I’m reading Fanny Burney’s Evelina at the moment, and enjoying it very much. It was written in the 1780s, but it is just as relevant today, with its satirising of snobbery, shopping, and of people’s obsession with image, superficialities and material goods.
Fanny Burney’s works record the first documented instance of a few dozen words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Words still in use today that she is the earliest known writer to have committed to paper (which doesn’t mean that she coined the words, nor that she necessarily was the first to put them in writing – just that her example is the earliest example to have survived) include: bon-bon, grumpy, pinafore, protégée, shilly-shally, to make oneself up, tea-party, unspoilt, unremittingly, obtrusively and unobtrusively.
Burney was very fond of adding prefixes and suffixes to existing words, and there are several such examples in the Dictionary, including: unassimilating, unchequered, unhabituated, unintruding, unmeaningness, wearying, writable, meditatively, incidentless and forwarder. In Evelina she uses Londonize as a verb to mean ‘to make like London or its inhabitants’.
Burney is also responsible for words that look modern, but she used them with another meaning: dowdy (a noun meaning ‘woman’s cap’), whisky (an adjective meaning ‘lively or flighty’), esquire (a verb meaning ‘to attend to a lady as a squire’) and cut-up (a noun meaning ‘an act of cutting up’).
She is also cited as the author of the earliest citations for the adjectives crack-headed (crazy) and boobyish (silly).