Fanny Price’s name used to be quite common. According to Grace Hamlin in her book The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book, the name “was a favorite name among the Victorians, and appears often enough in literature to suggest that it was a neutral, nondescript name for a well-educated woman.” 1 Jane Austen was related to several people with the name Fanny (and also Francis). It is a fairly common name in literature, and quite a few historical people have borne the name. For my own amusement (and inspired by this list on Enchanted Serenity), I have collected some information about various of these people here. Because there are so many of them, I have divided them into separate posts. So, without further ado, here is part II of my Fanny Hall of Fame:
Fictional characters bearing the name Fanny
Fanny Price – Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. Fanny Price is the heroine of Mansfield Park. She is the eldest daughter of Lieutenant and Mrs. Price and the niece of Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris. When she is ten years old she is moved to Mansfield Park, the home of her uncle, Sir Thomas, where she grows up. She has “good sense, and a sweet temper, and … a grateful heart.” She is often ill-used, but, though mortified, thinks “too lowly of her own claims to feel injured by it.” She is timid, with warm affections, and a patient temper. She has “beauty of face and figure, … graces of manner and goodness of heart,” as well as “gentleness, modesty, and sweetness” of character. “Then, her understanding was beyond every suspicion, quick and clear; and her manners were the mirror of her own modest and elegant mind,” She is “firm as a rock” in the “excellence of her principles.” She is courted by Henry Crawford, but is in love with her cousin Edmund, the only one of the Bertrams who takes the trouble to be actively kind to her.
(Mansfield Park on Project Gutenberg; In the 1983 miniseries Mansfield Park, Fanny is played by Sylvestra Le Touzel; Mansfield Park (1999) – Frances O’Connor; Mansfield Park (2007) – Billie Piper)
Frances Price – Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. Formerly Miss Frances Ward, she is the youngest of the three Ward sisters. Miss Frances married “to disoblige her family, and by fixing on a lieutenant of marines, without education, fortune, or connexions, did it very thoroughly”. A rupture occurs between the sisters as a consequence of this marriage. Later, however, the sisters are reconciled, and the Bertrams take in Mrs. Price’s eldest daughter, Fanny. For the next eight years, young Fanny sees nothing of her family, except her brother William. At the end of that time, however, she returns for a visit, but is disappointed in her mother. “Her days were spent in a kind of slow bustle; all was busy without getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without altering her ways.” Her favorite child is her eldest son: “William was her pride; Betsey her darling; and John, Richard, Sam, Tom, and Charles occupied all the rest of her maternal solicitude.” “Her daughters never had been much to her,” except Betsey. “To her she was most injudiciously indulgent.” She is “a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, no conversation”.
(Mansfield Park on Project Gutenberg; In the 1983 miniseries Mansfield Park, Mrs. Price is played by Alison Fiske; Mansfield Park (1999) – Lindsay Duncan; she is not portrayed in the 2007 version of Mansfield Park.)
Fanny Dashwood – Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen. Fanny Dashwood is the sister-in-law of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood (she is their half-brother’s wife). She is not liked by them. In fact, when a difference is pointed out between Fanny and her brother Edward, Marianne exclaims, “It is enough … to say that he is unlike Fanny is enough. It implies everything amiable. I love him already.” Although her husband promised his father on his death-bed to help care for his step-mother and sisters who will have very little money after his death, Fanny persuades him that his father had “no idea of your giving them any money at all”, and, in fact, that “they will be much more able to give you something.” She is narrow-minded and selfish. She does her best to separate her brother from Elinor, whom he has fallen in love with, and does her best to always slight her sisters-in-law.
(Sense and Sensibility is on Project Gutenberg here and here; In the 1971 miniseries, Fanny Dashwood is played by Kay Gallie; in 1981 – Amanda Boxer; in 1995 – Harriet Walter; in 2008 – Claire Skinner.)
Fanny [?] – Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen. Colonel Brandon has a cousin named Fanny.
While they were at breakfast the letters were brought in. Among the rest there was one for Colonel Brandon;—he took it, looked at the direction, changed colour, and immediately left the room. … In about five minutes he returned.
