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Cecilia is an heiress, but she can only keep her fortune if her husband will consent to take her surname. Fanny Burney's unusual love story and deft social satire was much admired on its first publication in 1782 for its subtle interweaving of comedy, humanity, and social analysis. Controversial in its time, this eighteenth-century novel seems entirely fresh in relation to late twentieth-century concerns.

1056 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1782

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About the author

Frances Burney

351 books351 followers
Also known as Fanny Burney and, after her marriage, as Madame d’Arblay. Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist and playwright. In total, she wrote four novels, eight plays, one biography and twenty volumes of journals and letters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 202 reviews
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
779 reviews
March 13, 2020
One of my first reactions on finishing this long and melodramatic 18th century saga was relief that such unlikely plots and histrionic characters are no longer in vogue in literature—though we still have plenty of melodrama in the form of soap opera. Yes, the more I think about it, the more parallels between this book and a soap opera occur to me:
-there are a set number of characters, some of whom turn up again and again serving new and unlikely plot purposes every time
-on each occasion that the main character goes somewhere she shouldn't go, she invariably crosses paths with someone who draws the wrong conclusions about her activities
-each time she has an opportunity to explain herself, something happens to prevent her
-in spite of often meeting the hero in the wrong place at the wrong time, when she really needs to find him, he has frustratingly just left the place she's arrived at, and not once but again and again

As you can guess, ridiculous hindrances and interferences abound, and they become more and more farcical as the pages turn.

But having said all that, I have to admit that this novel from the 1780s has a lot more going for it than your average soap opera. It is Frances (Fanny) Burney's second novel, the first, Evelina, was written in secret but recognised as worth publishing once she dared to show it to her family and friends. She next wrote a play but her father didn't approve and encouraged her to save her talent and her material for novel writing which he considered a more appropriate occupation for a young woman. Cecilia was the result, and as I read it, I thought it would indeed have made a great play in the style of William Congreve's Restoration comedies. The best parts are the dialogues, and not necessarily those between the heroine and hero, but the witty ones involving certain other of the characters. It is in those sections, relatively unrelated to the main plot, that Burney's talent as an observer of her society is best demonstrated.

A character by the name of Mr Gosport is the chief mouthpiece for her observations. He tells Cecilia, newly arrived from the country, that Society is made up of four groups, the Supercilious, the Voluble, the Insensiblists and the Jargonists. I've included his exact words on this subject if you're interested in hearing them, though I warn you, he is quite voluble himself:

In contrast to Mr Gosport's lengthy speeches, there's a character called Mr Briggs whose miserly approach to life causes him to be sparing even when speaking; all unecessary words are left out: "Don't visit often; always costs money. Wish I had not come now; wore a hole in my shoe; hardly a crack in it before...But where's the supper? see nothing of the supper—suppose there is none; all a take in..."
Mr Briggs, along with portly Mr Hobson and slight Mr Simkins are welcome light relief in this marriage plot story. Their amusing repartee reminded me of similar characters in Dickens though Dickens created his characters many decades later and may not even have read Burney.

Burney was definitely an influence on Jane Austen however. Austen references one of Burney's characters in Persuasion, the voluble Miss Larolles (which is what lead me to read this book). The title and plot of Pride and Prejudice surely owe a lot to Cecilia too. Burney's novel hinges on a matter of overweening pride in old family names, and absolute prejudice against the names of others:

"The whole of this unfortunate business," said Dr. Lyster, "has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE...Yet this, however, remember; if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination

You'll be glad to know that the heroine and the hero manage to rise above the pride and prejudice of those around them and find happiness together, but not before a father sends this message: "He bid me tell you that either he, or you must see his son never more."

I'm sure fans of Pride and Prejudice will be reminded of Mr Bennett's famous line: "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

Yes, Jane Austen clearly paid attention to Fanny Burney's plots. I'm reading Burney's Evelina at the moment and have found other themes that foreshadow Austen's novels. But Austen managed to take those themes and shape them into a neater and less melodramatic form. I've never appreciated her talent so much as while reading Burney's long sagas.
Profile Image for Warwick.
824 reviews14.5k followers
January 18, 2020
I little thought, when I first picked this book up with a sense more of duty than anticipation, how extraordinarily fun it would prove to be (not least because I managed to convince my wife that ‘Fanny Burney’ was eighteenth-century slang for thrush). For the last week I have been rushing through work in order to enjoy my train-ride home in the company of Cecilia, and going to bed early to get some extra reading time in. Which hasn't happened to me for a while.

My main worry, after the first couple of hundred pages, was that there was still so much of the book left for things to go downhill. And it is true – let's say this up-front – that the ending is the most disappointing part of the novel; the last volume collapses into melodrama and feverish exclamations, and in general resolves the problems of the plot in ways that are bound to be unsatisfactory for a modern reader. But I don't want to let that overshadow the rest of the book too much, because the first seven hundred pages were pure joy for me, which for a book this size is more than anyone had a right to expect.

Cecilia and her love interest are endearing enough, but the real fun comes from the amazing cast of supporting characters, whom Burney sketches as a series of hilarious caricatures. The flighty socialites, proto-gossip-girls, sleazy men and haughty toffs are so recognisable that I found myself dreaming of how this could be remade as a high school movie. Miss Larolles in particular – ‘the inimitable Miss Larolles’, as one of Austen's heroines calls her – is an absolute delight to spend time with, and I could listen to her breathless chatter all day – But only conceive what happened to me! Was that not horrid provoking?, etc.

Much of the enjoyment here comes from the snapshot the book offers of everyday contemporary society. Unlike so many other novelists of the time, who were writing Gothic tales set in exotic France or Italy, Burney is deliberately capturing, in an almost documentary way, the daily life of 1779–80 London, including fashionable events and soirées of the period. There are so many fantastic details in here concerning how people got around, what kind of etiquette was involved in mixed-sex socialising, who handed whom into carriages, how you called on acquaintances, how you made travel arrangements, and so forth. I suppose some people may find this boring, but I was absolutely captivated. There are so many scenes that we can't properly ‘read’: often, someone will say something innocuous which occasions total outrage, while at other times they'll come out with something apparently awful which everyone seems to find perfectly agreeable.

And, surprisingly, through all of this, Burney's focus is very much on what we might now call social justice; rather than the ballrooms and beau monde that I was expecting, there is a consistent effort here to range through different classes of society, and indeed to challenge socio-economic structures in and of themselves. One character, disgusted by the prevailing demands of politeness, points out that ‘The bow is to the coat, the attention is to the rank, and the fear of offending ought to extend to all mankind,’ and this is something that the book tries to explore on a large scale.

Cecilia herself is placed in a position that, for modern readers, can only be seen in pointedly feminist terms: she is an heiress, but can only inherit if her husband agrees to take her surname. (Weirdly, this is something that seems to have been less uncommon then than now.) But the man she loves is from a very old and proud – though not very wealthy – family. The plot therefore takes these ideas of female autonomy, financial muscle, and patriarchal tradition, and clashes them together with extreme violence to see what breaks.

It is customary to see Frances Burney as a sort of John-the-Baptist figure. ‘The whole of this unfortunate business,’ someone exclaims during the dénouement of this one, ‘has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE,’ and one hears the sound of someone frantically taking notes in Bath. I had expected to find that Austen brought wit and skill to a rather hidebound genre, but that's not at all what I feel now. This is every bit as funny as anything in Austen. I see Austen's importance now a bit differently: what she did was, I think, to get rid of the melodramatic silliness that Burney still leant on for her conclusion, and also to find a way to achieve these effects in three hundred rather than nine hundred pages, which is certainly no small achievement.

