“You must get rid … of this Cold, as fast as possible, because we want you at Twickenham!,” cried Richard Owen Cambridge on 22 January 1785 while visiting the ailing Frances Burney at her home in St. Martin’s Street, London. There is little doubt that Cambridge did, indeed, want Burney at Twickenham, often, in fact, possibly even permanently as a daughter-in-law. Invitations to visit Cambridge house and the family estate at Twickenham Meadows, near Richmond Bridge, were frequent during the years between the first meeting of Richard Owen and his son George Owen Cambridge with Burney in late 1782 and Burney’s internment in George III’s court in mid-1786. Nonetheless, it is not clear how much the other members of the Cambridge family wanted her at Twickenham. Burney’s relationship with the Cambridges, especially during the years 1783 to 1786, was problematic at best and for much of the time fraught with tension. More often than not, invitations to Cambridge House provoked anxiety as Burney pondered in her journals how to refuse without giving offence.
At the very moment when Burney should have been enjoying her success and fame, she found herself caught in a “situation so full of agitation, so rarely quiet; so frequently replete with distress—confusion—suspence … even torture.” This paper examines Burney’s shifting, sometimes turbulent, relationship with the members of the Cambridge family—Richard Owen and his wife Mary Trenchard; their daughters Charlotte, Catherine, and Mary; and their sons Richard Owen Jr.; Charles Owen, and, especially, George Owen—in an effort to understand the origins and course of, as Burney puts it, the “war which seems regularly to be declared upon my arrival” at Twickenham.