Smallwood, Angela. 'Introduction to vol. 6 of Eighteenth-Century Women Playwrights: Elizabeth Inchbald.' British Women Playwrights around 1800. 15 August 2001. 32 pars. <http://www.etang.umontreal.ca/bwp1800/essays/smallwood_introPC.html>
From Eighteenth-Century Women Playwrights, 6 vols., gen. ed. Derek Hughes (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2001), vol. 6, pp. ix-xxviii. Copyright © Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Limited 2001. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights
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[Volume 6 of Eighteenth-Century Women Playwrights contains the following plays: The Widow's Vow; Such Things Are; The Child of Nature; Next Door Neighbours; Wives as they Were and Maids as they Are]
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Elizabeth Inchbald (1753-1821) was an actress before she became a playwright
and her plays belong to the thriving theatrical culture of late
eighteenth-century London. From her years as an actress in her twenties and thirties she drew detailed
knowledge of how theatre performances worked. She gained extensive
early experience of much of the standard repertoire by playing
sometimes major roles on provincial stages in Bristol, Liverpool,
Birmingham, Dublin and Scotland, and on Tate Wilkinson's Yorkshire
circuit. ) From 1780, when she became a member of the Covent Garden company, she played
supporting roles at Covent Garden and the Haymarket alongside
the performers who, increasingly, were to form the casts of her
own plays. She saw new productions develop and, as a poorly paid actress who could not
refuse walk-on parts in pantomimes, experienced the operation
of the hierarchies of stage production: the ranking of genres
and talents within the companies from tragedy down to musicals,
from delivering Shakespearean verse down to singing ballads.
Inchbald moved from acting into professional writing gradually and quite deliberately,
while employed by the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, during
the 1780s. The move was founded upon a sustained programme
of self-education, a regime of reading which began early and
was logged, year by year, in notebooks. Combining substantial first-hand stage experience with wide-ranging study, Inchbald
achieved a professional style and status unavailable to the
actress-playwrights of the eighteenth century who had preceded
her. In the 1750s and 1760s, Susannah Cibber and Kitty Clive,
for instance, had turned aside from acting only briefly to
work up the occasional short afterpiece, creating exuberant
roles for themselves for benefit nights; and Elizabeth Griffith,
who published letters and novels as well as plays, had battled
much harder and less successfully than Inchbald for a permanent
place as a writer in the patronage of the theatre managers.
While over a hundred women wrote plays in Britain in the eighteenth century,
the years between 1770 and 1800, which included the major part
of Inchbald's career as a playwright, saw a massive expansion
in women's writing in general. During this period, many women
tried their hands at writing a play or two, in part because
writing for the stage, if successful, brought better financial
rewards than other kinds of writing. Inchbald is outstanding, however, for the continuity of the stage successes
which resulted from her extensive output of twenty or so plays. Her achievement of financial independence, social acceptability and a recognised
career as a writer for the stage is exceptional. Looking back
from 1831, James Boaden, who wrote biographies of several major
theatre figures of Inchbald's time, saw only four women since
the Restoration who had achieved eminence as comic dramatists:
Aphra Behn, Susanna Centlivre, Hannah Cowley and Elizabeth
Inchbald. ) When the Longman publishing company sought a significant figure as editor of
three prestigious anthologies of English drama, published in
the early years of the nineteenth century, they chose Inchbald;
a clear tribute to the position she had won.
This picture of Elizabeth Inchbald as a figure closely identified with the late
Georgian theatre is distinctly different from the image that
until recently she has retained in literary studies. She has
been noted in a small way as the author of one of the more
interesting novels of sensibility, A Simple Story (1791), and of Lovers' Vows (1798), an obscure adaptation of a German melodrama, which was chosen by Jane
Austen for the family theatricals in Mansfield Park. [Lovers' Vows is available at the BWP1800 site.] The privileging of prose fiction above popular
theatre pieces evident in this judgement dates from Inchbald's
own time. It was with a novel that Inchbald herself first approached
a publisher; it was only after this was rejected that she found
her first opportunity to write professionally in drama, which
continued to pay much better. The novel was more respectable
than the theatre, especially for a woman, and, as Inchbald
herself noted in a light-hearted essay of 1807, gave the writer
far greater autonomy and freedom of expression. Boaden, himself a minor dramatist, would have agreed: in his 1833 biography
of Inchbald he wrote, as if from personal experience, that
success as a playwright was too much a matter of luck, of rapid
labour pursuing the lure of spectacular earnings, at the mercy
of the public's latest rage for a favourite performer (Memoirs of Mrs Inchbald, vol. II, p. 3). Devoting hundreds of pages to detailing the development of
Inchbald's life as a playwright, to the staging and publication
of most of her substantial body of plays, Boaden's monumental
work nevertheless pronounces that it is her first novel, A Simple Story, 'which bears the highest testimony to the genius of Mrs Inchbald' (ibid. vol.
