Thursday, June 2, 2011

Evelina, Volume 1 Letters 1-20 and Giveaway

Our story opens with a letter from Lady Howard to her dear friend Rev. Villars concerning his ward, Evelina. Lady Howard reports that Evelina’s estranged French grandmother Madame Duvall intends to renew her acquaintance with Evelina. Rev. Villars nixes the idea right away. Lady Howard writes back to invite Evelina to stay with her, her daughter (Mrs. Mirvan) and her granddaughter (Maria, Evelina’s bff) which the Reverend eventually agrees to. Shortly after Evelina’s arrival the Mirvans receive word they must meet with Captain Mirvan in London and they bring Evelina, who has never been to London.
Evelina is dazzled by London and makes many social errors. At a ball she insults the macaroni, Mr. Lovell and is flustered by the handsome Lord Orville due to his civilities. Lord Orville, in a very Darcy-like manner, refers to Evelina as a “poor weak girl” but still defends her when Mr. Lovell vengefully sets himself against her after Evelina’s unintentional slight. She also meets Sir Clement Willoughby whose attentions are very unwelcome to Evelina.
The next day the group has an accidentally meeting with non-other than Evelina’s estranged grandmother, Madame Duvall who automatically becomes the butt of Captain Mirvin’s jokes. Madame Duvall is pushy and unpleasant but becomes a regular part of the party due to Mrs. Mirvin’s kindness. Madame Duvall wants to take Evelina to Paris to bring her up in French society but the idea isn’t attractive to anyone. She also introduces Evelina to her nephew, Mr. Branghton’s family who lives in Holburn. The family is animated and open to their new cousin but Evelina finds them crude and trashy.
As Evelina prepares to leave London with the Mirvans she is surprised by a visit from Lord Orville in which he expresses sadness at her departure. Evelina is shocked and attempts to deduce whether his sentiment is one of courtesy or true feelings.

After the necessary background introductions from Lady Howard and Rev. Villars Evelina finally begins her letter diary. Her initial letters are blooming with the excitement you can expect a teenage girl to have upon her first visit to London. I particularly enjoy how she talks about the process of getting her hair done-up with all the primping and teasing (“When I shall be able to make use of a comb for myself, I cannot tell…”), which was also something the character Julia spoke of initially in The Sylph. However, unlike Julia who hated the process, Evelina is amazed by it and seems to like playing dress-up.

The ball, oh the ball! Is where most of the action happens so it is difficult to know where to begin. I guess we should say firstly, this is not only where the plot begins but where we are introduced to two main and foil characters, Lord Orville and Sir Clement Willoughby. Many have noted on the event’s similarity to Austen’s scene where Lizzy and Mr Darcy meet at the Meryton Assembly in Pride and Prejudice. Just as Darcy tells his bro how Lizzy isn’t pretty enough to tempt him, the equally hunky Lord Orville proclaims, after dancing with her all night, that Evelina is “a poor weak girl.” Ouch!

I don’t know about you, but every time Madame Duval opens her mouth I get a sick feeling in my stomach. I feel as though I am standing next Evelina, equally helpless; which shows the timelessness of the book. Doesn’t most everyone have that friend who seems to forget to act their age and proceeds to cause a scene in a group of people/friends causing that awkward situation where others are trying to cover up for their impropriety? That’s where it is handy to have a Captain Mirvin! The Captain certainly has me laughing aloud many times. Of course he is just as immature as Madame Duval, and as a *ahem* civilized young lady I shouldn’t approve of his antics. Oh but I do…I do! How about you?

What are your first impressions of the characters? Evelina, Lord Orville, Mr Lovell, Madame Duval, the Capatin, etc?

Jane Austen was a fan of Burney’s work; do you think her Meryton Assembly was a direct reference or homage to Evelina?

[Anyone participating in our premiere salon is qualified to win a copy of Oxford World's Classic's Evelina (unless you note that you don't need a copy)!  The winner will be announced at next week's salon.  Good luck!]


  1. My copy of Evelina is Oxford World’s Classics, so no need to enter me into the draw.

    This is a very entertaining book, and I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at how Rev. Villars expresses dismay at London amusements, and Lady Howard assures him that the visit to London will be very subdued, then here we are at the ball, opera, theatre, pleasure gardens, receiving callers, and confronting Madame Duval and her party!