“No bad news, Colonel, I hope;” said Mrs. Jennings, as soon as he entered the room.
“None at all, ma’am, I thank you.”
“Was it from Avignon? I hope it is not to say that your sister is worse.”
“No, ma’am. It came from town, and is merely a letter of business.”
“But how came the hand to discompose you so much, if it was only a letter of business? Come, come, this won’t do, Colonel; so let us hear the truth of it.”
“My dear madam,” said Lady Middleton, “recollect what you are saying.”
“Perhaps it is to tell you that your cousin Fanny is married?” said Mrs. Jennings, without attending to her daughter’s reproof.
“No, indeed, it is not.” (Chapter XIII).
(Sense and Sensibility is on Project Gutenberg here and here.)
Fanny Harville – Persuasion, by Jane Austen. In Persuasion, Fanny is the sister of Captain Wentworth’s friend, Captain Harville. She was engaged to Captain Benwick, but dies while he is at sea. She is described as “a very superior creature”. Captain Benwick eventually recovers from his loss and becomes engaged to Louisa Musgrove, much to Captain Wentworth’s surprise, who thinks that “A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not.” Captain Harville is also surprised. He has the charge of getting a portrait of Captain Benwick that was drawn for Fanny, properly set for Louisa. “Poor Fanny! she would not have forgotten him so soon! … It was not in her nature. She doted on him.”
(Persuasion on Project Gutenberg.)
Fanny Noyce – Sanditon, by Jane Austen. Mr. Parker of Sanditon is always looking for people to bring into his up-and-coming bathing town. Mr. Parker’s sister, Diana, through some of her friends, finds two families that she hopes to get there — “the West Indians and the seminary.”
“The West Indians,” she continued, “whom I look upon as the most desirable of the two … prove to be a Mrs. Griffiths and her family. I know them only through others. You must have heard me mention Miss Capper, the particular friend of my very particular friend Fanny Noyce. Now, Miss Capper is extremely intimate with a Mrs. Darling, who is on terms of constant correspondence with Mrs. Griffiths herself. Only a short chain, you see, between us, and not a link wanting. … Mrs. Griffiths … wrote to ask the opinion of her friend Mrs. Darling. Miss Capper happened to be staying with Mrs. Darling when Mrs. Griffiths’ letter arrived and was consulted on the question. She wrote the same day to Fanny Noyce and mentioned it to her; and Fanny, all alive for us, instantly took up her pen and forwarded the circumstance to me — except as to names, which have but lately transpired. … I answered Fanny’s letter by the same post and pressed for the recommendation of Sanditon.”
Unfortunately, the West Indians and the seminary turn out to be the same people, much to Miss Diana’s mortification. “No part of it, however, seemed to trouble her for long. There were so many to share in the shame and the blame that probably, when she had divided out their proper portions to Mrs. Darling, Miss Capper, Fanny Noyce, Mrs. Charles Dupuis and Mrs. Charles Dupuis’s neighbour, there might be a mere trifle of reproach remaining for herself.”
(The text of Sanditon on Wikisource.)
Fanny – Juvenilia, by Jane Austen. In her Juvenilia, Jane Austen wrote A Tour through Wales—in a Letter from a young Lady— in which there is a Fanny who takes “a great many Drawings of the Country, which are very beautiful, tho’ perhaps not such exact resemblances as might be wished, from their being taken as she ran along.”
My Dear Clara
I have been so long on the ramble that I have not till now had it in my power to thank you for your Letter.— We left our dear home on last Monday month; and proceeded on our tour through Wales, which is a principality contiguous to England and gives the title to the Prince of Wales. We travelled on horseback by preference. My Mother rode upon our little poney and Fanny and I walked by her side or rather ran, for my Mother is so fond of riding fast that she galloped all the way. You may be sure that we were in a fine perspiration when we came to our place of resting. Fanny has taken a great many Drawings of the Country, which are very beautiful, tho’ perhaps not such exact resemblances as might be wished, from their being taken as she ran along. It would astonish you to see all the Shoes we wore out in our Tour. We determined to take a good Stock with us and therefore each took a pair of our own besides those we set off in. However we were obliged to have them both capped and heelpeiced at Carmarthen, and at last when they were quite gone, Mama was so kind as to lend us a pair of blue Sattin Slippers, of which we each took one and hopped home from Hereford delightfully—
I am your ever affectionate
(The text of A Tour through Wales on Project Gutenberg and Pemberly.)