Even so, there are things in here that you just don't get in Austen. Proper action, for one thing: Cecilia includes such set-pieces as a public suicide in St James's Gardens, which I really was not expecting. And, for another thing, moral ambiguity – there are many characters here who are sympathetic but seriously flawed, and it is very hard to know, on reflection, what we are supposed to think about the way things conclude. The ‘happy ending’, if such it is, is a very ironic one. At first, I thought this was just a problem for modern readers, but it's clear from contemporary reactions that people at the time were disturbed by it as well. The world of Cecilia is, in the end, a disturbing and a dark one, but I absolutely loved spending time there.
666 reviews87 followers
May 8, 2013
I happen to love this book more than the combined works of Jane Austen (blasphemy, I know). While lacking Austen's sparkling style, I find this book has emotional connection and focus on social issues than I find lacking in Austen's works. It's probably my favorite 18th century novel, in fact.

The story revolves around Cecilia, a young woman who has inherited an enormous fortune but who can keep it only if, upon marriage, her husband agrees to take her name. Unfortunately, Cecilia has fallen for Delville, a dashing young aristocrat whose proud family would never agree to a name change.

I confess that I adore Cecilia and have a crush on Delville. Cecilia is smart, strong and full of common sense. Delville is a dutiful young aristocrat who finally has enough and defies his psycho Mom for the love of Cecilia (in my favorite scene in the book). The book is chockful of funny scenes, passionate declarations of love, misunderstandings, jealousy, elopment, and every other good thing. I never understood why Burney's Evelina, with the really annoying secondary characters, insipid heroine and patterncard of perfection hero, is better known.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,525 reviews799 followers
October 1, 2015
We need to get a couple of things out of the way before I get to the proper review.

i) This is too long.
ii) This shouldn't be read the way you'd read a Hemingway novel--sitting down and intensely fretting through the intense pages of intensity. This should be read the way you watch a TV series: a few chapters here, a few there, letting the various plots lines wrap themselves up, taking a pause while the next one gets going, all the while keeping in mind that there is an overarching point to the thing, but not expecting that overarching point to be the focus of every chapter, let alone every sentence.

Now, having said all that, this is fabulous stuff. Burney gives you exactly what you want from a late eighteenth century novel: heart-rending sentiment, burning satire, and intelligent sociology. The characters are well drawn, and don't 'develop,' because they are people, not characters in a fiction-writing workshop, and people don't develop like that. But they do get entangled in plot, and that's what Burney gives us: incident after incident, all leading us towards a crisis point, whether local (as when Cecilia finally moves out of her first guardian's house) or more general (as at the end of the novel).

Mr. Gosport is an interesting innovation, if you're interested in that kind of thing--he's the intelligent voice of the novel, but he's not particularly involved in anything. In fact, he's really there to let Burney write satirical, sociological essays about the upper class, and they are wonderful things, perhaps the best parts of the book.

Burney was well known to Austen ('Pride and Prejudice' is a phrase from this very book), and that might have skewed some readers' expectations for the worse. Austen is a wonderful novelist, who made genuine advances in the art, but Burney was working in a very different form, from a very different perspective. It's best to know this before diving into this monster of a book; this is not Our Jane. But if you give up looking for Austen, you're likely to find any number of other novelists in there: the Delviles feel like something from late James, for instance, and Mr. Monckton would find himself quite at home in a Trollope novel.

In short, then, Burney was a writer of genius, who had the misfortune to write just before another writer, with a very different genius, changed our expectations of the novel, so that Burney can now feel excessive and even unartistic. But there are real rewards to reading Cecilia.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,432 reviews543 followers
December 9, 2008
Cecilia Beverly is a young orphan whose relatives left her with a large fortune, three quarelling trustees, and a mind of unsurpassed delicacy and gentility. The first volume is set during the tumultuous time Cecilia spent with one trustee, who "borrows" huge sums of money from her and eventually kills himself to avoid his debts. Cecilia moves back the country, but her Love Interest, a man of good character but very proud parents, follows her there and begs her to marry him. ALAS! According to her uncle's will, whoever marries Cecilia must either take her surname or relinquish her vast fortune. Since neither is acceptable to either Cecilia or the man who is supposedly desperately in love with her, they languish apart for a year or so. Eventually, the Love Interest's mother agrees to allow a secret marriage, and in exchange Cecilia will give up all her money. Cecilia agrees, they are married in the most hurried, unexciting ceremony in literary history (it takes less than a paragraph to describe the entire wedding of two characters who have spent ~900 pages pining for each other), and then Love Interest gallops off to France. (He'd shot a man, again described singularly bloodlessly, and needed to escape the law.) Love Interest returns, accuses Cecilia of betraying him, Cecilia goes mad, Love Interest feels guilty, Love Interest's proud parents feel guilty, Cecilia magically regains her senses and everyone forgives each other. Cecilia and Love Interest live happily ever after, especially after another relative, never before mentioned, decides to give them a fortune to replace the one Cecilia gave up.

This was an infuriating book. Entire plots are forgotten about (what about the lawsuit against Cecilia? Doesn't Love Interest ever get in trouble for shooting Monckton?) and a dozen characters exist only to provide "comic" relief and cautionary tales. Cecilia and Devile are witty characters with a wealth of common sense until they fall in love, at which point the book rapidly devolves into a laughable melodrama.

Here's a randomly chosen sample of Burney's style, complete with sixteen commas in a single sentence: "As she was no longer, as hitherto, repairing to a temporary habitation, which at pleasure she might quit, and to which, at a certain period, she could have no possible claim, but to a house which was her own for ever, or, at least, could solely by her own choice be transferred, she determined, as much as was in her power, in quitting her desultory dwellings, to empty her mind of the transactions which had passed in them, and upon entering a house where she was permanently to reside, to make the expulsion of her past sorrows, the basis upon which to establish her future serenity." Holy crap.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kim.
413 reviews13 followers
January 22, 2020
Cecilia, or "Memoirs of an Heiress", is the second novel by English author Fanny Burney, published in 1782. Burney was a novelist, diarist and playwright. She wrote in all four novels, eight plays, one biography and twenty volumes of journals and letters. Fanny was the third child in a family of six. Fanny's sisters Esther and Susanna were favored over Fanny by their father, for what he perceived as their superior attractiveness and intelligence. I'm not sure how he felt about the rest of his children, but he shouldn't be favoring one over another at all. At the age of eight, Fanny had not yet learned the alphabet, and some scholars suggest that Burney suffered from a form of dyslexia. By the age of ten, however, she had begun to write for her own amusement. Esther and Susanna were sent by their father to be educated in Paris, while at home Fanny educated herself by reading from the family collection, including Plutarch's Lives, works by Shakespeare, histories, sermons, poetry, plays, novels and courtesy books. I'd rather be at home reading by myself than going to school in Paris. Come to think of it, I'd rather be home reading alone than going to school anywhere. But back to Burney, she drew on this material, along with her journals, when writing her first novels. Burney kept a diary, or a lot of diaries I guess, all through her life, and I do the same thing, although hers' were probably much more interesting. The first entry in her journal was made on March 27, 1768, addressed to "Miss Nobody", see right there, mine aren't addressed to anybody, just day, date and start writing. Burney's diary writings were to extend over 72 years. Burney wrote these diaries as a form of correspondence with family and friends, recounting to them events from her life and how she felt about them. Fanny and her sister Susanna were particularly close, and it was to this sister that Fanny would correspond throughout her adult life, in the form of such journal letters. I wonder if my children will publish my diaries once I'm gone, perhaps with the title "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", but I'm pretty sure that's already taken.

