Monday, December 16, 2019


Cecilia. Frances Burney. 1782. 1056 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: “Peace to the spirits of my honoured parents, respected be their remains, and immortalized their virtues! may time, while it moulders their frail relicks to dust, commit to tradition the record of their goodness; and Oh, may their orphan-descendant be influenced through life by the remembrance of their purity, and be solaced in death, that by her it was unsullied!” Such was the secret prayer with which the only survivor of the Beverley family quitted the abode of her youth, and residence of her forefathers;

Premise/plot: Cecilia, the heroine, is a heiress. Despite her soon-to-be large fortune, she finds making a match difficult--if not impossible. One reason is that while men may be quick to fall in love with her--or her fortune. She is not so quick to "fall for" any man. But primarily the greatest obstacle to her "catching" a husband is the stipulation that the MAN CHANGE HIS SURNAME to hers. (I believe it's Beverley.) It isn't easy for Cecilia to be an independent woman. I believe the novel opens when she isn't quite of age to accept her inheritance. But even once she's of age, she cannot live on her own and do as she pleases. She has three guardians: Mr. Harrel, Mr. Briggs, and Mr. Delville. Each is bad news in his own unique way. All have different weaknesses that make them less than ideal to "manage" or "guard" her. Will she ever find her true love match? Or will she die insane?

My thoughts: It feels like I've been "reading" this one FOREVER AND A DAY. I know I was "currently" reading it in May of 2019. I finished December 11, 2019. What did I think of this one? 

I think it is LONG, LONG, VERY LONG. I think it has a couple dozen too many characters if you want to keep track of them all. I think the dialogue is unnatural and melodramatic. I can't imagine it being a reflection of any time. The sentence structure--not only of the dialogue, but in general--is absurd. If I had to guess, most sentences would have 200 to 300+ words. Of course, there are a few gems hidden deep within.


So short-sighted is selfish cunning, that in aiming no further than at the gratification of the present moment, it obscures the evils of the future, while it impedes the perception of integrity and honour.
Pleasure given in society, like money lent in usury, returns with interest to those who dispense it:
“If sorrow,” cried Mr Belfield, darting upon her his piercing eyes, “wears in your part of the world a form such as this, who would wish to change it for a view of joy?” 
“You intend, then, madam,” said Mr Belfield, “in defiance of these maxims of the world, to be guided by the light of your own understanding.”
“Be upon your guard,” he cried, “with all new acquaintance; judge nobody from appearances; form no friendship rashly; take time to look about you, and remember you can make no alteration in your way of life, without greater probability of faring worse, than chance of faring better. Keep therefore as you are, and the more you see of others, the more you will rejoice that you neither resemble nor are connected with them.”

“You, Miss Beverley,” said Mr Arnott in a low voice, “will I hope give to the world an example, not take one from it.”

She got together her books, arranged them to her fancy, and secured to herself for the future occupation of her leisure hours, the exhaustless fund of entertainment which reading, that richest, highest, and noblest source of intellectual enjoyment, perpetually affords.
A strong sense of DUTY, a fervent desire to ACT RIGHT, were the ruling characteristics of her mind:

Hope is never so elastic as when it springs from the ruins of terror.
You are much deceived; you have been reading your own mind, and thought you had read his.

I hate every thing that requires attention.

But it is vain to debate where all reasoning is disregarded, or to make any protestations where even rejection is received as a favour.
Let us live to ourselves and our consciences, and leave the vain prejudices of the world to those who can be paid by them for the loss of all besides!
 People reason and refine themselves into a thousand miseries, by chusing to settle that they can only be contented one way; whereas, there are fifty ways, if they would but look about them, that would commonly do as well.

The true art of happiness in this most whimsical world, seems nothing more nor less than this — Let those who have leisure, find employment, and those who have business, find leisure.
 Misery seeks not man, but man misery. He walks out in the sun, but stops not for a cloud; confident, he pursues his way, till the storm which, gathering, he might have avoided, bursts over his devoted head.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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