I, p. 274)
||In literary terms this may well be right, for the general profile of her dramatic
output looks unpromising by traditional criteria: its claims
to originality or solid achievement in established genres are
not extensive. Beyond Lovers' Vows, as much as half her output consists of translations, mainly from French. Original
five-act comedies are strongly outnumbered by adaptations and
afterpieces (short plays presented after the main entertainment;
a type of work often assumed to be unimportant because it was
dominated by farce, presented by players of middle or lower
rank and apparently ephemeral). Inchbald's first stage success was an afterpiece, a light two-act farce called The Mogul Tale (1784) that appealed to the opportunism of George Colman, manager of the Haymarket,
because it exploited the current rage for hot air ballooning.
Likely appeal at the box office also influenced the choice
of Inchbald's other afterpieces in the 1780s, most of which
were adaptations from recent Paris productions of proven popularity
and were commissioned by Thomas Harris, manager of Covent Garden.
These could be written fairly rapidly; journalists in 1786,
reporting that Inchbald was at work on her fifth play in two
years, joked about her numerous dramatic progeny, her teeming
muse, her pregnant pen, her fertile conceptions, and so on. The flow of payments received for this sequence of afterpiece adaptations, however,
largely provided the funds that Inchbald invested for her long-term
financial support in the years immediately preceding and following
her withdrawal from the Covent Garden company in 1789. This
bread-and-butter work may have been low on originality, opportunistic,
profit-driven, topical, pandering to popular crazes, rushed
and pragmatic; however, these features of Inchbald's most neglected
works do not automatically condemn them, but reflect the considerable
constraints within which she worked and achieved success while
many others failed.
||The three Longman anthologies of 1808-11 placed eleven of Inchbald's own works
among the best recent British drama. All had been successful
in the theatre and in print. They included all her produced five-act
comedies - five original plays and two adapted from German -
and four short afterpieces, three of which were adaptations from
French. It is striking that this early nineteenth-century Inchbald canon recognises
both the afterpieces and the less original adapted material strongly.
In practice, the complexity of influences, both English and foreign,
upon plays of the period makes the separation of original from
unoriginal material extremely difficult and ultimately unimportant: Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer (1773) is indebted to Marivaux; Sheridan's The School for Scandal (1777) draws upon earlier works, including Tom Jones, and was tailored to the established talents of the players who premièred it. Recent critics of Inchbald have shown a new interest in relating both her fiction
and her drama to the cultural interactions that dominated the
theatre for which she wrote, and in placing her work in the context
of the turbulent period that saw the War of American Independence,
the trial of Warren Hastings, the regency crisis, anti-slavery
campaigns, and the French Revolution and its aftermath. Gary
Kelly, presenting A Simple Story as a key text in the growth of the Jacobin novel in the 1790s, has highlighted
the radicalism of Such Things Are (1787) and Next Door Neighbours (1791), as well as of Everyone has his Fault (1793), which was attacked in The True Briton on 30 January 1793 for, in Boaden's words, 'doctrines ... tending to disorganisation'
(ibid. vol. I, p. 310). Other critics have taken up Such Things Are in relation to colonialism and Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are (1797) in the perspective of eighteenth-century marriage law.
The selection of Inchbald's dramatic works in this volume combines
five-act plays and afterpieces, adaptations and original work,
a group of texts which debate a number of important themes:
gender identities; female education; the power of fashion;
despotism and libertarianism; models of human relations based
on friendship, hierarchy or power struggles between sexes,
generations or classes; the conflict between libertinism and
sensibility (on one level, the whole story of eighteenth-century
stage comedy). I will take up some of these points later in
this introduction. My main aim, however, is to free Inchbald's
plays from novel-centred criticism by establishing something
of the nature of the theatrical culture within which they took
shape and by highlighting some of the conflicts which emerge
in her work between the conservative tendencies and the radical
potential of late Georgian stage comedy.
