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Cecilia by Frances Burney

A Study Guide by Cathy Decker

©Cathy Decker, 1998
Last Update 2/25/01

Books about Frances Burney and Cecilia

1. Cutting-Gray, Joanne. Woman as `Nobody' and the Novels of Fanny Burney. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1992.

2. Castle, Terry. "Masquerade and Utopia I: Burney's Cecilia." In Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-century English Culture and Fiction. By Terry Castle. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1986. 253-89.

3. Brown, Martha G. "Fanny Burney's `Feminism': Gender or Genre?" In Fetter'd or Free? British Women Novelists, 1670-1815. Eds. Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski. Athens, Ohio: Ohio UP, 1986. 29-39.

4. Spender, Dale. "Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and the Height of Achievement." In Mothers of the Novel: 100 Good Women Writers Before Jane Austen. By Dale Spender. New York: Pandora, 1986. 270-300. [This chapter includes a picture of Burney. Be aware this book is written for a less scholarly audience and contains many typographical errors and inaccurate dates of publication. It is however very readable and is a convenient source with which to begin your research.]

See also the volume of The Diary and Letters of Madame d'Arblay which discusses the years in which Cecilia was written and those following its publication.

Character Guide

(page numbers refer to Oxford University Press paperback edition edited by Margaret Doody; the first number given after the name is the first mention of the character/the page after the slash is the first naming of character)
Note down basic information about these characters; if they attend the masquerade, note what costume (if any) they wore. Note also the unique style of each character's speech patterns. Try to jot down a description of each character's style of speech.

Miss Cecilia Beverley (5) discussion of character 55
Miss Beverley's uncle, the Dean of ----- (5)
Mrs. Charlton (6) discussion of character 6
Mr. Harrel (6) discussion of character 53
Mr. Monckton (7) discussion of character 7-10
Lady Margaret Monckton (6/7) discussion of character 10
Miss Bennet (11) discussion of character 11
Mr. or Captain Aresby (11) discussion of character 11
Mr. Morrice (11) discussion of character 11, 13, 48
Mr. Albany (11/69) discussion of character 66, 69
Mr. Belfield (11) discussion of character 11-2, 14-6
Mrs. Harrel (21) discussion of character 21, 32-3, 54
Miss Larolles (23) discussion of character 25, 28, 40-5
Miss Leeson (23) discussion of character 30, 40-5
Mr. Arnott (25) discussion of character 52-3
Mr. Gosport (25/26)
Mr. Delvile (33) discussion of character 97-9
Mr. Briggs (33) discussion of character 94-6
Sir Robert Floyer (34) discussion of character 34, 53
Mrs. Hill (71/72) discussion of character 71-3, 86-7
Mr. Meadows (132) discussion of character 132-3
Mr. Mortimer Delvile (111/145)
Mrs. Delvile (151) 160, 236, 238, 241, 318, 353-8, 425
Mortimer Delvile--241, 250-3, 282, 310, 313, 333, 348-51
Mr. Delvile--187, 256-7, 259-61, 427-9
Mr. Briggs--177-181, 323-6, 333
Mrs. Harrel--193
Albany--205, 291-3
Miss Henrietta Belfield (205/211) 239-40, 247, 344-6
Belfield--211-2, 214-20, 246
Mrs. Belfield (215) 220, 222-5, 247, 314-7, 340-2
Dr. Rupil (226) 227-8
Mr. Meadows--274-9, 287, 353
Aresby--280, 290
Mr. Marriot (327) 337, 419-20, 423, 430
Arnott--377, 389-90
Mr. Hobson (400/1) 405-11
Simpkins (402) 404-5, 407-11

Discussion Questions

1. What sort of life does Mr. Monckton have planned for Cecilia?

2. Note the competition to sit near Cecilia (13, 83-4, and at masquerade), to hand her to her carriage (19) and to help her out of the pit at the opera (137-8). Why does Burney include so many such incidents? Why are these men competing to be near Cecilia or help her?

3. Why did the Dean pick each of Cecilia's guardians? Why is each not suited to the task for which he was selected? What problems does each guardian cause Cecilia?

