Burney Society

History and Goals of the Burney Society 

The Burney Society honours Frances Burney d'Arblay (1752-1840), a woman who recorded everything from Johnsonian wit to George III's fits, from Evelina's entrance into the world to Napoleon's last stand. Her acute observations about her family, friends, and 18th-century society show us how much, and how little, life and literature have changed in two centuries.

Her works played an essential role in the development of the novel and made writing women respectable. Her four novels--EvelinaCeciliaCamilla, and The Wanderer--influenced and inspired a generation of writers, led by Jane Austen, who repaid her predecessor with a tribute in Northanger Abbey. Burney's father suppressed all but one of her plays in her lifetime, but since the plays were first published as a collection in 1995, her ability as a playwright can now be appreciated. As we read her novels and diaries, we find ourselves drawn into her life, which spanned five reigns. We understand her, suffer with her (her account of a mastectomy without anaesthesia made medical history) and rejoice with her. Her powers of expression and observation make it seem as if she herself has stepped off the page and into the present.

For all these reasons, The Burney Society was founded in New Orleans by Paula Stepankowsky, Lucy Magruder, and Dr. Jacqueline Reid-Walsh. Membership now numbers about 120 in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia. The purpose of the society is to promote the study and appreciation of Burney's works and of the life and times of her and her family.

For more information on the upcoming Burney Society of North America Conference, see our Conferences and Events page.

Back to top