Thursday, June 23, 2011

Evelina, Volume 2, Letter 23- Volume 3 Letter 9 (54-71)

Buckle up kiddos, a lot happened!

While on an outing to Kensington gardens with the Branghtons and Madame Duval Evelina is horrified to once again spy Lord Orville also enjoying the gardens and tries to avoid him for fear of her party making spectacles of themselves again. Her efforts have to opposite effect and when her party realizes her connection to a rich man they insist on taking his coach home by using her name. Evelina wants to melt into the ground and die. The next day Evelina finds out that Tom Branghton broke one of the windows after she left the coach and he went to Lord Orville himself to apologize as well as promote his father’s service as a silversmith. So humiliated by the turn of events, Evelina breaks etiquette by initiating written contact to Lord Orville in order to apologize and explain what brought about the impropriety.
Rev Villars sends his friend Mrs. Clinton to pick up Evelina to bring her back home. The timing could not have been better since Madame Duval just stumbled upon M. Dubois proclaiming his love for the shocked Evelina.
Evelina is overjoyed to be back home with Rev Villars and following her arrival is a letter from Lord Orville assuring her that her actions didn’t offend and hinting that he has strong feelings for her. Initially Evelina is relieved but upon a second reading she is embarrassed for Lord Orville, realizing that the letter is uncharacteristically improper. She grows gloomy over her crush’s impropriety and goes to Bristol with a family friend, Mrs. Selwyn to regain her health.
While in Bristol Evelina meets another rake, Lord Merton, and finds Lord Orville is there as well. Much to Evelina’s surprise Lord Orville doesn’t bring up the letter and acts as he did before the written exchange. Mrs. Selwyn and Evelina then take up Mrs. Beaumont’s invitation to stay at her home where Lord Orville is a guest as well. One morning during her garden stroll Evelina runs into Mr. Macartney who wants advice about his love life. Lord Orville runs into the two and shows his jealous side, but still in a gentleman-like manner.

Like Evelina, I was horrified that she was the only person in the party to see how inappropriate it was to borrow Lord Orville’s coach (what is wrong with these people!). The icing on the cake however was when young Branghton sticks his head out the closed window like idiot he is and breaks the coach window! However, I also enjoyed how, when hearing this, Evelina acted her age and ran away in a temper tantrum. She also did something else her age and impulsively wrote a note explaining herself to Lord Orville. Ah I remember doing something like that in middle school; it’s never a good decision. Evelina realizes this only after the letter has been sent. As you can probably judge by Evelina’s hindsight, a woman initiating written contact to a man outside the family is most improper, and a proper man such as Lord Orville should chose to ignore the impropriety. Like Evelina, I was both initially excited by Orville’s written response. But her fearful recollection of the impropriety had me going “No, no, no, no!” and putting my hands up slowly as if to avoid an accident (Can you tell I just want these two to end up together?). However, I see the logic and am also a little suspicious of the letter.

Soon the letter becomes this mammoth issue that almost seems blown out of proportion.  In a past salon (I can't recall which, now!) someone compared Evelina with Jersey Shore.  Anyone who has suffered through the second season of that show (aka Miami Shore) should know that the whole season revolved around a letter as well.  I can't help but compare!

So of course, Evelina should only run into Lord Orville again, in Bristol of all places, after swearing him off. At first she attempts to avoid him as best she can but the fact that he seems more attentive to her than ever in a company of haughty people has Evelina finding it difficult to avoid Lord Orville. After mistaking Mr Macartney for Evelina’s potential love-interest Lord Orville becomes a bit pesky. Could he be jealous? He then tells Evelina he sees her as a little sister, which adds a bit of some creep points to my personal Lord Orville roster. Do you believe that sister crap? I’m not convinced. Now that Evelina is more aloof with him it seems to bring out his true feelings for her.

This section of letters also introduces us to a new character. Mrs Selwyn. I am curious as to everyone’s thoughts on the lady. Evelina doesn’t seem too fond of her, and Mr Villars is known to not be much a fan (despite letting his daughter go with her). I however enjoy the woman’s intelligence and bluntness. She actually reminds me a bit of the author herself!  Many have noted how Burney was quite shy, however her letters were always full of strong opinions.  I like to think of Mrs Selwyn as Burney's inner-dialogue personified.  However, if questioned, I wonder if Burney would agree! What do you think?


