Frances Burney's opinion of the Bluestocking circle has often been interpreted negatively due to her comic play, The Witlings (1779), which ridicules members of the group. In fact, Burney's perception of the Bluestockings, explained here through her relationships with three of the principal members, Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Carter, and Hester Chapone, underwent a complete transformation by the time she published her father's biography, Memoirs of Dr. Burney (1832), which contains glowing tributes to the group and its members. This essay seeks to explain the radical change in Burney's view of the Bluestockings, arguing that it is related to her romantic embarrassment regarding George Cambridge. Though little discussed, Burney's inclinations for Cambridge and participation in the Bluestocking circle were explicitly and humiliatingly linked in a “fatal paragraph” in the 22 March 1783 issue of the Morning Herald, a paragraph that was the culmination of a series of published connections between Burney and the Bluestockings following her abandonment of The Witlings. Such unwelcome publicity coincides with accounts of Burney's coldness toward the group, though her attitude eventually deepened into a warm appreciation by the end of her life. A broad sampling of her work from her early journals and The Witlings through her companion comedy The Woman-Hater (1802), later life-writings, and the Memoirs of Dr. Burney provides a more complete account of her relationship with the Bluestocking circle.
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Research Article| January 01 2022
Hilary Havens; “How Is Our Blue Club Cut Up!”: Frances Burney's Changing Views of the Bluestockings. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2022; 46 (1): 37–55. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-9467191
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