Fanny Bloomfield – Agnes Grey, by Anne Brontë. In an attempt to help her family, young Agnes Grey becomes a governess to the Bloomfield family: Tom, Mary Ann, and Fanny, “a very pretty little girl … she had not learned anything yet; but in a few days, she would be four years old, and then she might take her first lesson in the alphabet, and be promoted to the schoolroom”. Agnes soon finds that her three young charges are not as sweet and innocent as their parents believe they are.
When little Fanny came into the schoolroom, I hoped she would be mild and inoffensive, at least; but a few days, if not a few hours, sufficed to destroy the illusion: I found her a mischievous, intractable little creature, given up to falsehood and deception, young as she was, and alarmingly fond of exercising her two favourite weapons of offence and defence: that of spitting in the faces of those who incurred her displeasure, and bellowing like a bull when her unreasonable desires were not gratified. As she, generally, was pretty quiet in her parents’ presence, and they were impressed with the notion of her being a remarkably gentle child, her falsehoods were readily believed, and her loud uproars led them to suspect harsh and injudicious treatment on my part; and when, at length, her bad disposition became manifest even to their prejudiced eyes, I felt that the whole was attributed to me.
Though she had hoped by firmness and perseverance to succeed, Agnes was dismissed before the year was out. She goes on to be the governess of the Murray family, and eventually marries a rector, Edward Weston. To Agnes, Mr. Weston appears like “the morning star in my horizon, to save me from the fear of utter darkness; …. I was glad to see that all the world was not made up of Bloomfields [and] Murrays”.
(Agnes Grey on Project Gutenberg.)
Fanny Cleaver (a.k.a. Jenny Wren) – Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens. Fanny Cleaver is the real name of Jenny Wren (“she had long ago chosen to bestow upon herself the appellation of Miss Jenny Wren”), the dolls’ dressmaker, also referred to as “the person of the house”. She is “a child—a dwarf—a girl—a something”—a “queer little figure” with a “queer but not ugly little face”. She is a “child in years”, a “woman in self-reliance and trial.” Her “back’s bad, and [her] legs are queer” — they cause her great pain, but the “dexterity of her nimble fingers was remarkable”. Her father is a weak man, never sober. She supports him, calling him her child, and often scolding him viciously. He wastes her hard-earned money on drink. Her mother is dead. Despite her deformities, she has “bright long fair hair which grew very luxuriant and beautiful” and a sweet, silvery voice. She buys scraps of fabric from a Mr. Riah, whom she calls her fairy godmother (he calls her Cinderella). She puts pepper in several plasters that she puts on a Mr. Fledgeby, in revenge for him deceiving her about Mr. Riah. She is a friend of Lizzie Hexam. Eugene Wrayburn hires a woman to teach Lizzie and Jenny. When Lizzie leaves London to avoid Mr. Wrayburn, she corresponds with Jenny. Though Eugene frequents Jenny’s house, Jenny refuses to tell him where Lizzie is. Her father, however, steals one of her letters in order to sell the address to Eugene. When Eugene goes to find Lizzie, he barely survives an attempted murder. He can hardly speak, but he asks for Jenny, and it is Jenny who understands him when is asking that Lizzie be entreated to marry him. Near the end of the book, in what is called a “special” event, Jenny meets Mr. Sloppy, a simple friend of the Boffins’. He comes to pick up a doll, and is much struck by Jenny. When he leaves, he tells her, “I’ll soon come back again” — perhaps suggesting that Sloppy will be the embodiment of Jenny’s imaginary Him — “Him who is coming to court and marry me”.
(Our Mutual Friend on Project Gutenberg; Jenny Wren was played by Helena Hughes in the 1958 adaptation Our Mutual Friend; in 1976 – Polly James; in 1998 – Katy Murphy.)
