Teaching "the young idea how to shoot"

The Juvenilia of the Burney Family

  • Lorna J. Clark Research Adjunct Professor, Department of English, Carleton University
Keywords: juvenilia, child author, child writer, family magazines, magazine culture, early modern English women writers, eighteenth-century literature, Fanny Burney

Abstract

"The Burney family stood at the centre of cultural life of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, and excelled in several forms of artistic expression, especially in writing. Among the manuscripts preserved in the family archive are some collections of juvenilia produced by the children of Charles Rousseau and Esther Burney, Frances Burney’s elder sister. These literary projects helped the young authors to build confidence in their writing, refine their craft, and find a voice. This paper examines two: the first is an early example of a family-produced magazine that is patterned after one of the first-ever periodicals aimed at children. The second collection is a series of anthologies containing poems, plays, and stories written by Sophia Elizabeth Burney and dedicated to her novelist aunt. The plays seem designed to be performed in amateur theatricals; the stories contain images of female suffering, sharp satire on social pretentions, and a raucous (even violent) sense of humour that evoke the novels of Frances Burney. The newly discovered manuscripts reflect an environment that evidently encouraged creative play, self-expression, and artistic production. The study of these juvenile works yield insight into the creative world of the Burneys and, more generally, into the world of the child reader and writer in late eighteenth-century England.

Published
2018-07-04