BURNEY, Charles, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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BURNEY, Charles (1726-1814). Musician, author and father of Fanny Burney.
Four autograph diary entries, 2 pages 8vo (removed from a diary, slightly creased), docketed by Fanny Burney with two of her editorial symbols, September 1799. Recording social events including a dinner with William Pitt, Henry Dundas and George Canning later recounted in detail in a letter to Fanny Burney.
'The news of Seringapatam being taken by storm ... having been just announced ... the company was in high spirits ... having sat at the bottom of the table, as maitre de la maison, when the ladies retired, I was called on to ... circulate the bottle - I had just rec[eive]d my letter from Herschel chiefly ab[ou]t adjusting a telescope w[hi]ch he had made for Mr Pitt - this I gave him to read - & having discussed that subject, we went to the ladies - Had music ... and fine and open conversation.'

This dinner took place in September 1799 in Dover, where Burney had been invited to witness the preparations for an expedition against the Netherlands. His 'lively and spirited, yet unaffected and unpretending account of this excursion' was published in his Memoirs (vol. III, pages 272 ff.), as was the letter to his daughter of 15 September in which Burney expands on the details he jotted down in this diary entry: 'The dinner was very cheerful, you may imagine, for these Messieurs had brought with them the important news of the taking of Seringapatam, truly gratifying to Mr Pitt, but doubly so to Mr Dundas, who plans and directs all India affairs ... after the ladies left the dining room ... I was voted into the chair at the head of the table, to put the bottle about! and that between the first ministers, Pitt & Dundas! ...' It is clear from both his diary entry and his letter that Burney was impressed by Pitt's social charms: 'No one can be more cheerful, attentive, and polite to ladies than Mr Pitt; which astonishes all those who ... have taken for granted that he is no woman's man, but a surly churl. ...'

Burney's letter to his daughter also elaborates on two episodes mentioned in the diary entry: the discussion of a letter written by Herschel to Burney explaining how to operate a telescope which Pitt had acquired; and an anecdote related 'very pleasantly' by Pitt about a faux pas committed by a lady when speaking to Sheridan about his play Pizarro.

On the verso are three further entries recording visits to the bluestocking Mrs Ord, Mrs Boscawen and other acquaintances.

The main diary entry has been marked by Fanny Burney with her characteristic editorial symbols: two slanted crosses with three and four dots. She used these symbols to classify her father's papers in preparation for her 1832 edition of his Memoirs, and employed the same system for a projected volume of his correspondence.
[No: 25479]

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