Then there is Cecilia, the novel I'm supposed to be talking about. Cecilia, Burney's second novel, is twice as long as the first, Evelina. I read that one too, but I can't remember a thing about it, although I suppose the heroine was named Evelina. Evelina had been so popular that rumors of a new book being published created long waiting lists for the book at circulating libraries even before it was published. I didn't know they had things like waiting lists way back then. The first edition sold out almost immediately. Burney spent about a year and a half, starting in 1780, composing Cecilia while staying at the home of her family friend Samuel Crisp. Burney then spent six months copying and correcting the draft and the book was published in 1782. According to her letters, Burney wrote under tremendous anxiety and familial pressure, but Crisp's home provided a respite and he highly encouraged her work. A highly successful novel, Cecilia went through 51 known editions, and there were at least 25 international editions in places such as the US, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and Russia during Burney's own lifetime. The first and subsequent editions of Cecilia sold out quickly and at Burney's death in 1828, there were 27 editions.

The novel is about the trials and tribulations of a young upper class woman, named, you guessed it Cecilia, who must negotiate London society for the first time. There are a lot of people in this book so if you decide to read it be prepared, I'm never going to remember them all. One character I can remember is Cecilia Beverley. Miss Beverley is extremely wealthy, or at least she will be when she becomes of age - twenty-one I think - until then, her uncle, the one who left her all the money, has chosen three guardians for her, I can't remember how he came to choose these three guys, but he did. Oh, one thing that becomes rather important to everyone in the book except me - if I would have been in the book that is - is that Cecilia can't get married unless the man she marries agrees to take her surname, that is, become Mr. Beverley. Now I suppose her uncle did this so his family name wouldn't be forgotten or some such thing, but it seems dumb to me, it's not like you are going to be here to notice whether or not your name is still around, and when I get to heaven I'm going to be way too busy decorating for Christmas for all eternity than pay any attention to who is named what down here. However, that is the "rule" and if Cecilia marries without her husband changing his name then her fortune goes to the next relative, some second cousin or some such person.

Since she is, or will be wealthy once she is of age, she manages to get in with the wealthy or at least the higher class of society people. The problem with them is that not too many of the men who are Lord this or Lord that are willing to change their names unless they have managed to spend all the money their high society family ever had, in which case they only want to marry Cecilia for her money anyway. So it seems like her choices will be to marry someone she loves, but who refuses to change his family name so she loses her fortune, or to marry a man willing to change his name, in which case he probably doesn't love her just her money, or do the safest thing, just don't marry anybody.

I'm not telling you who marries who, or who doesn't marry who, I wonder if I should use the word who or whom? Anyway, here are some of the other main characters, first the extremely unlikeable Mr. Monckton, he isn't one of her guardians but he certainly acts like he is, he follows her around everywhere and knows everything about her and is just creepy and annoying. Mr. Harrel is the husband of Cecilia's childhood friend, Priscilla, and one of the three guardians. That is where Cecilia goes when she arrives in London, she is to live with them. She finds, however, that her friend isn't the same girl she remembers but now only cares about going about in society, and keeping up appearances. On her arrival, Mrs. Harrel presents her to her “friends,” and every day is filled with parties and London amusements whether they can afford them or not, which soon tire Cecilia. And it is during all this society that we meet most of our characters, Mrs. Harrel's brother Mr. Arnott, I liked him, Mr. Briggs, another guardian, you would think he was down to his last cent the way he lives, quite a strange guy. There is also Mr. Delvile, her last guardian who never said a word that wasn't about himself.

I could start naming people who try to win Cecilia's hand in marriage, but that would take too long, longer than I want to think about it anyway. One of the main contenders for her hand - at least he thought he was - is Sir Robert Floyer, he was on almost every page of the first half of the book, then just seemed to drop out of exsistance, why I'm not sure, but I don't miss him. One of my very favorite characters is Lady Honoria Pemberton, she came along just when I was getting a little bit tired of the story and I welcomed her. She is a relative of the Delviles, whom Cecilia meets during her stay at Delvile Castle. Now Mr. Delvile just loves his castle, almost as much as he loves his family name. Come to think of it, his list of loves would probably go, himself, his name, his castle, his family. Hmm, odd man. Anyway, Lady Honoria is quick and very high-spirited, but without discretion or delicacy for others. She enjoys infuriating the haughty Mr. Delvile by giddy remarks on his castle, such as calling it a gaol. Here's a glimpse of Honoria:

"You think, then, the quarrel more amusing than the reconciliation?"

"O, a thousand times! for while you are quarrelling, you may say any thing, and demand any thing, but when you are reconciled, you ought to behave pretty, and seem contented."

"Those who presume to have any pretensions to your ladyship," said Cecilia, "would be made happy indeed should they hear your principles!"

"O, it would not signify at all," answered she, "for one's fathers, and uncles, and those sort of people, always make connexions for one, and not a creature thinks of our principles, till they find them out by our conduct: and nobody can possibly do that till we are married, for they give us no power beforehand. The men know nothing of us in the world while we are single, but how we can dance a minuet, or play a lesson upon the harpsichord."

"And what else," said Mr Delvile, who advanced, and heard this last speech, "need a young lady of rank desire to be known for? your ladyship surely would not have her degrade herself by studying like an artist or professor?"

"O no, Sir, I would not have her study at all; it's mighty well for children, but really after sixteen, and when one is come out, one has quite fatigue enough in dressing, and going to public places, and ordering new things, without all that torment of first and second position, and E upon the first line, and F upon the first, space!"

"Your ladyship must, however, pardon me for hinting," said Mr Delvile, "that a young lady of condition, who has a proper sense of her dignity, cannot be seen too rarely, or known too little."

"O but I hate dignity!" cried she carelessly, "for it's the dullest thing in the world. I always thought it was owing to that you were so little amusing;—really I beg your pardon, Sir, I meant to say so little talkative."

"I can easily credit that your ladyship spoke hastily," answered he, highly piqued, "for I believe, indeed, a person of a family such as mine, will hardly be supposed to have come into the world for the office of amusing it!"

"O no, Sir," cried she, with pretended innocence, "nobody, I am sure, ever saw you with such a thought."

There are many, many more things I could tell you of the story, and many, many more people I haven't even mentioned, people central to the story, but I'm not going to, I'm ending right now, you'll have to read the book to find out the rest. Make sure you have some free time though, the book is over 900 pages long. Happy reading.
Profile Image for Sotiris Karaiskos.
1,141 reviews81 followers
November 26, 2018
The author of this book is believed that had a great influence on later writers, and this becomes even more apparent in this, which is known amongst others because of this comes the phrase pride and prejudice that I believe something reminds you. Of course, the influence is not limited to one phrase, so reading the book is also an exploratory experience for the history of literature.

Of course, the value of this books is not high only for their historical character, it is high because they are very nice novels. After her excellent first book, Evelina, that impressed me very much, the writer seems to want to go one step further. It is, of course, a book that moves in the same context, with the story of a woman of the upper classes approaching adulthood visiting the bustling London and confronted with situations that show everything about the British society of the time, falls in love but finds many difficulties in fulfilling it, but there are several variations. The size of the book is almost double, with its story going through many stages and the writer moves the social critique a step further, talking about the issues of wealth utilization, social inequality, the position of the woman and her need for some degree of independence. Another distinction is that the tone of the book is much more emotional, especially in the second half of the book that dominates the subject of love that has difficulties, which - to return to the subject of the influence of the writer - is part of the literary climate of the era but at the same time, announces a sequel that eventually ends up in the Gothic novel.

All this in a very interesting story, with an adorable heroine that it is easy to identify with her as she tries to do the right thing, to help her fellow human beings, to find true love, is drifting away, is falling victim exploitation, making countless mistakes, finds happiness, loses it, and in general is a woman who is upset by the injustice and superficiality that seems to dominate around her and thus becomes the mean for the author to express her views and hopes for a better society. On the other hand, the size of the book and the fact that the author devotes too many pages to analyze things and talk about what she wants makes the book somewhat tedious and gives the reader the impression that there is a continuous repetition, which makes me appreciate this book less than her first. The patient reader, however, will be rewarded in the end by understanding that this is a very good book that makes much more than telling a beautiful story.

