Burney and the literary marketplace

George Justice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


Burney’s career as an author might be labelled a failure: although she published four celebrated, best-selling novels, the works of the latter part of her career were skewered by the periodical press and failed to reach successful multiple printings. She wrote more plays than she did novels, whether from artistic inclination or the wish to take advantage of a lucrative market, but only one of these was staged during her lifetime. When it was staged, for one performance only, it met with derision not only from the audience, but also from the actors. Burney’s final work as a living author-the Memoirs of Doctor Burney (1832)-was attacked more than any other, and her posthumous success as a diarist failed to revive interest in her later novels. Her career ended as it began: Madame D’Arblay was still ‘the Author of Evelina’, as the running header of the 1905 edition of her Diaries and Letters insistently stated. It is difficult to say whether Burney’s ‘failure’, as I choose here to call it for rhetorical purposes, resulted from her miscalculations of the market or the difficulty, if not impossibility, of aligning artistic genius with popular taste. We can learn much about the history of the novel and its relationship to market forces, as well as about this particularly important late eighteenthand early nineteenth-century novelist, from an account of her travails with the publishing industry and the critics. In this essay I briefly survey Burney’s forays into the literary marketplace, tracing her highly self-conscious, but somewhat unplanned, authorial career.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Frances Burney
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781139001410
ISBN (Print)9780521850346
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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