4. One of the first key scenes in the book is a debate over whether you should let society dictate your behavior or decide how you should behave yourself. Who takes part in this debate? What is each person's stance? What characters in the book follow the rules of society? What characters in the book set their own behavioral standards? Why is Cecilia not free to act as she wants to?

Chapter by Chapter Reading Guide

Note: I never typed out any answers to these questions, so please don't write and ask for the answers--I don't have any to send you, sadly. I also cannot send you plots summaries either, but you can easily go to a college library and get one!

Volume 1
Book I
Chapter 1 A Journey

What is the journey of the title?
What sort of metaphorical, not physical journey is Cecilia beginning?

Chapter 2 An Argument

What arguments occur in this chapter?
How are these arguments related to key themes developed later in the book?

Chapter 3 An Arrival

How is Cecilia's arrival different from what she expected?

Chapter 4 A Sketch of High Life

What is High Life like?

Chapter 5 An Assembly

What men seem attracted to Cecilia? What does she think of them?

Chapter 6 A Breakfast

What of significance occurs at this breakfast?

Chapter 7 A Project

What is the project of the title?

Chapter 8 An Opera Rehearsal

What strange things happen at this opera rehearsal?

Chapter 9 A Supplication

What two supplications occur in this chapter?

Chapter 10 A Provocation

What is the provocation?

Chapter 11 A Narration

Who tells the narration and what function does it serve in relationship to the larger plot?

Volume 1
Book II
Chapter 1 A Man of Wealth

Why is this man not a good guardian for Cecilia?

Chapter 2 A Man of Family

Why is this man not a good guardian for Cecilia?

Chapter 3 A Masquerade

What does the masquerade reveal about London society?
What does the masquerade reveal about Cecilia's relationships with various characters?

Chapter 4 An Affray

What is the affray?
How is the affray interpreted by people?

Chapter 5 A Fashionable Friend

Who is a true friend to Cecilia in this chapter?
Who disappoints Cecilia?

Chapter 6 A Family Party

What does Cecilia think of the Delvile family?

Chapter 7 An Examination

What two examinations occur in this chapter?

Chapter 8 A Tete-a-tete

What two characters have a private conversation? Do they communicate clearly?

Volume 2
Book III
Chapter 1 An Application

What two applications occur in this chapter?
How does Briggs feel about her debts? women reading books?

Chapter 2 A Perplexity

How has the mob scene confused Delvile the son?
What does Delvile the father think of women reading books?
What two things could be the perplexity of the title?

Chapter 3 A Admonition

What two admonitions occur in this chapter?

Chapter 4 An Evasion

Who evades who and why?

Chapter 5 An Adventure

What is the adventure? Why is it dangerous?
What is the benefit of the adventure?

Chapter 6

Who is the Man of Genius? What is he like?

Chapter 7 An Expedient

What is Cecilia trying to do that she cannot do directly? Why can't she?
What is her expedient method?
Does it succeed?

Chapter 8 A Remonstrance

Who reproves who? Why?

Chapter 9 A Victory

What is the victory?

Volume 2
Book IV
Chapter 1 A Complaint

Who complains to Cecilia? Why?
What is Cecilia's response?

Chapter 2 A Sympathy

What two characters are in sympathy?
What is the state of Cecilia's love-life?

Chapter 3 A Conflict

What do Cecilia and Mr. Monckton disagree about?

Chapter 4 An Expectation

What does Cecilia expect from Mr. Delvile? Does it happen?
What does she decide to do about her love life?

Chapter 5 An Agitation

What characters are agitated and why?
How does Harrel try to kill himself?
What does Cecilia do? Why?
What do you think Cecilia should have done?
Why do they go to the Pantheon?

Chapter 6 A Man of the Ton

What is the ton?
Who is the man of the ton?
Who and what are the insensiblists?
Who and what are the jargonists?
Who and how does Morrice injury someone at the Pantheon?
What good comes from the accident at the Pantheon?
What does Albany do at the Pantheon?
In what way does Cecilia change her mind about her love life?

Chapter 7 A Reproof

What two people give reproofs and why?
Why won't Monckton get rid of Sir Robert for Cecilia?

