Told in a series of letters, Evelina
is the story of a naive country miss venturing forth into the dissolute world of London society, and teaches the perils of having an absurd amount of beauty and none of the wiles to make a success of it. Evelina is plagued on all sides by suitors ridiculous and admirable, and must cling to the bulwark of her virtue lest she be swept away by the frivolous winds of flirtation and vulgarity.
I sound flippant and everything but I will confess that I liked this book, despite the absurdity of some of the characters and indeed, occasionally of Evelina herself. This is not a book that will easily translate to contemporary times -- the delicacy of feeling is almost beyond understanding at one or two points. I saw nothing so outrageous in Orville's letter, for instance, but it fair drove Evelina to tears -- which happens a lot. Also a lot of falling to one's knees and crying out. Very melodramatic, this.
Still, I really enjoyed it. The characters are all lively and sweet and delightfully and uninhibitedly appalling when they need to be. Evelina's relationship with her adoptive father is touching, and Orville is really quite impressive, for all he puts up with. Evelina herself is charming and quiet, virtuous in the extreme until she learns to lighten up a little and let love in.