    I really enjoyed meeting Evelina, much more so than Julia of The Sylph. Evelina is a cheerful, fun girl who clearly enjoys life and all it has to offer her. As you point out, she loves getting her hair done, going out on the town, and meeting interesting gentlemen.

    Lord Orville seems to be a kind and genuine man at heart, and although he may have said that Evelina was a poor, weak girl, his actions show that he thinks highly of her.

    Mr Lovell is good for comic relief—who can take someone like that seriously?

    Madame Duval should turn herself around and get right back to France. What a nasty woman.

    I am not as taken with Captain Mirvan as you are, and find him rude and crude. Hopefully, as the story unfolds this point of view will be proven wrong.

  2. I was looking forward to reading “Evelina” for a while now. I have heard it praised a great deal and I expected to like it a lot. I did like it in the beginning, however, I was somewhat disappointed once I started reading Evelina's letters.

    Before I began reading “Evelina”, I've started reading Fanny Burney's Diary and I constantly noted that it felt like I was reading a novel. And when I started reading her book, it felt like I was once again reading her diary. Both Fanny and Evelina are extremely shy and are prone to running off. Both are praised: Fanny for her book and Evelina for her looks.

    I understand that Evelina's ignorance of town manners and notions is used as the main plot element (at least for now), however, it is hard for me to believe that her ignorance is so complete. It is comic enough, but somewhat disappointing, because it makes it all so predictable. It is a great study of manners, fashions, plays (I picked up some interesting ones!) and the like, but it should be a novel not a textbook!

    The same predictability concerns the characters: we know who to like and who to dislike from the moment we see them and it doesn't seem likely that they should change and that we should find ourselves wrong on someone's account, which makes them quite one-dimensional.

    I hope that I am wrong, though. I really want to like the book and I do want to have my own Oxford World's Classic's copy, but for now I'm afraid I find myself disappointed :((

  3. But with all that I found not to my liking about “Evelina” so far, I want to say that it served as an inspiration for my own writing. Indeed, if not for that, I would not have started working on my newest project!

  4. @Vinery, I know, I know; I have a feeling I could be alone in my enjoyment of the Captain! He is rude, and not even in a witty way but perhaps his ignorance (or just plain disregard) of this society makes him a good jester of the tale. He is comic relief, such as Mr Lovell (I love how Evelina couldn't contain her laughter around his speeches), but at the expense of everyone else!

    @Farida, Although I want you to enjoy Evelina as much as I, I find everything you say absolutely interesting. I haven't read Burney's letters so I always thought of her as very opinionated and didn't realize how shy she was!
    The constant reminder of her beauty annoys me too but I think it traces to Burney's childhood. Her father favored her other sisters and constantly praised them for their beauty while Fanny was left by the wayside. I think this explains why Evelina is always running from the compliments about her beauty.

    As for the characters you are correct in how obvious it is to like and dislike them but perhaps that may change for a select few as we get further in the book. I'll be curious to see if your character opinion changes.

    (and yes don't you just love learning about the culture of the time from it!)

  5. If I was forced to hang around Madame Duval and the Captain, I would pretend I didn't know them! I noticed how Mrs Mirvan tried to steer herself away from them when they get going. I think Madame and the Captain actually enjoy their skirmishes and egg each other on.

    As for Evelina herself, she strikes me as very flighty. I know she's only 17 and from the country but, for one thing, she doesn't have a thing to say to Lord Orville when she's in his presence. She blushes and looks at the floor. She shows a bit more spark with Willoughby.

    She might make social faux pas as a result of her ignorance, but what are the guys' excuse? Leave the poor girl alone, you jerks! Lovell's ego must be quite fragile, he takes it too far.

    Evelina, so far, seems to be a lot of fun even though it doesn't appear to be very deep (kind of like the character Evelina).

  6. I've actually never read Jane Austen at all, but I kept thinking T.W. Robertson must have mined some data out of it for his novelization of David Garrick -- there were a few peculiar turns of phrase and unusual descriptions that he seemed to mimic. (Robertson was writing about 90 years later. His story was supposed to be set in the 1740s but he seemed to know more about the fashions of the 1770s and made references to the Mohock gang...)

