This week for Evelina I’d like each of you to post in the comments a passage and a question that shows, in one way or another, the characteristic differences between Burney and Richardson, even as they both write epistolary, sentimental fiction centered around a heroine’s plight. So in terms of characterization, plot, setting, dialogue, etc.

Each of you will be swapping and answering each others’ questions in class (not your own).

See you Thursday,


Missing (10am): McCafferty, Valentine, Shepherd, Maillet


Author: Dave Mazella

I am an Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston, Department of English, specializing in 18th-century British literature.

5 thoughts on “Evelina”

  1. “I will not go to Bristol, though Mrs. Selwyn is very urgent with me; – but I desire not to see any more of the world; the few months I have already passed in it, have sufficed to give me a disgust even to it’s name” (p. 391). This quote from a letter by Evelina gets to a difference (or perhaps two related differences) between the two books that interests me. Clarissa is confined in a series of locations and much of the danger to her comes from within the family. In contrast, Evelina is out and about constantly and her assorted perils come from the external world; her home (Mr. Villars) is a refuge.

    So, what does this difference mean in terms of the way in which family/home/marriage are conceived/presented in the novels?


  2. Volume II, Letter XXVII (p. 257) – The supposed letter from Lord Orville to Evelina.

    Volume III, Letter XV (p. 355) – “And then, he obliged me to speak very openly of both the letters; but, my dear Sir, imagine my surprise, when he assured me, in the most solemn manner, that far from having ever written me a single line, he had never received, seen, or heard of my letter!”

    Volume III, Letter XX (p. 387) – Sir Clement Willoughby’s confession to having forged the letter from Orville after intercepting Evelina’s apology for the carriage incident.

    (I’m using the Oxford World’s Classics edition, and apologize if the different page numbers are a problem!)

    I chose these selections because they deal with the matter of the stolen and forged letters. In Richardson, Lovelace, like Willoughby, intercepts the heroine’s correspondence and falsifies documents. I’m interested in how those circumstances compare between novels. What can we say about the authors’ treatments of the libertine, with these incidents in mind? In addition, what do these incidents offer us particularly as they occur within the epistolary novel?


  3. What is like and unlike Richardson in Burney:

    in Volume 1 Letter 21 (The Opera with the cousins and Sir Willoughby’s nefarious carriage ride):

    When he’s making fawning attempts to seduce her Evelina proclaims, “If your thoughts have any connection with your language, you would never suppose that I could give credit to praise so very much above my desert.”
    (This judicious curtness could be out of Clarissa’s very mouth).

    Then on the next page she realizes that carriage should have arrived and some meddling scheme has been enacted against her, “I made no answer, but kept my head out the window, watching which way he drove, but without any comfort to myself, as I was quite unacquainted with either the right or wrong way.”
    (Her very active posture in this passive role is very unlike Richardson. )

    In Volume 2 Letter 7:

    When Evelina relates her account of the Braughton’s young lodger’s suicide attempt and her interruption of his plans, she has recourse to Pope to describe his expression, “He looked a bloodless image of despair”. To quote Pope is very Richardson but the way Richardson quotes him is discursively, in service of illustrating character, specifically the characters who drive the plot, whereas Burney quotes Pope to dramatic ends, in service of setting the scene. The young lodger is a cog in the wheel of the plot, and Burney’s writing employs the kind of narrative description of setting, blocking, and action that Richardson deploys only sparingly.


  4. The passage I’m contemplating is Letter 20, in which Evelina, Miss Mirvan, Mr. Lovell, Sir Clement, and Lord Orville intimately discuss first Evelina’s “color” and then the play they have just watched. I’ll include a couple brief snippets:

    “Very true, Captain,” said Sir Clement; ‘the natural complexion has nothing to do with occasional sallies of the passions, or any accidental causes.”

    “But,” said Lord Orville, “the difference of natural and of artificial colour, seems to me very easily discerned; that of Nature, is mottled, and varying; that of art, set, and too smooth…” (81).

    2nd snippet:
    “The only character in the play,” said Lord Orville, “worthy of being mentioned to these ladies, is Angleica.”
    “Angelica,” cried Sir Clement, “is a noble girl; she tries her lover severely, but she rewards him generously.”
    “Yet, in a trial so long,” said Mrs. Mirvan, “there seems rather too much consciousness of her power” (83).

    My question about this passage would be: what can be mined to show the difference in both dialogue and style of scene in this section from the type of scene and dialogue we typically saw in Clarissa?


  5. Volume II, Letter XV:

    “I, Sir, delight in perplexing you!–You are much mistaken.–Your suspense, your doubts, your perplexities,–are of your own creating; and, believe me, Sir, they may offend, but they can never delight me:–but, as you have your self raised, you must yourself satisfy them.”

    Evelina may be less sure of herself socially, but she also seems less willing to allow the many passions and follies of the men around to her to become her problem. How would you position Evelina relative to both Clarrisa and Anne Howe, on a spectrum of gendered identities and virtues?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: