Monday, January 21, 2008

Frances Burney's Farewell to The Witlings

Frances Burney's letter to her "daddy," family friend Mr. Crisp, who informed her that he and Mr. Burney (her father) felt it was best not to move forward with the play. He states that he feels that it will damage her "reputation"-- whether he means her reputation as a writer, or her reputation as a lady is not clear. Perhaps both. --Erika

Miss F. Burney to Mr. Crisp.
Well! " there are plays that are to be saved, and plays
that are not to be saved !" so good night, Mr. Dabbler! —
good night, Lady Smatter, — Mrs. Sapient, — Mrs. Voluble, —
Mrs. Wheedle, — Censor, — Cecilia, — Beaufort, — and
you, you great oaf, Bobby ! — good night! good night!
And good morning, Miss Fanny Burney ! — I hope now
you have opened your eyes for some time, and will not
close them in so drowsy a fit again — at least till the full
of the moon.
I won't tell you I have been absolutely ravie with delight
at the fall of the curtain; but I intend to take the
affair in the tant mieux manner, and to console myself for
your censure by this greatest proof I have ever received of
the sincerity, candor, and let me add, esteem, of my dear
daddy. And as I happen to love myself rather more than
my play, this consolation is not a very trifling one. As to
all you say of my reputation and so forth, I perceive the
kindness of your endeavors to put me in humor with myself,
and prevent my taking huff, which, if I did, I should
deserve to receive, upon any future trial, hollow praise from
you — and the rest from the public.
As to the MS., I am in no hurry for it. Besides, it ought
not to come till I have prepared an ovation, and the honors
of conquest for it.
The only bad thing in this affair is, that I cannot take
the comfort of my poor friend Dabbler, by calling you a
crabbed fellow, because you write with almost more kindness
than ever; neither can I (though I try hard) persuade
myself that you have not a grain of taste in your whole
This, however, seriously I do believe, — that when my
two daddies put their heads together to concert for me that
hissing, groaning, catcalling epistle they sent me, they felt
as sorry for poor little Miss Bayes as she could possibly
do for herself. You see I do not attempt to repay your
frankness with the art of pretended carelessness. But
though somewhat disconcerted just now, I will promise not
to let my vexation live out another day. I shall not
browse upon it, but, on the contrary, drive it out of my
thoughts, by filling them up with things almost as good of
other people's. Our Hettina is much better; but pray
don't keep Mr. B. beyond Wednesday, for Mrs. Thrale
makes a point of my returning to Streatham on Tuesday,
unless, which God forbid, poor Hetty should be worse
again. Adieu, my dear daddy, I won't be mortified, and
I won't be downed, — but I will be proud to find I have,
out of my own family, as well as in it, a friend who loves
me well enough to speak plain truth to me. Always do
thus, and always you shall be tried by, your much obliged
and most affectionate, FRANCES BURNEY.

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