Chapter 8 A Mistake

How does Mortimer Delvile behave to Cecilia?
How does Cecilia decide to get rid of Sir Robert?

Chapter 9 An Explanation

Why has everyone thought Cecilia was engaged to Sir Robert?
What does Cecilia say to Lord Ernolf's proposal for his son and why?
What does Cecilia finally have to do to get rid of Sir Robert?
What does Delvile do when he find Cecilia is not engaged?

Chapter 10 A Murmuring

What does Mrs. Belfield believe about Cecilia?

Volume 3
Book V
Chapter 1 A Rout

What is a rout? Who holds the rout and why?
What does Mr. Briggs do at the rout?
Who is Mr. Marriot? What does Cecilia think of him?
Who does Miss Larolles think Cecilia will marry?
What do we find out about Mr. Meadow's past?
Why is Cecilia mad at Mortimer?

Chapter 2 A Broad Hint

Who gives the broad hint and what is it? What is Cecilia's response to the hint?

Chapter 3 An Accommodation

What is the relationship between Cecilia and Henrietta Belfield?

Chapter 4 A Detection

What is detected by Cecilia?
Who does Henrietta love?
What does Cecilia decide to do about her new rival?

Chapter 5 A Sarcasm

Who is mean and sarcastic to Cecilia? Why?
Who is Lady Honoria Pemberton?
What does Lady Honoria say about Cecilia's love life?
What does Lady Honoria say about Mortimer's sex life?
How do Mrs. Delvile and Cecilia make up?

Chapter 6 A Surmise

What is surmised by Cecilia about Mr. Harrel?
What is surmised by Cecilia about Delvile and Henrietta?

Chapter 7 A Bold Stroke

What does Mr. Harrel decide to do about his debts?
What does Cecilia resolve to do?

Chapter 8 A Miser's Mansion

Why can't Cecilia move in with Mr. Briggs?

Chapter 9 A Declaration

Why can't Cecilia move in with the Delviles?
What does Cecilia say to Mr. Arnott's proposal?
How does Cecilia find a place to stay?

Chapter 10 A Gamester's Conscience

What does Mr. Harrel demand?

Volume 3
Book V
Chapter 11 A Persecution

What does Mr. Harrel demand?
What does Cecilia do?

Chapter 12 A Man of Business

Who is the man of business?
What is Mr. Hobson's philosophy?
What does Mr. Harrel do?
What do Sir Robert and Mr. Marriot do?
How does Cecilia prevent a duel?

Chapter 13 A Solution

What does Cecilia ask Mr. Delvile to do?
Why does he say no?
What does the packet reveal?
What does Mr. Monckton do?
What does the chapter reveal about fashionable marriages?

Volume 3
Book VI
Chapter 1 A Debate

What does Cecilia think when she sees Henrietta's kiss?
How is Mr. Hobson connected with Mrs. Belfield?
What do Mr. Hobson, Mrs. Belfield, and Cecilia discuss?
Why doesn't Cecilia tell the Delvile's about the money she gave to Mr. Harrel?
What do you think the title of this chapter refers to?

Chapter 2 A Railing

Who rails at who?

Chapter 3 An Antique Mansion

How does Mortimer act to Cecilia at Delvile Castle?
What do the neighbors think of Mr. and Mrs. Delvile?
What does Mrs. Delvile think of Mr. Delvile?
What is Mortimer's relationship with his parents?

Chapter 4 A Rattle

Who is the rattle? Why is she called this?
What is Lord Derford's appearance and personality like, according to Lady Honoria?
Who is Lady Euphrasia and what is her relationship to Mortimer?

Chapter 5 A Storm

How is Mortimer acting unusual this summer?
What happens in the thunderstorm?
Is Mortimer's declaration of love appealing? Is he an attractive character? Should Cecilia love him?

Chapter 6 A Mystery

What is the problem with "Deep reasoners" (482), and what is the advantage to being a deep reasoner?
Why does Lady Honoria think Mortimer is a puppet or a baby?
What duel is Lady Honoria trying to promote and why?
Who is Fidel, and why is he important to Cecilia?

