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This report is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

Only One Must Not Say So Frank Kuppner

Aha! Suddenly, a likely treasure beckons from among the huge, saddening columns of misapplied endeavour which make an obstacle-course of this out-of-town, book- infested junk shop. The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, no less! Fine; fine. All highly acceptable. One is usually not uninterested in these intelligent, aristocratic, well turned-out Frenchwomen - even if this particular, vaguely familiar title does rather hover beyond specific recall. Which one was she? Which Louis did she (presumably) enchant?

But a first close look reveals that we have here none other than Fanny Burney (wildly successful authoress of Evelina, etc. etc.), cloaked in her somewhat late-acquired married name. The relentlessly talkative shop-owner conjures a price out of the startled air to match my exaggerated enthusiasm (perhaps I had been caught off-guard by some such heading as Fanny Pursued by the King in Kew Gardens - page 184?), radically downshifts when I obviously hesitate (one is not quite that fascinated, after all) and soon the Divine, er, Fanny is, as it were, entirely mine. (Besides which, Doctor, it’s a name I have always simply and open-heartedly loved. Yes, I admit it. Loved.)

Perhaps few of us ever lead a life that turns out to have perfectly fitted us. But not too many can have torn up the first draft quite so thoroughly as did this gentle and likeable woman - among other things, member of the Dr Johnson circle, Second Keeper (only second, alas) of the Robes to Queen ...


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