Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

Download links will be available after you disable the ad blocker and reload the page.

The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay - Volume 1

Download options:

  • 524.24 KB
  • 1.47 MB
  • 764.84 KB




Frances Burney was descended from a family which bore the name of Macburney, and which, though probably of Irish origin, had been long settled in Shropshire and was possessed of considerable estates in that county. Unhappily, many years before her birth, the Macburneys began, as if of set purpose and in a spirit of determined rivalry, to expose and ruin themselves. The heir apparent, Mr. James Macburney offended his father by making a runaway rnatch with an actress from Goodman's -fields - The old gentleman could devise no more judicious mode of wreaking vengeance on his undutiful boy than by marrying the cook. The cook gave birth to a son, named Joseph, who succeeded to all the lands of the family, while James was cut off with a shilling. The favourite son, however, was so extravagant that he soon became as poor as his disinherited brother. Both were forced to earn their bread by their labour. Joseph turned dancing-master and settled in Norfolk. James struck off the Mac from the beginning of his name and set up as a portrait painter at Chester. Here he had a son, named Charles, well known as the author of the "History of Music" and as the father of two remarkable children, of a son distinguished by learning and of a daughter still more honourably distinguished by genius.

Charles early showed a taste for that art of which, at a later period, he became the historian. He was apprenticed to a celebrated musician(1) in London, and He applied himself to study with vigour and success. He early found a kind and munificent Patron in Fulk Greville, a highborn and highbred man, who seems to have had in large measure all the accomplishments and all the follies, all the virtues and all the vices, which, a hundred years ago, were considered as making up the character of a fine gentleman. Under such protection, the young artist had every pros- Page xiv

pect of a brilliant career in the capital. But -his health failed. It became necessary for him to retreat from the smoke and river fog of London to the pure air of the coast. He accepted the place of organist at Lynn, and settled at that town with a young lady who had recently become his wife.(2)

At Lynn, in June, 1752, Frances Burney was born.(3) Nothing in her childhood indicated that she would, while still a young woman, have secured for herself an honourable and permanent place among English writers. She was shy and silent. Her brothers and sisters called her a dunce, and not altogether without some show of reason ; for at eight years old she did not know her letters.

In 1760, Mr. Burney quitted Lynn for London, and took a house in Poland-street; a situation which had been fashionable in the reign of Queen Anne, but which, since that time, had been deserted by most of its wealthy and noble inhabitants. He afterwards resided in St. Martin's- street, on the south side of Leicestersquare. His house there is still well known, and will continue to be well known as long as our island retains any trace of civilisation ; for it was the dwelling of Newton, and the square turret which distinguishes it from all the surrounding buildings was Newton's observatory,