    As to the book, the hairdressing was the first part of interest to me (I found the beginning, with all the background, actually really boring and was beginning to worry what I'd gotten myself into.) "Black pins" -- I always did wonder what thy were using, so there's an ounce more data.

    Then of course, I was giggling all over the place at Evelina's first "assembly" (and there's another bit of useful data, I had been trying to find out what they called a party in those days.) We were introduced to three men at the party, Orville, Willoughby and Lovel. My current guess -- I promise I have no knowledge of what's to come in the book -- is that by the end of the book she'll be married to one and discovered to be secretly related to another of them. Personally I think it would be hilarious if she winds up happily married to Lovel, though I suspect it won't go that way.

  7. Also, I wonder -- I'm noticing everyone else writes "Lovell" but my edition says "Lovel." (Mine's the second edition, 1779, courtesy of Google Books.)

  8. I agree with the commenters about the one-dimensional characters, but for some reason that never bothers me in 18th century literature.

    I've adored the letters so far, although I was surprised the Rev. Villars hasn't either died from worry or have come to get her. I would have liked to see a little bit more on his side when he gets her letters.

    I can definitely see how Austen was inspired by Burney, and completely agree with the Darcy-Orville connection. As soon as I read how Orville spoke of Evelina, I thought there's going to be a similar outcome.

    With Captain Mirvan I was kind of back and forth. Sometimes I wanted to tell him to shut up, and others were quite amusing.

    I'm reminded every time I read a work from the 18th century that I wish I could have lived at that time! I'm looking forward to the next set of letters and to see where our Evelina ends up!

  9. Thus far, I love the chattiness of the novel and the little glimpses into social life. The ball has got to be my favorite scene thus far, especially the puppy Lovell!

  10. I too have an Oxford Classic. I am really enjoying the book, howeverI agree that the characters are a little two dimensional. I think that is an element of a novel consisting of letters. Evelina is a typical teenager, she gets flummoxed by her faux pas and vows to never go to another assembly, but she is back again once she finds how disappointing it is to be the one left behind. I think growing up in a country parsonage like Jane Austen's she would have been more knowledgeable. But given her questionable birth and the fact that Mr Villars has kept her very sheltered she really seems to be quite an innocent. I would have thought that at school where she learned to dance, that she would have learned some of the rules.
    I really don't like the Captain at all and I would avoid him and Madam Duval due to my embarrasment. Madam Duval is up to no good.

  11. Like Banker Chick said, I think the fact that the book is supposed to be written some just a single character's point of view as she puts it into letters makes the one-dimensionalness of the characters sort of intentional. At this point Evelina wouldn't have much reason to know if, say, Mme. Duvall is actually the most generous woman on earth and her bad manners stem from some particular motive, and so wouldn't write anything of it. But also I think the way stories were told at the time, there wasn't as much emphasis on 'realistic characters' the way we usually expect nowadays. The reason David Garrick (whom Evelina was so thrilled to see at the theater; he was a real person) was such an amazing actor is because he was one of the first to attempt to act in a 'realistic' manner, which wasn't really done much before his time; before that it was the posing-and-reciting kind of acting... but in any event, I bring it up as an example of how the notion of realism in the arts wasn't really so valued or expected like it is now. Also Psychology as we know it pretty much didn't exist, and so the way of thinking that others might have reasons for behaving certain ways or that people could be very layered wasn't really as built in to standard ways of thinking as it is now -- like psychology was basically a part of philosophy, and in those days the sort of general belief was something like that God fashions everyone as totally good and then various corrupting forces can ruin that in time; so Duval and the Captain are kind of like examples of people who've been 'spoiled' by unnatural living (and sort of a warning as to what Evelina might become and what Villars is trying to protect her from becoming.) But the philosophy was basically one of 'good and evil' and so that's why characters in these older books kind of come off as very black and white like that. I think it was around this period in time people were only just starting to believe in new ideas like that people could change their natures on their own. That play Eugeniathat was brought up on the bog a few weeks ago, was so cutting edge at the time for its showing the villain character reforming instead of just being defeated. (And interestingly, the English version adapted by Griffiths changed the character because she didn't feel the English would be willing to put up with his bad behaviors and not see him punished at the end.)
    Anyway, kind of an interesting thing how art changes over time.

