – the story embodied by Madame Duval” (474). Fraiman questions the complicity of the novel’s traditionally positive figures, such as Lord Orville and Mr. Villars, within the “disreputable” and “predatory” “brotherhood” that threatens Evelina. The final essay of the “Criticism” section is Margaret Anne Doody’s, which examines the recuperation of Burney’s work. It is a call to arms for new interpretations of Evelina, including its place within the comic tradition, the eighteenth-century canon, and Burney’s oeuvre. The challenge set down in Doody’s essay, published twenty years ago in a special issue of Eighteenth-Century Fiction dedicated to Evelina, has been and continues to be answered in recent interpretations of the novel’s satire, aesthetics, public and private spheres, and treatment of sympathy. Any of these would be welcome inclusions in a revised issue of the Norton Critical Edition of Evelina.

30Like Doody in the Penguin edition, Cooke uses Burney’s third edition for his copy-text. Cooke argues for the importance of this edition, given that it “incorporates all of Burney’s changes [for the second and third editions] and is the first to use the expanded subtitle ‘The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.’” As in Doody’s edition, however, Cooke’s editorial interventions are not always clear. His volume “attempts to reproduce Burney’s text exactly, except for the occasional obvious misspelling, duplicated work, or punctuation error, which have been silently corrected. It makes no concessions to consistency” (x). These “silent corrections” prevent us from discerning Cooke’s footprint on Burney’s third-edition text. The text itself is carefully annotated, and unlike Straub’s edition, generally cites the sources for its notes, which include the Oxford English Dictionary, The London Post, and other eighteenth-century texts. Cooke’s note on Evelina’s visit to Cox’s museum, for instance, reads: “A museum of mechanical works of art in precious and semiprecious stones set up in Spring Gardens in 1772 by the jeweler and silversmith James Cox (d. 1792?) of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street. The collection, consisting of fifty-six pieces and valued at £197,000, was sold by lottery in 1775. See London Encyclopedia 206” (63). The equivalent in Kristina Straub’s edition is:

Eighteenth-century England experienced a marked expansion in popular interest in displayed collections of natural and mechanical oddities. Some of the more ‘scientific’ collections, such as that of Sir Hans Sloane, which became the basis for the British Museum, were intended to instruct the public. Others, like Don Saltero’s collection of novelties (see footnote 3 to Volume II, Letter XIII), were designed purely for entertainment. Cox’s Museum specialized in mechanical creations, such as the signing birds in the pineapple described by Evelina. The first of such automata were designed by Vaucanson in France and displayed in England of the 1740s. (121)

The contrast between these two notes epitomizes the difference in their respective annotations: Straub’s note is lengthier, but it focuses more on generalities, while Cooke’s is specific and sharply focused.

31While the notes in the Norton edition are generous and thoroughly researched, the other editorial material is minimal. There is no introduction to speak of – just a very brief two-page preface that devotes only two paragraphs to the composition of and response to Evelina. The page and a half chronology recounts major events of Burney’s life; while it is accurate, it should have been expanded to compensate for the little attention Burney’s life gets in the introduction. Moreover, the text has no illustrations. The strengths of the Norton Critical Edition include its annotations and text (though Cooke’s editorial interventions remain unclear), but the paratextual material needs to be expanded (in the case of the introduction and chronology) or updated (in the case of the appendices).

7. Evelina, ed. and intro. Susan Kubica Howard. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2000. 694 pp

32The most recent contextual edition of Evelina is that edited by Susan Kubica Howard for Broadview Press in 2000. Like the Bedford Cultural Editions, the Broadview Literary Texts series includes a wide range of contemporary background materials in each volume. The three appendices here are generous, spanning 130 pages (Howard 555-685); they are, however, limited by the introduction’s focus on comedy and family relations. The first, “Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews,” “provides the full text of the major contemporary reviews of Evelina, with the exception of the Critical Review article which reprinted the dedicatory poem at the beginning of the novel” (555). These are valuable, and the omission of the poem is not significant. The section could, however, be enhanced with the addition of first-hand accounts of the reception of Evelina from members of Burney’s circle and Burney herself in her journals and letters and Memoirs of Doctor Burney (1832).