Η συγγραφέας αυτού του βιβλίου θεωρείται ότι είχε μεγάλη επιρροή σε μεταγενέστερους συγγραφείς και αυτό γίνεται φανερό ακόμα περισσότερο σε αυτό, το οποίο είναι γνωστό μεταξύ άλλων γιατί από αυτό προέρχεται η φράση υπερηφάνεια και προκατάληψη που φαντάζομαι κάτι σας θυμίζει. Φυσικά η επιρροή δεν περιορίζεται σε μία φράση και έτσι η ανάγνωση του βιβλίου είναι και μία εμπειρία διερευνητική για την ιστορία της λογοτεχνίας.

Βέβαια η αξία των βιβλίων δεν είναι υψηλή μόνο για τον ιστορικό τους χαρακτήρα, είναι υψηλή γιατί πρόκειται για πολύ ωραία μυθιστορήματα. Μετά το εξαιρετικό πρώτο βιβλίο της, το Evelina, που με είχε εντυπωσιάσει, σε αυτό η συγγραφέας φαίνεται ότι ήθελε να πάει ��να βήμα παρακάτω. Είναι φυσικά ένα βιβλίο που κινείται στο ίδιο πλαίσιο, με την ιστορία του να αφορά μία γυναίκα των ανώτερων τάξεων που πλησιάζοντας την ενηλικίωσή της επισκέπτεται το πολύβουο Λονδίνο και έρχεται αντιμέτωπη με καταστάσεις που δείχνουν όλα για την Βρετανική κοινωνία της εποχής, γνωρίζοντας παράλληλα τον έρωτα και πάρα πολλές δυσκολίες στην εκπλήρωση του, υπάρχουν, όμως, αρκετές διαφοροποιήσεις. Το μέγεθος του βιβλίου είναι σχεδόν διπλάσιο, με την ιστορία του να περνά από πάρα πολλά στάδια και τη συγγραφέα να πηγαίνει την κοινωνική κριτική της ένα βήμα παραπέρα, μιλώντας για τα θέματα της αξιοποίησης του πλούτου, τις κοινωνικές ανισότητες, τη θέση της γυναίκας και την ανάγκη της για κάποιο βαθμό ανεξαρτησίας. Μία άλλη διαφοροποίηση είναι ότι ο τόνος του βιβλίου είναι πολύ περισσότερο συναισθηματικός, ιδιαίτερα στο δεύτερο μισό του βιβλίου που κυριαρχεί το θέμα του έρωτα που έχει δυσκολίες, κάτι που - για να επιστρέψουμε στο θέμα της επιρροής της συγγραφέως - εντάσσεται στο λογοτεχνικό κλίμα της εποχής αλλά παράλληλα προαναγγέλλει μία συνέχεια που θα καταλήξει τελικά στο γοτθικό μυθιστόρημα.

Όλα αυτά μέσα σε μία πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα ιστορία, με μία αξιολάτρευτη ηρωίδα με την οποία είναι εύκολο να ταυτιστείς μαζί της καθώς προσπαθεί να κάνει το σωστό, να βοηθήσει τους συνανθρώπους της, να βρει τον αληθινό έρωτα, παρασύρεται, πέφτει θύμα εκμετάλλευσης, κάνει αμέτρητα λάθη, βρίσκει την ευτυχία, την χάνει και γενικότερα είναι μία γυναίκα που αναστατώνεται από την αδικία και την επιπολαιότητα, που φαίνεται να κυριαρχούν γύρω της και έτσι γίνεται το μέσο για να εκφράσει η συγγραφέας τις απόψεις της και τις ελπίδες της για μία καλύτερη κοινωνία. Βέβαια, από εκεί και πέρα, το μέγεθος του βιβλίου και το γεγονός ότι η συγγραφέας αφιερώνει πάρα πολλές σελίδες για να αναλύσει τα πράγματα και να μιλήσει για αυτά που θέλει κάνουν το βιβλίο κάπως κουραστικό και δημιουργείται η εντύπωση στον αναγνώστη ότι υπάρχει μία συνεχόμενη επανάληψη, κάτι που με κάνει να εκτιμώ αυτό το βιβλίο λιγότερο από το πρώτο της. Ο υπομονετικός αναγνώστης, όμως, θα επιβραβευτεί στο τέλος καταλαβαίνοντας ότι πρόκειται για ένα πολύ καλό βιβλίο που περιλαμβάνει πολύ περισσότερα πράγματα από την αφήγηση μιας όμορφης ιστορίας.
Profile Image for Kailey (Luminous Libro).
2,916 reviews443 followers
April 16, 2019
Cecilia is a young heiress entrusted to three guardians; the spendthrift Mr. Harrell who only cares about keeping up social appearances at parties, the rich miser Mr. Briggs who lives in squalor and won’t give Cecilia a penny of her fortune until she comes of age, and the haughty Mr. Delville who is determined to keep Cecilia away from his handsome son, Mortimer.

After growing up in the country, Cecilia must learn to navigate the demands of London society, and guard her heart against the numerous suitors who are only interested in her vast fortune. She looks forward to the day when she will come of age, and be able to control her finances and living situation by herself. But the moment she is no longer a minor, all her circumstances become even more complicated, and her relationships spiral out of control. Cecilia must rely on her own inner wisdom and her good heart to salvage a happy life from the wreckage of her youth.

I adored this book! The characters are incredibly real and fascinating. The plot is full of astonishing surprises and dramatic turmoil. There is a duel, and a suicide, financial ruin, mystery, betrayal, secrets, madness, grief, and love, and a lot of hilarious humor. I was laughing and crying and gasping in shock!

The writing is intelligent and weaves a complex tapestry of moods and ideas. Once I reached the end, I was interested to look back and recognize several foreshadowing themes and characters that connect in unexpected ways. Many of the ideas are universal subjects that reflect social interactions and anxieties in any century, and are still applicable today. It was strange and funny to see how people never really change, despite the hundreds of years of history.

Cecilia herself is a wonderful main character. I was completely invested in her story, emotionally attached to her, and engaged with every aspect of her life. She is generous to a fault, and that gets her into trouble. She values her honor and integrity more than anything, willing to sacrifice her happiness in order to fulfill her duty. She is sensitive and smart, preferring the quiet of the country to the bustle of the city. She is also trusting and naïve, believing in the wrong people who take advantage of her, but later in the book she learns some wisdom and begins to take charge of her own life. She is resourceful in the face of tragedy, sensible when others are foolish, and forgiving when people hurt her. She suffers so much in all the drama of the book, but remains strong no matter what happens, and finds purpose and comfort in assisting the poor, donating to good causes, and personally connecting with worthy people who are grateful for her help. Oh, I just love her!

The supporting characters, both men and women, are complex and well-developed. They are memorable and unique, with their own style, their own way of talking and looking and moving. The details are what make these characters so special.

One of my favorite scenes was a masquerade event in London where Cecilia tries to guess who the masked people are, and meets some wild characters. Some of the masked revelers are easy to distinguish because their personalities are so vibrant and unique, and others are shrouded in mystery until later chapters when we learn their true identities.
I was intrigued to find that many of the characters reveal their deepest personalities when their identity is safe behind a mask. The masquerade was like seeing all the madness of society without the thin veneer of refinement. Seeing society as it truly is without the restraints.
And we see the characters as they truly are without their masks of politeness, as they wear a physical mask to hide their faces and their identities. The characters are revealed by their behavior when they think no one knows who they are. There are no consequences, because in the morning, no one will know who was who. Brilliant writing!

My one complaint is that many of the plot devices dragged on for too long. It could have been a much shorter book without losing any of the power of the writing. A shorter story would have kept the momentum going much better.