Fanny Davilow – Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot. Mrs. Davilow is Gwendolen Harleth’s mother. There is a second Fanny Davilow in the story, one of Gwendolen’s half-sisters (the others being Alice, Bertha, and Isabel). Mrs. Davilow is a kind, but weak and sorrowful, woman. She “had never seemed to get much enjoyment out of life”. Her second husband made her unhappy. After his death, she moves to a cottage near her brother. She is the mother of the splendid Gwendolen Harleth. The only child from Mrs. Davilow’s first marriage, Gwendolen is the favorite daughter of her mother. Mrs. Davilow spoils her, and is rather in awe of her.
(Daniel Deronda on Project Gutenberg; Mrs. Davilow was played by Yvonne Coulette in the 1970 adaptation Daniel Deronda; in 2002, she was played by Amanda Root and her daughter Fanny by Anna Popplewell.)
Fanny Dombey – Dombey and Son, by Charles Dickens. Fanny is the wife of Paul Dombey. He is the head of the company Dombey and Son. Fanny dies soon after giving birth to a son, also named Paul, who is destined by his father to become the son in Dombey and Son. During Fanny’s illness, Mr. Dombey sister, Mrs. Chick, is convinced that “it’s nothing whatever. … An effort is necessary. That’s all. If dear Fanny were a Dombey!—But I daresay she’ll make it; I have no doubt she’ll make it. Knowing it to be required of her, as a duty, of course she’ll make it.” Paul and Fanny’s first child, Florence, is neglected by her father. He cares only for a son, but Fanny loves her, and, even when she is dying, her daughter’s “voice, familiar and dearly loved, awakened some show of consciousness, even at that ebb.” Fanny dies “clasping her little daughter to her breast”. Her husband mourns her loss more for his son’s sake than his own — “almost angry sorrow. That the life and progress on which he built such hopes, should be endangered in the outset by so mean a want; that Dombey and Son should be tottering for a nurse, was a sore humiliation.” Only Florence truly mourns for the loss of her mother. Mrs. Chick thinks that Florence “has poor dear Fanny’s nature. She’ll never make an effort in after-life, I’ll venture to say. Never!” Her assessment of her sister-in-law is, “Why, poor dear Fanny was interesting … Certainly interesting. She had not that air of commanding superiority which one would somehow expect, almost as a matter of course, to find in my brother’s wife; nor had she that strength and vigour of mind which such a man requires. … But she was pleasing … extremely so. And she meant!—oh, dear, how well poor Fanny meant!”
(Dombey and Son on Project Gutenberg; Fanny Dombey appears briefly in the 1983 miniseries Dombey and Son.)
Fanny Dorrit – Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens. Fanny is the elder sister of the titular character, Amy Dorrit, and the daughter of William Dorrit and his wife, who was also named Fanny. She is, in the eyes of her most persistent admirer, “a glorious girl who hasn’t an atom of” “nonsense about her”. Fanny is born before her father is confined in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison. She is “a pretty girl of a far better figure and much more developed than Little Dorrit, though looking much younger in the face when the two were observed together”. Her sister Amy helps her to get dancing lessons from another inmate of the prison, and Fanny becomes a dancer in the theatre where her uncle plays the clarinet. It is there that she meets Edmund Sparkler, the son of Mrs. Merdle by her first marriage. Mr. Sparkler becomes enamored by Fanny, who, by rejecting his advances, brings him to the point of proposing marriage. Mrs. Merdle tries to bribe Fanny to not marry Sparkler. Fanny has no intention of marrying him anyway — “Like him? He is almost an idiot.” — but fully intends to make his mother pay for her insolence. When her father receives a fortune and leaves the Marshalsea, he takes Fanny, Amy, and their brother Edward abroad, where Fanny again meets up with Mrs. Merdle and Sparkler. Mrs. Merdle pretends that she has never seen Fanny before and Sparkler renews his attentions to her — “The devotion of Mr Sparkler was only to be equalled by the caprice and cruelty of his enslaver.” However, in order to “have a more defined and distinct position”, and so that she can oppose and compete with his mother, Fanny finally agrees to marry Sparkler. After her marriage, Fanny’s father loses all his money when Mr. Merdle’s bank is revealed to be a fraud. Mrs. Merdle comes to live with her son and daughter-in-law, and “Mrs Sparkler and Mrs Merdle, inhabiting different floors … arrayed themselves to fight it out in the lists of Society, sworn rivals”, leaving poor Sparkler “not knowing how to keep the peace between them, but humbly inclining to the opinion that they could do no better than agree that they were both remarkably fine women, and that there was no nonsense about either of them—for which gentle recommendation they united in falling upon him frightfully”. Fanny’s sister Amy gives “a mother’s care … to Fanny’s neglected children” and leaves “that lady going into Society for ever and a day”.
