Item 0031 - Novels, plays and poems :

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Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Novels, plays and poems :

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written for the insrtuction of people of all ages /

Title statements of responsibility

by Sophia Elizabeth Burney, aged 13 years.

Title notes

  • Source of title proper: Manuscript title page.

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Reference code

CA RBD MS Burney-0031

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  • 1790 or 1791 (Creation)
    Burney, Sophia Elizabeth, 1777-1856

Physical description area

Physical description

24 unnumbered pages ; 20.5 x 16.8 cm

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Sophia Elizabeth Burney was born on September 26, 1777, in Bath, Middlesex, England, the niece of Frances "Fanny" Burney (1752-1840), a novelist, and Susanna Elizabeth Burney (1755-1800), a letter and journal writer.

As a young girl, she received letters of encouragement to write from her celebrated aunt Frances who acted as mentor to a protégée who shared her sense of fun and was described as “a merry little thing” as a child. Sophia Elizabeth was the author of short pieces of poetry, drama, and prose, e.g., "The works of Sophia Elizabeth Burney, aged 13. Novels, plays and poems: Written for the instruction of young people and humbly dedicated without permission to Mrs. D'Arblay [Fanny Burney], Vol. I." and “The History of Walter Scarecrow.” Her work is similar to Frances Burney’s writing, as issues of gender and class predominate, and both show characters trying to rise above their class. Although Sophia Elizabeth is not known to have published any of her work, she continued writing into adulthood (some of her later poems survived in manuscript). Both she and her sister Frances were later employed as governesses and wrote for their pupils.

She died in September 1856 in London, England.

Custodial history

Purchased from Paula Peyraud Sale, Lot 223, Bloomsbury Auctions, New York, 6 May 2009. Previously sold at Sotheby's London, July 1984, lot 25.

Scope and content

Autograph manuscript of: Novels, plays and poems : written for the instruction of people of all ages by Sophia Elizabeth Burney, aged 13 years old.

Manuscript is written in cursive hand in brown ink on laid paper (horizontal chainlines with watermark visible in the fold). At the bottom of the title page is a dedication: "Humbly dedicated without permission to Mrs. d'Arblay" (the author's aunt, Fanny Burney d'Arblay). Page [24] contains a verse Address to the Readers. The manuscript is bound in its original contemporary brown paper wrappers (detached), with the manuscript title "Volume 1st" on the cover.

Manuscript contains a number of compositions, including, "The History of Blind Jack, A pathetic tale", "The Unlawful Marriage, A Tale", "Murder Prevented, A Comedy". "Murder Committed, A Tragedy", "The Adventures of a Boy", and "Pennsylvania, the Orphan of the Hovel. A Novel."

Notes area

Physical condition

Covers and some preliminary leaves detached; some spotting.

Immediate source of acquisition

Purchased from Paula Peyraud Sale, Lot 223, Bloomsbury Auctions, New York, 6 May 2009.


Language of material

  • English

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Associated materials

A printed version of this work (published in a limited edition of 50 copies, 1930) can be found in the McGill Library Catalogue.

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Sources consulted

Bloomsbury Auctions, The Paula Peyraud Collection: Samuel Johnson & Women Writers in Georgian Society, Sale NY029, Lot 223, page 139.

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MSG 1001

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