I loved this book, and I can’t wait to read more from Fanny Burney!
Profile Image for Lisa.
626 reviews29 followers
July 29, 2017
In short, Cecilia is an heiress of great fortune who is also blessed with a wealth of beauty, native refinement, and intelligence. She is a year or so from reaching her majority. Until then she must reside with one of her three guardians. These all prove to be a problem. While Jane has told us that an unmarried man of fortune must be in want of a wife, Cecilia's case proves the same for unmarried young ladies. From the minute she is introduced into London society she is beset with the mostly unwanted attentions from conniving suitors and their supporters. The terms of Cecilia's uncle's will does little to dissuade the rank of suitors, expect one. These terms, that her husband must take her surname, seems peculiar to us, but was in fact not uncommon in those days.

Cecilia provides 90 part delight to 10 parts vexation. Any reader with knowledge of 18th century tropes can well guess the source of the vexation. Yet, Cecilia is a wonderful story of amorous suspense abetted by Pride and Prejudice. Janeites, get your pinafores out of a twist; it was Cecilia's Dr. Lyster who coined the phrase. Our Jane would be the borrower.

The novel's length, the vacillations of will and fortune might provide fatiguing to the modern reader to say nothing of the comic characters and their humours. Burney was writing in an era in which many popular novels revolved around the exploits of a man of humour, some prevailing fancy, affinity or bigotry. Take the works of Tobias Smollett. Such character were much enjoyed and prevailed as minor characters into the 19th century, heavily relied on by writers such as Dickens. Modern readers however weary of this sort of humor, though seem to love it in short dose in the form of situation comedies. The best advice to those who find characters like Hobson irksome is to skip their bits. They rarely add to the plot, though sometimes to the confusion. Absolutely no one says anything in 5 words when 50 are to be found. Once again, this is something modern readers often scorn.

Cecilia, Mrs. Devile and Mortimer's vexing vacillations are more understandable when the 18th century context is given full weight. Yes, the end stoops to a bit of melodrama, but for all this, all 1000+ pages of Cecilia are a worthy delight, if you like this sort of thing, and I do. It is hard to pinpoint why this doorstop of a novel is as appealing as it is. The themes of self-knowledge and remaining true to ones own code are part of the allure. The feeling of being so thoroughly drawn into the ethos of another era--the era just, as in absolutely just, after the colonies that became these United States had won their liberty is another. Cecilia's sense of self direction in an era where most women had little is yet another. Then there is the humor, though more sprightly in the first volume which helps to propel one onward. Mr. Gosport's unfailing guidance of Cecilia as she navigates her new social circles is especially fun. Other characters added for comic relief are also enjoyable - Lady Honoria, Mr. Meadows. The suspense of Cecilia's romantic dealings is quite intriguing as well. The modern reader might be annoyed with the depiction of Cecilia as a paragon of perfection, but please be kind here. Some of us just can't help being practically perfect. Don't judge.

My favorite character aside from the beleaguered Cecilia is Mr. Albany. At first, he figures as a cypher, then becomes instrumental to the denouement. There are many delightful characters that I will not soon forget.
Profile Image for Rikke.
615 reviews647 followers
March 19, 2019
Jane Austen was inspired by Fanny Burney. To such a degree that the famous phrase Pride and Prejudice first appeared in Cecilia. Austen later made that particular phrase immortal. Catherine Morland, the wonderful heroine of Austen's Northanger Abbey, even reads Cecilia and praises it to the skies.

It's easy to see why.

While Cecilia is a melodramatic tale filled with ill-timed declarations of love, suicidal moneylenders, pretentious lords, many faintings and even nights spent in fever-induced ravings, it is at its core a very forward-thinking novel about a woman who cannot marry, because she needs to keep her last name in order to inherit her fortune.

What does a last name signify? Quite a lot, if you read through this novel. Cecilia is almost denied love entirely because a last name not only is associated with identity or family history; but honor and the obligation to immortalize the man's family as well. Cecilia is almost obliged to throw all of this - and her inheritance - away in order to satisfy society's expectations.

This powerful message lies beneath a satiric portrait of the upper class in 1800's London. Burney paints London in vivid colours and creates an absolutely mesmerizing view of a metropolitan city in the middle of the industrial revolution. The characters that populates this London of the past are equally hilarious and infuriating. Burney masters this comic balance to perfection.

The title character Cecilia is a true saint; a little too naive for her own good and quite prone to fainting but as a symbol of purity, she works quite well. She is surrounded by such a comic cast of characters; the silly-minded Mrs. Harrell, the even more naive Mr. Arnott, the raving and almost unintelligible Mr. Briggs and the brilliant Delvile-family, lead by the young Mortimer who is as passionate as Cecilia is pure. God, I loved them all. After all, I did spent a 1000 pages in their company.

Burney doesn't master the depth of her characters as well as Austen; but she is able to invent and describe them as well as Dickens.

While Cecilia is a rather long novel, it is worth every single page. It could certainly have been concluded faster – but what's the fun in that? I enjoyed every single page; it's one of those book you live in while you read.

Her next solicitude was to furnish herself with a well-chosen collection of books: and this employment, which to a lover of literature, young and ardent in its pursuit, is perhaps the mind's first luxury, proved a source of entertainment so fertile and delightful that it left her nothing to wish.
Profile Image for Emily.
275 reviews7 followers
August 11, 2009
One might think Cecelia would be right up my alley. I love social commentary with a healthy dash of romance, I enjoyed Burney's Evelina and I've reread Austen too many times so it was time to branch out. I really cannot recommend this book to anyone. I read the unabridged version, being a snob, and it was somewhere around 950 pages long. I read the first four hundred or so then decided I couldn't take reading about her vicissitudes and skipped to the last 100 pages. I have never done this before but it seemed justified in this case, and it turned out I really didn't miss a thing except more suffering for both Cecelia and myself. I hate stories where everything that can go wrong does again and again and again, and that is precisely what this novel is. I wanted to reach into the book and punch several of the characters, or encourage them to commit suicide as they threatened to. The end, though pat, was also pretty unsatisfying. Why should there be one chapter of frantic tying up loose ends when I had to endure nearly a thousand pages of pulling them apart? Save yourself the hassle, don't bother. If you must dabble in Burney, read Evelina instead, I don't care how controversial or praised Cecelia was in its time.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews131 followers
January 17, 2018
Though her parents and the uncle who raised her have died, life should be almost perfect for open-hearted Cecilia. She has inherited enough money to be independent and to live the life that is her ideal, righting wrongs and helping the less privileged. Unfortunately, anything in this long book that could go awry does. Cecelia is not quite 21, and until she is of age she needs to reside with one of the guardians her uncle has carefully but misguidedly chosen. The first guardian, the husband of a childhood friend, is a gambler with a wild social life who borrows huge sums of money from her. The second is a wealthy but rough talking miser who lives in self-chosen poverty, and the third, an overly proud, pompously condescending aristocrat is not much better than the first two. Cecelia falls in love with the kind and decent son of this third guardian and young Mr. Deville loves her back, but since the terms of her inheritance state that her husband must take her last name his family’s conceit gets in the way of their happy ending. Along the way many, many entertaining characters are introduced, including members of the elite Ton who come in at least two varieties. One set talks highly animated, nonstop frivolities while the other finds everything so excessively dull and boring that any conversation at all is almost unendurable. CECELIA was one of Jane Austen’s influences and the last chapter in which everything is finally made right has the words PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in boldface capitals three times.
Profile Image for Aqsa.
291 reviews300 followers
Want to read
March 4, 2018
So, I thought I'd read this one and the moment I saw 1362 pages, I didn't lose a moment to close it. I don't wanna start a book so long and then get stuck somewhere in the middle :/

What to do?? Help??
Profile Image for Kelsey.
215 reviews
July 24, 2022
I've written it once, and I'll write it again: Jane Austen owes her whole career to Frances Burney. Another reviewer mentioned "someone furiously writing in Bath" in reference to Austen ripping this off, and I immediately thought of:

What a shocking disappointment that Austen's genius is not wholly her own! Look, "Cecilia" IS 18th century "Pride and Prejudice," and in some ways it's better. The stakes feel higher, it's more exciting, and while most of the characters are not super fleshed out, they tend to show more emotion. (Don't even get me started on how Austen's "Northanger Abbey" is basically "Evelina" but worse . . .). Austen used actual lines and got the idea for the title for "P&P" from this, and plot components - with essentially the same commentary Austen makes - that show up in both "P&P" and "Emma." I know, I know, she was "inspired," but how far can inspiration go when it basically becomes *semi-plagiarism?*
I kid, but it does make me wonder . . .

