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Fanny Burney

1 of 5 portraits of Fanny Burney

Fanny Burney, by Edward Francisco Burney, circa 1784-1785 - NPG 2634 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Fanny Burney

by Edward Francisco Burney
oil on canvas, circa 1784-1785
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 1933
Primary Collection
NPG 2634

On display in Room 12 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Edward Francisco Burney (1760-1848), Artist and cousin of Frances d'Arblay ('Fanny Burney'). Artist associated with 18 portraits, Sitter associated with 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

The daughter of Dr Charles Burney, Fanny Burney's first novel, Evelina, or the history of a young lady's entrance into the world (1778), astonished her friends and became a bestseller. In 1793 she married General D'Arblay, a French refugee. Her well-known Diary, documenting her friendships with Hester Thrale and Dr Johnson and her life at the court of George III was first published in the 1840s. This portrait was painted by her cousin Edward Francis Burney.

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Eger, Elizabeth; Peltz, Lucy, Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings, 2008 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 March to 15 June 2008), p. 25 Read entry

    The novelist Fanny Burney's diaries provide some of the most vivid and witty descriptions of bluestocking society. She also wrote a satirical play about learned women, The Witlings, which her father advised her not to publish in case it offended Elizabeth Montagu. Burney was vehemently opposed to sitting for this portrait by her cousin, a fact that may account for her refusal to meet the viewer's gaze.

  • Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 121
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 60
  • Ross, Josephine, Jane Austen and her World, 2017, p. 85
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 163
  • Uglow, Jenny, Character Sketches: Dr Johnson, His Club and Other Friends, 1998, p. 57
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 112 Read entry

    Fanny Burney’s first novel, the best-seller Evelina, or A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778), was written in extreme secrecy and delivered to the publisher by her brother. Gradually, the news of Burney’s identity spread to the literary friends of the family, including Samuel Johnson, Hester Thrale and Edmund Burke. To everyone’s astonishment Burney became a celebrity. In 1786 she was appointed Keeper of Robes to Queen Charlotte but was unhappy at court and was permitted to retire in 1791. In 1793 she resumed writing after marrying a Frenchman, General d’Arblay, who had fled the Revolution. The profits from Camilla, or, A Picture of Youth (1796) allowed them to build their own house. Her Journals and Letters were published after her death and are a rich source for eighteenth-century historians.

    This portrait is by the novelist’s cousin, Edward Francisco Burney (1760–1848). Her account of the sitting suggests her abiding shyness: ‘to my utter surprise and consternation, I was called into the room appropriated for Edward and his pictures, and informed that I was to sit to him ... Remonstrances were unavailing and declarations of aversion to the design were only ridiculed.’

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 145

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1784back to top

Current affairs

Theatre proprietor and postal reformer John Palmer runs the first mail coach in England, between Bristol and London. A three day journey is now completed in 16 hours.
Commutation Act reduces punitive duties on tea to combat smuggling.

Art and science

Aeronaut James Sadler makes the first hot air balloon flight in Britain, from Oxford to Woodeaton.
Chemist Henry Cavendish's paper Experiments on Air reveals the composition of water.
Writer Samuel Johnson dies.
Joshua Reynolds succeeds Allan Ramsay as Painter to the King.

International

Thomas Jefferson's Land Ordinance passed by the United States' Continental Congress, coming into effect the following year. It allows for the sale of land in the largely unmapped west of the country.
Britain receives its first bales of cotton from the United States since before the War of American Independence.
William Pitt's India Act creates a Board of Control to oversee the affairs of the British East India Company and centralise power.

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