New research: Professor Peter Sabor, ‘Frances Burney’s Passage to E.M. Forster’

At the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference 2016 (held at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, 6-8 January), Professor Peter Sabor (Director of the Burney Centre, McGill University) delivered a paper tracing Frances Burney’s relationship in her later life with the Rev. Charles Forster, chaplain to Bishop of Limerick. In a panel called ‘Recollections, Representations, and Misrepresentations: Burney, Johnson and Malone’, Peter began by explaining how Burney and Forster exchanged books and both engaged in biographical projects in the early nineteenth century: Forster worked on a biography of his patron and close friend the Bishop, whereas Burney was engaged in laying the groundwork for her (ultimately poorly received) Memoirs of her father Dr. Charles Burney. Charles Forster was grandfather to E.M. Forster, who was responsible for preserving some of the letters between his relative and both Burney and her son Alex. (These letters, held at Cambridge University, have been only recently discovered , and will be published in Peter’s forthcoming Additional Journals and Letters of Frances Burney (vol. 2). ) The letters reveal much about Burney’s later life, and her attempts to procure patronage for her somewhat hapless son. It was interesting to see Burney critiquing Charles Forster’s manner of memorialising the Bishop, given the fact that her own Memoirs of her father were ultimately so poorly received. It was also fascinating to see Peter exposing some of the surprising networks of Burney’s old age; she corresponded with well-known figures including Wilberforce and Disraeli. Peter finished by discussing E.M. Forster’s critical appraisal of Burney’s works. His commonplace book, for example, contains the following review of her novel Camilla (1796) from Horace Walpole:
‘How [do] I like Camilla? I do not care to say how little. Alas! She has reversed experience, which I have long thought reverses its utility by coming at the wrong end of our life when we do not want it. This author knew the world and penetrated characters before she had stepped over the threshold; and now she has seen so much of it, she has little or no insight at all.’

EM Forster’s memorialisation of his own grandfather provides an intriguing parallel to the numerous attempts by younger Burneys to commemorate their elder relatives (e.g. Charlotte Barrett’s edition of Frances Burney’s Journals and Letters, or Frances Burney’s Memoirs of her father) and can help to place these attempts in a wider context of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century ideas about kinship and commemoration.

Report by Sophie Coulombeau, Cardiff University

New research: upcoming Burney papers

A digest of upcoming papers and conferences concerning Frances Burney and her family in 2016. Please drop us an email on if you would like to publicise a Burney-related event, conference, or paper.


Dr. Aleksondra Holtquist (Melbourne) will be delivering a paper called ‘Burn(ey)ing the Amatory: What Behn Taught Burney’ on 22nd February in Oxford. This is part of Oxford University Faculty of English Language and Literature’s Restoration to Reform Seminar. Please see here for further details.


Numerous papers on Frances Burney are due to be delivered at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, March 31-April 1 2016. (Please see here for the full programme). These include:

  • A panel sponsored by the Burney Society (North America): “Frances Burney and Other Women Writers” (The Burney Society) chaired by Dr. Hilary Havens, University of Tennessee.1. Sophie Coulombeau, Cardiff University, “Mrs. Delvile and Mrs. Montagu: The ‘point of the name’ in Frances Burney’s Cecilia” 2. Jessica Evans, University of Kentucky, “The ‘Revised’ Legacy of Frances Burney: Edgeworth’s Belinda and Burney’s Evelina” 3. Elaine Bander, Dawson College, “‘Cecilia, or Camilla, or …?’ Austen’s Evolving Revisions of Burney” 4. Jocelyn Harris, University of Otago, “Fanny Burney and Jane Austen” Respondent: Katie Gemmill, Columbia University.
  • Katie Gemmill, Columbia University, “What Shame Does to Form in Burney and Boswell”
  • Melanie Zynel, Wayne State University, “Queer Aging in Frances Burney’s Evelina”
  • Erik Bond, University of Michigan – Dearborn, “Rehearsing the Unspeakable: Burney’s Mastectomy and the Otherness of Pre-Romantic Trauma”
  • Henna Messina, University of Georgia, “Domestic Liminality and Dislocation in Frances Burney’s The Wanderer”
  • Katherine Richards, West Virginia University, “‘To meet the coming blow’: The Surgical Procedure and Cultural Significance of Frances Burney’s Mastectomy”
  • Candace Cunard, Columbia University, “‘Compelled to Be Patient’: Patience as a Woman’s Burden in Frances Burney’s Cecilia”
  • Tara Ghoshal Wallace, George Washington University, “Crossing England’s Wilderness in Burney’s The Wanderer and Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian”