Late in 1788, critics reviewing the production of Inchbald's The Child of Nature at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, were particularly well entertained by its
epilogue. The London Chronicle (27-9 November 1788) enjoyed the satirical points scored against 'fashionable
follies of the times' and commented that it was 'admirably
spoken by Mrs. Mattocks'. It was in fact a virtuoso piece
written especially for the popular middle-ranking actress
Isabella Mattocks, not by Inchbald herself but, as was quite
frequently the case, by a leading epilogue writer, Miles
Peter Andrews. It gave full scope to the performer's talents,
including her gift for caricaturing women who, with a social
status somewhere below the fashionable class, tried to keep
up with fashion. However, a more waspish critic in The Times (1 December), took pleasure in pointing out that 'The attack on Ladies Feathers
... loses much of its force, from the Speaker being herself
decked with an enormous plume'. There was indeed a massive
contradiction, not simply here but at the heart of the late
eighteenth-century London theatre, which, as a major consumer-led
industry, was capable of criticising fashion but was committed
to cultivating it. This particular epilogue was on one level
a commercial gambit: a speciality act bought in to supply
the production of Inchbald's modest drama with a brilliant
final flourish and thus to leave the audience demanding the
continuation of its run.
||The dynamic of the epilogue was a matter more complex, however, than Isabella
Mattocks's apparent hypocrisy in ridiculing feathered head-dresses
whilst wearing one herself. It gave her the opportunity to delight
her audience by manipulating multiple identities for a wonderfully
rich theatrical effect. In the full-dress costume of a marchioness
(her role in Inchbald's play), she would have stepped forward
from the final scene as one of the audience's favourite speakers
of epilogues, an actress well liked in roles ranging across the
class hierarchy from intriguing chambermaids to assertive ladies
of quality. She would have been recognisable as a woman with
no personal claim to gentility in private life, stepping half
out of the identity of a titled lady, half into her own highly
resonant stage persona and then, in the mimicking sections of
the epilogue, launching into virtual self-parody as she delivered
the latest of her famously hilarious impressions of other, less skilful, social pretenders. The members of the audience,
too, would have been cast in at least dual roles by their responses
to this prologue. They would have accepted the role of the moral
majority, to which Mattocks appealed for endorsement of the innocent
simplicity of the child of nature. They would also have responded
to the satire on fashion with gleeful laughter while contributing
from their seats in the auditorium to the spectacle of the theatre
itself, as one of the main cockpits of fashion in London.
Inchbald knew intimately this culturally fascinating performance medium, in which
most writers were servants, not masters. Behind the texts which
appear in this volume lie complex accommodations and compromises.
Managers, performers, audiences and reviewers all influenced
the ways in which the performance text of a play developed.
Inchbald responded to them by making revisions, sometimes repeatedly,
not only during rehearsals but also during early performances,
which preceded the publication of the first editions. The Larpent
manuscripts of the plays (copies of their texts sent to the
lord chamberlain's office for licensing some days ahead of
their opening nights) often differ from the printed versions
and show that many changes were made. In addition, Inchbald's
own manuscript of Such Things Are shows layers of rewriting both before and after the Larpent manuscript was copied.
A whole range of factors could force changes, as the endnotes
to this volume illustrate. Successful new effects were generated
when particular roles interacted creatively with the personalities
and repertoires of certain performers; see, for example, Inchbald's
extra material for William Parsons as Don Antonio in The Widow's Vow, and for William Thomas Lewis and Isabella Mattocks as Twineall and Lady Tremor
in Such Things Are. A play might be tailored to pick up on a topical event, such as the trial of
Warren Hastings in the case of Such Things Are; scenes which proved ponderous in the early performances would be cut, as in The Child of Nature; and episodes which were attacked in the reviews for indelicacy or for striking
the wrong tone might be dropped (Eleanor's proposal at the
end of Next Door Neighbours is one of these; Lady Priory's business with the hat in Act II of Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are is another). The enormous contribution of the players' own inventiveness is
clear, not only from the acknowledgements made by Inchbald
in some of the advertisements which preface the texts but also
in the huge number of new stage directions written into the
published versions in an attempt to capture some of the nuances
conveyed by the stage business and the performers' by-play.