Not that Jane Austen wasn't a fantastic writer in her own right, but when Burney did it first - the scathing, astute social observations, and comedy of manners - do we need Austen? I found Burney's commentary more interesting and complex. Burney touched on it all: economy (e.g., wasteful expenses, going into debt, keeping up appearances, responsible money practices), classism, sexism, rights of women, working class women, the role of marriage, proper marriage, love, intelligent female characters with agency who are respected, social activism, property laws and roles of inheritances, mental illness, a great romantic lead (I love Mortimer Devile, at least the first-half-Mortimer, it's complicated)! Cecilia becomes more complex in the last third, as well. Some of her decisions and reactions to events were interesting to say the least. . And then there are the narrator's observations on Cecilia's relationships with her friends, which bears a striking resemblance to Austen's commentary. One example out of the several: "If left to herself . . . Mrs. Charlton had no pretensions [to Cecilia's friendship]: but those who live in the country have little power of selection; confined to a small circle, they must be content with what it offers . . ." As well as the social commentary that those who have means to help the poor have a moral responsibility to do so, in quintessential Dickens style.

Of course, there are parties, misunderstandings, discussions on feelings/crushes, etc. Need I add the DRAMA! Dear lord, the 18th century was wild, and its novels reflect that. This is not tame compared to Regency works, and you can see how the Victorian period in many ways returned to this style. If you want a comparison, "Cecilia" is more "P&P" with a teeny smidge of "Jane Eyre." As another reviewer described, "It's like an 18th century soap opera starring [Jane/Elizabeth] Bennet and Mr. Rochester." The back of the Oxford World Classics edition describes this as "an unusual and disturbing love story." Up until the halfway mark I was wondering where the "disturbing" part would come in, and once it started getting wild, I thought, "Ohhhhhh, I - I see now . . ." An aspect that adds to this shift is because Mortimer Devile had essentially a complete character change, and I don't know how to feel about it. Really, the entire tone of the second half took so wild a turn that I still have not recovered from the whiplash.


Sure, Austen is definitely an easier - and shorter - read, but c'mon, she was writing nearly 30 years later; language and styles evolve. This is a great dramedy and one of the most fascinating classics I've ever read! Lots of food for thought. I liked this more than "Evelina," but I'm glad I started there with Burney. Give Burney a chance! She deserves it.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
278 reviews316 followers
July 31, 2008
Tis great fun. Relentlessly plagiarised by Austen. Although, malice 'n' insularity are Jane's own work. Credit where credit's due. :p Towards the end, one of the characters even proclaims:
"The whole of this unfortunate business has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE." (Burney's capitalisation, not mine.)

Anyway... 1780s heiress must get husband to take her name. Complications ensue. Influential on Dickens, too. Georgian society depicted in entirety.

*covets flouncy frocks*

*points and laughs at Austen*
Profile Image for Laura Frey (Reading in Bed).
309 reviews115 followers
September 8, 2016
Morty, Morty, Morty. You know, people complain about asshole, alpha-male protaginists in, like, Bronte novels, but I am craving one of those after suffering through his indecisive momma's boy bullshit. At least Heathcliff knew what he wanted!
Profile Image for Hannah Polley.
637 reviews8 followers
July 27, 2017
I have adored Frances Burney ever since I read Evelina and absolutely fell in love with it. So I then bought Camilla and Cecelia immediately. I dithered between giving Cecelia 4 or 5 stars as if it was the only book I had read by the author it would have been 5 stars but it just doesn't feel quite so amazing as Evelina and Camilla so I have relegated it to 4 stars. However, it is still a wonderful book full of drama and detail.

Cecelia is a young woman of beauty and intelligence. In addition to that, she has a fortune of £10000 and an estate that will give her £3000 a year on top of that. However, when her uncle dies 8 months before her 21st birthday, Cecelia is given over to the protection of three guardians until she can claim her fortune.

Cecelia is a wonderful character and I like how Burney gives her everything, including a love of charity and willingness to help the poor. However, a young woman of beauty and fortune is always going to be followed by a succession of men and Cecelia's life is full of drama once she is given over to her wholly unsuitable guardians.

Cecelia is duped out of her £10000 before she is even old enough to inherit it. However, since she will still have £3000 a year she is not too heartbroken. However, the £3000 a year comes with a clause - whoever marries her has to take her surname rather than the other way round. It was a common practice at the time with an heiress but sadly Cecelia falls in love with a man who's family overwhelmingly object to her on that basis.

Across the course of the book, Cecelia is torn between several different people and her principles and is driven almost to insanity. The book does have a happyish ending but not overly so in that by marrying the man she loves, Cecelia has to give up her remaining fortune and can no longer help the poor like she did formerly.

There is a lot more that happens in this book than I have described and even though it is over 900 pages, I would recommend everyone reading it as you will only get the full breath of detail that way. I did find the first 50 pages a bit hard to get into but couldn't put it down after that. Again when it gets to the end it might be a trifle too long but from the introduction in this edition, it seems that Burney felt that herself and wanted more time to edit it.

I also love Burney herself, she was certainly ahead of her time and inspired Jane Austen. There is even a sentence in this book that refers to 'PRIDE and PREJUDICE'. Austen was a fan of Burney's work so it is not hard to think where her title may have come from. I love Austen but I prefer Burney, her work has more drama in that in Austen's stories the real drama tends to happen to minor characters e.g. secret marriages but it Burney's works it happens to the heroines.

I also like the portrayal of men in this novel contrasted against the time it was written. Most of the men depicted are horrible and all are flawed. Even the love interest is not perfect and there were times when I did not want Cecelia to end up with him.

Definitely a must read! And then go and read her other works!
Profile Image for Alice.
1,206 reviews25 followers
February 23, 2012
J'ai d'abord apprécié de me replonger dans les délices de l'Angleterre du 18ème siècle et suivre la jeune héritière Cecilia dans ses péripéties. A la fin du premier tome, j'aurais pu dire que sans retrouver l'esprit de Jane Austen, j'avais passé un agréable moment... Mais à la fin du troisième et après plus de 1000 pages de récit qui se répète et qui n'avance pas, mon desespoir me fait porter un jugement bien plus sévère sur cette oeuvre!

Tout d'abord, inutile de chercher la finesse de Jane, ni même son humour. Ici les personnages sont de véritables caricatures grossières et les scènes et quiproquos sont bien plus proches du théâtre de boulevard que d'une grande oeuvre littéraire.

Un exemple: quand Mr. Collins refuse de croire que Lizzy ne veut pas l'épouser et pense que c'est de la coquetterie, on s'amuse beaucoup et puis dix pages plus loin il a déjà épousé Charlotte et on n'a pas eu le temps de s'en lasser! Ici, quand Cecilia refuse d'épouser le Lord que l'on veut lui coller dans les pattes et que tout le monde pense qu'elle finira pas changer d'avis, on trouve aussi cela amusant. Un peu. Puis, 300 pages plus loin, beaucoup moins. Quand Cecilia doit démentir qu'elle n'est pas fiancée à un tel ou un tel, la première fois cela explique la conduite de certains et c'est intéressant. La quinzième fois, beaucoup moins.

