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humanities 207 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 considered media of transmission. By these faltering means, the messages passed back and forth. No wonder eighteenth-century people preferred to deal with relatives and clients, not independent strangers. The messages did not always travel well, especially at the margins among coureurs de bois and slaves, and not at all among Indians, to whom Banks gives little attention. We could simply say of the French colonies before 1763 that local officials and colonists looked to their own interests, that there was a lot of smuggling, and that the colonies were not sufficiently important to retain the attention they needed. Or we could accept Banks=s invitation to a new way of seeing. Either way, we may conclude that the vieilles colonies came into being, and mostly passed into history, well before adequate instruments of empire had been forged. I have only one quibble: the dozens of intratextual references to historians and theorists get in the way of many fine stories and of the author=s exposition of his thesis. What are footnotes for? (DALE MIQUELON) Frances Burney. The Witlings and The Woman-Hater. Edited by Peter Sabor and Geoffrey Sill Broadview. 330. $18.95 With this very fine addition to the Broadview Literary Text series, Peter Sabor and Geoffrey Sill carefully usher Frances Burney, playwright, into the classrooms and libraries (private as well as public) of the twenty-first century. In doing so, they continue work they themselves began in 1995 with the publication of a two-volume edition of Burney=s complete dramatic works, which they edited along with Stewart J. Cooke for Pickering and Chatto. This edition was followed in the late 1990s by critical attention from other scholars who produced several significant essays and a book-length study on Burney=s achievement as a dramatist. Maybe most tellingly, in the summer of 2000, Burney=s A Busy Day enjoyed a successful West End London run. For the most part, the plays Burney wrote, revised, and planned to stage were not produced in her own time. Theatre managers, actors, fellow writers, friends, and family acknowledged and even encouraged Burney=s dramatic talent, but for various reasons the plays she wrote remained the property of her circle of intimates who discussed, debated, and finally defeated the urge to nurse the productions into being. The plays, though, remain preserved in manuscripts, in Burney=s hand, currently housed in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. The copy-texts of this edition of The Witlings and The Woman-Hater are from these manuscripts and, therefore, represent Burney=s last say on the plays as she envisioned them. But, as Sabor and Sill judiciously observe, xxxxxxx 208 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 dramatic texts are just the beginning of a play=s life. Production would have occasioned changes B revisions of language, enhancements of dialogue, sharpening of wit. Certainly that was the case in the 2000 production of A Busy Day, hence a 2000 edition of the play as >adapted= by Alan Coveney. It is and will be a matter of lasting regret that Burney herself never had the chance to >adapt= her own texts in light of the collaboration of performance. What we will inevitably be reading and discussing when we read and discuss her plays are possibilities, potential, promise. Though the words are on the page, we read them with an aching awareness that they were not brought to the stage in Burney=s lifetime. That being said, it is nevertheless important that we know the texts and that they be available in well-edited, attractive, teachable formats such as the one under review. These plays round out our view of Burney as a literary artist in command of narrative form and depiction of character. Sabor and Sill are to be commended for the decision to pair The Witlings, Burney=s first play, with a later comedy, The Woman Hater, for in doing so they illustrate the maturing of Burney=s artistic vision. The plays are yoked by a common character, Lady Smatter, who is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 207-208
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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