  12. I'm really enjoying the book so far. There are definitely a lot of similarities to Austen and it seems probable that she was influenced by Burney's work.

    The characters are fantastic. Evelina is exactly what you would expect her to be, what with never having been to London before. I can't help but laugh every time she makes a mistake! Mrs. and Miss Mirvan seem to just be there, but the Captain is another matter. He's hilarious! He's very rude, of course, but in a terribly enjoyable way. I love the way he hates everything French and refers to the French as 'frogs'. It's funny to see how far back this goes, as the English are still prone to call the French frogs when none are around! Mme Duval is also interesting. She's a lot like Miss Bates in that she never seems to be able to stop herself from talking, but lacks the latter's refinement. I love the way she speaks, though.

  13. That is great insight Min Self, is making about characterization in
    18th century writing. We can't look at this totally from our perspective here in the 21st century.

  14. I've liked what I've read very much thus far. Evelina's unfortunate debut into society was rather cringe-worthy (I was very anxious throughout retelling of it.)

    I'm very interested to see what Lord Orville has in store for Evelina. It's obvious that he seems to think well of her, even if she is 'poor and weak'--whatever that means.

    But ugh, Willoughby is absolutely heinous. Every time he appears I can't wait 'til he leaves. The same goes for Madame Duval. I realise we aren't meant to like her, but I actually prefer her to Willoughby.

    The Captain is actually one of my favourite characters. I'm very amused by what he has to say.

  15. Given that many of the letters are written from Evelina’s perspective, I didn’t find the one-dimensional characters at all surprising. She’s seventeen and is so naïve it hurts. I feel pity for her and really see how Rev. Villars wanted to protect her from the fashionable vices of the world. Living in the country, beneath the watchful eye of a reverend, I do believe that she would have had no artifice. And as far as laughing at Lovel—I might not be able to restrain myself in such a situation. He’s so pompous and if he did dress like a macaroni, Evelina might have been very bewildered by this.

    I love Captain Mirvin. He’s terrible, but I am amused by the nasty sort. The repartees between the Captain and Duval are just delightful. They provide a real buffer to Evelina’s native temperament and give her a fast education on the discord she would have encountered while in the city. Burney is basically stuffing all types of personalities in the room to see how Evelina reacts/grows and part of the fun is seeing all the disillusioned glamour through her eyes.

    In the assembly scene, I got a feel for Mr. Darcy too. I can totally see Jane Austen drinking that inspiration juice. It would be disheartening to be referred to as a “poor, weak girl” and Evelina had every right to feel a little indignant before Lord Orville extends to her his kindness. Hate to say it, but I am a little in love with Sir Clement—he’s such a trickster and has no shame at all! Not so nice to do to Evelina, but I found him endearing. Can’t decide if he’s an ass or a comedian (or both).

    @ Heather: I also found myself feeling like I was standing right next to Evelina, flushed at the cheeks. Love the timelessness.

    @ Min Self: Mine says Lovel too. Kindle edition, presumably an old copy. Agree about the black and white attitudes regarding characters. Although Enlightenment was going on, I’m not sure the intellectual movement had entirely sunk into the general populace. Among other characters, Duval and the Captain are probably Evelina’s red flags.

  16. @Min Self, That could be an error on my part. I think I absent-mindedly wrote it the way my friend by the same name spells it! Many pardons! Also, I love what you said about the characters, very well put!

    As Heather mentioned, I have often wondered how Villars stands to read Evelina's accounts. So while we get Evelina's viewpoint of him being such a great indivdual...he certainly isn't one with much of a backbone. Then again he trusts the Mirvans to protect Evelina.

    I'm also glad you all seem to enjoy the chatty atmosphere of the novel which I think helps transport you into this foreign world all the better.

    Many of you have brought up the excellent point that since these letters are from Evelina's perspective it does make the characters more one-dimensional. I think I am more accepting of this due to it being common in the literature of the time which Min Self said quite well. Evelina also follows that literary trend that we see in books like Clarissa and The Sylph, where the female heroine is all goodness to better showcase the evils of the world. One has to wonder how many women were actually like that! (methinks, not many)

    Oogs, I'm with you. I find myself sharing Evelina's anxiety and just waiting for Sir Clement to exit. He'd be smacked with a fan if I were a character in the story.

