ISSN 1744-9618
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This essay examines the construction of Burney's reputation, and the appropriation of her texts by women novelists, from the publication of her first novel Evelina in 1778 to the mid nineteenth century. It argues that in the first instance appreciative readers like Elizabeth Benger, Robert Bisset, William Hayley and many others generate a dominant narrative in which Burney is figured as offering her readers both intellectual solidity and moral purity. This proved enabling for many women novelists (and other writers), including Jane Austen, Elizabeth Blower and Eliza Taylor, and reference to Burney in fiction rapidly became a coded language for distinguishing between good and bad characters, especially female characters. As a result, the example of Burney could also provide respectable camouflage to writers such as Mary Robinson who were manifestly not themselves conventionally respectable. Furthermore, it is argued that as the nineteenth century progressed, Burney's cultural position shifted. Writers such as Mary Russell Mitford and Maria Edgeworth show a new ambivalence about Burney, and the essay concludes by analysing a novel of 1836 by Anne Marsh-Caldwell where a Burneyan intertextuality actually indicts Burney and her age for false moral and literary values. It also demonstrates the uniqueness of Burney's position as a novelist appreciated by writers across the political spectrum, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jane West.

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