Elizabeth Inchbald : biography
Elizabeth Inchbald (née Simpson) (1753–1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist.
Born on 15 October 1753 at Standingfield, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Elizabeth was the eighth of the nine children of John Simpson (died 1761), a farmer, and his wife Mary, née Rushbrook. The family, like several others in the neighbourhood was Roman Catholic. Elizabeth was educated with her sisters at home.; "Chronology of Elizabeth Inchbald". In: Elizabeth Inchbald: A Simple Story, ed. J. M. S. Tompkins (Oxford: OUP, 1988 ), pp. xxxi ff. ISBN 0-19-281849-X.
At the age of 19 she went to London in order to act. (Her brother George had become an actor in 1770.) Young and alone, she was apparently the victim of sexual harassment.Spencer, Jane. . In 1772 she agreed to marry a fellow Catholic, the actor Joseph Inchbald (1735–1779), possibly at least partially for protection. The marriage was reported to have had difficulties. For four years the couple toured Scotland with West Digges’s theatre company, a demanding life. In 1776 they moved to Liverpool and Inchbald met actors Sarah Siddons and her brother John Philip Kemble, both of whom became important friends. The Inchbalds subsequently moved to Canterbury and Yorkshire. After Joseph Inchbald’s death in 1779, Inchbald continued to act for several years, in Dublin, London, and elsewhere. Her acting career, while only moderately successful, spanned seventeen years and she appeared in many classical roles, as well as in new plays such as Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem.
Between 1784 and 1805 she had nineteen of her comedies, sentimental dramas, and farces (many of which were translations from the French) performed at London theatres. Eighteen of her plays were published, though she wrote several more; the exact number is in dispute though most recent commentators claim between 21 and 23. Her two novels have been frequently reprinted. She also did considerable editorial and critical work. Her literary start began with writing for The Artist and Edinburgh Review. A four-volume autobiography was destroyed before her death upon the advice of her confessor, but she left some of her diaries. The latter are currently held at the Folger Shakespeare Library and an edition was recently published.
Her play Lovers’ Vows (1798) was featured by Jane Austen in her novel Mansfield Park.
A political radical and friend of William Godwin and Thomas Holcroft, her political beliefs can more easily be found in her novels than in her plays due to the constrictive environment of the patent theatres of Georgian London.Smallwood, Angela. "." "Inchbald’s life was marked by tensions between, on the one hand, political radicalism, a passionate nature evidently attracted to a number of her admirers, and a love of independence, and on the other hand, a desire for social respectability and a strong sense of the emotional attraction of authority figures". She died on 1 August 1821 in Kensington.ODNB entry. She quarrelled publicly with Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797, when Wollstonecraft’s marriage to William Godwin made it clear that she had not been married to Gilbert Imlay, the father of her elder daughter Fanny. This was deeply resented by Godwin.John Barrell: "May I come to your house to philosophise? The letters of William Godwin Vol 1…", London Review of Books 8 September 2011.
In recent decades Inchbald has been the subject of increasing critical interest, particularly among scholars interested in women’s writing.