Sex and Subterfuge: Women Novelists to 1850 by Eva Figes

By Eva Figes

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Such being their sentiments, you will not, madam, be surprised that their only son, the sole inheritor of their fortune, and sole object of their expectations, should early have admitted the same. Indeed almost the first lesson I was taught was that of reverencing the family from which I was descended, and the name to which I am born. I was bid to consider myself as its only remaining support, and sedulously instructed neither to act nor think but with a view to its aggrandizement and dignity. Thus, unchecked by ourselves, and uncontrolled by the world, this haughty self-importance acquired by time a strength, and by mutual encouragement a firmness, which Miss Beverley alone could possibly, I believe, have shaken!

Taken to Vauxhall by the vulgar Branghton family, where the Branghton sisters behave in an immodest and unladylike fashion, Evelina writes: 'I must acknowledge, nothing could be more disagreeable to me, than being seen by Sir Clement Willoughby with a party at once so vulgar in themselves, and so familiar to me. '5 Since Sir Clement had behaved with extreme impropriety to Evelina herself and shown himself no gentleman except in name this shame at being seen by him is 38 SEX AND SUBTERFUGE particularly ironic, and highlights Evelina's awareness of her situation.

The Day is never long enough, & I could employ two pens almost incessantly in merely scribbling what will not be repressed. This is a delight to my dear Father inexpressibly great: & though I have gone no further than to let him know, from time to time, the species of Matter that occupies me, he is perfectly contented, & patiently waits till something is quite finished, before he insists upon reading a word. 5 Burney was nevertheless a good deal more independent of her father's domination than Edgeworth, though his approval of her writing was always highly important to her, and his bitter opposition to her marriage caused her considerable distress.

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