Chapter 7 An Anecdote

What is the anecdote that Lady Honoria tells?
How is Cecilia's love for Mortimer revealed to Lady Honoria and Mrs. Delvile?
What is the true story of the woman and baby that Mortimer is paying for and visiting?

Chapter 8 A Conference

What does Mrs. Delvile think is wrong with Lady Honoria?
What is attractive about Lady Honoria?
What kind of marriage does Mrs. Delvile want for Mortimer?

Chapter 9 An Attack

How does Lady Honoria provoke Cecilia and Mr. Delvile?
Why does she do this?
What is the reason Mortimer loves Cecilia?
Why can't Mortimer marry Cecilia?

Chapter 10 A Retreat

Why does Mortimer think he is insane?

Chapter 11 A Worry

How does Lady Honoria make Lord Ernolf aware that Cecilia loves Mortimer?
Where does Cecilia decide to go and why?
Why is Cecilia's "last hope of earthly happiness extinguished" (528)?

Volume 4
Book VII
Chapter 1 A Renovation

What is the meaning of the title?

Chapter 2 A Visit

What does Cecilia tell Mrs. Charlton after Fidel arrives at Mrs. Charlton's house?
What does Lady Honoria tell Cecilia when she visits her at Mrs. Charlton's?

Chapter 3 An Incident

What does Cecilia tell Fidel that Mortimer overhears?
Why is Cecilia so humiliated and annoyed after Mortimer leaves?

Chapter 4 A Proposition

What is Mortimer's proposition? Why is it degrading?
Why does Cecilia cry?

Chapter 5 A Letter

Who all knows about the Mortimer-Cecilia romance?
What does Mortimer in his letter say he wants Cecilia to do? Why?
What is Mrs. Charlton's advice?

Chapter 6 A Discussion

What do Cecilia and Mortimer agree to do?
Who do they choose to help them? Why is this a bad choice?

Chapter 7 A Retrospection

What does Cecilia regret after retrospection?
What does Mr. Monckton convince Cecilia to do?
Do you think Cecilia should marry Mortimer or not, now that they have already planned the wedding?

Chapter 8 An Embarrassment

Now that Monckton hasn't delivered the letter, what do you think Cecilia should do?
What does Cecilia decide to do?

Chapter 9 A Torment

How does Morrice torment Cecilia?
How does Miss Larolles torment Cecilia?
How does Mr. Gosport torment Cecilia?
What do these high society people think of Mr. Harrel's death?

Volume 4
Chapter 1 An Interruption

Why is the journey to London interrupted?
When Mortimer and Cecilia can talk who interrupts them and why?
Why does Cecilia feel "whatever path I now take must lead me wrong!" (619)?
Why does Cecilia resolve to marry Mortimer? Is this a good reason?

Chapter 2 An Event

Why is Cecilia late for the wedding?
What happens to prevent the wedding?
Did Cecilia make the right decision?
What is Mortimer's position?

Chapter 3 A Consternation

What does Mrs. Delvile want Cecilia to do?
Why is Mrs. Delvile so against Cecilia and Mortimer getting married?

Chapter 4 A Perturbation

Why does Mrs. Delvile want Cecilia never to see Mortimer again?
Why does Cecilia go to Mr. Arnott's?

Chapter 5 A Cottage

What is Mr. Belfield doing at the cottage?
What does Belfield believe is the source of happiness now?

Chapter 6 A Contest

Why does Mrs. Delvile now want Cecilia to see Mortimer?
What is the position of Mrs. Delvile, Cecilia, and Mortimer in this fight?
What physically happens to Cecilia when forced to give up Mortimer?
How does Mortimer respond to this?
What illness strikes Mrs. Delvile?

Chapter 7 A Message

What is Mr. Delvile's message to Cecilia?

Chapter 8 A Parting

What advice does Dr. Lister give Cecilia?
Who does Dr. Lister say knows of the aborted wedding?

Chapter 9 A Tale

What is the history of Albany?
How does Cecilia respond to this story?

Chapter 10 A Shock

What is Cecilia's fantasy?
What happens to Mrs. Charlton?
Where will Cecilia go now?

