Evelina, Or, the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World
- Evelina or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World is a novel written by English author Frances Burney and first published in 1778. It was first published anonymously, but its authorship was revealed by the poet George Huddesford in what Burney called a "vile poem." In this 3-volume epistolary novel, title character Evelina is the unacknowledged but legitimate daughter of a dissipated English aristocrat, thus raised in rural seclusion until her 17th year. Through a series of humorous events that take place in London and the resort town of Hotwells, near Bristol, Evelina learns to navigate the complex layers of 18th-century society and earn the love of a distinguished nobleman. This sentimental novel, which has notions of sensibility and early romanticism, satirizes the society in which it is set and is a significant precursor to the work of Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth, whose novels explore many of the same issues. The novel opens with a distressed letter from Lady Howard to her longtime acquaintance, the Reverend Arthur Villars, in which she reports that Mme. Duval, the grandmother of Villars' ward, Evelina Anville, intends to visit England to renew her acquaintance with her granddaughter Evelina. 18 years earlier, Mme. Duval had broken off her relationship with her daughter Caroline, Evelina's mother, and has never acknowledged Evelina. Reverend Villars fears Mme. Duval's influence could lead Evelina to an untimely, shameful death similar to that of her mother Caroline. To keep Evelina from Mme. Duval, the Reverend lets her visit Howard Grove, Lady Howard's home, on an extended holiday. While she is there, the family learns that Lady Howard's son-in-law, naval officer Captain Mirvan, is returning to England after a 7-year absence. Desperate to join the Mirvans on their trip to London, Evelina entreats her guardian to let her attend them, promising that the visit will last only a few weeks. The Reverend reluctantly consents. In London, Evelina's beauty and ambiguous social status attract unwanted attention and unkind speculation. Ignorant of the conventions and behaviours of 18th-century London society, she makes a series of humiliating (but humorous) faux pas that further expose her to societal ridicule. She soon earns the attentions of 2 gentlemen: Lord Orville, a handsome and extremely eligible peer and pattern-card of modest, becoming behavior; and Sir Clement Willoughby, a baronet with duplicitous intentions. Evelina's untimely reunion with her grandmother and the Branghtons, her long-unknown extended family, along with the embarrassment their boorish, social-climbing antics cause, soon convince her that Lord Orville is completely out-of-reach.