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Durham University

Department of English Studies

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Publication details for Dr Gillian Skinner

Skinner, Gillian (2012). '"An Unsullied Reputation in the Midst of Danger": Barsanti, Propriety and Performance in Burney's Early journals and Letters'. Women's Writing 19(4): 525-543.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Although it has been recognized for some time that drama and the theatre were of key importance in Frances Burney's life and writing, the regular presence of Jane Barsanti's name in her journals and letters from 1769 to the late 1770s has remained almost wholly unremarked upon. In this article, the friendship between Burney and the young actress is set centre stage and its importance in the formative years of the writer's professionalism is explored. Barsanti set out in her own professional life during the years leading up to Burney's composition and publication of Evelina (1778). Her situation thus had personal resonance for a young woman whose family was so involved in the world of creative professionalism, and who was contemplating creative work of her own. Burney's interest in and attitudes towards Barsanti in her journals and letters demonstrate the nature of her investment in the possibility that the “prudish” version of feminine propriety she favoured could coexist with a theatrical career. Her representation of and commentary on Barsanti also further our understanding of her own, and her family's, struggles with their status as creative professionals within polite society in the later eighteenth century.

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