Frances Burney’s Camilla

6 January 2011

A gorgeous painting by Hoppner of a young lady posing as the character of Evelina in Frances Burney’s novel of the same name.

Today marks the anniversary of Frances Burney’s death in 1840 and I just couldn’t let it pass without some sort of post as she had such a profound influence on my taste in books and also style of writing when I was a teenager.

I was just about to start my GCSEs when I devoured her novels Evelina, Camilla and Cecilia one after the other and then opted to write about her final book The Wanderer, about a girl who escapes to England from the French Revolution for my long essay as part of my English Literature GCSE.

Camilla was and still remains my favourite of her books though. As I have mentioned before, I love  and adore novels that feature groups of sisters and their various adventures (I grew up as a thwarted only child despite being the eldest of five is my excuse for this) and Camilla is probably one of the best of this type, if you like that sort of thing as it focuses on the romantic adventures of the divinely adorable Camilla, her lovely elder sister Lavinia and their sadly deformed younger sister Eugenia as well as their excessively beautious but spoiled cousin Indiana.

If you like Austen then you’ll probably love Camilla with its crowd of gorgeous, bright young things, it’s ridiculous older relations, it’s social dramas and misunderstandings (the occasion when Camilla goes out on an expedition without quite enough cash for example) and the twin importance of love and money as a means to ultimate happiness. Of course, Camilla gets a mention in Northanger Abbey where it is described both as ‘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‘ and ‘the horridest nonsense you can imagine; there’s nothing in the world in it but an old man’s playing at see-saw and learning Latin.’

Oh, it is just fabulous and if you haven’t already read it then you really should. Only, you can’t have Sir Sedley Clarendel because he’s mine. Sorry.