Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bess: More of a Hervey than a Foster

It was two hundred and twenty years ago that Fanny Burney met Georgiana and her family for the first time, despite the two women being in the celebrity spotlight for over a decade. 

The truth of the matter is that Fanny had no interest in Georgiana and her group.  To her, it would be like the modern equivalent of having the opportunity to meet a tabloid celebrity who was famous for no good reason (ie: Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian), Fanny was disgusted and just not interested.  However, no one was as surprised as herself when, with little effort, Georgiana won Fanny over, "it is impossible to view...this celebrated woman without feeling the strongest disposition to admire and like her."  Fanny found that Georgiana's sister, Harriet, whom her pre-conceived notions were even harsher on, was surprisingly equally likable.  However, she found Lady Spencer to be a bore, the Devonshire nanny (Selina Trimmer) to be full of herself, and Bess and the Duke's daughter, Caroline to be a brat.  As for Bess herself, Fanny reserved her harshest criticisms.  "To the tales told about her, scandal is nothing - INFAMY enwraps them."  Fanny found herself smothered by the sycophantic Bess, whose efforts made it almost impossible to socialize with anyone else. 

In the end Fanny decided that after talking to Bess, "Lady Elizabeth has the general character of inheriting all the wit, all the subtlety, all les agréments [charms], and all the wickedness of the Herveys.  While I can't imagine Bess would be too pleased with this assessment, I have a feeling her relative John Hervey, would have found it quite flattering.

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