Friday, September 30, 2011

Fanny Burney-Jane Austen's Favourite Author
by Guest Blogger Farida Mestek

Fanny Burney by relative
Edward Francis Burney

I confess that when I fixed on the subject of my guest post – Fanny Burney – I hadn’t been acquainted with any of her books and I was more interested in her life and person rather than her literary achievements, especially after I'd discovered that we share a common enemy.

But first and foremost, for me she was the favourite author of my favourite author – Jane Austen – which was quite enough to make me love her. But, of course, I had vague plans to read her books at some point, because I knew that they are a must read for any Regency heroine who loves reading novels.

I learnt that she left behind many volumes of letters and diaries and, because reading memoirs is my favourite way of researching the time of yore, I started with those. It was a delight to read her diary, because she appeared wonderfully emotional and all fluttery. She danced a jig without any music or explanation when she learnt of Dr. Johnson's approbation of “Evelina” and referred to herself as Francesca Scriblerus and Fannikin by her Daddy Crisp.
Evelina portrayed by
John Hoppner

Her diary starts just after the publication of “Evelina” and she writes about the overwhelming success and popularity of her first novel, her reaction to praise and favourable reviews pouring from all sides, her fears that she should never write anything to match it again as well as her struggle to keep her identity as the authoress a secret.

“I often think it too much — nay, almost wish it would happen to some other person, who had more ambition, whose hopes were more sanguine, and who could less have borne to be buried in the oblivion which I even sought. But though it might have been better bestowed, it could by no one be more gratefully received.

“Well, I cannot but rejoice that I published the book, little as I ever imagined how it would fare; for hitherto it has occasioned me no small diversion, and nothing of the disagreeable sort. But I often think a change will happen, for I am by no means so sanguine as to suppose such success will be uninterrupted. Indeed, in the midst of the greatest satisfaction that I feel, an inward something which I cannot account for, prepares me to expect a reverse; for the more the book is drawn into notice, the more exposed it becomes to criticism and remark.

“I am now at the summit of a high hill; my prospects on one side are bright, glowing, and invitingly beautiful; but when I turn round, I perceive, on the other side, sundry caverns, gulfs, pits, and precipices, that, to look at, make my head giddy and my heart sick. I see about me, indeed, many hills of far greater height and sublimity; but I have not the strength to attempt climbing them; if I move, it must be downwards. I have already, I fear, reached the pinnacle of my abilities, and therefore to stand still will be my best policy."

By now I’ve read “Evelina” and I’m currently reading “Cecilia” and though Fanny Burney will never be my favourite author, because I’m no big fan of her writing style and especially her way of portraying characters, she is very dear to me, because we were both diagnosed with breast cancer and both had to have mastectomy, though under entirely different circumstances — circumstances I couldn't help comparing.

I read her account of the surgery — so unlike my own — and my admiration for her courage and determination to go through with it despite the terrible pain that she must have felt during it all (Nay! I cannot imagine it!) is beyond anything I can express. It took place on September 30, 1811. This is how she felt when it was over:

“When all was done, they lifted me up that I might be put to bed, my strength was so totally annihilated, that I was obliged to be carried, could not even sustain my hands, arms, which hung as if I had been lifeless; while my face, as the Nurse has told me, was utterly colourless. This removal made me open my Eyes - I then saw my good Dr Larry, pale nearly as myself, his face streaked with blood, its expression depicting grief, apprehension, almost horror.”

I’m convinced that her story would make for a very interesting biopic and in my most daring moments I hope to write a novel based on her diaries and letters where I’d like to explore her writing side and find answers to some of my questions concerning her writing methods and what served to be her inspiration. But at first I have to read all of her diaries, novels and plays and I'm quite looking forward to the experience.

Farida Mestek lives in Ukraine, but she adores Regency England, where she spends a great deal of her time. She fell in love with it the moment she saw one of the film productions on TV when she was a child, and her love and fascination grew and solidified with every Jane Austen book that she read and reread time and time again. Visit her blog - "Regency Sketches"

Having been writing all of her life, Farida decided to write Regency-set stories herself. At present she has a long queue of characters who wait most impatiently to have their stories told. Her dream is to build a Regency village, the aim of which would be to provide Regency-lovers from around the world with a veritable Regency lifestyle experience.

Apart from traditional (and slightly less so) Regency-set stories, Farida likes writing fairy-tales and fantasy. Her long fairy-tale “Almendra”, published by Girlebooks, is setting the beginning of an epic three-book fantasy series that she has been working on and off for more than ten years.

Farida's Regency romance "Margaret's Rematch" can be purchased at Girlebooks, Smashwords and

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