  1. Ach, Evelina! Clearly the letter is bogus. At least, I think it must be. I think her innocent damsel schtick is wearing thin, but I'm still totally charmed by this book.

  2. It was so hard to put the book down at the end of this week’s assigned section. The story is intriguing!

    I quite like Mrs Selwyn and see her as a contemporary type. She is similar to several women I know whose opinions are respected and whose company is enjoyed by all. I really can’t see Mrs Selwyn being tied up and thrown into a ditch by Captain Mirvan. Of course by 18th century standards, she may seem too forthright and not seem to be making much effort to nurture Evelina.

    I’m glad Lord Orville is a little bit jealous of Mr Macartney and shows his jealousy—he’s actually human and not the porcelain perfect Lord after all. Asking Evelina to consider him as a brother did not seem that odd to me, since it was Evelina who started this behaviour when she took his arm and asked protection from the drunken Lord Merton, declaring that she wished she had a brother.

    How Lord Orville can contemplate having Lord Merton as a brother-in-law is beyond me, but Lord Merton and Lady Louisa seem made for each other.

    So now I’ll post this and finish reading the book!

  3. I apologize in advance for the extensiveness of my notes, but I was scribbling down my various reactions and occasional thoughts while reading the letters.

    Letter LIV

    “...I am perpetually involved in some distress or dilemma from my own heedlessness.” - Poor thing knows her greatest fault! Alas, this knowledge didn't save her from her next bit of mortification. Why! Such stupid rattles as the Miss Branghtons cannot be trusted with anything so confidential as being on speaking and dancing terms with a Lord! But how can anyone be so utterly without any manners or notions of propriety as Evelina's grandmother and cousins? I'm surprised she didn't lose her head then and there and did something extreme. Their conduct was extremely provoking!

    When young Branghton recounted his visited to Lord Orville, I was in as much agony as Evelina, poor thing! I'm sure I would have written to him myself, no matter the impropriety at this point – such things have to be explained right away.

    Madame Duval has a perfectly horrid timing, doesn't she? Poor Evelina to be thus unfairly accused of having designs on M. Du Bois! However, being a beauty is a burden one must learn to live with as well as accept its bitter consequences.

    Letter LVIII

    I don't know – unless I am much mistaken – this letter sounds nothing like anything Lord Orville would write. It's just not his style! I have my suspicions confirmed now – I've had them ever since I read that Sir Clement was at the house when Evelina's letter to his Lordship was leaving it and I am quite sure – unless I don't know the genre at all – that he took the letter for himself and Lord Orville saw nothing of it. This would tie perfectly with his manner of doing things – he wants Evelina too much, for whatever reason, and he would go to any mischief in order to get her. And he could have very well calculated Evelina's reaction to such an impertinent letter in order to ruin Lord Orville in her eyes.

    “ differently the same man can talk and write!” - not unless you know exactly the identity of the man in both cases and are not mistaken.

    Mr. Villars, that's an excellent idea! - to send the letter to Lord Orville and let himself confirm that he had never written it! Come on, Evelina, do send it back! It's not too late to clear this matter up and reinstate Lord Orville in your esteem and – I'm sure – heart.

  4. Letter LXII

    I knew this calm would not last. And to think that I almost complained about the lack of events by the end of last letter! However, no peace for Evelina even in Bristol. I'm not even surprised any more that someone or other of her admirers should find her here, because she has ever so many. I find Lord Merton better than Sir Clement and Mr. Smith, but worse than M. Du Bois :D in terms of his advances and importunities.

    Why! Lord Orville is coming to Bristol too? I should have known!

    Mrs. Selwyn sounds like a formidable woman.

    Letter LXIII

    What? And Mr. Lovel here as well? This is too much, I declare! Pray, who has remained in London?

    Lady Louisa Larpent is awful. I can't stand her. I'm sure Lord Merton is of my opinion. And I'm sure he regrets having committed himself to her. She strongly reminds me of Lydia Bennet and he of Wickham.

    Letter LXIV

    Well, now I have a new set of people to dislike. I find them more amusing than I found Madame Duval and the Brangthons whom I could not bear to read about.

    Letter LXVI

    Good to know that Mr. Macartney's affairs are improving. Too bad for Evelina to land herself in such an embarrassing situation with Lord Orville now that they are on so easy terms.

    Oooh, they had a heart to heart talk!