The 2016 Conference of the Burney Society (UK) will take place in Durham on 4-6 July 2016. The theme is ‘Burney and Popular Entertainments: the business of pleasure in Late-Georgian Britain’. Please see here for further details. A programme will be posted here in due course.



The 2016 Conference of the Burney Society (North America) will take place in Washington, DC on 20-21 October 2016. The theme is ‘Burney and Politics’. Please see here for further details. A programme will be posted here in due course.


Georgian Papers Programme Fellowships

King’s College London invites applications for the award of a bursary of £500 to support original research on the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle for up to a month.

King’s College London is the lead academic partner for the Georgian Papers Programme, a collaboration with the Royal Archives and Royal Library to shed new light on the Georgian period. The Programme is promoting and developing a research programme in support of the digitisation of some 350,000 pages of original archives, only 15% of which have been published to date.

Fellows will undertake their own research. Fellows will also be invited by staff of the Georgian Papers Programme to share their insights into the collection, and to present a seminar paper to the King’s College London Centre for Enlightenment Studies, the History Department, the War Studies Department or the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine as appropriate.

Successful applicants will have full day access to the Royal Archives but should be aware of the need for ample forward planning to allow for security clearance, the identification and retrieval of material of relevance from vaults (catalogues presently available are limited) and the occasional closures of the Castle.

King’s College London is a recognised hub for the interdisciplinary study of the eighteenth century. The Centre for Enlightenment Studies consists of 25 academics from eight departments and draws on a range of expertise in the field of literature, cultural and intellectual history, science and medicine, music, languages, philosophy and religion, naval and military history. King’s runs a highly successful MA in 18th Century Studies with the British Museum. King’s Department of Digital Humanities and the Archival Service equally have a track record of ground breaking research and delivery in the fields of digital access and data interpretation.

Two awards of £500 each are available in 2016 to support travel and subsistence.

Applications should forward their curriculum vitae and a letter explaining why they believe access to the Royal Archives might be of benefit to their research to Anna Maerker (

The Royal Archives will welcome forward enquiries about the likely availability of original archives to specific research topics at Applications are welcome from researchers at all stages in their careers and may relate to any relevant discipline.

The closure date for applications is 31 January 2016.

The Hester Davenport / Burney Society Fellowship at Chawton House


The Burney Societies of the UK and North America sponsor a one-month fellowship at Chawton House Library, which will be awarded in preference for work on the Burney family and their circle, broadly defined. The fellowship was established in memory of Hester Davenport (1936-2013), independent scholar and biographer, who was the author of important and influential work on Frances Burney and Mary Robinson, including Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of George III (2000) and The Prince’s Mistress: A Life of Mary Robinson (2004). Preference will be given to an independent scholar, but the selecting committee will consider all eligible applications carefully.

Please see here for information about all Chawton House fellowships, and information about how to apply.



Please see below for links to selected societies and resources that may be of interest.

18th and 19th Century British Women Writers’ Association

American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS)

Australia and New Zealand Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies

Chawton House Library

National Portrait Gallery

Orlando: British Women’s Writing

The Bibliographical Society

The Burney Centre

The Johnson Society of London

Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837


If you would like us to feature a link to your society, please email us on

Forthcoming special issue of Eighteenth-Century Life: ‘New perspectives on the Burney Family’

A special issue of the journal Eighteenth-Century Life (Duke University Press) called ‘New Perspectives on the Burney Family’ will be published in 2017, edited by Dr. Sophie Coulombeau (Cardiff University). It will feature selected papers from an international symposium held at Cardiff University in September 2015 called ‘Scandal and Sociability: New Perspectives on the Burney Family’. For a report on the symposium, please see here.

For information about the journal and how to subscribe, please see here.