(Little Dorrit on Project Gutenberg; in the 1988 adaptation Little Dorrit, Fanny Dorrit is played by Amelda Brown; in 2008 – Emma Pierson gave a delightful performance as Fanny Dorrit.)
Fanny Hamley – Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Fanny is the name of Osborne and Roger Hamley’s “little sister … who died”. When their mother, Madame Hamley, is dying, she sometimes mistakes Molly Gibson for her daughter and calls her “Fanny”. Molly falls in love with Roger, but he falls for her step-sister, Cynthia Kirkpatrick.
Molly had keen insight into her ‘sister’s’ heart; and she knew that Cynthia did not love Roger, Molly could have cried with passionate regret at the thought of the unvalued treasure lying at Cynthia’s feet; and it would have been a merely unselfish regret. It was the old fervid tenderness. ‘Do not wish for the moon, O my darling, for I cannot give it thee.’ Cynthia’s love was the moon Roger yearned for; and Molly saw that it was far away and out of reach, else would she have strained her heart-chords to give it to Roger.
‘I am his sister,’ she would say to herself. ‘That old bond is not done away with, though he is too much absorbed by Cynthia to speak about it just now. His mother called me “Fanny;” it was almost like an adoption. I must wait and watch, and see if I can do anything for my brother.’
There is also a Fanny Osborne mentioned in passing in the story. She is the granddaughter of Mrs. Goodenough. The Miss Brownings invite Molly and Cynthia “to come to a very friendly tea and a round game afterwards; this mild piece of gaiety being designed as an attention to three of Mrs. Goodenough’s grandchildren—two young ladies and their school-boy brother—who were staying on a visit to their grandmamma.” Fanny has a sister named Lizzie and a brother named William.
(Wives and Daughters on Project Gutenberg; Fanny Osborne is played by Keylee Jade Flanders in the 1999 adaptation Wives and Daughters — she is listed as Fanny Goodenough in the credits.)
Frances Evans Henri – The Professor, by Charlotte Brontë. In The Professor, William Crimsworth leaves England and becomes a teacher in Belgium. There he meets Mdlle. Henri who teaches “needlework, or netting, or lace-mending, or some such flimsy art” at the same school. She attends Professor Crimsworth’s English lessons “to qualify herself for a higher department of education” by perfecting her knowledge of English. He becomes interested in her. He finds “her possessed in a somewhat remarkable degree of at least two good points, viz., perseverance and a sense of duty; … capable of applying to study, of contending with difficulties. … she liked to learn, but hated to teach”. William tells Frances “Taste and fancy are not the highest gifts of the human mind, but such as they are you possess them—not probably in a paramount degree, but in a degree beyond what the majority can boast.” He wonders “how she came to be possessed of two English baptismal names, Frances and Evans, in addition to her French surname, also whence she derived her good accent” and finds that she was born in Geneva of a Swiss father and an English mother. Her parents died and she lives with her father’s sister. She finds teaching lace-mending a tedious occupation, and she uses the money she earns in trying to educate herself enough to find a better position as a governess or school-teacher. Mr. Crimsworth and Frances fall in love, and marry. They both continue teaching and eventually move to England. They have one child, a son, Victor, born in the third year of their marriage.
(The Professor on Project Gutenberg.)