    Thank goodness I am not alone in my enjoyment of Captain Mirvan! Of course, if he were a real person in my life, I wouldn't have any patience for him.

    @Susan, Sir Clement is all yours, you can have him!! ;o)

    [On a side note, I feel as though I need to take Thursdays off of work so I can be a proper salon hostess and just enjoy your insights all day long! So much more enjoyable than punching the clock, ah to be a full-time society hostess!]

  17. I would like to see a character diagram of everyone in the story as we proceed through sections!

    Tagline: "Why do fops do this?!"

  18. LOL! Good tagline.

    I had meant to put up a character and location post before we started and lost track of time. Perhaps I'll make a bigger better one complete with pictures this week.

  19. This seems to be a great book!
    In the new-ish annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice, there are plenty of notes connecting scenes (especially at the ball) to ones in Evelina. I would expect this book to have influenced Austen very much!

  20. I'm enthralled by Evelina. For me the book did not come alive until her letters appeared. I agree with Erin Blakemore about the chattiness of the novels. This book makes the 18th century come alive in a way that makes me feel I have entered that world.

    The details and glimpses of life back then are so authentic and written as if we all understand the associations and nuances, which of course makes sense since Burney described her own age, which she knows intimately.

    In the future, I will return to the descriptions of the ball over and over again to glean insights about mores and manners of the day, and examine the details about grooming and dressing.

    I can see echoes of Jane Austen (and Burney's influence on her writing and plot), but Austen took the novel in a further direction, taking it from the epistolary form to the omniscient pov. Burney is a genius when it comes to the epistolary genre. I see echoes of her work in Austen's Lady Susan. And I was gobsmacked when I read the name Willougby.

    I wish I could stay and enter the discussion more fully, but an unfinished project calls me away. I must say that I am enjoying everyone's insights and this repartee. Vic

    PS, I am reading Girlebook's version of Evelina. This allows me to read the novel wherever I happen to be.

  21. I can't begin to imagine sitting down and writing so much, relating every detail. PS once you begin to read this book you will start to talk and think in am more dignified and proper way. And you will be shocked by crude behavior and poor manners. ;)

  22. I am reading this simultaneously with A Room With a View, and between the two I can't say enough how fascinated I am by how constant a general sense of humor is across the ages.

    Evelina's follies make me smile, and despite her lack of dimension, I relate to her quite a bit as an archetype. I agree with Min Self's explanation of why characters appear so black and white in the 18th century. Morality came into play frequently in literature, and to represent "types" (such as "the innocent"), with no realistic deviations in character, seems the best way to contrast against the perils of the world.

    I suppose the other reason I don't mind her ignorance, is that I feel I was once that socially ignorant. The majority of my excitement for this read lies in its subtitle: "the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World" because there was a time of, sort of, "rapid blossoming" that I experienced in life, and I hope to be able to relate to her. So far, I do!

    @ Chrisbookarama, I too got the sense that the captain and Duval enjoy their own skirmishes, and I sort of hope that they grow to admit this to themselves later in the book.

    I'm not so opposed to Willoughby as most, but I will say in a more realistic sense, that no matter how endearing he's being, it would bug the heck out of me to have someone that clingy and worshipful around. *gag*

  23. Hello, fellow readers. I am so happy to be here. I am reading Evelina for the first time. I like it and find it easy to read, but I feel like a lot of the references are going over my head. So I need to go back this weekend to re-read and to learn more about the author. I like our little Miss Evelina very much and I do hope she gets a happy ending. Lady Howard seems very pushy and judgemental. I'm not quite sure of her intentions.

  24. @ Katinka: I want to read A Room With A View as well. So many good novels to read. I've been deeply immersed in Bronte and Austen. Time to venture out.

  25. I think Evelina did just fine at the assemblies, it reminded me of the recent 'Lost in Austen,' how would you act any differently? Her nervous all seems quite natural to me, although I can imagine Lauren in 1799 may have felt differently towards this main character!

  26. Rather than reread my much loved but horribly dog-eared (and copiously annotated with marginalia) copy of Evelina, I'm reading the Girlebooks version on Kindle. It's been interesting to see which sections or passages still catch my attention --- such as shopping with Mrs Mirvan and realising all the shopkeepers are men. And the hair! Goodness, how you forget about the hair?