33The other two appendices are narrower in scope but rich in content. “Appendix B: Works on Family” “contains excerpts from late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century works that discuss family and kin relations at all social levels” (556): these include fiction, educational texts (conduct books and “program-oriented works”), and personal letters. These selections focus not only on conduct rules for a young lady in the eighteenth century, as Straub’s and Cooke’s selections do, but also on familial relations. While a large number of texts is included, the excerpts are lengthy and somewhat repetitive (564-648). For example, much of Samuel Richardson’s Familiar Letters on Important Occasions could be omitted; eight full letters are included. The seven selections from conduct book works could also be judiciously trimmed. Appendix C, “Works on Comedy,” contains an interesting variety, and some of the texts are very apposite, such as Christopher Anstey’s The New Bath Guide, which is mentioned in Evelina. The inclusion of others, such as Pasquil’s Jests (1604) and Scoggin’s Jests (1626), is more puzzling, even though Howard argues that “Some of the works that appear in Appendices B and C are alluded to in Burney’s early journals and letters […]. Others are seventeenth- or eighteenth-century texts whose subject matter informed social and familial interaction during Burney’s day” (555). This section could be improved by adding instead comparable comic scenes in works by Burney’s contemporaries and literary predecessors. For example, the famous scene in which Captain Mirvan gives Madame Duval smelling salts (177-78) has a precursor in Sarah Fielding’s The History of Ophelia (1760):

[A Lady “in a most languishing Condition”] appeared in the greatest Extremity[;] she was the properest Object of my Care. Accordingly, in a Flutter of Haste, I applied my Smelling-Bottle to her Nose, fearing the least Delay might find her past Recovery. The Bottle was filled with very strong Salts, and I was rejoiced to see their speedy Effect; for she recovered in an Instant, and opened her Eyes with a great Start, and a Look of Amazement; which might be expected from their sudden Operation. But I was extremely surprized, that instead of thanking me for my Care and Compassion, she looked excessively angry, and, in a most uncivil Manner and harsh Voice, asked me, what I meant by such Impertinence? (Fielding 117)

This significant parallel is noted in the Broadview edition of Fielding’s novel, and it could likewise be cited in Howard’s as a very clear example of Burney’s indebtedness to her novelistic predecessors and to comic traditions.

34Howard’s lengthy introduction (11-78) is marred by her narrow focus on family and comedy to the exclusion of other essential aspects of the text. It comprises two sections: “1. Evelina: Genesis, Composition, Publication, and Reception” and “2. Evelina: Family and Comedy” (this section has many sub-headings and is substantially longer than the first). The first section presents the principal events of Burney’s life related to Evelina’s composition and reception. This information is to the point, but some of the statements that Howard makes are tenuous; for example, “Burney went on […] to write three more novels – none of them published anonymously, now that her literary reputation was secured and could not damage her family’s name” (20). But this is not quite true, since Burney’s name appears on none of the title pages of her three subsequent novels; she signs herself, like Austen, “The Author of” and lists her previously published works. The second, longer section of the introduction reads more like a scholarly article than an introduction, and the evidence Howard provides is located in the appendices. Thirty-four pages (22-56) of the introduction contain an overview of material from the appendices with only a few superficial references to Evelina. Much of this section is redundant, but the rest of the introduction (55-77) does link the family and comedy themes:

Her [Evelina’s] involvement in the joking relationship is an effort to wrest what control she can from the conflicting family structures until she can situate herself, if only briefly, in an ideologically legitimate family structure […] until she enters the family structure of her choice, as wife to Orville, where the joking relationship is both unnecessary and impermissible. (76)

Again, this is an intriguing point, but the focus is too narrow to be the central thesis of an introduction to a scholarly edition. The Captain Mirvan-Madame Duval scenes, which are the focus of Howard’s interpretation of Evelina, are undeniably significant, but they occupy a small portion of the novel. Finally, the ending of the introduction shifts the reader’s attention away from Burney and Evelina to the editor herself: “And we must also ask what negotiations such a situation forces each of us into. Will the negotiations my daughter, the adopted child of a single parent whose race is not her own, be any less taxing to her sense of family values than the negotiations Evelina is forced to undertake in a society in which the definition of ‘family’ could only be stretched so far?” (78).

35The rest of the paratextual materials and the text itself remain the high points of the Broadview edition. “Frances Burney: A Brief Chronology” covers all the major events of Burney’s life in more detail than the chronology in the Norton. The material that Howard provides alongside Burney’s biographical details concerns Anglo-French relations, undeniably significant factors in her life. Only one illustration is included in the Broadview edition, but it is an important one: Mortimer’s frontispiece to volume two of the fourth edition, which depicts the heroine helping Madame Duval out of a ditch (6). Howard’s annotations provide ample detail and references to their sources; they also show attention to geography and location, as in Volume 2, Letter 9: “Bishopsgate-street runs through the City of London. During Elizabeth I’s reign, this area was home to many well-to-do merchants (Weinreb 67)” (280).

