This week we’ll be taking a slight diversion from Austen to look at one of the books that inspired her — Fanny Burney’s Cecilia. This is a book Austen loved, and she snagged the title for Pride and Prejudice from one of its pages. I’m immersed in it now, and loving it (although I agree with Burney herself that it could have used one more edit).
Cecilia is a nearly-perfect heiress, whose near relations have all passed away. But she can only keep her fortune if the man she marries agrees to take her name. And young Delvile, whom she adores, has a difficult time conquering his family pride, his name being the one barrier to their happy union. (Though perhaps I’m giving away too much.)
Today, here’s a bit from the spiteful old Lady Margaret, whose husband hopes she will die soon so he can propose to Cecilia:
“I never saw any thing eligible come of young women’s having houses of their own; she will do a much better thing to marry, and have some proper person to take care of her.”
Cecilia, volume 4, book 7, chapter 1
Frances d’Arblay (‘Fanny Burney’) by Edward Francesco Burney
© National Portrait Gallery, London.