This Broadview edition pairs two of Frances Burney’s linked comedies. They both present the character of Lady Smatter, a “femme savante” whose lineage may be traced back to Molière; they both centre on the misfortunes of the “elle” figure, the dispossessed heiress and wife who appears frequently in Burney’s fiction; and they both criticize a culture of misogyny that breeds suspicion and resentment. The Witlings, lighter and more comic, derives from late seventeenth-century conventions; The Woman-Hater, more melodramatic, both expresses and warns against the excessive sensibility of romanticism. Together, these two plays constitute a miniature history of English drama from the Restoration to the French Revolution and beyond.
This edition contains a valuable selection of appendices, including: Burney’s “Epilogue to Gerilda”; letters and diary entries; contemporary writings on comedy; and Burney’s cast-list for The Woman-Hater.
“It is no longer a secret for specialists only that Frances Burney wrote some of the finest stage comedies of the eighteenth century. Thanks to Peter Sabor and Geoffrey Sill, this splendid edition makes two of her best plays available to readers, directors, actors, and students alike.” — Brian Corman, University of Toronto
“Burney’s comedies, like her novels, have lively and funny moments, but are likely to appeal to modern readers as much for their uncomfortably vivid depictions of embarrassment, vulnerability and marginalisation on the basis of gender, class, status and money. Peter Sabor and Geoffrey Sill’s edition effectively contextualises The Witlings and The Woman-Hater within eighteenth-century theatrical culture and Burney’s own preoccupations, literary and personal. This is an attractive, affordable, and excellently annotated edition.” — Jacqueline Pearson, The University of Manchester