There was a hierarchical relationship between the three London patent theatres,
based upon perceptions of both repertoires and audiences, which
placed Inchbald, as a member of the Covent Garden company,
somewhere in the middle ground. Her friends, the actor-manager
John Philip Kemble and the famous actress Sarah Siddons, were
installed majestically at Drury Lane, which was the most traditional
of the theatres and the natural home of tragedy at this time.
The Covent Garden repertoire was a little lighter than that
of Drury Lane but the patrons in the boxes were often just
as distinguished since Covent Garden was George III's favourite
theatre and mounted the majority of royal command performances
(productions acted at the request of the king), which attracted
glittering audiences. Third in line was the Theatre Royal in
the Haymarket, the first to stage Inchbald's work. This was
a smaller theatre which operated in the summer months when
the other two theatres were closed and many people of fashion were out of town. Reviews
of Inchbald's Next Door Neighbours at the Haymarket in 1791 promoted it by mentioning the fashionable nature of
the audience which it had already attracted ('The PRINCE of
WALES, Mrs. FITZHERBERT, with all the "remnant fashion" of the Metropolis'); while one reviewer interpreted Inchbald's creation of the
Figaro-like, outspoken, honest servant, Bluntly, as a shamelessly
well-aimed appeal to the Haymarket gallery.
||Regardless of their position in this hierarchy, all the theatre companies played
to an audience of some social diversity, reflected in the stratified
architecture and pricing, in all the playhouses, of pit, box
and gallery. Inchbald could have had no better introduction to the composite nature of this
audience than was provided by her work adapting plays from
the Parisian stage. Box office success did not transfer directly
from Paris to London with a direct translation of a play. For The Child of Nature (and for the German adaptation Lovers' Vows), Thomas Harris passed to Inchbald a literal translation brought to him by someone
else so that she could adapt it to London tastes. Inchbald
summarised her view of the challenge of this work in The British Theatre in 1808, commenting that
every drama requires great alteration, before it can please a London audience,
although it has previously charmed the audience of Paris.
The gloomy mind of a British auditor demands a bolder and
more varied species of theatrical amusement, than the lively
spirits of his neighbours in France. The former has no attention,
no curiosity, till roused by some powerful fable, intricate
occurrences, and all the interest which variety creates -
whilst the latter will quietly sit, absorbed in their own
glowing fancy, to hear speeches after speeches, of long narration,
nor wish to see anything performed, so they are but told,
that something has been done.
The adaptations reproduced below consistently treat their originals very much
along lines suggested by this assessment of the character
of British audiences: they reproduce comic events and quickfire
exchanges almost verbatim but cut out soliloquies and reflection
in favour of pace, action, bold stage effects and situations
capable of releasing the talents of great comic players.
They extend and vary the range of roles, chiefly in the direction
of low comedy to offset sentiment, and cut explanations and
elaborations, leaving more to be conveyed by the performers. In Lovers' Vows, 'altered from the German of Kotzebue', Inchbald made different but equally
essential modifications, reworking several aspects of the
original play extensively because, as its preface explains,
she judged it 'discordant with an English stage'. Her skilled
assessment of what would work in a London theatre was completely
vindicated: 'for Kotzebue's "Child of Love", in Germany, was never more attractive, than "Lovers' Vows" has been in England' (The British Theatre, vol. 23, p. 5).