Volume 5
Book IX
Chapter 1 A Cogitation

How does Mr. Monckton get Lady Margaret to go to London?
Why does Cecilia go to London?

Chapter 2 A Surprize

What is Belfield doing now?
How is Monckton suprized by Cecilia's behavior?

Chapter 3 A Confabulation

Why did Belfield change his situation in life?
Why does Monckton think independence is impossible?

Chapter 4 A Wrangling

What do Mr. Briggs and Mr. Hobson fight over?
What do Mr. Albany and Mr. Briggs fight over?
What do Mr. Albany and Mr. Hobson fight over?
What do Mr. Delvile and Mr. Briggs fight over?
What does Mr. Delvile accuse Cecilia of?
Who does Cecilia suspect has told Mr. Delvile these distorted half-truths?

Chapter 5 A Suspicion

Who does Cecilia suspect has told Mr. Delvile these distorted half-truths?
Who is the Pew-Opener and what is her relationship to Cecilia?

Chapter 6 A Disturbance

Why does Cecilia agree to visit the Belfield's apartment?
Who all arrives at the apartment after Cecilia is there?
What do Mrs. Belfield, Mr. Delvile, and Mr. Hobson think is the relationship between Cecilia and Belfield?

Chapter 7 A Calm

Cecilia plans a "mental reformation" (790). What does this involve?
How much a year is Cecilia spending on charity?

Chapter 8 An Alarm

What does Henrietta think Delvile wishes to talk to her about?
What has Delvile come to talk about?
Why does Delvile want to defy his father now?

Chapter 9 A Suspense

What is the state of Mr. and Mrs. Delvile's marriage after Mortimer tries to clear Cecilia's character to his father?

Chapter 10 A Relation

Why does Mrs. Delvile now want Cecilia and Mortimer to marry?
Will Mr. and Mrs. Delvile ever live together again?
How does Delvile plan to save money so they can live without Cecilia's money?

Chapter 11 An Enterprise

What is the enterprise? What happens after the enterprise is over?

Volume 5
Book X
Chapter 1 A Discovery

What does Cecilia discover about Miss Bennet, Mr. Monckton, and Morrice?

Chapter 2 An Interview

Why do Mortimer and Monckton duel?
Why must Mortimer leave the country?
What happens to Cecilia's mental health when she finds out about the duel?
Why doesn't Mortimer want Cecilia to come abroad with him and his mother?

Chapter 3 A Summons

How does Lady Margaret die?
When does Mr. Eggleston think Cecilia got married?
What is he going to sue her for?

Chapter 4 A Deliberation

Why does Cecilia send for Mortimer?
What preparations does Cecilia make for moving?
What does Cecilia write to Mr. Compton Delvile?

Chapter 5 A Decision

How does Mr. Delvile respond to Cecilia's letter?
Why doesn't Cecilia sue Mr. Eggleston?
What does Cecilia decide to do?
How do the servants respond to this news?
How do the poor of the neighborhood respond?
Who does Cecilia turn to for advice in going abroad?

Chapter 6 A Prating

What is Belfield now doing for a living?
Why didn't he continue being a writer?
Why do the others leave Belfield and Cecilia alone?
Why does Delvile think Cecilia has come to London?

Chapter 7 A Pursuit

Why won't Mr. Delvile let Cecilia in?
Why won't the coachman pursue Delvile?
Why won't Mr. Simpkins pay the coachman?
What happens to Cecilia?
Why does she have a relapse?

Chapter 8 An Encounter

How is Cecilia discovered?
What symptoms of madness does Cecilia exhibit?

Chapter 9 A Tribute

What effect does the sight of Cecilia have upon Mr. Delvile?
What effect do you think Burney wanted the scenes with Henrietta and Albany have upon the reader?

Chapter 10 A Termination

What does the title mean?
Why does Mr. Delvile let Cecilia come to his house?
What truths about women's condition are spoken by Lady Honoria?
Why can Cecilia start up her charity again?
What happens to Henrietta Belfield? to Mrs. Harrel? to Mr. Arnott? to Mr. Belfield? Mr. Monckton?

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