    Letter LXVII

    Does Mr. Villars know something about Lord Orville that we don't? Or does he wish Evelina to return to Berry Hill and remain by his side on general principle?

    Letter LXVIII

    I'm shocked at the description of the races. It's abominable! And vulgar! And crude! And I'm sure Lord Merton is no better than the Branghtons (I think I miss them already) when it comes to breeding, manners and conduct, even though he is a lord. Poor Evelina!

    By the way, did she receive Mr. Villars's letter in which he warns her against the dangers Lord Orville poses for her? Or did she decide to ignore it? (I would :D )

    Letter LXIX

    MISS BELMONT? Whoa! Where did she come from? The only daughter and heiress of Sir John Belmont? What is that? What is going on? Once again I can only pity poor Evelina. She is only seventeen but I shall be much surprised if her hair doesn't turn grey (or mine for that matter!) by the end of the book.

    Letter LXX

    Oh no! I know where this is all going. And I think I can very well predict the happy outcome for Mr. Macartney when he learns that his supposed sister is no sister at all! Am I right? His sweetheart is fake Miss Belmont and his father is Sir Belmont, which means that he is Evelina's brother!

    And so it is!

    Oh, Mr. Villars's letter has arrived... :((

  5. I have to confess that I couldnt put the book down at the end of this week as I just had to know how it ended!

    I like Lord Orville much better now that he is showing a bit of jealousy over Mr MacCartney.

    I too was shocked over the race. I think Orville should have spoken up a bit more against it. I am guessing he must be fairly young which I suppose might explain it.

    Mrs Selwyn is fantastic. Loving the way she gets into Lord Merton and Mr Lovell!

  6. I think this was the best section so far -- I was so anxious about what would happen next I almost couldn't stand to read it!
    I suspected early on that there would prove to be a secret relative to Evelina someplace in the tale, though my bets were actually on Sir Clement (since I think he said something early on about "sympathy in the frankness of our dispositions" that suggested foreshadowing to me; plus his annoying of Evelina seemed it could potentially be brotherly, or a brotherly affection misplaced.)
    I was a little too much removed from the culture to immediately recognize the gross impropriety of the letter from Orville, but once I read her reaction to it, it caused me a new guess as to upcoming plot: I personally suspect that the "mysterious" letter from Orville was actually written by one of Evelina's rival suitors, and the servant she was supposed to give the reply to was intended to carry back her reply, if she had one, to the real author in hopes he could judge Evelina's response and perhaps even use it against her as either blackmail or else to pass it to Orville to diminish his respect for her and eliminate him as competition. I would almost think that for the sake of a surprise it should be Monsieur Du Bois who did it, but I suspect his English wouldn't actually be up to the task, and more likely its author would have been Smith or Young Branghton, if I'm correct at all. Oh -- or for a real shocker it could have been Rev. Villars trying to test her!

  7. I'm with Erin- the letter is a fake. I think her letter was intercepted and someone is pranking her.

    I love Mrs Selwyn! She is spunky. I wish she'd give Merton a good spanking. What a brat! And a pig! He's got his girl in the room and ignore Evelina and the moment she's gone he's all over Evelina. What is wrong with these guys?

    As horrible as the Braughtons are they never raced elderly women. How can Evelina be embarrassed by her relatives after that? And their manners are terrible- ignoring Mrs Beaumont's guests because they aren't 'quality.'

    I'm so glad Mr McCartney is Evelina's brother. Maybe they can take on Belmont together.

    So I'm guessing the Rev believes Orville is playing with Evelina's affections and even going to take advantage of her. He doesn't see a future Mrs Orville in Evelina. So sad.

    Can't wait to see where this goes!

  8. I defended the Branghton's last week,but this week they really cross the line, and caused Evelina some real issues that move the story along.

    This was a great read and I must confess that I couldn't stop reading...I thought Mr Villars questioning that Lord Orville must have been drunk to have written the letter was odd, and was surprised that he wrote the letter to Evelina for her to run the other way in Brighton.

    Lord O has been so attentive in Brighton, I thought 'HIS' letter to Evelina was a sign of his affection, and had to read it a second time to to remember it would have been improper. Why won't Sir Clement leave her alone?
    I really love this book.

  9. When I read the first half of the letter by Orville I was excited but a little puzzled. However, by the end of it I was quite sure it didn't fit in with Orville's character so far. I found myself thinking Burney wouldn't besmirch a hero in this manner...