||The Parisian audience was perceived as more aristocratic and refined, and although
Inchbald broadened the appeal of the French plays she adapted,
their French origin made them attractive in London, if not to
'the quality' themselves, then to their social imitators. 'All
you have to do', Harris advised Inchbald with regard to writing The Midnight Hour in 1787, 'is to get a prologue, which must say much of its great celebrity in
Paris' (Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs Inchbald, vol. I, p. 246). French style was irresistibly fashionable, endorsed as it
was by the English aristocracy, whose private theatres were set
up in emulation of those in France. Harris's commissioning of
Inchbald to adapt The Child of Nature from a French play written for private performance by the Comtesse de Genlis
is a good example of how the Covent Garden company exploited
the appeal of French refinement. Although some reviews were negative,
complaining that the piece was pale and uninteresting, the play's innocent young heroine, Amanthis, recreated an icon of ideal femininity
which commanded sympathy as a cultural image through a long stage
history (see below, pp. 84-5). Patricia Sigl suggests that Inchbald
may have seen distinct personal advantages in taking on this
adaptation: by succeeding in staging the rarefied gentility of
the world of Genlis's heroine, Inchbald was able to move on from
the associations of coarseness which beset the broader tradition
of English farce with which she had previously experimented,
and to reinforce the femininity and refinement of her own image. ) Inchbald had long been aware of the positive cultural significance of the French
language, especially for a woman. Learning French formed a recognised
part of a genteel female education in the eighteenth century
and conferred politeness; Boaden describes Inchbald's early determination
to learn French as 'indispensable' to her project to become a
professional writer (ibid. vol. I, p. 52).
||For London theatre audiences the political connotations of the idea of France,
however, were strongly negative. Culturally the London stage
fostered French taste; but politically it promoted a nationalist
rhetoric that ridiculed France, Britain's competitor as a world
power, as other, insisting upon hostility and difference. The
anti-French vein of nationalist satire dates back to the 1750s,
to comedies by Samuel Foote and David Garrick especially, and
is evident in a few of the prologues and epilogues in this volume. Inchbald herself was ready to exploit British scorn of French absolutism as
well as fashion's drive to emulate French refinement. An exploration
of the layers of composition behind Such Things Are illustrates this.
||Inchbald's concept of Such Things Are includes an attack on French-style politics, which is bound in with her critique
of Lord Chesterfield, an announced target of the play's satire.
In her 'Remarks' on the play, Inchbald states that the 'character
and conduct' of Twineall, the foolish sycophant, 'is formed on
the plan of Lord Chesterfield's finished gentleman' (The British Theatre, vol. 23, p. 4). Chesterfield's famous Letters were designed to educate his son to follow in his footsteps as an international
diplomat and aesthete, offering lessons in how to win place and
favour within the aristocratic, cosmopolitan ruling European élite which was strongly identified with France. Written in the 1740s and 1750s
but not published until 1774, the letters displayed to Inchbald's
generation the old ethos of hypocrisy and cynicism associated
with the ancien régime, which Chesterfield so much admired. They were met with outrage by the writers
of the 1770s, who were advancing an independent British national
identity based on the moral ideals of liberty, honesty and integrity,
values fundamental to the self-perceptions of a commercial culture.
To such writers, the Letters embodied all the negative qualities which epitomised the French in British nationalist
mythmaking: despotism, libertinism, hypocrisy, politesse, superficiality,
foppishness and effeminacy. In Inchbald's play, the characteristics
of Chesterfield's 'finished gentleman' are split between Twineall
and Lord Flint, the secretive, treacherous politician. The early draft, however, makes explicit the anti-French element of the attack
on Chesterfield. It shows not only a Twineall so effeminate that
he is mistaken at one point for a woman but also, in the place
later occupied by Lord Flint, a French count, Méprise, complete with a stage French accent and the further damning attribute
of a reputation for cynical womanising.
||By the time of the first performance the French identity of this character had
been stripped out completely and the British figure of Lord Flint
inserted in its place. The production coincided with a time when
public interest in the House of Commons impeachment trial of
Warren Hastings, governor general of Bengal, was high (see below,
pp. 29-30); by excluding reference to France, the late revision
of the manuscript makes the play's criticism of tyrannical rule
a purely Anglo-Indian issue. Alongside the Hastings trial, Such Things Are provides a sustained exploration of the nature of the British identities presented
to the outside world through the colonial enterprise. While the
final version of the play thus took on an immediate political
resonance, the earlier version illustrates Inchbald's awareness
of the broader political cross-currents upon which audience sympathies
were borne. This keen feeling for the political implications
of stage comedy is a key dynamic in Inchbald's handling of the
conventions of sentimental drama.
