Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 1, Ch. 23

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Letter XXIII

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION Queen Ann Street, Tuesday, April 19.

THERE is something to me half melancholy in writing an account of our last adventures in London. However, as this day is merely appropriated to packing and preparations for our journey, and as I shall shortly have no more adventures to write, I think I may as well complete my town journal at once: and, when you have it all together, I hope, my dear Sir, you will send me your observations and thoughts upon it to Howard Grove.

About eight o'clock we went to the Pantheonh. I was extremely struck with the beauty of the building, which greatly surpassed whatever I could have expected or imagined. Yet it has more the appearance of a chapel than of a place of diversion; and, though I was quite charmed with the magnificence of the room, I felt that I could not be as gay and thoughtless there as at Ranelagh; for there is something in it which rather inspires awe and solemnity, than mirth and pleasure. However, perhaps it may only have this effect upon such a novice as myself.

I should have said, that our party consisted only of Captain, Mrs. and
Miss Mirvan, as Madame Duval spent the day in the city;-which I own
I could not lament.

There was a great deal of company; but the first person we saw was Sir Clement Willoughby. He addressed us with his usual ease, and joined us for the whole evening. I felt myself very uneasy in his presence; for I could not look at him, nor hear him speak, without recollecting the chariot adventure; but, to my great amazement, I observed that he looked at me without the least apparent discomposure, though, certainly, he ought not to think of his behaviour without blushing. I really wish I had not forgiven him, and then he could not have ventured to speak to me any more.

There was an exceeding good concert, but too much talking to hear it well. Indeed I am quite astonished to find how little music is attended to in silence; for, though every body seems to admire, hardly any body listens.

We did not see Lord Orville till we went into the tea-room, which is large, low, and under ground, and serves merely as a foil to the apartments above; he then sat next to us. He seemed to belong to a large party, chiefly of ladies; but, among the gentlemen attending them, I perceived Mr. Lovel.

I was extremely irresolute whether or not I ought to make any acknowledgments to Lord Orville for his generous conduct in securing me from the future impertinence of that man; and I thought, that, as he had seemed to allow Mrs. Mirvan to acquaint me, though no one else, of the measures which he had taken, he might perhaps suppose me ungrateful if silent: however, I might have spared myself the trouble of deliberating, as I never once had the shadow of an opportunity of speaking unheard by Sir Clement. On the contrary, he was so exceedingly officious and forward, that I could not say a word to any body but instantly he bent his head forward, with an air of profound attention, as if I had addressed myself wholly to him; and yet I never once looked at him, and would not have spoken to him on any account.

Indeed, Mrs. Mirvan herself, though unacquainted with the behaviour of Sir Clement after the opera, says it is not right for a young woman to be seen so frequently in public with the same gentleman; and, if our stay in town was to be lengthened, she would endeavour to represent to the Captain the impropriety of allowing his constant attendance; for Sir Clement with all his easiness, could not be so eternally of our parties, if the Captain was less fond of his company.

At the same table with Lord Orville sat a gentleman,-I call him so only because he was at the same table,-who, almost from the moment I was seated, fixed his eyes steadfastly on my face, and never once removed them to any other object during tea-time, notwithstanding my dislike of his staringd must, I am sure, have been very evident. I was quite surprised, that a man, whose boldness was so offensive, could have gained admission into a party of which Lord Orville made one; for I naturally concluded him to be some low-bred, uneducated man; and I thought my idea was indubitably confirmed, when I heard him say to Sir Clement Willoughby, in an audible whisper,-which is a mode of speech very distressing and disagreeable to bystanders,-"For Heaven's sake, Willoughby, who is that lovely creature?"

X [h] Pantheon

Places

The Pantheon on Oxford Street was a site for gatherings and musical entertainments like Ranelagh but here the space was indoors and designed for a winter season.  The attached print attributed to William Hodges with figures by Zoffany gives a sense of the scale that Evelina notes. 

 

X [d] staring

The "stare" sets up questions of identity that reflect back on the man himself from Evelina's point of view, concluding him "some low-bred, uneducated man," followed by her shock at discovering the starer is a gentleman, in fact a peer.  Yet the stare as a sexual overture also shows up the instability of Evelina's…

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