Vous l'avez compris, tout s'étale en longueur dans ce livre, l'histoire comme les dialogues pompeux entre des personnages secondaires, et l'on s'ennuie un peu plus à chaque page. A force, même les personnages principaux deviennent antipathiques, même Cecilia qui est sensée avoir toutes les qualités du monde se révèle parfois extrêmement stupide, facilement manipulable, condescendante et respectueuse de son devoir à l'excès. Même l'histoire d'amour perd de son intérêt, les personnages étant tellement caricaturaux que l'on se demande s'ils s'aiment réellement ou si ce n'est pas une simple toquade.

Je n'en ajoute pas plus, mais je serais bien curieuse de savoir ce qui a pu plaire à Jane Austen dans tout cela. Il semble cependant que les critiques sur Evelina, roman de jeunesse de Fanny Burney, soient meilleures et il n'est pas dit que je ne refasse pas un essai un jour, mais pas tout de suite!
Profile Image for Andrea Lundgren.
Author 1 book11 followers
June 9, 2014
I would not recommend it save for those who wish to gain a fresh understanding and appreciation for Jane Austen by reading one of her predecessors and seeing how Burney handles characters who are similar to some of those in Austen's books.

The book was well written, but I felt the character of Cecilia was inconsistent--she goes from having self-command and the ready wit of an Elizabeth Bennett to being as flustered and bashful as Fanny Price. The characters were interesting, but rather wordy and long-winded at times, but what ultimately made me dislike the book was how long it took for a resolution. The heroine must suffer almost every imaginable difficulty in the course of the three-volume novel before she is finally granted...but I won't spoil the ending. :-)

I felt that, in the course of all the heroine's sufferings, there were few scenes of enjoyment, amusement, or interest, just one trial after another. Even though Austen usually keeps her hero and heroine apart for some time (like in Persuasion), there are enjoyable and interesting scenes along the way. Anne Elliot is suffering, but she is also experiencing moments of joy...when the Captain recommends her as the best nurse for Louisa, for example. Her living situation is endurable, frustrating but not hazardous, and a resolution is desired but not desperately, urgently necessitated. Compared to Cecilia, Anne is living in paradise.

Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,079 reviews336 followers
May 9, 2017
I really liked the premise of this book. After reading Pamela by Samuel Richardson, I was ready for a stronger heroine. The prose and writing is good (for a 18th century novel) but the ending infuriated me.

Granted, Cecilia's uncle's codicil about her husband taking her name or her losing the fortune was weird, but I found it refreshing and hoped that Cecilia would find a man who loved her enough to take on her name. Yes, yes, I know it was the 18th century and men liked being macho and proving their manhood in superficial ways (not too different from today) but in the end, Cecilia loses her fortune when she marries her man since he refuses to take her name.

I'm thinking, for Fuck's sakes! Cecilia is lovely and intelligent and charming with a good inheritance. I'm sure that other men would have been more than willing to take on her name, the fact that Devlin wouldn't should have given Cecilia pause. Alas. And this book is over 1000 pages. 1000 pages for a disappointing conclusion... ugh.
Profile Image for Rosemary.
1,882 reviews78 followers
March 15, 2018
Cecilia Beverley is an orphaned heiress. For the few months until she reaches the age of 21, she has three guardians, none of whom is ideal. One starts to eat into her fortune right away, and other forces are acting against her, while a whole host of suitors try to win her (and/or the money).

First published in 1782, this is a very long novel. Mostly that’s fine, but occasionally I found it tiresome, especially when we have page after page of characters who do nothing except provide comic relief which hasn’t travelled well through time. But it’s surprising in many ways, and definitely worth reading for fans of historical romance, who will find much that is familiar and some that is not.

I’d never heard that Jane Austen took the title of 'Pride and Prejudice' from this book, but she surely must have, since the phrase appears several times in capital letters near the end.
Profile Image for Matthew.
161 reviews2 followers
November 13, 2020
Ah ha! Thanks Burney, Cheers Burney, Ta-da Burney! You and your Cecilia, the MOST BEAUTIFUL of all Heroines because Burney SCRAPPED the idea to make her Ugly because why else is MANSFIELD PARK (actually the best Austen) overlooked so much (the answer is probably something to do because you can't really get your knickers in a twist over it)? Well Cecilia is getting her knickers in a twist over her FORTUNE. Welcome to the land of Burney, where everything it 'proto-', 18th Century Lit is all over the place, lots of time spent focusing on the Psychological novel because the History and Romance Fictions are SO over by 1781, all hail JACOBIN REALISM, ha!

Cecilia is an unreliable narrator because she is told how to think etc by society Burney exploits this for dramatic effect and Cecilia is always in a lose-lose scenario (because that's just how life is, for women, not men). Burney ruins her heroine over the course of 941 pages, pushes her to insanity and doesn't really fully bring her back from the brink in the last 20 pages, nice speech by Dr. Lyster who basically sums up the plot in about a paragraph, name one more novel more fitting of the title PRIDE and PREJUDICE other than this one?! Impossible!

Shocking gunplay from bored contemptuous men, Cecilia bores with the cast of the novel as quickly as we do, a true reflection, a true character, so real and relatable, well THANK YOU Burney, for such an eventual conservative and guarded old lady, 30 year old Frances was a right charmer oooooh.

So this novel really tears apart the themes of society that the Post-Modernists were OBSESSED OMG about, the entire novel is just a heavy ironic sigh, like pull yourself together because Cecilia is DONE.

Cecilia is naive, of course, but she charges into socialisation head-on, good for her, meets a world that moves at her like a killer tornado though, maybe figuratively loses a limb or two (because oh my the finances in this book are ridiculous and complicated but she basically gets conned out of her inheritance, the set-up for the novel being she has to marry a man willing to take her surname, lol good luck combating male pride, and then she gets it all, but once she is initially conned out of her money she's then framed as a criminal for idk what to be honest but she basically freaks out as you would, sigh), so you've got your slimy London a la Dickens, but Burney definitely looks forward to her last novel The Wanderer with lots of melancholic Romantic imprisonment, bless.

664 reviews13 followers
May 6, 2020
This book is somewhat hard to review because I listened to the audiobook which was recorded by volunteer readers. Unfortunately, it was the worst recorded audiobook I've ever encountered. One of the readers was a non-English speaker and didn't know English pronunciation, sentence structure, punctuation, phrasing, intonation, etc., so it was nearly unintelligible in some chapters. Some of the readers were excellent though. However, since the book was so long....and parts of the tale were so drawn out, I was able to figure out most of the storyline. I had to replay the two sentences of Cecilia's marriage a few times to interpret what happened. There were parts of the book I found quite amusing and enjoyable...but other parts were exhausting melodrama. I certainly can see how this writer influenced Jane Austen (but I like Austen better). I'm certain it's a better read if the audio is better!
Profile Image for Verity Brown.
Author 1 book10 followers
June 15, 2012
I read Evelina for a class back in college, and I found it amusing enough (although not as amusing as The Female Quixote: Or the Adventures of Arabella, which was my favorite book from that class). But I developed a taste for the literature of that era, and I've been wanting to read more by Fanny Burney.

I was delighted to find that this book was better written than Evelina. And I was amazed to discover the very real influence of this book on Jane Austen. Admittedly, Austen far exceeded Burney in her talents and skills. But it's intriguing to see what Jane herself was reading, and how it influenced her own writing.

But this book is pretty neat on its own merits. The characters are (depressingly) true to life: despite the changes in vocabulary, customs, and clothing, human nature really hasn't changed much in the past 250 years. The title character, a good-principled, tender-hearted young woman, is exposed to surprisingly distressing levels of the inevitable ugliness of the world, parted from her true love by his parents' pride and the foolish provisions of her uncle's will, and finally placed in situations where she no longer has ANY good choices. Naturally there's a happy ending, but it's clear that Cecilia's happiness has been dearly bought and will never be as complete as her friends think she deserves. Which, too, is true to life.

