Svetlana KochkinaJun 25, 2023
Frances Burney’s “Evelina”
The Book, its History, and its Paratext
Palgrave MacMillan 2023
Evelina, the first novel by Frances Burney, published in 1778, enjoys lasting popularity among the reading public. Tracing its publication history through 174 editions, adaptations, and reprints, many of them newly discovered and identified, Frances Burney’s 'Evelina': The Book, its History, and its Paratext (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023) demonstrates how the novel’s material embodiment in the form of the printed book has been reshaped by its publishers, recasting its content for new generations of readers.
Kochkina vividly describes how during 240 years, Evelina, a popular novel of manners, metamorphosed without any significant alterations to its text into a Regency “rambling” text, a romantic novel for “lecteurs délicats,” a cheap imprint for circulating libraries, a yellow-back, a book with a certain aesthetic cachet, a Christmas gift-book, finally becoming an integral part of the established literary canon in annotated scholarly editions. This book also focuses on the remodeling and transformation of the paratext in this novel, written by a woman author, by the heavily male-dominated publishing industry, as well as alterations in the forms of Burney’s name and the title of her work, the omission and renaming of her authorial prefaces, and the redeployment of the publisher’s prefatorial apparatus to support particular editions throughout almost two-and-a-half centuries of the novel’s existence.
This book also provides an illuminating insight into the role of Evelina’s visual representation in its history as a marketable commodity, highlighting the existence of editions targeting various segments of the book market: from the upper-middle-class to mass-readership. The first comprehensive and fully updated bibliography of English and translated editions, adaptations, and reprints of Evelina published in 13 languages and scripts appears in an appendix.
Jen Hoyer is Technical Services and Electronic Resources Librarian at CUNY New York City College of Technology. Jen edits for Partnership Journal and organizes with the TPS Collective. She is co-author of What Primary Sources Teach: Lessons for Every Classroom and The Social Movement Archive.