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With the Aid of a Lorgnette

Frank Kermode, 28 April 1994

The Lure of the Sea 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Jocelyn Phelps.
Polity, 380 pp., £35, January 1994, 0 7456 0732 2
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The Foul and the Fragrant: Odour and the French Social Imagination 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Miriam Kochan.
Picador, 307 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 330 32930 8
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... of suffocation’: this should have been good for a temporary remission of nymphomania. However, Fanny Burney, staying at Brighton, found it pleasant and stimulating to bathe at dawn (20 November 1782). And Corbin suggests that the whole business became rather sexy: ‘the mere contact of a bare foot on the sand was already a sensual invitation and a ...

Wakey Wakey

Susan Eilenberg, 19 October 1995

Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind 
by Patricia Meyer Spacks.
Chicago, 290 pp., £19.99, January 1995, 0 226 76853 8
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... sense of communal responsibilities and values. So she reads together Dr Johnson and Boswell; Fanny Burney and minor female writers of Gothic fiction; the dread Hannah More together with a marvellous collection of lesser-known women (Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Carter, Mary Delany) whose letters and diaries survived against the odds; Wordsworth’s ...

A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings, 24 May 2001

Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... impeachment in 1788 had been an enormous success, a piece of public theatre to which the likes of Fanny Burney felt themselves irresistibly drawn; by its close in the Lords in 1794, the number of spectators had dwindled greatly, and Burke had had to use his influence with the Speaker of the Commons to ensure the presence of even a small number of ...

Look on the Bright Side

Seamus Perry: Anna Letitia Barbauld, 25 February 2010

Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment 
by William McCarthy.
Johns Hopkins, 725 pp., £32, December 2008, 978 0 8018 9016 1
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... hell of it: ‘Mrs B … often contradicted for the sake of argument,’ Amelia Opie reported; and Fanny Burney would have agreed, finding her ‘argumentative, precieuse … affected’. Even Anna Letitia le Breton, her fond great niece, remembered her as ‘rather stern’, and that seems to have been her habit, a social gruffness or belligerence being ...

The night that I didn’t get drunk

Claude Rawson, 7 May 1987

Boswell: The English Experiment 1785-1789 
edited by Irma Lustig and Frederick Pottle.
Heinemann, 332 pp., £30, February 1987, 0 434 08130 2
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The Converse of the Pen: Acts of Intimacy in the 18th-Century Familiar Letter 
by Bruce Redford.
Chicago, 252 pp., £21.25, January 1987, 0 226 70678 8
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Printing Technology, Letters and Samuel Johnson 
by Alvin Kernan.
Princeton, 357 pp., £19.70, February 1987, 0 691 06692 2
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... as Kernan thinks, but by one of his informants. But it was a widely held view, shared by Fanny Burney. Boswell’s belief in his own scrupulous and carefully researched truthfulness contained an element of wishful thinking, as well as obscuring the fact, which scholars have since uncovered, that the Life was as much a work of shaping and ...

No Trousers

Claude Rawson, 20 December 1990

The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. VIII: The French Revolution 1790-1794 
edited by L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, March 1990, 0 19 822422 2
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Reflections on the Revolution in France 
by Edmund Burke, edited by J.G.A. Pocock.
Hackett, 236 pp., $5.95, January 1987, 0 87220 020 5
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APhilosophical Enquiry 
by Edmund Burke, edited by Adam Phillips.
Oxford, 173 pp., £4.95, June 1990, 0 19 281807 4
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... execrable injustices ... have made almost any state preferable to such anarchy and desolation’. Fanny Burney called it ‘the noblest, deepest, most animated, and exalted work that I think I ever read’. Gibbon said, ‘I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can even forgive his superstition.’ These were ...

Keep him as a curiosity

Steven Shapin: Botanic Macaroni, 13 August 2020

The Multifarious Mr Banks: From Botany Bay to Kew, the Natural Historian Who Shaped the World 
by Toby Musgrave.
Yale, 386 pp., £25, April, 978 0 300 22383 5
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... William Parry did an ensemble piece of Mai, Solander and Banks. Mai met the king, Dr Johnson and Fanny Burney; a play about him was performed at the Theatre Royal; he learned to play chess and backgammon, and many agreed with Mrs Thrale’s comment about the ‘savage’s good breeding’. Banks delighted in showing him off: an aristocratic friend ...

Preceding Backwardness

Margaret Anne Doody, 9 January 1992

Women’s Lives and the 18th-Century English Novel 
by Elizabeth Bergan Brophy.
University of South Florida Press, 291 pp., $29.95, April 1991, 0 8130 1036 5
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Fictions of Modesty: Women and Courtship in the English Novel 
by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
Chicago, 306 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 226 95096 4
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... Richardson, Henry Fielding, Sarah Fielding, Charlotte Lennox, Sarah Scott, Clara Reeve and Frances Burney. (There are occasional references to other writers, such as Jane Austen.) A segment on, for instance, ‘Daughters’ will discuss daughters and the code of daughterliness as represented in the novels. But the much more interesting sections afford us a ...

Jane Austen’s Word Process

Marilyn Butler, 25 June 1987

Computation into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels and an Experiment in Method 
by J.F Burrows.
Oxford, 245 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 19 812856 8
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... well enough for the five most changeable speakers in his table, Marianne Dashwood, Mr Knightley, Fanny, Emma and Henry Crawford, not so well for the next best learners, Mrs Norris and Mrs Bennet. Once again, other authors fail to match Austen’s remarkable diversity. Forster’s Margaret Schlegel ‘develops’ considerably more than other figures in her ...

A horn-player greets his fate

John Kerrigan, 1 September 1983

by Barry Tuckwell.
Macdonald, 202 pp., £10.95, April 1983, 0 356 09096 5
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... not homogeneous, and in the hands of an amateur the ‘stopped’ notes might sound execrable. (Dr Burney, the father of Fanny and a formidable music critic, compared them to the shriek of ‘a person ridden by the night mare, who tries to cry out but cannot’.) In the hands of a virtuoso, however the ‘stopped’ notes ...

Closets of Knowledge

Frank Kermode: Privacy, 19 June 2003

Privacy: Concealing the 18th-Century Self 
by Patricia Meyer Spacks.
Chicago, 248 pp., £25.50, May 2003, 0 226 76860 0
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... things to say about pornography. The style, as she observes, is often quite decorous, as it is in Fanny Hill, and the essentially private, guilty act of reading pornography is excused, or perhaps made more exciting, by Cleland’s fluent, upmarket language and abstinence from vulgar expressions. ‘Private’ occupies 12 columns of the OED, not counting its ...

Too Good and Too Silly

Frank Kermode: Could Darcy Swim?, 30 April 2009

The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen. Vol. IX: Later Manuscripts 
edited by Janet Todd and Linda Bree.
Cambridge, 742 pp., £65, December 2008, 978 0 521 84348 5
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Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World 
by Claire Harman.
Canongate, 342 pp., £20, April 2009, 978 1 84767 294 0
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... in the real poor, though in Mansfield Park she works hard to convey an idea of the discomfort of Fanny Price’s family in Portsmouth. It is worth remembering that these were the years when, further to the north, Wordsworth was fascinated by starving children, beggars, aged shepherds and broken veterans of the French war. Copeland, whose essay in Jane Austen ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... in the 18th century, we have epistles written in their teens, and from the early twenties (Frances Burney and Horace Walpole). Johnson was born in September 1709; the first letter of Volume I is dated 30 October 1731, when Johnson was 22. There must have been some letters by the younger Johnson – to his relation and benefactor Cornelius Ford, for instance ...

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