    As for the way Evelina's grandmother and her cousins behave. It isn't really all that shocking. Annoying, yes. But more probable and improbable. I say this 'cause I know of instances in my here and now, with neighbhours and relatives from small towns who simply haven't a clue how to behave when in a certain kind of society. There is much that they take for granted and much that they believe is their right. But, it is more honest.:)

  10. *Arrives late, straightens coiffure*

    Firstly can I just say how I love that so many of you seem to now be as smitten with this book as I? I couldn't help but finish the book in whirlwind time at this point either (PS- Thanks for not including spoilers, hats off to you!) which is why I figured we could all finish the book in a month. It's a lovely addiction!

    I also enjoy how we have not always agreed on characters (with the exception of Madame Duval perhaps) but Mrs Selwyn is already a favorite. Being friends with her is no shield from her bluntness either as Evelina is seeing. Sir Clement is a "favourite" with her but still gets the same treatment as everyone else.

    @Farida, Rereading your notes was fun and a good review! My copy of Evelina is littered with post-its which say similar things.

    @Min Self. You totally called it! I remember laughing about then when you said that the first week.

    So many of you are already finished with the book or finishing, it has me excited already for next week's salon. I can't wait to hear everyone's final thoughts!

  11. I was loving the Branghtons so much, that I was a little upset to let Evelina back to Berry Hill for some peace and quiet with the worthy Mr Villars. So I was thrilled when Lord Orville’s letter came along, and I thought it a rather lovely letter indeed, but Evelina obviously didn’t. I wrote in my notebook, ‘this part, absolutely fantastic, the way the letter’s change as mood does’ - which is on the things I most love about Fanny Burney’s writing, her ability to find the true moment in the situation. (I also wrote down, but did not cite this little snippet, ‘...a violent burst of tears, which indeed proved a happy release’. Of course it did, such a real little moment.) I also do not believe Orville wrote the letter, my money is on Smith.

    After some dull moping, we get to go to Bristol with the very entertaining Mrs Selwyn, where we meet some old friends and some new ones. In this whole section, Lord Orville finally comes to life, Fanny gives him his human moments to give him a real personality, he gets to to have moments like this, ‘...hardly spoke a word, and his grave and thoughtful: yet, whenever I raised my eyes, his, I perceived were directed towards me, though instantly,upon meeting mine, he looked another way.’ I think it is this, that he finally gets to become himself is what warms Orville to us, rather than his jealousy over McCartney and Willoughby.

    Oh, and the old lady race - too silly and too unpleasant for me.

  12. Great to get these fab posts now in my e mail.

    I wonder if people are aware of this feature ?

    maybe it needs a post in the blog to bring it to your readers attention ?

    While Im here, is this the most wonderful song ever written ?
    go here

    (that link could go in a future blog post too )

  13. Extremely late to the party, but I only just got ahold of the book!

    You know, I rather hope Lord Orville did write that letter in a burst of passion-- otherwise he would in fact be a little too perfect for my taste. Especially since Evelina herself, while abundantly sweet etc, is not perfect. (Also, I have to admit the drunkness explanation made me laugh-- 18c drunk-dialling!)

    I was frankly horrified by the old lady race. That and the Captain's little prank are beyond the Pale-- it's unbelievable to me that "quality" people should have so little regard for the physical harm they are doing others.

    Belmont is beastly and I hope he gets his comeuppance!

    Also, being part Scottish myself, may I say I adore Macartney? And I'm so proud of Burney for not falling into the usual English trap of making him a villain of some sort. But then, she doesn't even make Du Bois into the outright villain she might have. I greatly admire that in her writing.

    Can't wait to read the rest!


  14. I’m late to the discussion, but not on account of the letters. They’re fabulous this week! This selection so far has marked my favorite passages of the book. I took an immediate liking to Mrs. Selwyn and found it particularly noteworthy that Evelyn described her thusly: “She is extremely clever: her understanding, indeed, may be called masculine: but, unfortunately, her manners deserve the same epithet; for, in studying to acquire the knowledge of the other sex, she has lost all the softness of her own.”

    A critique on what happens to women in Burney’s time when they become shrewd to the dastardly ways of men like Lord Merton who says, “I don’t know what the devil a woman lives for after thirty; she is only in other folk’s way.” Ha! He really made me laugh.

