Literary significance and reception

Literary critic George Saintsbury argued that Jane Austen's naturalistic female characters owed a debt to this society novel's spirited heroine.[6] Certainly when Austen was updating her early novel-draft 'Susan', which eventually appeared in print renamed as Northanger Abbey, she added a reference to Belinda:[7]

“ 'Oh, it is only a novel.....It is only Cecilia or Camilla, or Belinda '; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed”.

Belinda was itself in the tradition of society novels[8] by writers such as Frances Sheridan and Frances Burney, who also charted the travails of bright young women in search of a good marriage. Perhaps Edgeworth's best courtship novel, Belinda replaces mercenary fortune-hunting with a deeper quest for marital compatibility, valorising irrationality and love over reason and duty in a way that prefigures Austen's treatments of the same theme.[9]

Aristocrat Lady Delacour in Belinda has been compared to Miss Milner in Elizabeth Inchbald’s A Simple Story (1791).[10]

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