Inchbald's comedies and the politics of sensibility
||The heyday of the sensibility movement in eighteenth-century English culture
has often been blamed for a perceived debilitation of
stage comedy. The common assumption is that the brilliant
wit and sharp satire of Restoration comedy was displaced
by the deadening effects of sentimental speechifying
and the indulgence of facile wish-fulfilment in the unfolding
of plots. Although she balances sentiment with satire in her dramas, Inchbald can seem
all too repetitively adept at producing long-lost family
members, by coincidence, to participate in tearful reunions.
The selection in this volume offers ready examples: the
reconciliation of the Sultan with Arabella in Such Things Are; of Amanthis with Alberto in The Child of Nature; of Miss Dorrillon with Sir William in Wives as They Were, and Maids as they Are. These major plot events bring to mind comparable episodes in Inchbald's novels:
the reconciliation of Matilda with Lord Elmwood in A Simple Story; the reconciliation denied in Nature and Art when the child of art, William, does not recognise that the figure in the dock
whom he as judge condemns to death is Hannah, whom he
himself seduced and who should have been his wife. There
is a preoccupation here with renewing bonds between parents
and children, between husbands and wives, that have been
broken by the events of modern life: political upheaval,
exile, colonial trade and travel, adultery, seduction.
Inchbald shows these emotional ties reasserting themselves,
as if by instinct, in characters who are shown as basically
good or in whom goodness can be reawakened, remaking
the traditional harmonies of the ideal family and the
ideal society. Allardyce Nicoll, comparing Inchbald's
plays with mid-eighteenth-century sentimental comedy,
recognises in her work a 'more advanced style of sentimental
humanitarian drama'. In the wake of Rousseau and in the age of the French Revolution, her plays,
it is true, explicitly draw out the political implications
of sensibility. A mid-century classic of sentimentalism,
William Whitehead's The School for Lovers (1762), focuses on the delicacy of feeling which impedes the progress of a courtship;
Inchbald's The Child of Nature relates quite strikingly to this tradition (see below, p. 85). Other plays by
Inchbald, however, examine relationships within marriage
and families, represent hierarchical structures which
suggest analogies between the family and society, and
raise issues relating to the use of power.
||Such Things Are centres on philanthropic sensibility and illustrates its radical potential.
The play dramatises the moment at which a mode of sensibility
based on a moral form of social imitation, a benign paternalism
identified with the traditional qualities and obligations of
the ruling class, turns into a critique of the failings of that
class. The cult of benevolence among the middling classes in
the eighteenth century was, according to Robert Markley, a demonstration
that they increasingly possessed the wealth and the capacity
for humanitarian feelings that qualified them to carry out the
social responsibilities traditionally associated with the hereditary
aristocracy. This concept illuminates the iconic nature of the figure of the philanthropist
Haswell in Such Things Are, which is based on the prison reformer and reluctant national hero John Howard.
Haswell's benevolence is presented as the opposite of and the
corrective to despotic government, symbolised by the Sultan's
prison. One of the dramatic highpoints of the original production
was the scene in which Haswell visits the prison and gives money
to a political prisoner, Zedan, said to be a 'ferocious' inmate,
who has stolen Haswell's pocketbook. In an impulsive response
to Haswell's humane gesture, Zedan hands back the pocketbook
and describes the surprising surge of love towards the rest of
humanity which accompanies his action. Audiences thundered their
applause at this point. It is a moment of naked benevolist ideology, in which Haswell demonstrates the
existence of intrinsic human goodness and the possibility of
reviving it by kindness in a man reduced to criminality by an
oppressive regime. Haswell exclaims: 'Oh, nature! grateful! mild!
gentle! and forgiving! - worst of tyrants they who, by hard usage,
drive you to be cruel!' (below, p. 53). As a final tribute to
Haswell at the close of the play, Zedan remarks that he would
happily become the former's slave. Although it is possible to
cavil over how far the substitution of Haswell's benevolence
for the Sultan's tyranny actually implies a new social order, the force of Zedan's remark is to emphasise that, unlike the Sultan, Haswell
is morally qualified to rule.
||Benevolent sensibility is shown to be abused in Next Door Neighbours, a play which depicts another situation in which rank and power have clearly
become dissociated from high moral standards. Sir George Splendorville
disqualifies himself from his high position in society when he
parodies benevolence by giving money ostensibly to release Henry's
elderly father, Willford, from a debtors' prison but really in
payment for the opportunity to attempt to seduce Henry's sister,
Eleanor. When Willford, having resolved to return to jail rather
than accept freedom at such a price, asks Sir George to look
him in the face, Sir George cannot lift his eyes from the floor.
