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Biography of Fanny Burney

Portrait of Fanny Burney

Frances “Fanny” Burney was an eighteenth century novelist.

When and Where was she Born?

13th June 1752, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England.

Family Background:

Fanny Burney was the third of six children of musical scholar and organist Charles Burney.

St Margaret's Church Kings Lynn
St Margaret’s Church, Kings Lynn 
where Burney’s father was organist. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Education:

She is self educated by reading English and French literature.

Timeline of Fanny Burney:

1762: Burney starts writing short stories, poems and plays.

1767: In a fit she burns all her papers as she thought her writings were a waste of time.

1778: Her first novel “Evelina” is published anonymously from a plot she had established as a child. Her father soon recognised her talent and boasted of this to Mrs Hester Piozzi a friend of Samuel Johnson and both championed her work. This was probably her best work and later novels declined in style.

Kings Lynn Custom House
Kings Lynn Customs House which would have been known to Burney. Maritime wealth gave the town prosperity at the time and was the major reason her family settled there. The statue is of the naval officer and explorer Captain George Vancouver who gave his name to a certain Canadian city. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1782: Fanny Burney publishes “Cecilia” for the first time.

1786: She is appointed “Second Keeper of the Robes” to Queen Charlotte (wife of King George the Third) but as her health declined she retires on a pension.

1793: She marries General Alexandre d’Arblay at St. Michael’s Church, Mickleham on 28th July.

1804: Now living in France she experiences inflammation in her right breast.

1806: She again finds a lump in her breast but dismisses it.

1811: The pain in her breast is so severe by now that she cannot use her right arm and her husband sends to to see Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, who is the First Surgeon to the Imperial Guard, as well as Antoine Dubois a leading obstetrician. She does not respond to their treatment so an operation is performed on the 11 September. So Fanny had one of the first recorded mastectomies without an anaesthetic (apart from a wine cordial) and with un sterilised instruments. Her description of the operation, which she recalled a few months later to her sister Esther is absolutely horrific. It is remarkable that she lived for another 29 years afterwards.

When and Where did she Die?

6th January 1840, 11 Bolton Street, London.

Age at Death:

87.

Written Works:

1778: “Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady’s Entry into the World”.
1782: “Cecilia”.
1796: “Camilla”.
1814: “The Wanderer”.
1832: “Memoirs of Doctor Burney”.

Marriage:

28th July 1793 to General Alexandre d’Arblay at St. Michael’s Church, Mickleham.

Site of Grave:

Walcot Cemetery, Bath, Avon, England next to husband.

Places of Interest:

AVON:

Lived at 14 South Parade, Bath.

DEVON:

Stayed at Saltram House. (National Trust).

LONDON:

The British Library.

NORFOLK:

Kings Lynn, Burney’s birthplace, where a few buildings of the period remain such as the Customs house, St Margaret’s Church and the Tuesday and Saturday Markets.

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