Fanny Robin – Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy. Fanny Robin is a servant of Bathsheba Everdene’s. She “had no friends in her childhood”, but Farmer Boldwood “took her and put her to school, and got her her place” with Bathsheba’s uncle. Fanny runs away to be with her sweetheart, Sergeant Francis Troy, soon after Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s farm. Troy promised to marry Fanny, but, when she accidentally goes to the wrong church, he declares “You fool, for so fooling me! … I don’t go through that experience again for some time, I warrant you!” and leaves her. Distraught, she also leaves. Later, Troy goes to the farm of Bathsheba Everdene to look for Fanny, but becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and marries her, even though he loves Fanny “best upon the whole”. Troy says of his wife, “she has a will—not to say a temper, and I shall be a mere slave to her. I could do anything with poor Fanny Robin.” He doesn’t treat his wife well. A mere two months after marrying Bathsheba, Troy comes across Fanny, who is coming back to her former home. He gives her all the money he has and promises her more when he can get it—“You shan’t want—I’ll see that, Fanny”. Before he can meet her again, however, she dies in childbirth at the workhouse. Bathsheba declares, “And … this woman is your victim; and I not less than she.” Troy tells her, “‘This woman is more to me, dead as she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be. If Satan had not tempted me with that face of yours, and those cursed coquetries, I should have married her. I never had another thought till you came in my way. Would to God that I had; but it is all too late!’” He has a fine tombstone made for Fanny and attempts to plant flowers over her grave, but the rain washes them away, and he runs away. When Troy is later shot and killed, Bathsheba has him buried next to Fanny and the child.
(Far From the Madding Crowd is on Project Gutenberg here and here; Fanny Robin is played by Prunella Ransome in the 1967 adaptation Far From the Madding Crowd; in 1998 – Natasha Little.)
Fan Scrooge – A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Fan is the nickname of Ebenezer Scrooge’s sister. She dies before the story begins, but she is seen briefly when the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a scene from his youth.
Scrooge’s former self …. was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly. Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and, with a mournful shaking of his head, glanced anxiously towards the door.
It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came darting in, and, putting her arms about his neck, and often kissing him, addressed him as her “dear, dear brother.”
“I have come to bring you home, dear brother!” said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. “To bring you home, home, home!”
“Home, little Fan?” returned the boy.
“Yes!” said the child, brimful of glee. “Home for good and all. Home for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And you’re to be a man!” said the child, opening her eyes; “and are never to come back here; but first we’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”
“You are quite a woman, little Fan!” exclaimed the boy.
She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but, being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loath to go, accompanied her. …
“Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,” said the Ghost. “But she had a large heart!”
“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right. I will not gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid!”
Fan is the mother of Scrooge’s nephew Fred, a jovial, good-hearted, generous man, who tries to get his uncle to condescend to be happy, and is over-joyed at Scrooge’s reformation.
Fan is thought to be based on Charles Dickens’s oldest sister Frances (Fanny) Elizabeth Dickens (1810–1848). Dickens was very close to his talented sister. She was gifted in music, both in singing and as a musician, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. She was allowed out from the academy on Sundays, and would go with Charles to spend the day with their father in the Marshalsea. She married a fellow student from the academy, Henry Burnett (1812-1893). They both taught music in Manchester. One of their children, Henry Jr. (Nov. 25, 1839-Jan. 29, 1849), was crippled. They had two other children, Elizabeth (born in 1837) and Charles (born in 1841). Dickens based his Paul Dombey Jr. (Dombey and Son) and Tiny Tim (A Christmas Carol) on little Henry. Fanny died of consumption on September 2, 1848, at the age of 38. Dickens wrote that when his sister “became aware of her hopeless state … she resigned herself, after an hour’s unrest and struggle, with extraordinary sweetness and constancy.”
(A Christmas Carol is on Project Gutenberg here and here; Dickens’ letter to John Forster describing a visit to his terminally ill sister Fanny; there are about a gazillion adaptations of A Christmas Carol — a few of Fan’s depictions in them are listed here and here.)
