History and Goals of the Burney Centre

The Centre is dedicated to the publication of complete, definitive scholarly editions of the journals and letters of Frances Burney (1752-1840) and the letters and memoirs of her father, the music historian Dr Charles Burney (1726-1814).

The Burney Centre was founded in 1960, as the Burney Papers Project, by the late Joyce Hemlow. Dr. Hemlow, the author of The History of Fanny Burney (Clarendon Press, 1958), taught at McGill University from 1948 and served as Director of the Centre until her retirement in 1984. She was succeeded by Lars Troide, who in turn was succeeded in 2003 by the present Director, Peter Sabor.

The Centre works closely with the Burney Society of North America and the United Kingdom, and produces the Society's Burney Journal and Burney Letter.


The Burney Centre, in conjunction with the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the McGill University Library, offers an annual Fellowship, designed to assist scholars who need to travel to and establish temporary residence in Montreal in order to use the resources of the Library.

From its inception, the Burney Centre has been supported by funding from McGill University.
In addition, the Centre currently receives generous grants from, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Canada Research Chairs programme, and the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture.

For a summary of our work, see the recent lecture by Dr Sabor and Dr Cooke: Uncensoring Charles and Frances Burney.


Summary of Holdings

The Burney Centre occupies two offices, with 750 square-feet of space, on the fifth floor of the McLennan Humanities and Social Sciences Library, close to the Library's holdings on 18th- and 19th-century literature, history and society in Europe and America. It holds several dozen books on permanent loan from the Library, including relevant correspondences, biographies, 18th-century periodicals, and reference works.

The Centre has also accumulated thousands of photocopies and hundreds of microfilm reels, which have brought together over ten thousand letters scattered over numerous collections world-wide (major collections are in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the British Library, the Morgan Library, the Houghton Library at Harvard, and the Huntington Library). 

Joyce Hemlow's Catalogue of the Burney Family Correspondence 1749-1878 (ISBN 0871040379) lists these letters, written by over a thousand correspondents of the Burneys (including Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Johnson, Haydn, and other important figures), but they are described in much greater detail on index cards in the Centre's holdings. These photocopies, microfilms, descriptive indices and other research materials make the Centre a rich resource for students and scholars of many aspects of 18th- and early 19th-century British and European culture and society. The Centre's holdings are open, by prior appointment, to researchers. 

The Burney Centre, via McGill University Library, has access to these related online resources:

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