Frances (Fanny) Burney, Mme D'Arblay


Diarist, novelist, playwright, lady-in-waiting to King George lll of England

A drawing from about 1770, thought to be of Fanny, by Edward Francis Burney (1760-1848)

Least promising daughter of musician Dr. Charles Burney, Frances receives no formal education. Inspired by actor David Garrick, a friend of the family, she develops a talent for memorizing conversation and speech patterns. In l778 she achieves success with a comic novel, EVELINA, published anonymously and followed by three more novels and four comedies. She spends five years at the court of King George lll and Queen Charlotte, observing the madness of the King and keeping a meticulous diary. Aged forty, against her father’s wishes she marries a French soldier and political exile, Alexandre D’Arblay. Their courtship journal makes delightful reading. They spend ten eventful years in France, where Madame D’Arblay undergoes an operation for breast cancer without anaesthetic. Her detailed recollections of the ordeal, written down in her journal a year later, are referred to by doctors to this day.

With paintings, caricatures and portraits by artists of the day, including family friend Sir Joshua Reynolds; Hogarth, Gainsborough, Zoffany and  cousin Edward Francis Burney.

Silhouette of the Burney Family, 1780’s

The Grand Walk, Vauxhall Gardens,

Antonio Canaletto, 1751