E-)Book Read! EVELINA by Frances Burney
Title: Evelina or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World
Publication date: 1778
Original Language: English
Read in: English
Number of Pages: 444
Where From: Project Gutenberg
First sentence: “Can any thing, my good Sir, be more painful to a friendly mind, than a necessity of communicating disagreeable intelligence?”
P. 99: “The Miss Branghtons observed with surprise, what a fine gentleman was come into the gallery; and they gave me great reason to expect, that they would endeavour to attract his notice, by familiarity with me, whenever he should join us; and so i formed a sort of plan to prevent any conversation.”
Last sentence: “”I have time for no more; the chaise now waits which is to conduct me to dear Berry Hill, and to the arms of the best of men.”
Plot Summary (from Wikipedia): The novel opens with a distressed letter from Lady Howard to her longtime acquaintance, the Reverend Arthur Villars, in which she reports that Mme. Duval, the grandmother of Villars’ ward, Evelina Anville, intends to visit England to renew her acquaintance with her granddaughter Evelina. 18 years earlier, Mme. Duval had broken off her relationship with her daughter Caroline, Evelina’s mother, and has never acknowledged Evelina. Reverend Villars fears Mme. Duval’s influence could lead Evelina to an untimely, shameful death similar to that of her mother Caroline. To keep Evelina from Mme. Duval, the Reverend lets her visit Howard Grove, Lady Howard’s home, on an extended holiday. While she is there, the family learns that Lady Howard’s son-in-law, naval officer Captain Mirvan, is returning to England after a 7-year absence. Desperate to join the Mirvans on their trip to London, Evelina entreats her guardian to let her attend them, promising that the visit will last only a few weeks. The Reverend reluctantly consents.
In London, Evelina’s beauty and ambiguous social status attract unwanted attention and unkind speculation. Ignorant of the conventions and behaviours of 18th-century London society, she makes a series of humiliating (but humorous) faux pas that further expose her to societal ridicule. She soon earns the attentions of 2 gentlemen: Lord Orville, a handsome and extremely eligible peer and pattern-card of modest, becoming behavior; and Sir Clement Willoughby, a baronet with duplicitous intentions. Evelina’s untimely reunion with her grandmother and the Branghtons, her long-unknown extended family, along with the embarrassment their boorish, social-climbing antics cause, soon convince her that Lord Orville is completely out-of-reach.
I should have known this book wasn’t really one for me… I always get irritated with helpless heroines, although I know I should remember when and where the book was written. So Evelina got on my nerves , but when I had read some 100 pages, and I was about to give up reading, I somehow got more or less carried away by the story and decided to read on. Evelina at times still got me irritated, but there were some parts and subplots in the book that I really enjoyed. I can’t say I loved any of the characters; few of them really stood out and those who did were not very likeable, I thought.
This book is considered as a precursor to the work of for example Jane Austen (whose work I love) in that it also gives a satirical view on society, but I have to admit I couldn’t see it like that.
Some other thoughts/reviews: