Frances, or Fanny, Burney (1752–1840) is best known for her first novel, Evelina, published in 1778. Among her other novels were Cecilia (1782) and Camilla (1796), and her published diaries and letters offer a lively window on late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century life. In this letter to her father (who was staying at the home of his friend Samuel Crisp) Fanny describes the visit to the Burney’s home of Omai. Her brother, Captain James Burney (‘Jem’), had sailed with Cook on the second expedition to the Pacific, during which they had met Omai who was brought back to England in 1774 aboard the expedition’s sister vessel Adventure. Omai (c.1753–79) — or Mai to his family — was from Raiatea, in the Society Islands, and born into a rank of society second only to the sacred chiefs. He was exiled in Tahiti after his island was invaded by neighbouring warriors. When he arrived in England he was introduced to the leading figures of the day — including Samuel Johnson and the Earl of Sandwich (First Lord of the Admiralty) — and presented to George III. He was tutored in the social niceties by Dr Daniel Solander and Sir Joseph Banks (with whom he stayed until he was given his own house), was taken to concerts, assemblies and plays, and had his portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. He was taken back in 1776 on Cook’s third mission.
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- Frances Burney to Mr Crisp, 1 December 1774
Stephen H. Gregg
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number