    Mrs. Selwyn is essentially Evelina’s mature counterpart or the anti-Evelina at this point, but I must say, Evelina is getting more perceptive. The letter to Orville aside (which, I agree, was spot on for her age), she is seeing impertinences in others and slowly gravitating away from making them herself. I think Orville is completely taken with Evelina, but too gentlemanly for a direct overture. I’m on the fence about whether or not he wrote the letter. A moment of weakness perhaps? Also, I took Villers recommending she leave Bristol immediately as a way to lure Orville if his affections for Evelina are true or to discourage them if they aren’t. Can’t wait to finish the book!

  15. This section made me cringe so much! That the Branghtons would behave in such a ridiculous manner, and that Evelina would have to be so ashamed and embarrassed to even see Lord Orville... It's awful. And that letter! Where are my smelling salts? It's such a strange contrast how staid and chaste people needed to be with each other, even if they had mutual affections.

  16. I found it refreshing to have a woman who was not afraid to speak her mind like Mrs. Selwyn. I also found it interesting that a woman who learned “too much” was seen as “masculine” and lacking in “gentleness.” So basically being educated beyond how to behave properly and dance and other ‘womanly’ things was seen as undesirable (am I understanding this correctly?). I have a feeling men and women were probably uncomfortable around Mrs. Selwyn, mental competition for the men and probably some jealousy (deep down) from some of the women. I will admit one thing, sometimes she may take the sarcasm a bit further than I would, but she’s basically a one woman army. It reminded me that there are still some men out there who are intimidated by educated women and some women who “play dumb” to get a man. Blech. I do have to wonder what Mr. Selwyn had been like.

    What is Lady Louisa’s problem? Evelina says she’s “affected”, is that code for spoiled beyond belief and unable to show politeness? Mr. Macartney, I guess it’s cool he’s Evelina’s brother and neat that she showed him kindness.

    As to the letter, I smell a rat named Sir Clement. The fact that his and Orville’s visits were so close leads me to believe that some confusion ensued and Clement would use a misdirected letter to his advantage (discredit Orville making it easier for him to weasel into Evelina’s affections). He has no qualms about playing pranks on people and I really don’t think he needs Captain Mirvan’s encouragement to be in the mood for mischief.

    It was good to see some jealousy and a hint that Lord Orville has some concern beyond good manners for Evelina. However, that whole “I care for you like a brother” is really a lame move, at least in my opinion. Advice: Lord Orville, grow a pair of cojones and be honest with Evelina about your feelings.

    The race between the two “poor old women”, as Evelina put it, really disgusted me. The reference in the Oxford edition noted that these types of races were common amusement for the wealthy. I was so upset because I’m sure the old women were hurt afterwards (especially the one that fell) and with little money to take care of their injuries or to receive help at home if they need it. I’m sure this race had long lasting consequences for the women after these rich a-holes had long forgotten about it. Evelina seems to be the only one who had somewhat of a moral issue with it although she showed approbation by attending it (perhaps her disgust with it is due to her naivety). It makes me sad to think of these people abusing their power and wealth to exploit the less fortunate. It also reminded me that we still have people who think it’s OK to do things like dog or cock fighting or worse.

    I must say that such societal mores that would look down on a woman for walking with prostitutes in a ‘mixed’ park but allow exploitation of those who should be shown charity is very messed up. Oh well, I know I can't judge their actions by our standards, but it's hard not to while reading this book. It's also probably the reason I'm so hard on Lord Orville.

  17. @Lylassandra, I'm glad someone is loving Macartney, I was feeling a little bad about him not having any fans!

    @Susan, That quote from Lord Merton is probably my favorite from the whole book. I've featured it as a quotable before I love it so much! I also like your idea of Mrs Selwyn being an anti-Evelina of sorts. She's not her foil...but she's definitely an opposite of sorts.

    @Diane, *Passes smelling salts*

    @Jael, Isn't it interesting how a character such as Mrs S is the most appealing character to a modern audience?

    So many people have voiced their upset at the old lady race. I can see it being funny in a modern context if it were in a silly comedy movie where audience knows of it being a controlled situation where no one is harmed. The idea of this being a true entertainment nowadays shows the barbarism of the time. As awful as it is, it is important to read this sort of thing in the same respect that it is important for us to read books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I've been drawing many similarities between the two books lately despite their vast differences!