Fanny Squeers – Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens. The title character, Nicholas Nickleby, meets Fanny Squeers when he comes to work as a teacher in her father’s school, Dotheboys Hall. By the time he meets her, he has already developed a disgust for the school, his situation, and, especially, his employer, Mr. Squeers. Miss Squeers, finding out from her parents that Nicholas is the son of a gentleman and has “a touch of pride about him”, becomes interested in him. Her servant gives her further particulars about Nicholas, describing “his beautiful dark eyes, and his sweet smile, and his straight legs—upon which last-named articles she laid particular stress; the general run of legs at Dotheboys Hall being crooked”. Nicholas shows no “indication of being stricken to the heart by Miss Squeers’s charms”, but she falls in love with him the first time she sees him — primarily because she is jealous of her friend, ’Tilda Price, who is five years younger than she, and is already engaged. And, then, Nicholas is a gentleman’s son, unlike ’Tilda’s fiancé, John Browdie, who is only a corn-factor’s son. Fanny is habitually ill-tempered, treating her servant and others badly. “She was not tall like her mother, but short like her father; from the former she inherited a voice of harsh quality; from the latter a remarkable expression of the right eye, something akin to having none at all.” She attempts to bring Nicholas to a declaration by fainting, but is horrified when he declares, that “This is the grossest and wildest delusion … that ever human being laboured under …. I have not one thought, wish, or hope, connected with her, unless it be … the one object, … of being one day able to turn my back upon this accursed place, never to … even think of it—but with loathing and disgust.” Miss Squeers is enraged at having been refused by a teacher — right in ’Tilda’s presence! “But, there was one thing clear in the midst of her mortification; and that was, that she hated and detested Nicholas with all the narrowness of mind and littleness of purpose worthy a descendant of the house of Squeers. And there was one comfort too; and that was, that every hour in every day she could wound his pride, and goad him with the infliction of some slight, or insult, or deprivation”. She eventually breaks with ’Tilda because she and her husband become friends with Nicholas. Even so, Mr. Browdie saves Miss Squeers from being dosed with “brimstone-and-treacle” when Dotheboys Hall breaks up.
(Nicholas Nickleby on Project Gutenberg; There are numerous adaptations of Nicholas Nickleby — Fanny Squeers is played by Vida Hope – 1947, Rosalind Knight – 1957, Karin MacCarthy – 1968, Isabelle Amyes – 1977, Suzanne Bertish – 1982, Debbie Chazen – 2001, and Heather Goldenhersh – 2002.)
Fanny Thornton – North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Fanny Thornton is the younger sister of the mill-owner John Thornton. Their father died under miserable circumstances. John got employment in a draper’s shop and supported himself, his mother, and his sister on his earnings. He raised himself to his position as mill-owner. Fanny was too young for their hardships to have made much of an impression on her, and she grows up a fretful girl, fancying herself delicate. Mrs. Thornton has “an unconscious contempt for a weak character; and Fanny was weak in the very points in which her mother and brother were strong. Mrs. Thornton … winced as she made this acknowledgment to herself about her daughter, it only gave her a kind of pitying tenderness of manner towards her”. Fanny dislikes “dirty, smoky” Milton, where her brother works, and wants to travel to London and the Alhambra. Her brother wants her to be kind to the Hales, a family new to Milton, but Fanny thinks that Miss Hale is not accomplished, since she cannot play the piano, and that she couldn’t ever like her. When Mr. Thornton’s mill is attacked by a mob, Fanny runs “screaming up-stairs as if pursued at every step, and had thrown herself in hysterical sobbing on the sofa.” When the gates are broken down, she faints. After the mob has been dispersed, the Thorntons “would have been very silent, but for Fanny’s perpetual description of her own feelings; how she had been alarmed—and then thought they were gone—and then felt sick and faint and trembling in every limb.” When Mrs. Thornton and Mr. Thornton seek out the daughter of an old friend and find her ill of a “catching” fever, they care for her. “So, though she was afraid at the time, it has all ended well.” She gets engaged to a rich gentleman, a great deal older than she. “His name is Watson; and his mills are somewhere out beyond Hayleigh; it’s a very good marriage, for all he’s got such gray hair.” “Mr. Thornton was only too glad to mark his grateful approbation of any sensible man, who could be captivated by Fanny’s second-rate airs and graces, by giving her ample means for providing herself with the finery, which certainly rivalled, if it did not exceed, the lover in her estimation.” After she is married, Fanny’s husband offers Mr. Thornton a share in a speculation, and is vexed when Mr. Thornton refuses.
