Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fanny Burney on Russian Royal Bling

While reading Fanny Burney's Journals and Letters the other night, I came across the scene below in a letter to Burney's family friend Charles Crisp from November and December of 1775. Burney, aged 23, wrote of a party for Prince Orloff of Russia, a "handsome and magnificent Figure," whose height prompted her to confess,
I felt myself so Dwarfish by his high Highness, that I could not forbear whispering Mr Chamier , who had met with him elsewhere.
The Prince was dressed, as princes are wont to be, in dazzling raiment, including a
a Picture of the Empress Hung from his Neck, which was set round with Diamonds of such magnitude and lustre that, when near the Candle, they were too dazzling for the Eye. His Jewels, Dr King says, are Valued at above £100,000.
Near the end of the night, Burney wrote, one of the attendees at the party, James Harris,
told me he wished some of the ladies would express a desire of seeing the Empress's Picture nearer; "I, you know," said he, "as a man, cannot, but my Old Eyes can't see it at a distance."
Unconstrained by any manly reticence, Burney obligingly asked to see the medallion, and
When we got it, there was hardly any looking at the Empress for the glare of the Diamonds. Their size is almost incredible. One of them, I am sure, was as big as a Nutmeg at least.
All of which reminded me of something . . . but what? Oh, right--Ludacris:
Watch out for the medallion, my diamonds are reckless--
Feels like a midget is hanging from my necklace.
Plenty of less Ludacris Fanny Burney highlights on the way in coming weeks--this book is a treasure.


  1. I just bought 'Evelina' by Burney, but now wish I'd plumped for the journals/letters. What the hell, I'll buy that too. Now I just need to work out how to sneak it into the house past the wife's steely book-detecting gaze...

  2. I've only read Evelina, and found it a surprisingly enjoyable and page turning read. Such was my enthusiasm that I brought tnhe rather larger Cecilia, which I've neglected ever since.

    Your excerpts make it clear I'll have to read Burney's journal as well. Look forward to it!