    Evelina's wide-eyed innocence and her joy at being allowed out on the Town is joy to read, though I can't help feeling embarrassed for her when she commits her social faux pas. Of course, that's part of what Fanny Burney was aiming for; she wanted her readers to sympathise with this innocent young miss rather than look down on her. She's provincial, yes, but not a hick. A little polish and she'll be the belle of the ton.

    Speaking of polish ... every single time I despair of Mrs. Bennett, I force myself to remember Madame Duval. Of the two, she is the worst by far. Captain Mirvan is occasionally amusing (Burney's commentary on the Navy, perhaps?), but not Madame Duval. Like Evelina, I just want her to go away!

    As for Meryton Assembly being an homage to Burney or a direct reference ... I do believe there is something to be said for it being an homage. Austen and Burney wrote about social matters their readers would know of, even if they never had occassion to experience them firsthand. It stands to reason, then, that the experiences of Evelina and Elizabeth were based somewhat in fact. That being said, given that Austen grew up reading Burney, I suspect some of the parallels we see in Austen's works are, in fact, quite deliberate.

  27. I love the Captain too! And I also feel a bit guilty about it. Luckily, being a Canadian anglophone is kind of like being an eighteenth-century Brit inasmuch as there is the same dislike of the "French." In fact, how can any fan of English history not be amused by a couple of jokes at France's expense?

  28. Oh my goodness, I got so hooked on this book so quickly that I've hardly looked up from it in the past few days! I found Evelina kind of pathetic at first, so absolutely helpless and damsel in distress-ish. I think this book has shown, in a way no historical fiction has yet for me, what was expected from and allowed for young single women. Poor Evelina seems like she has no mind of her own, but so much of that is because of the limitations of what she can do and the sheer bloody complexity of society at that time. I was surprised there is little to no talk about clothing and/or appearances in the story so far, though I suppose Ms. Burney may have taken for granted that readers would be able to fill that in for themselves (which is, of course, lots of fun). I'm really enjoying the story so far. Evelina is so pathetically naive and teenagery, but she is just as captivating as all those fops seem to think she is.

  29. P.S. I would love to be entered in the drawing for the book. I'm listening to the audio book through librivox, but I know I'll want to read and reread this story!

  30. I don't have a copy of this, but I'd love to get one and read the book that influenced Jane Austen!

  31. I just requested a copy from my library. I have read "Cecelia" by Fanny Burney and enjoyed it. A good bit more soap-operaish than Austen, but still a good read.

    Looking forward to reading and getting caught up with the discussion!

  32. Did anyone else, like Vic said, gasp at the name Willoughby? We could just as easily say that was another nod Austen gave to Burney in Pride and Prejudice!

    Speaking of which, Laurel Ann posted a very nice writeup including an excerpt from a letter of Jane's in which she mentions the mystery surrounding the anonymously-penned, Evelina. Check it out!

  33. Sorry I'm a tad late - been having a jolly down Brighton (stayed close to the Thrale's, Johnson's and Burney's blue plaque).

    I found the first two letters extremely painful and began to get very worried - they are some of the worst handling of backstory I have ever read. However, once the actual story got under way, I've been really enjoying my stay with Evelina.

    My favourite thing is Fanny Burney's use of the telling detail, for example, during the shopping scenes she talks about the sales assistants so knowledgable how long they had left off wearing them’; or the fact that Mrs Mirven’s hair had been dressed so high she couldn’t wear her new hat.

    Next we come to our first great set-piece, the private ball. What struck me about the ball was not it’s propriety or distance from the present, but how closely the experience of the ball is to a night club today. Evelina, who has never been to anything like it, is fearful of her dancing skills, steps into the room, which seems to be full of hundreds of strangers.

    Again and again we are drawn back to the fact that she doesn’t recognise anyone and her self-consciousness and overwhelming lack of confidence make the whole experience quite hostile - who, has not felt this when walking into a nightclub, especially one where they were obviously not a regular?

    When it came to Willoughby, I enjoyed how she noticed him wheedling his way into the captain's affections - her quickness to notice this makes me wonder if she is as innocent as she appears.

