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Evelina, the title character, is the unacknowledged daughter of a dissipated English aristocrat. She is raised in seclusion and when she grows into a beautiful and intelligent young woman she travels to London to be introduced into society. The novel then follows her growth through a series of sometimes harrowing episodes. Some critics see the novel as autobiographical. Burney originally published the work anonymously in 1778 and only acknowledged authorship when the book became wildly successful.
The novel opens with Guy Mannering casting the horoscope for the newborn heir to the Laird of Ellengowan. Unfortunately Guy's predictions were correct, and Henry Bertram is kidnapped at age five and eventually adopted by a Dutch merchant. Amidst the chaos of the time Harry must find his rightful place or lose his inheritance forever. The novel is also notable for its vividly portrayed minor characters, including Meg Merrilies who was based on the real life 'queen of the gypsies'.
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