A Virtual Letter From Fanny Burney To Her Sister, Hetty
9 January 1785
The Haven, France
My Dearest Sister Hetty,
It breaks my heart to read the news of the great man's passing. I shall miss him for the rest of my days! As I write these words, I hear him chuckling. "But of course you will miss me," he says. I'm not the sort of man one forgets easily. I promise to haunt you for as long as haunting seems called for." This is said in that lilting and teasing tone of his, the tone that says, "You will move on, Fanny, when you are ready," and at the same time says, "You won't know who to be without me, my girl, so you'd better not move on at all!" For myself, I think the second statement to contains the purer truth. Dr. Johnson is, to great degree, the person who taught me who I am meant to be. He is certainly the one who reminded me most frequently and most succinctly when I have not lived up to my own potential. I do not believe there will ever be a day in my life when he is not in my thoughts and heart.
As to other news, I arrived safely in France some days before Christmas. Having delivered father's manuscript to Monsignor Aguillard, I traveled on to The Haven, home of my friend Lorsagne de Sade. In her lovely home, I passed a peaceful Christmas holiday and am soon to move into one of her guest houses, where I plan to stay for some months at least. As you know, there is writing to be done and, with Mother Dear, father's wife, ensconced at St. Martin's Street, I think I will be more productive here in France. Lorsagne is a good and supportive friend who recognizes the need of artists and writers and composers for congenial company alternated with frequent bits of serene solitude. Here at The Haven, she offers both. Hers is a home frequented by scholars of all ilk, particularly writers and poets, painters and composers. There are entertaining (and often challenging) conversations to overhear and fine meals to be enjoyed in sophisticated company. There is also the privacy of my own rooms to which I retreat when company overwhelms or work beckons.
I believe my carriage has arrived to take me to another shop. Dare I hope for petite fours?
Give my best to all! You are missed my beloved sister. We shall be together soon.
Your Adoring Sister,