    As for the captain, I like him. I very much enjoyed his English take on the musical revolving pineapple, that he'd rather have a real one - he reminds me of some of my embarrassing uncles.

    Oh - and no one has really mentioned Lord Orville, is this because he is at the this time a little soft focus?

  34. Ooo just returned from Bristol? Perfect timing, I will venture to say...

    Yes, you're right Lord Orville hasn't come up much at all. Did he make an impression on anyone? I know I was getting text messages from Lauren about him earlier this week.

  35. My read on Lord Orville was the he typifies the perfect gentlemanly lord. Dignified and polished. Not so interesting, at least so far. I found the bickering between the Captain and Mme Duval distracted from the other characters.

    @ I Lodge in Grub Street: some of the worst handling of backstory, agreed. I think it's somewhat typical of the period, but when I first read Evelina, I almost put it down based on the first few letters. They could easily be deleted and the story would still function properly.

    @ Katinka: Willoughby clingy and worshipful? I thought he was wicked and sarcastic, not sincere in his manner at all. I always find the different takes on characters interesting. I think I am alone in liking Willoughby so it might just be my tastes are odd :)

  36. I find that I'm not really impressed with Evelina. Perhaps, because, I keep holding it up to Austen. She might have been inspired by Fanny Burney, but her art was way way ahead of the latters. Someone mentioned how the 18th century was basically a growing period of this form of art, and so Burney's one-dimensional characterization can be excused. However, I don't agree. So far, as I've been reading this, all that keeps coming to mind is that I understand why Burney's novels have fallen by the wayside of time, while Austens has moved on through a couple of centuries and is still going so strong!

    As regards the characters, Evelina is okay. She seems to be a shrewd judge of character, but otherwise is very naive -- I find this combination rather strange and contrived. I also find the constant reference to her being beautiful and timid rather annoying. I am reminded, at these times, of Wolstonecraft's treatise on the way women are treated in her time and how education would make them so much more the trophies!!

    I cannot but help feel sorry for Mme Duval when she comes under the unruly, crude tongue of the captain. Much as I find her tiresome, I quite despise the captain. I'm afraid I don't find him comic relief at all! - I just skip over his meaningless tirades to the next part of the letter.

    I like Mrs Mirvan, and I confess, I'm actually quite eager to learn more about Lady Howard. I feel perhaps, she might me something interesting. Lovel, I agree, was comic relief. His behaviour is so ridiculous it could be nothing but! Plus, his conversation does not really grate on my nerves. Willoughby hasn't particularly made an impression on me. And I look forward to Oriville playing a bigger and better part. I have no particular opinion about Mr Villars either, except to wonder at his not going over to Howard Grove...but then, I guess, the whole idea of the 'letters' wouldn't quite work!

  37. Like many of you have mentioned, I too began began the book and thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" The first couple letters are a bit stuffy and confusing. I actually did the same thing with Georgiana's The Sylph and ended up putting it down only to pick it back up months later and love it. Once Evelina's letters begin they come alive!

  38. Coming a bit late to this group read but am really enjoying it.

    The Captain has had me laughing out loud but I am sure if I was in Evelinas place I would be just as embarassed as she was.

    I loved her description of her first ball and her laughing at Mr Lovell made me smile!

    I am not a fan of Lord Orville yet but hopefully he will improve on further aquaintance :)

  39. I believe I like Lord Orville better than I have ever liked Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy in the beginning judged Elizabeth based on the social faux pas her family exhibited at all times. Lord Orville, however, seems determined to judge Evelina on her own merits instead of the crudeness she is surrounded by. And considering how tongue-tied the poor girl becomes in his presence, it's amazing to me that he can see anything to admire in her. And by that I mean, that we, as readers, know the sweetness and virtue of her character, but it would be hard to see that if you were just an observer of her behavior as Lord Orville is. He must be a very discerning man.

  40. I'm finally getting through this - I know, I'm really behind - and frankly I got so sick of Mme Duval and Captain Mirvin ruining everything with their constant quarrels that I'm considering going back to print from audio to skim over them.

    Also, why can't those idiot men stop bothering Evelina? Oh right, they're *men* and thus any slights to the ego, no matter how unintentional, are to be carried to an extreme. Put me right off dating...