Part 2 of Evelina: The Case of the Bogus Sister
After the first half of the book, in which she has conducted an exposé of fashionable London entertainments and society featuring the protagonist's suitors — the true wit, Lord Orville, and the false wit, Sir Clement Willoughby, Burney shifts into a complicated plot with more coincidences than a Victorian novel, including purloined and counterfeit letters, a substitute sister, and a lost heir now found and recognized. The closure of the Blingsroman thus involves the heroine's achieving a truer understanding of her origins and circumstances, her marrying an Earl, and her acquiring both a brother and sister.
After the unpleasant events in London over the month that she spent with the Branghtons, Evelina receives an insulting letter, supposedly from Lord Orville. Upset that she has thoroughly misunderstood his character, she returns to Berry Hill and the Rev. Mr. Villars. When she falls ill, her adopted father sends her to recuperate at a spa in Clifton Heights near Bristol in company with a brassy, old neighbour, the widow Mrs. Selwyn. At the spa, Evelina receives the unwanted attentions of a notorious womanizer, Lord Merton, on the eve of his marriage to Lord Orville's sister, Lady Louisa Larpent. Aware the Lord Orville has arrived for the wedding, Evelina tries to avoid him because of his impertinent letter, but his gentle manners rekindle her feelings for him. The unexpected appearance of Mr Macartney reveals an unexpected streak of jealousy in the seemingly imperturbable Lord Orville. Convinced that Macartney is a rival for Evelina's affections, Lord Orville temporarily withdraws.
However, Macartney, the poor Scottish poet who lodged with the Brangtons, has arrived only to repay his financial debt to Evelina. In a frank conversation alone with Lord Orville she discovers that he neither received a letter from her nor wrote her one in return, so that suspicion falls upon the duplicitous Sir Clement Willoughby, who later writes her, confessing responsibility for the spurious correspondence. The situation with Macartney and Sir John Belmont, Evelina's estranged father, continues to be complicated. When Macartney reveals that Sir John Belmont is in fact his father, Evelina realizes that they are siblings. Later, when Evelina's assertive companion, Mrs. Selwyn visits Sir John to pursue the issue of Evelina's inheritance, she is shocked at his assertion that he has been raising his daughter.
Once he sees Evelina, however, and recognizes his late wife's features in her face, he pursues and discovers the truth behind what had happened seventeen years before: the affable Mrs. Clifton, Rev. Villars' housekeeper, reveals that Polly Green, the former nurse to Evelina's dying mother, learned that Mr. Villars intended to raise Evelina himself. Consequently, Polly brought her own infant daughter to Sir John to be raised as the Belmont heiress. Polly has been passing her own daughter off as that of Sir John and Caroline for the girl's entire youth, hoping to secure a better future for her. Ultimately, Lord Orville suggests that the unfortunate girl be named co-heiress with Evelina; kindhearted Evelina is delighted. Sir John and Evelina have an emotional reconciliation. Evelina's "foster" sister, no longer Macartney's half-sister, marries him, and Evelina comes into her inheritance. She then marries Lord Orville, who is now fully acquainted with her history, asking Rev. Villars' blessing in a final letter.
Burney, Frances. Evelina; or, The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World. Ed. Edward A. Bloom. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 2002.
last modified 7 September 2017