Evelina Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 51 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Evelina.
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Evelina Summary & Study Guide Description

Evelina Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Evelina by Fanny Burney.

"Evelina" by Frances Burney is a three volume epistolary novel about a young lady of noble birth who has not been acknowledged by her aristocratic father. Raised by Rev. Villars until the seclusion of the country until age seventeen, Evelina finally emerges into London society, only to commit several social blunders due to her lack of experience with society. Eventually, Evelina's virtue gains her the love of a distinguished nobleman and the acceptance of her father. "Evelina" is a fascinating satire on 18th century society, focusing largely on views of women and social classes.

When Rev. Villars learns that Mme. Duval wants to become acquainted with Evelina, his ward, he allows Evelina to visit Howard Grove, fearing Mme. Duval's influence could lead Evelina to a shameful, untimely death like her mother. At Howard Grove, Evelina becomes very close to Miss Maria Mirvan, Lady Howard's granddaughter. So, she asks permission to accompany the Mirvans to London to meet Captain Mirvan who is returning to England after a seven-year absence. Rev. Villars agrees reluctantly. In London, Evelina accompanies the Mirvans on many outings, but while her beauty and the mystery surrounding her social status attracts many people's attention, her lack of knowledge about social conventions leads her to make a series of embarrassing faux pas which expose her to impertinence and unkind ridicule. Still, she gains the attention of Lord Orville, a distinguished nobleman, and the impertinent Sir Clement Willoughby. When Mme. Duval arrives in London, she seems very kind to Evelina and introduces her to her cousins, the Branghtons, whose poor behavior convince Evelina that Lord Orville is unattainable. Evelina and Mme. Duval return to Howard Grove with the Mirvans. At the suggestion of the Branghtons, Mme. Duval wants to sue Sir John Belmont, Evelina's father. She wants him to recognize his heir. Since Rev. Villars disapproves of such measures, Lady Howard writes to Sir John to plead with him to acknowledge his daughter, but he responds unfavorably.

To prevent Mme. Duval from rushing to Paris with Evelina to pursue the lawsuit, Rev. Villars compromises and allows Evelina to spend a month in London with her grandmother. On her second trip to London, Evelina is forced to spend more time with the Branghtons and their ill-bred friends, yet she is moved by one of their boarders, a Scottish poet named Mr. Macartney. After she discourages him from disgrace when she misinterprets his acquisition of pistols as a suicide attempt, Mr. Macartney tells Evelina that he was considering highway robbery to alleviate his financial burdens. His mother has recently died, and he has learned that the father of his beloved is also his father. Evelina gives him her purse to help him. While part of the Branghtons' party, Evelina has several mortifying encounters with Lord Orville, so she is stunned when he expresses interest in renewing their acquaintance. In response to Evelina's letter apologizing for the Branghtons' behavior, Lord Orville writes her an insulting, presumptuous letter just before she returns home to Berry Hill where she falls ill due to her unhappiness at Lord Orville's duplicitous nature.

Hoping to aid Evelina's recovery, Rev. Villars insists that she accompany Mrs. Selwyn, their widowed neighbor, to Clifton Heights where Evelina attracts the unwelcome attention of Lord Merton. She soon learns that he is engaged to Lady Louisa, Lord Orville's sister. Evelina tries to avoid Lord Orville because of his letter. She finds his manners unchanged, and she is torn between her attraction to him and her belief in his past duplicity. When Mr. Macartney visits Evelina to repay his debt, Lord Orville becomes jealous. She assures him that their relationship is of the business variety. Lord Orville arranges a meeting between Evelina and Mr. Macartney. Due to Rev. Villars' fear of Lord Orville's character, Evelina tries to distance herself from her friend, but she is delighted when he admits that he loves her and proposes. Lord Orville denies writing the insulting letter. A short time later, Sir Clement admits that he forged the letter in hopes of separating Evelina and Lord Orville. Learning that Sir John Belmont is in Bristol, Mrs. Selwyn visits him to discuss Evelina. Mrs. Selwyn, and Mrs. Clinton, Rev. Villars' long-time housekeeper, are able to learn that Evelina's nurse passed her own daughter off as Sir John's daughter in order to secure a better future for her child. Upon seeing Evelina, Sir John is guilt-stricken and repentant, immediately acknowledging her as his daughter because of her resemblance to his late wife. Evelina is able to ease his conscience with her gentle pardons and sweet demeanor. Evelina learns that Mr. Macartney is also Sir John's child. Now that the truth of Miss Belmont's parentage is known, Mr. Macartney weds her in a joint ceremony with Lord Orville and Evelina who have never been happier.

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