The formative influence on Frances Burney’s work of the artistic-professional context of her upbringing has only recently begun to be recognized. Early experiences in her father’s musical household informed Burney’s construction of a literary identity that balanced her professionally specialized labor with an aesthetic of domestic privacy. In Memoirs of Doctor Burney, Burney collapses this separation, using her professional abilities in combination with her own intimate, domestic experience. From this, she constructs a public version of her father, Charles Burney, as a polite, sociable man-of-letters rather than a musical professional. In Memoirs, Burney uses biography as a vehicle for the establishment of her own literary authority. In transforming her father from artisanal musician to man-of-letters, she establishes an artistic-professional genealogy in which to site her own literary genius. Most significantly, Burney exerts final creative authority over her father, reimagining inheritance as evolution. Burney simultaneously invokes and obscures her family history in a what I argue is a relational biography: one in which the narrative of her father’s life is indistinguishable from the narrative of her own creative development.
Research Article|April 01 2018
Cassandra Ulph; Authoring the “Author of My Being” in Memoirs of Doctor Burney. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 April 2018; 42 (2): 152–169. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-4384603
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