36The text of Howard’s volume is based on that of the second edition of Evelina, a choice that she cogently defends by providing examples of Burney’s corrections during her process of composition from manuscript to print:

In the case of the first and second editions of Evelina, however, only nine months separate Burney’s final revisions from the revisions that had taken her through several manuscript drafts to the first edition. The revisions she made for the second edition seem to continue the efforts to polish and sharpen the text which inform her earlier revision process as outlined by Hemlow. Given them, and the fact that it seems Burney did no substantial revisions for the third or subsequent editions of the novel published during her lifetime, I look upon the second edition as a more definitive text than the first edition or subsequent editions. (84)

Furthermore, Howard’s textual interventions are fully explained in the note on the text: “obvious printer’s errors (e.g., missing end punctuation, dropped letters, transposed letters, the use of a period to end an interrogative sentence, the use of the lower case at the beginning of a sentence, ‘there’ for ‘their,’ etc.)” and Burney’s list of thirty-three errata (85). The text and annotations are thus the strengths of this edition; the introduction and parts of the appendices have more to do with Howard’s critical agenda than with the needs of most readers.

37While all three of these contextual editions are still serviceable, it has been nearly fifteen years since the last of them appeared and much has transpired in Evelina criticism since then. Our discussion of these seven editions of Evelina – and their relative merits and shortcomings – demonstrates the need for a new (or at least an updated) contextual edition. Critical appendices should be revised to reflect current trends in Evelina and Burney scholarship, such as readings of Evelina within the sentimental tradition or within the eighteenth-century canon (alongside authors such as Eliza Haywood Samuel Richardson, Henry and Sarah Fielding, and Charlotte Lennox, while anticipating Jane Austen). Above all, editors should emphasize the élan of Burney’s prose, one of the main reasons why Evelina has remained in print continuously since 1778.

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Ballaster, Ros. “Contexts, Intertexts, Metatexts: Eighteenth-Century Prose by Women.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 11.3 (1999): 347-58.

Brown, Laura. “Shock Effect: Evelina’s Monkey and the Marriage Plot.” The Eighteenth-Century Novel 6-7 (2009): 379-407.

Burney, Frances. Camilla. Eds. Edward A. Bloom & Lillian D. Bloom. London: OUP, 1972.

Burney, Frances. Cecilia. Eds. Peter Sabor & Margaret Anne Doody. Intro. Margaret Anne Doody. Oxford: OUP, World’s Classics, 1998.

Burney, Frances. The Wanderer. Eds. Margaret Anne Doody, Robert Mack & Peter Sabor. Intro. Margaret Anne Doody. Oxford: OUP, World’s Classics, 1991.

Croker, John Wilson. Review of The Wanderer. The Quarterly Review 11 (1814): 123-30.

Dixsaut, Jean. Frances Burney, Evelina. Clefs Concours – Anglais –Littérature. Neuilly: Atlande, 2013.

Doody, Margaret Anne. Frances Burney: The Life in the Works. Cambridge: CUP, 1988.

Fielding, Sarah. Ophelia. Ed. Peter Sabor. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2004.

Gilroy, Amanda. Review. The Wordsworth Circle 28.4 (1997): 265-67.

Greenfield, Susan C. “Monkeying Around in Evelina: Identity and Resemblance Again.” The Eighteenth-Century Novel 6-7 (2009): 409-28.

Hamilton, Patricia L. “Monkey Business: Lord Orville and the Limits of Politeness in Frances Burney’s Evelina.Eighteenth-Century Fiction 19.4 (2007): 1-26.

Hemlow, Joyce. “Fanny Burney and the Courtesy Books.” PMLA 65 (1950): 732-61.

Parreaux, André. Review of Evelina. Études anglaises 25.4 (1972): 557.

Rizzo, Betty. “Yes, Miss Burney.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 22.1 (2003): 193-201.

Straub, Kristina. Divided Fictions: Fanny Burney and Feminine Strategy. Lexington KY: UP of Kentucky, 1987.

Zonitch, Barbara. Familiar Violence: Gender and Social Upheaval in the Novels of Frances Burney. Newark DE: U of Delaware P, 1997.

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1  The preface and introduction to MacKinnon’s Evelina are, oddly, unpaginated.

2  In her review of recent editions of eighteenth-century women’s novels, Ros Ballaster also praises Straub’s “careful selection of extracts from eighteenth-century commentary on the position of women, trade, commerce, and urban living” (349).

3  In her review of Straub’s edition, the only weakness that Amanda Gilroy notes is a “pedagogic tendency [in the introduction] to repetition and recapitulation” (267).

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Hilary Havens et Peter Sabor, « Editing Evelina »XVII-XVIII, 71 | 2014, 285-306.

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Hilary Havens et Peter Sabor, « Editing Evelina »XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 71 | 2014, mis en ligne le 26 mai 2016, consulté le 29 septembre 2020. URL :; DOI:

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Hilary Havens

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Peter Sabor

McGill University

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