BURNEY, FANNY (1752-1840, novelist, married name Fanny D'Arblay)
A FINE EXAMPLE OF BLUESTOCKING PROSE, which begins with an elaborate non-apology for her silence: '...I will make no apologies: tiresome at all times, & to all sort of persons, from me they would now be insupportable, for their so frequent repetition; & to you, my dear Friend, who detest all common place, & disdain all plausibility, they would be absolutely nauseous. In truth, where a correspondence is not kept up by a quick succession of communication, I have often thought that the first page of every tardy reply might, commonly, be cast at once into the flames, without loss of time, or hindrance of business. Of you, though not from you, I have frequently had the satisfaction to hear; & I encourage myself to believe that my dear Mrs. Holroyd has herself, through some such zig zag paths, gathered news of my existence, for though I know no one less addicted to quit the strait forward Road than yourself, I yet think that to hear tidings of a Friend you would lend your Ear to a side Wind...'
Sarah ('Serena') Martha Holroyd (1739-1820), who lived at 3 Queen's Parade, Bath, was a daughter of Isaac Holroyd (1707-1778), barrister, of Dunamore. Co. Meath, Ireland, and his wife Dorothy Baker (d. 1777). Evidently unmarried, she seems to have been accorded the title 'Mrs', a usage applied to genteel and elderly unmarried ladies which arose in the later eighteenth century. Her brother John Baker Holroyd (1741-1821), politician, economist and friend of Edward Gibbon, became first Earl of Sheffield, of Sheffield Park, Sussex, and was successively President of the Board of Agriculture and President of the Board of Trade; his daughter was the writer Lady Maria Josepha Stanley (1771-1863). Fanny Burney had known 'Serena' since 1783 and in 1790 brought to the Queen's attention Serena's translation of the work of Christoph Christian Sturm (1740-1786), Reflections on the Work of God, 3 volumes, 1788. 'Serena' was one of Fanny Burney's 'cronies'; they exchanged visits, and Burney mentioned the 'lively mind and eager hospitality' of her friend, who could nevertheless be abrupt on occasion. Fanny Burney had herself lived in Bath ('...I recollect [she says in the present letter] nothing but kindness in recollecting Bath...') with her husband General D'Arblay from 1815 to 1818.
After visiting George Owen Cambridge, Fanny Burney went, as she mentions in her letter, to stay with her sister Charlotte whose daughter Marianne recorded that Fanny was 'impaired by trouble, for she is very low, & has by no means recovered the loss of her husband.' She began again the project of working on her father's papers started the previous year when at Ilfracombe.
This letter is not printed in The Journals and Letters.