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Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of King George III

Hester Davenport

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Sutton Publishing Ltd
22 June 2000
Biography: historical, political & military; History; British & Irish history; Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900; Social & cultural history
On 14th June 1798, Fanny Burney, Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte, shared the happiness of the Court at the return of King George III from a period of madness , writing in her diary of her joy amounting to extacy; I could not keep my eyes dry all day . For five years at Court, Burney was witness to the turbulent goings-on of the King's reign: the assassination attempt on the King, royal visits to the spa at Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere, the trial of Warren Hastings, and the King's madness . Alongside the royal story and the depiction of the events of the times, we share Fanny's personal life, in particular the tale of her courtship and jilting by the equerry Stephen Digby, and her growing fame and fortune as a novelist. When Fanny joined the Court in 1786, she was already famous: Evelina had been a sensaton, its author's proclaimed anonymity causing the book to become discussed in circles that ranged from the royals to Dr Johnson. However, life at Court, with its rigid routines and extraordinary personalities, proved to be a strange existance for the novice. While she admired and loved the King and Queen and their family, she became increasingly dispirited by the contemptuous attitude of her superior, Mrs Schwellenberg. Colonel Stephen Digby, an equerry, appeared to pursue her, but married someone else, so Fanny turned her attention to a new literary form: the tragedy. Finally, her health gave way under the physical and mental strain of Court life and her father sanctioned her resignation.
By:   Hester Davenport
Imprint:   Sutton Publishing Ltd
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Illustrated edition
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 26mm
Weight:   300g
ISBN:   9780750918817
ISBN 10:   0750918810
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   22 June 2000
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of King George III

Few people, these days, read Fanny Burney's novel Evelina, which she published anonymously in 1778, and which brought her enormous fame after she had unwillingly revealed her authorship to her astonished friends (including Dr Johnson). More interesting, to us, are her wonderful journals, and Davenport here seizes passages from it which relate to Burney's service as second Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte, and her relationship with the court of King George III. The author publishes short extracts, surrounded by prose of her own in which she unnecessarily elaborates scenes which Ms Burney sets. Limiting her account to a relatively brief period of Burney's life, the author deprives us of much that is interesting; though perhaps her book will have the merit of sending readers to the original source - pages which are among the best written by any British diarist. A good biography will also reveal much more about Burney, including the mastectomy which she bravely underwent, in late middle age, without (of course) anaesthetic. (Kirkus UK)

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