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Lot 31
BURNEY, FANNY (1752-1840, novelist, married name Fanny D'Arblay)

Sold for £ 3,000 (US$ 4,139) inc. premium
BURNEY, FANNY (1752-1840, novelist, married name Fanny D'Arblay)
AUTOGRAPH LETTER unsigned, as was her custom when writing to her brother, whom she addresses here as 'My dearest Carlos', expressing a desire to go to Westminster Abbey where, her brother had recently told her, a monument had been placed to their father Charles Burney ('...oh how I long to visit Westminster Abbey! yet with how sorrowing a heart shall I behold There the last testimony that can be offered to names so dear! With me, as Age never lessened affection, so could it but little abate regret. Confidence, indeed, in Life, will not accompany attachment for the old, &, so far, we can never be wholly unprepared for their loss: but expectation of deprivation rather endears those we hold fearfully, than hardens us for separation, where the object is tenderly prized. So I, at least have always found it...'); giving a fine description of the decline, with examples, of Ilfracombe where she was staying ('...Ilfracombe is a very mere Summer residence; it is North, & covered with sea breezes, which whistle around one from Morn & Night, & roar out aloud from Night to Morn. There are no Walks for wet weather, either paved, Gravelled, or sandied...'Tis but t'other day that neither Chaise nor Horses could have been procured here. And all provisions, Lodgings, & coals, were then so cheap, that a whole & large family might live here for less than the simplest single man can live at Paris - in London - or in Bath &c. But the secret of Cheapness was no sooner whispered from Friend & Friend, than it was buzzed in society, & heard by the common swarm, who now seek to Hive themselves here for oeconomy. But the Multitude has warped what the Individuality had enjoyed, & nothing now is marvellous in cheapness, though nothing has attained the excellence appertaining elsewhere to dearness...'); explaining that her husband, 'my poor General' is not much benefiting from his visit to Paris ('...The quick re-establishment I had hoped for from change of climate, native air, & original habits & physicians, has been quite disappointed...'); congratulating Charles on accumulating honours [being references to his appointment to the Herculaneum Committee to examine the unrollings of the Papyri discovered at Herculaneum and his part in the printing of a facsimile of the Alexandrean manuscript of the Greek scriptures]; asking the identity of Mr Hamilton [Lord Elgin's secretary] ('...If He be not some Grecian, or Latian, at least it seemeth to me that my own Brother in being 7th in the committee, is Last & Best...'); discussing arrangements for the release of her undergraduate son Alexander's legacy [of £99 plus interest]; expressing herself at first startled by a packet from Dr Kaye, fearing that he might have been critical of Alexander's progress, and pleasure at hearing of his family's holiday at Hastings; referring twice playfully to 'Noddle' [Charles Burney's son Rev. Charles Parr Burney, 1785-1864] ('...Poor Noddle! does he give himself these airs because, being deemed the best part about you, he thinks it good fun to be now & then the worst? - Methinks I see the swelling of a Rival at these 2 words best part, throbbing out "What, then, am I? I, that account myself Chief of the Composition?...'); giving personal and local news and making fun about his being Prebend of Lincoln ('...adio, my dear Prebend - you don't tell me whether I should Prebendize my direction [the address]. I would not disally you with your Church, though you always disally me with my Husband. God bless you, dear Carlos. Till you are a B[isho]p I shall give you my blessing & then You must pat my head...Yet I shall bless You still...'), 4 closely written pages, quarto, integral address panel 'To the Revd. Dr. Burney, Prebend of Lincoln, Rectory House, Deptford, Kent', stamped and manuscript postal markings, traces of red seal, one small hole, Ilfracombe 'Beg:[un] August 28th. Fin:[ished] Sept[embe]r 3rd. 1817'


  • Fanny Burney was very close to her family and her sense of grief at her brother Charles's death from a stroke four months after writing this letter and her husband's death five months later made her inconsolable. Her son Alexander was to pre-decease her in 1837.

    It was at Ilfracombe that Fanny, aged 65, had a terrifying experience of being cut off by the tide when she was exploring a cave which she wrote up in 1823 as 'Adventures at Ilfracombe'. Here too she began the project of working on her father's papers. The letter is published in Letters and Journals, X, 1982, pp. 641-646.

    Charles Burney (1757–1817), Fanny's brother, despite a disastrous start as a book thief at Cambridge, became a schoolmaster, an acclaimed Greek and Latin scholar and book collector. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, Professor of Ancient Literature at the Royal Academy and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Like his father a monument was erected to him in Westminster Abbey. In 1818 the House of Commons granted £13,500 to the trustees of the British Museum to purchase his library.
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