Growing Up Burney


  • Lorna Clark



juvenilia, commonplace books, women writers, Burney


The pressure of family identity and politics affected more than one generation of Burneys. Beyond Frances Burney, and her intense relationship with her father Charles Burney, were other family members who also felt the pressure to “write & read & be literary.” These tendencies can be seen most clearly in the works of juvenilia preserved in the family archive. A commonplace book bound in vellum has been discovered that preserves more than one hundred poems, mostly original compositions written by family and friends. The activity of commonplacing reflects a community in which reading and writing are valued. Collected by the youngest sister of Frances Burney, they seem to have been copied after she married. The juvenile writings of her nieces and nephews preponderate, whose talents were encouraged, as they give versified expression to their deepest feelings and fears. Literary influences of the Romantic poets can be traced, as the young authors define themselves in relation to these materials. Reflecting a kind of self-fashioning, the commonplace book helps these young writers explore their sense of family identity through literary form. This compilation represents a collective expression of authorship which can inform us about reading and writing practices of women and their families in the eighteenth century.






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