(North and South on Project Gutenberg; Fanny Thornton was played by Pamela Moiseiwitsch in the 1975 adaptation North and South and by Jo Joyner in 2004.)
Francisca – Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare. Francisca is a nun that appears in one of the scenes (Act I, Scene IV. A nunnery.) in Measure for Measure. In the scene, she is talking to Isabella, one of the main characters of the play.
And have you nuns no farther privileges?
Are not these large enough?
Yes, truly; I speak not as desiring more;
But rather wishing a more strict restraint
Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare.
[Within] Ho! Peace be in this place!
Who’s that which calls?
It is a man’s voice. Gentle Isabella,
Turn you the key, and know his business of him;
You may, I may not; you are yet unsworn.
When you have vow’d, you must not speak with men
But in the presence of the prioress:
Then, if you speak, you must not show your face,
Or, if you show your face, you must not speak.
He calls again; I pray you, answer him.
And then Francisca leaves.
(Measure for Measure on Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg; Francisca is portrayed on film by Romy Baskerville – 1995 and Eileen Page – 1979.)
Of course, there are many other characters in literature with the name Fanny (or a variant of that name). In her book The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book, Grace Hamlin wrote of several other Fannies:
Henry Fielding wrote significant characters named Fanny into both Joseph Andrews and Amelia. In the former, satiric novel, Fanny Goodwill is the simple, beautiful county girl who loves the hero. She travels to London to find him and her virtue is under constant threat. Fanny Matthews of Amelia is exactly the opposite. Our hero Captain Booth encounters her while he is serving a prison sentence, and she entices him into an affair despite the many virtues of his wife Amelia. …
Many of the English Victorian novelists used Fanny for characters of various importance. … More conventional [than the diabolical Fanny Bloomfield of Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey] is the ladylike Fanny Robarts of Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage. She is the wife of the vicar at Framley, and the very model of a Victorian wife, except that she can be quite fierce where her husband’s interests are concerned. …
Henry James is modern enough to be suspected of irony, especially in the creation of secondary characters. In The Awkward Age, Fanny Cashmore is a magnificent but stupid member of Nanda Brookenham’s social circle. She is always on the verge of leaving the comforts of Mr. Cashmore’s home for the thrills of life with her lover. Fanny Assingham in The Golden Bowl is not a fool like Mrs. Cashmore. Having promoted the marriage between Maggie Verver and Prince Amerigo, she watches with horror as the prince and Maggie’s friend Charlotte Stant seem to resume a love affair.
…. In Émile Zola’s The Earth, Fanny Delhomme is the one member of the unfortunate Fouan family to have avoided the miseries of agricultural life. Her husband is both rich and kind to her, so she escapes hunger and domestic violence, unlike most of the female characters in the book.2
…. Emily Brontë writes a much smaller part [than her sister Charlotte's Frances Evans Henri in The Professor] for Frances Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights. She is merely Hindley Earnshaw’s wife, Cathy’s sister-in-law, who bears Hindley a son and dies before she can lose her optimistic high spirits.3
Francesca da Rimini is a character in the Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri. She appears in Canto V of Inferno. Dante based her on the historical Francesca da Rimini (or Francesca da Polenta). Francesca’s father wanted to marry her to Giovanni Malatesta, but knew that she would refuse him since he was deformed. The marriage, therefore, was performed by proxy, with Giovanni’s brother Paolo standing in for him. Francesca fell in love with Paolo and was not informed until after the wedding that it was actually Giovanni that she was marrying. Francesca and Paolo’s story also appears in a poem by Tchaikovsky, an opera composed by Riccardo Zandonai, and an opera by Sergei Rachmaninoff, as well as a number of other operas.
1 Grace Hamlin, The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book: 2,000 Names from the World’s Great Literature (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 2001), pp. 312-13.
2 Hamlin, pp. 312-14.
3 Ibid., p. 321.