It is as if, for a moment, a new moral hierarchy displaces the
old social hierarchy; but the radicalism of the incident is not
sustained. Inchbald shows Willford rejoicing that Sir George
is thus not 'a hardened libertine' and the final act of the play
develops this hint, dramatising the resurgence of innate honesty within Sir George, redeeming the corrupt aristocrat and restoring him
to his estates.
||Despotism recurs in Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are in the arena of domestic relations between men and women, drawing upon the traditional
analogy between state and domestic government which was a feature
of discussion about the treatment of women throughout the eighteenth
century. Sir William, the long-lost father in disguise, spends
much of the play attempting to control his daughter's behaviour
by stern rebukes and eventually oversees her committal to prison
for debt. The climactic scene between them occurs in prison and
dramatises the stages by which Sir William's attitude changes
from dictating to his daughter how she should live to allowing
her to be her 'own mistress' (below, p. 210). Ironically, his
reluctantly offered generosity brings immediate joy: given her
freedom, she chooses altruistic behaviour and demonstrates her
unconditional love for her father. A little like Zedan in Such Things Are, at the first sign of benevolence in another her innate capacity for love and
goodness is reawakened.
||A subplot in the play virtually spells out the analogy between domestic and state
power, considering the implications for a wife of a marriage
relationship governed by a totally dominating husband. In some
ways the situation is reminiscent of the Sultan in Such Things Are, who has unjustly, if unknowingly, imprisoned his European wife for fourteen
years and, upon her release, hears her offer to be his 'slave
for ever' (below, p. 76). Lord Priory governs and literally subjects
his wife, keeping her at home, totally occupied by work, and
occasionally locking her up; she is his servant and 'his female
slave', having no 'liberty to do wrong' (below, pp. 215, 175).
In Inchbald's time, these metaphors would have connected the
domestic scene with the discourse of contemporary anti-slavery
campaigns and debates on human rights. Directly illustrating the critique of patriarchy in Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Lord Priory admits in soliloquy that he controls his wife because he
cannot control himself. Bronzely, the libertine seducer, tries
to flatter Lady Priory by suggesting that under cover of her
apparent submissiveness she has the upper hand in what he assumes
is a power struggle with her husband. Lady Priory, however, far
from manipulating her husband, speaks as if she has no independent
identity: Lord Priory, she declares, 'is myself' (below, p. 199). Bronzely claims to have found this to be true: explaining
to her husband why, having abducted her, he was unable to seduce
her, he says that 'your authority, your prerogative, your honour
attached to her under my roof' (below, p. 214). However, this
is hardly an accurate account: Lady Priory may claim no independent
identity, but this is not to say that she has no independent
judgement. She points out to Bronzely that the fidelity she shows
her husband is voluntary: as she perceives the male sex to be
'all tyrants' towards women, who must 'obey' them, she has exercised choice in deciding which
man she herself will obey (below, p. 191). According to the Vindication of the Rights of Women, a wife who is an abject slave, with no moral understanding independent of her
husband's, will be unable to maintain a moral position from her
own resources; but Lady Priory passes this test. The audience, witnessing the scene of attempted
seduction, hears Lady Priory invoke not her husband's wishes
but her own interests. She responds to Bronzely's advances with
reasoned argument, pointing out how bad a bargain adultery would
be for her. The play supports a complex debate on the nature
and place of female independence in relations between the sexes,
which it is not easy to resolve. By way of an ending, the play
ostensibly comes down on the side of traditional marriage and,
as three couples form up, images of elected government, male
authority, magistracy and protection crowd the final exchanges,
appealing directly to the audience's loyalty to constitutional
monarchy. In the first performances, a similarly loyalist note
was sounded by the epilogue, which refers to a recent British
naval victory and was followed by enthusiastic calls from the
audience for 'Hearts of Oak' and 'Rule, Britannia', patriotic songs which were duly
||While Haswell's intervention in the prison regime in Such Things Are clearly functions as a critique of the despotism of the Sultan, Haswell's qualities
of character, as the epitome of independent principle, are set
against the faults of people like Twineall, who allow their lives
to be dictated by fashion - another form of tyranny. Twineall
delights in fashionable styles of speech and dress; he adjusts
his appearance and expression to conform to the tastes of others.
