Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
 
Evelina to the Rev. Mr. Villars
By Frances (Fanny) Burney (Madame d’Arblay) (1752–1840)
 
From Evelina

… THE RELATIONS to whom she was pleased to introduce me, consisted of a Mr. Branghton, who is her nephew, and three of his children, the eldest of which is a son, and the two younger are daughters.
  1
  Mr. Branghton appears about 40 years of age. He does not seem to want a common understanding, though he is very contracted and prejudiced: he has spent his whole time in the city, and I believe feels a great contempt for all who reside elsewhere.  2
  His son seems weaker in his understanding, and more gay in his temper; but his gaiety is that of a foolish overgrown school-boy, whose mirth consists in noise and disturbance. He disdains his father for his close attention to business, and love of money; though he seems himself to have no talents, spirit, or generosity, to make him superior to either. His chief delight appears to be tormenting and ridiculing his sisters; who, in return, most heartily despise him.  3
  Miss Branghton, the eldest daughter, is by no means ugly; but looks proud, ill-tempered, and conceited. She hates the city, though without knowing why; for it is easy to discover she has lived nowhere else.  4
  Miss Polly Branghton is rather pretty, very foolish, very ignorant, very giddy, and, I believe, very good-natured.  5
  The first half-hour was allotted to making themselves comfortable; for they complained of having had a very dirty walk, as they came on foot from Snow Hill, where Mr. Branghton keeps a silversmith’s shop; and the young ladies had not only their coats to brush, and shoes to dry, but to adjust their head-dress, which their bonnets had totally discomposed.  6
  The manner in which Madam Duval was pleased to introduce me to this family extremely shocked me. “Here, my dears,” said she, “here’s a relation you little thought of; but you must know my poor daughter Caroline had this child after she run away from me,—though I never knew nothing of it, not I, for a long while after; for they took care to keep it a secret from me, though the poor child has never a friend in the world besides.”  7
  “Miss seems very tender-hearted, aunt,” said Miss Polly; and to be sure she’s not to blame for her mamma’s undutifulness, for she couldn’t help it.”  8
  “Lord, no,” answered she, “and I never took no notice of it to her: for, indeed, as to that, my own poor daughter wasn’t so much to blame as you may think; for she’d never have gone astray, if it had not been for that meddling old parson I told you of.”  9
  “If aunt pleases,” said young Mr. Branghton, “we’ll talk o’ somewhat else, for Miss looks very uneasy-like.”  10
  The next subject that was chosen was the age of the three young Branghtons and myself. The son is twenty; the daughters upon hearing I was seventeen, said that was just the age of Miss Polly; but their brother, after a long dispute, proved that she was two years older, to the great anger of both sisters, who agreed that he was very ill-natured and spiteful.  11
  When this point was settled, the question was put, Which was tallest?—We were desired to measure, as the Branghtons were all of different opinions. None of them, however, disputed my being the tallest in the company; but, in regard to one another, they were extremely quarrelsome: the brother insisted upon their measuring fair, and not with heads and heels; but they would by no means consent to lose those privileges of our sex; and therefore the young man was cast, as shortest; though he appealed to all present upon the injustice of the decree.  12
  This ceremony over, the young ladies begun, very freely, to examine my dress, and to interrogate me concerning it. “This apron’s your own work, I suppose, Miss? but these sprigs a’n’t in fashion now. Pray, if it is not impertinent, what might you give a yard for this lutestring?—Do you make your own caps, Miss? and many other questions equally interesting and well-bred.  13
  They then asked me how I liked London? and whether I should not think the country a very dull place, when I returned thither? “Miss must try if she can’t get a good husband,” said Mr. Branghton, “and then she may stay and live here.”  14
  The next topic was public places, or rather the theatres, for they knew of no other; and the merits and defects of all the actors and actresses were discussed; the young man here took the lead, and seemed to be very conversant on the subject. But during this time, what was my concern, and suffer me to add, my indignation, when I found, by some words I occasionally heard, that Madam Duval was entertaining Mr. Branghton with all the most secret and cruel particulars of my situation! The eldest daughter was soon drawn to them by the recital; the youngest and the son still kept their places; intending, I believe, to divert me, though the conversation was all their own.  15
  In a few minutes, Miss Branghton coming suddenly up to her sister, exclaimed, “Lord, Polly, only think! Miss never saw her papa!”  16
  “Lord, how odd!” cried the other, “why, then Miss I suppose you wouldn’t know him?”  17
  This was quite too much for me; I rose hastily, and ran out of the room: but I soon regretted I had so little command of myself; for the two sisters both followed, and insisted upon comforting me, notwithstanding my earnest entreaties to be left alone.  18
  As soon as I returned to the company, Madame Duval said “Why, my dear, what was the matter with you? why did you run away so?”  19
  This question almost made me run again, for I knew not how to answer it. But, is it not very extraordinary, that she can put me in situations so shocking, and then wonder to find me sensible of any concern?  20
  Mr. Branghton now inquired of me, whether I had seen the Tower, or St. Paul’s Church? and upon my answering in the negative, they proposed making a party to show them to me. Among other questions, they also asked, if I had ever seen such a thing as an opera? I told them I had. “Well,” said Mr. Branghton, “I never saw one in my life, so long as I’ve lived in London; and I never desire to see one, if I live as much longer.”  21
  “Lord, papa,” cried Miss Polly, “why not? you might as well for once, for the curiosity of the thing: besides Miss Pomfret saw one, and she says it was very pretty.”  22
  “Miss will think us very vulgar,” said Miss Branghton, “to live in London and never have been to an opera; but it’s no fault of mine, I assure you, Miss, only papa don’t like to go.”  23
  The result was, that a party was proposed, and agreed to, for some early opportunity. I did not dare contradict them; but I said that my time, while I remained in town, was at the disposal of Mrs. Mirvan. However, I am sure I will not attend them, if I can possibly avoid so doing.  24
  When we parted, Madam Duval desired to see me the next day; and the Branghtons told me, that the first time I went towards Snow Hill, they would be very glad if I would call upon them.  25
  I wish we may not meet again till that time arrives.  26
  I am sure I shall not be very ambitious of being known to any more of my relations, if they have any resemblance to those whose acquaintance I have been introduced to already….  27
 
 
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