Burney, Sarah Harriet (DNB00)

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BURNEY, SARAH HARRIET (1770?–1844), novelist, the youngest daughter of Dr. Charles Burney (1726–1814) [q. v.] was his only child by his second wife, Mrs. Stephen Allen, widow of a wealthy merchant at Lynn (Introd. to Diary of Mme. d'Arblay, i. 13). No date is given for the birth of Sarah Harriet, but it must have been about 1770. Sarah Harriet Burney is referred to in 1778 as ‘little Sally’ by Mme. d'Arblay (Diary, i. 31), and in 1791 and 1792 she accompanied her half-sister to Hastings's trial by express invitation of the queen. She could translate Ariosto from the Italian (Tales of Fancy, preceding vol. ii.), besides being an excellent French scholar; and on the arrival in England of the French émigrés in 1792, when she was staying at Bradfield Hall with Arthur Young the agriculturist (who had married her mother's sister), she acted as interpreter between her uncle and the Duc de Liancourt, who was his frequent guest (Diary, v. 284–96). Miss Burney next resided at Chelsea College with her parents, where her mother died in 1796 (Memoirs of Dr. Burney, iii. 224–5). At this date her father characterised her as of quick intellect and distinguished talents, a kind and good girl, but with no experience in household affairs. In 1796 she brought out her first novel, ‘Clarentine,’ anonymously. This was well received, and was read by the king and queen (Diary, vi. 128). In 1808 she brought out ‘Geraldine Fauconberg;’ in 1812 ‘Traits of Nature,’ the first edition of which ‘charming novel was sold in three months’ (Biog. Dict. of Living Authors), compelling a second issue the same year; and in 1813 a second edition of ‘Geraldine Fauconberg’ was called for. In 1814 Miss Burney lost her father, but she was not immediately removed from Chelsea College, whence, in December 1815, she published ‘Tales of Fancy,’ with her name, dedicating the first tale to Lady Crewe, and the second, by royal permission, to the Princess Elizabeth. After this she left England for Florence, where she passed several years, and where she began to write her ‘Romance of Private Life,’ which she published after her return home in 1839, the first tale in it being dedicated to Niccolini, the Italian singer, and the second to Lord Crewe. In 1844, on 8 Feb., Miss Burney died at Cheltenham (Gent. Mag. new ser. xxi. 442), bequeathing some of her property to her half-nephew, Martin Charles Burney, the friend of Lamb (Annual Reg. 1852, p. 322).

‘The Wanderer’ is frequently set down as one of Sarah Harriet Burney's books. This is an error. It was written by Madame d'Arblay (Diary, vii. 15–16).

[Mme. d'Arblay's Diary, ed. 1854, i. Introd. 13, 31, v. 159, 162, 191, 220, 253, 294–6, vi. 3, 77, 128, vii. 15, 16; Mme. d'Arblay's Memoirs of Dr. Burney, 1832, i. 88, 97, iii. 224, 225, 410, 425; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Gent. Mag. new ser. xxi. 442; Annual Reg. 1852, p. 322; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816.]

J. H.