The Virtual Diary of Fanny Burney In Italy
1784, 12 September
Dearest Whomever, I find myself once again turning to these pages for solace and guidance when none is forthcoming elsewhere. I grow more restless as the summer turns to Fall, knowing that I must soon make a decision regarding my winter time accommodations. I could stay right where I am, in Italy, quietly content among the people of this lovely Island. It is certainly true that it is inexpensive living here. Also true that saving money while I complete the drama is an absolute goal. My heart's desire is, of course, to return home to Father, family, and most perfect England in time for Yule. But, there, my presence would certainly be a financial strain on Father, who does not need any further strain, already being encumbered by The Grande Dame, my dearest second mother. I should hate to be the cause of further stress for my father. And, if I am to be completely honest -- and why shouldn't I be in the unseen pages of this diary? -- I do desire something even more than to spend the winter with family and friends at home. My heart's greatest desire is to spend Christmas in the company of a certain French soldier.
I have finally received word from him. He tells me that he would like nothing more than to board the next boat south from Marseilles but finds himself pressed into further service for his King. Henri has written, "The King himself has asked for me. How can one refuse such an invitation to serve at the will of Louis?"
I would like to be impressed by this-- how many men can say they have been called by name to royal service? And of course, I am impressed-- it's just that impressed and happy are not the same thing. I would be happier if the French King were to shine his radiant favor elsewhere for just a few months. I don't mean to keep the good Lieutenant from his duties forever, of course, but it would be nice if he were free just long enough for us get to know one another a little better. Henri alludes to his plans for the future and seems to imply that these plans include "my little English novelist," as he calls me. Is it silly that my heart flutters as I write these words? His little novelist. I have been called a novelist before, and many names far less flattering as well. Little has often been a word used to describe me. But his-- or My, in the first person as he uses the possessive -- I have never before been a His or a My. It is that sense of being claimed that makes me blush with pleasure.
Am I too silly a woman to be taken seriously by any serious person? Certainly Dr. Johnson would say I should be contemplating the turns and turmoils of the play at hand. That revered man would tell me to empty my head of all romantic fantasy except that which will be included in my work, thus helping me earn a living through the theater box office.
Oh I I wish Daddy Crisp were still alive! He would certainly have been pleased to find me so besotted as to entertain him with girlish frivolities. Were he here today, I would surely dance a boisterous spree, celebrating the fact that a French soldier has called me his own.
I am surrounded by near strangers, unable to sing my joyful song. Even Lorsagne has been silent these many weeks she has been away in France. I do so long for her return. She at least is not shocked by open conversation of my secret yearnings. I so hope her business in France goes well and comes to a happy conclusion so that she can return here before I am forced to leave. At the very least, I hope she is able to write. Her letters are such a balm to my lonely soul. Of course, Susan and Hetty write frequently. So do Father and Dr. Johnson, but it is Lorsagne to whom I have confessed my deep feelings for my soldier. I miss my friend.
And now I must ready for supper. I am told there will be a gathering of local dignitaries. I am expected to attend. How I detest these parades in which I am a literary monkey expected to enlighten and impress. I would much rather take bread and cheese on a tray in my rooms. If only I were ill-- then I could be excused from enforced social gaiety. Alas, it is my lot to play the lady novelist for an audience of men unlikely ever to read an English novel, much less romances penned by a woman. Perhaps if I dress quickly for the evening's entertainment, I can take advantage of the few remaining minutes of light to take in some sea air before transforming myself into a dancing chimpanzee.