Admittedly, the middle of the story (from the point when Cecilia leaves London) drags on and on and on, stalled primarily by the artifice of having people misunderstand one another. But I found the last section--in which hope is revived that our star-crossed couple may finally be able to be together--to be a real page-turner. I'll definitely be reading more Burney.
Profile Image for Mary.
92 reviews28 followers
June 28, 2019
What a long, painful, overly drawn and lengthened novel.

Whoa. Whoh.

This novel hurt my eye balls. 😳😳😳👀👀👀

Getting to the point (unlike the book); this book was, in the first 5-7 chapters, quite comical. I laughed. It was funny. But then nothing much came from it. The novel in the beginning picked up but then just slowed right down.

Soooo many chapters were just useless- annoying. They were either the thoughts of Cecilia or further explanation, delving, into the characters of the book.
Just unnecessary chapters which irritated the heck out of me because they served no purpose but rather to just lengthen the darn novel. 🙄

Now the characters. 😤😤😤

Cecilia was a good character. At first. But then on page 450 onwards she just became unbearable.

Why could she not just accept Mortimer!!!! Who cares about his parents!!! Dont you love him?

He was eager. He was willing. But man... The way he speaks and professes is absolutely annoying. I wanted to gourge my eye balls out.

Oh!! And the amount of times from page 450 until at least page 800 (which is half the darn book!!!!) does cecilia tell mortimer to leave her or depart her or whatever!!!!!! 😤😤😤🤬🤬🤬

Ceclia is a whimp . They all speak of her upright conduct and yet she is indecisive as a cow. 🧐🧐 and a cow 🐄🐄🐄 is more decisive than Cecilia.

So overall I laughed. I anticipated. I waited for something to happen!!!!! Nope. Nothing. Hardly any romance.

Their bloody wedding was a one page detail!!!!! Hardly any romance! Or proper conversation!!!

Oh my gosh.

Thanks God I am done

UPDATE: This update will contain most defintively spoilers. So; if you wish to read this novel, DO NOT proceed. Otherwise; if you do not care or have read it... go for your life.

ALSO: I should note that one can see the confusion of my thoughts. This book really, truly dug my head in. So here below is to some coherency!🍻🥂

Now; Here are 6 more things that I wish to add about this book. Why? Because if I do not, then they will continuely linger around my brain, causing great havoc and chaos. So once I let it all out I will feel better.

The first thing: what is wrong with Burney and her language? She writes cheer as "chear" or "chearful" and choose as "chuse". So that when one reads this darn book one ultimately hears the damn english accent within their heads.

The second thing: As I previously menitoned stupid cecilia continually and annoyingly says to mortimer to "leave her now", or "why have you not left yet", or "please go" "go immediately". And funnily enough I mention this TWICE is the fact is, what is constantly playing upon my mind is, that Mortimer will leave and call back and see that stupid idiot cecilia is still as confused and sad or irritated or whatever it is she was when he first left her!!!! So what the bonkers is the point of that!

The third thing: This leads from the previous point. How can you be so highly praised about your moral conduct, when you cannot even be decisive upon making choices about the man you love? You are not behaving inapproprating (no sexual misconduct), all the damn man wants to do is marry him? And what is worse!!!! you love him... you pine for him.... and then when he comes you wonder how!! 😤😤😤😵😵😵😱 And when he did not come to you, you wondered how then also!!!!

I do not see this a high moral conduct at all. Being moral does not make you stupid!!!!!!

The fourth thing: Richness... Now this is one that was playing within my mind quite a bit within the novel.

Quite frankly this cecilia girl is a whiny little spoilt brat! And she has no parents!!! Let me explain the last statement. When she goes to Mr Briggs house, her other guardian, to see if she could live there, and Mr Briggs takes her up the stairs into one of the rooms which could be hers... she sees it does not have curtains around the bed!!! and cecilias thoughts are how on earth she can live at all in such a state, etc, etc. I mean talk about ungrateful!!!

Miss Belfield who has parents cannot afford such a cost of living. Curtains around the bed and a fine house and all. Cecilia who is parentless, under the age and has three guardians to take care of her is COMPLAINING about such nonsesne as this.

Yes, yes. I know what she has been used to. But, P.L.E.A.S.E.

I also ought to say here that her treatment of Mr Briggs has not been particularly kind at all for someone with such high morals. And even of that weird guy, well she and everybody else in the stupid novel call him weird, Mr Albany. Mr Albany sees that she could help the poor with the riches she has been gracefully received.

The fifth thing: this novel has been enigmatic and engaging in the beginning and flat towards the end. There was mystery with the face masks and Mortimer and Mr Gospot was absolutely funny... and the characters were pretty good. I mean; MR Monckton..... i wished she found out that it was him who was a damn creep at that party.... but Burney missed a couple of spots.... I wish there was a slap in the face emoticon. That amount of times I wanted to slap people.....😤😤😤🙄🤯🤯

The sixth thing: finally the last thing. This novel is a Dickensian feel alright. I feel like i should mention that this is the third novel (actually forth including J R R Tolkien middle earth stories like the Silmarillion) which have included, suprisingly, suicide.

Dickens novels; Nicholas Nickleby (my favourite) and Little Dorrit BOTH had suicide within them. This novel also had it. And funnily enough, the suicide was connected in most accounts with money. The rich are not happy when they lose their money. Because then they might have to be humble after all.

This is my second Burney book. I am seeing quite soon that there is a trend with her writing style. And i donot like it.

Well folks. This is all that I had to say.

Phew!!! Got it off my chest. 🤩
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lavan Zerach.
35 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2018
" 'The pitiful prevalence of general conformity extirpates genius, and murders originality; the man is brought up, not as if he were 'the noblest work of God,' but as a mere ductile machine of human formation; he is early taught that he must neither consult his understanding, lest, unhappily for his commerce with the world, his understanding should be averse to fools, and provoke him to despise them; and his inclinations to the tyranny of perpetual restraint, and give him courage to abjure it.' " — p. 50

"The charms of Cecilia had forcibly, suddenly and deeply penetrated his heart; he only lived in her presence, away from her he hardly existed: the emotions she excited were rather those of adoration than of love, for he gazed upon her beauty till he thought her more than human, and hung upon her accents till all speech seemed impertinent to him but her own." — p. 149
Profile Image for Lynne-marie.
464 reviews3 followers
February 6, 2010
I was interested to know what Jane Austen was reading that moved her to be an author, and this surely must have made an impression on her because it is pretty clear in the ending where PRIDE and PREJUDICE are mention three times in a row within a short space in an editorial diatribe, that they furnished the eventual name of one of her best known novels. Of this novel, itself, I may say that it gave me more insight into what the state of literature was like at the time JA was writing -- one heart-throbbing, but unutterably noble and correct vignette at a time. Better developed than Evelina, yet still laking in any sense of reality. Instructive. Giving me a sense of the period.
4 reviews1 follower
April 27, 2016
I expected this to be better than Camilla but was disappointed. It has the same faults: everything goes on too long, and the story and most of characters are unconvincing. The heroine, who understands nothing of what goes on around her and is easily duped by every scheming villain, is tiresome.

As always, Burney is at her best with her comic characters. There are some amusing scenes, but they are thinly spread among acres of stilted speeches and contrived incidents, and the ending is melodramatic.

A reading of Cecilia reinforces the view that the English novel only got properly started with Jane Austen.

Profile Image for Rose A.
204 reviews3 followers
October 26, 2020
Wonderful to reread Cecilia. This is a masterful novel, subtly examining Georgian society from multiple points of view through its different protagonists. My one criticism would be that Burney’s tone and pacing are somewhat uneven. However, the understanding of human nature and characterisation, the wit and emotion present are all superb.
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