Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 2, Ch. 21

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Letter XXI.

EVELINA IN CONTINUATION. Holborn, July 1.-5 o'clock in the morning.

O SIR, what and adventure have I to write!-all night it has occupied my thoughts, and I am now risen thus early to write it to you.

Yesterday it was settled that we should spend the evening in Marybone
Gardensh, where M. Torreh, a celebrated foreigner, was to exhibit some
fire-works. The party consisted of Madame Duval, all the Branghtons,
M. Du Bois, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Brown.

We were almost the first persons who entered the Gardens, Mr. Branghton having declared he would have all he could get for his money, which, at best, was only fooled away at such silly and idle places.

We walked in parties, and very much detached from one another. Mr. Brown and Miss Polly led the way by themselves; Miss Branghton and Mr. Smith followed; and the latter seemed determined to be revenged for my behaviour at the ball, by transferring all his former attention for me to Miss Branghton, who received it with an air of exultation; and very frequently they each of them, though from different motives, looked back, to discover whether I observed their good intelligence. Madame Duval walked with M. Du Bois, and Mr. Branghton by himself; but his son would willingly have attached himself wholly to me; saying frequently, "come, Miss, let's you and I have a little fun together: you see they have all left us, so now let's leave them." But I begged to be excused, and went to the other side of Madame Duval.

This Garden, as it is called, is neither striking for magnificence nor for beauty; and we were all so dull and languid, that I was extremely glad when we were summoned to the orchestra, upon the opening of a concert; in the course of which I had the pleasure of hearing a concerto on the violin by Mr. Barthelemonh, who to me seems a player of exquisite fancy, feeling and variety.

When notice was given us that the fire-works were preparing we hurried along to secure good places for the sight; but very soon we were so encircled and incommoded by the crowd, that Mr. Smith proposed the ladies should make interestw for a form to stand upon: this was soon effected: and the men then left us to accommodate themselves better; saying, they would return the moment the exhibition was over.

The fire-work was really beautiful; and told, with wonderful ingenuity, the story of Orpheus and Eurydiceh: but, at the moment of the fatal look which separated them for ever, there was such an explosion of fire, and so horrible a noise, that we all, as of one accord, jumpt hastily from the form, and ran away some paces, fearing that we were in danger of mischief, from the innumerable sparks of fire which glittered in the air.

 For a moment or two I neither knew nor considered whither I had run;
 but my
recollection was soon awakened by a stranger's addressing me with,
"Come along with me, my dear, and I'll take care of you."

I started; and then, to my great terror, perceived that I had outrun all my companions, and saw not one human being I knew! With all the speed in my power, and forgetful of my first fright, I hastened back to the place I had left;-but found the form occupied by a new set of people.

In vain, from side to side, I looked for some face I knew; I found myself in the midst of a crowd, yet without party, friend, or acquaintance. I walked in disordered haste from place to place, without knowing which way to turn, or whither I went. Every other moment I was spoken to by some bold and unfeeling man; to whom my distress, which I think must be very apparent, only furnished a pretence for impertinent witticisms, or free gallantry.

At last a young officer, marching fiercely up to me, said, "You are a sweet pretty creature, and I enlist you in my service;" and then, with great violence, he seized my hand. I screamed aloud with fear; and forcibly snatching it away, I ran hastily up to two ladies, and cried, "for Heaven's sake, dear ladies, afford me some protection!"

X [h] Marybone Gardens

Places

Marylebone Gardens offered landscaped walks, a great hall and other buildings for concerts and assemblies. The Gardens were in their last days in the early 1770s and closing in 1776 would soon fall to the advancing development of west London.  At the time Marylebone was known for its firework displays.  Admission was as low as one shilling and the Gardens attracted a mixed clientele.  

 

X [h] M. Torre

People

Pyrotechnician, directed fireworks at Marylebone 1772-74.

 

X [h] Mr. Barthelemon

People

Francois Hippolite Barthelemon, French violinist, composer, and leader of the orchestra at Marylebone in the early 1770s. 

 

X [w] make interest

"to bring personal influence to bear," OED,  that is, to use the deference they can secure as ladies to claim a viewing place on the platform.

X [h] Orpheus and Eurydice

Writing & Reading

Orpheus, the mythic musician and poet of the Greeks, charms Pluto and Persephone, dieties of the underworld, with song to rescue his beloved Eurydice from the dead. He is allowed to guide her back to the world of the living on the condition that he not look back at her.  Emerging from the underworld himself he turns to see whether she is still following. When he does so she sinks back into the underworld and is lost to him forever.