Going from Evelina, 1778, to Cecilia, 1782, and to Camilla, 1796, you notice that the sentences have become longer, more leisurely, and more packed: short stories closed inside them –
Charmed with the youthful nurse, and seeing in her unaffected attitudes, a thousand graces he had never before remarked, and reading in her fondness for children the genuine sweetness of her character, he could not bear to have the pleasing reflections revolving in his mind interrupted by the spleen of Miss Margland, and, slipping away, posted himself behind the baby's father, where he could look on undisturbed, certain it was a vicinity to which Miss Margland would not follow him.
-that from a page picked at random – her style getting farther away from the one that Samuel Crisp asked her to use in her letters to him when she was young, in a note to her during the winter of 1773, “Dash away, whatever comes uppermost – the sudden sallies of imagination clap’d down on paper, just as they arise, are worth Folios”—that is the character Evelina’s mode of letter-writing, though she never knew Crisp and he never wrote to her – but by Camilla the sallies are Folios: pages 291 – 293 of my 1972 Oxford edition are filled with the information that Edgar loves Camilla, which we have already heard more than once. How many more times are we going to hear it? I am up to page 367* and the story ends on 913. The author has become a scanning eye across a multitude: the secondaries can wander off and hold conversations of their own, she’ll follow them, going from one character to another and stopping and rounding them up for a head-count.
Miss Margland screamed, and hid her face with her hands. Indiana, taught by her lessons to nourish every fear as becoming, shriekt still louder, and ran swiftly away, deaf to all that Edgar, who attended her, could urge. Eugenia, to whom Bellamy instantly hastened, seeing the beast furiously make towards the gate, almost unconsciously accepted his assistance, to accelerate her flight from its vicinity; while Dr. Orkborne, intent upon his annotations, calmly wrote on, sensible there was some disturbance, but determining to evade inquiring whence it arose, till he had secured what he meant to transmit to posterity from the treachery of his memory. Camilla, the least frightened, because the most enured to such sounds, from the habits and the instruction of her rural life and education, adhered firmly to Sir Hugh, who began blessing himself with some alarm; but whom Dr. Marchmont re-assured, by saying the gate was secured, and too high for the bull to leap, even supposing it a vicious animal.
Burney wants you to have your eyes on them all – why? for a reason? what reason? – to make them familiar? too familiar? -- “the latent springs,” she says, “the multifarious and contradictory sources of human actions and propensities” (what is the ending of Cecilia if it isn’t a Middlemarch that doesn’t know what it is?)-- what are they doing? how are they positioned in space? how are they acting? what do they think about other people’s friends?
Mr. Tyrold, according to the system of recreation which he had settled with his wife, saw with satisfaction the pleasure with which Camilla began this new acquaintance, in the hope it would help to support her spirits during the interval of suspense with regard to the purposes of Mandlebert. Mrs. Arlbery [the new acquaintance] was unknown to him, except by general fame; which told him she was a woman of reputation as well as fashion, and that though her manners were lively, her heart was friendly, and her hand ever open to charity.
The reader has heard similar news about Mrs Arlbery before. I am reading a reprint of the first edition, which was written under pressure: words were left out of sentences when the book went to the printers, and serious revisions waited for the second and third editions. “Fanny finished the book – which is about 350, 000 words long – in a period of two years that also included the birth of her child and her subsequent illness.” Fanny Burney: a Biography, 2000, Claire Harmon. The repetition, then, those long expositions, they were physically written to Crisp’s instructions, “clap’d down on paper,” “whatever comes uppermost” – not spiritually written like that though, and when I say spirit of course I mean style.
* It changes.