But this trait goes deeper: the influence of Chesterfield means
that Twineall lives entirely by sycophancy, parroting the views
of others in order to flatter his way into their confidence.
Twineall becomes a figure of ridicule when he acts on false information
about the preferences of the Tremors and Lord Flint, and so tells
them the very opposite of what would have won him favour. Brought,
like the Sultan, to understand the superiority of Haswell's creed,
Twineall sees that fashion is less becoming than personal authenticity, servility less impressive than moral independence
||Very similar antitheses underlie the debate about female freedom in Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are, which explores some subtle variations on the idea argued in Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women: that women are enslaved as much by fashion as by tyrannical government. Miss
Dorrillon's confident social demeanour seems to express the spirit
of female independence but, because of her disastrous gambling
activities, she is heavily in debt and so is not self-possessed
or independent at all. It turns out that her assertive style
is a matter of fashion, echoed in the prologue's references to
the masculine image being adopted by women who affect male dress,
drive carriages and indulge in gambling. As such it is, ironically,
just another form of enslavement. The play implies that Miss
Dorrillon's authentic nature is released when her feelings for
her father burst forth in Act V, sweeping away all her former
pretences. By contrast, Lady Priory, the slave wife, is cut off
from fashion. Like Zedan in Such Things Are and Amanthis in The Child of Nature, she is in a sense 'primitive', compared with the sophisticated women of the
beau monde; an early title for the play, 'The Primitive Wife
and Modern Maid', makes this point. When introduced into Miss Dorrillon's fashionable circle she appears almost
as a lower form of life, but the play gives her moral superiority.
Her uninitiated comments on the lives of the fashionable, like
those of Amanthis, impact satirically on the very group which
considers her oppressed. Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are thus presents a modern young woman who appears self-possessed but is in fact
a hostage of fashion alongside an old-fashioned wife who looks
like a slave but is to some extent morally free.
||Ideas of the tyranny of government and of fashion come together in Such Things Are and in Wives as They Were; in the former, the two are very obviously united in the person of the French
count who appeared in the early state of the manuscript. Méprise would thus have been an excellent example of what E. P. Thompson identified
as 'the theatre of greatness', consolidating aristocratic power
by providing the definitive performance of fashion and manners
at the same time. A colonial go-between, hand in glove with the despotic Sultan and enacting gallantries
in the expatriate social circle, Méprise combines oppressive political power with French style. His ability to enforce
cultural hegemony is mirrored in the way in which Lady Tremor,
a comic social climber played by Isabella Mattocks, admires and
emulates Flint rather than Haswell, her reward a misinterpreted
remark of his that she could be taken for a countess. Although,
as the discussion above has suggested, the sentimental endings
of Inchbald's humanitarian plays fail to carry their radical
implications through to their conclusion, there is undeniable
political animus in the antithesis between tyranny and benevolence
embedded in the action of the plays. There is militancy, too,
in the critique of aristocratic decadence delivered by candid
lower-class characters, in the virtue and modesty which are set
against show, and in the conscious refusal to adopt the theatricality
of social performance.
Radical candour and the performance of femininity
||In Such Things Are Haswell's plainness of speech takes on a positive charge, in contrast with the
deceitful words of the politician Lord Flint and the elaborate
muttering, the evasive style of speaking, which fails to
disguise the ignorance and thoughtlessness that Twineall
brings to Sumatra from London's beau monde. An early sign
in Next Door Neighbours that Sir George Splendorville is not entirely lost to the fashionable decadence
and excess in which he lives is the restrained brevity
of his responses to the extravagant expressions of his
guests in Act I. Bluntly, loyal servant to Sir George,
is a more humble and militant version of Haswell, stepping
back markedly from any association with the corrupt lawyer,
Blackman, and championing the innocence of Eleanor in defiant
exchanges with his master. It is the violation of Bluntly's honesty and integrity, the ghastly charade
that he is made to play in lawyer Manly's office attempting
to impersonate a non-existent witness, which touches the
core of goodness in Sir George, triggering the overwhelming
sense of outrage against truth that impels him to denounce
the whole fabric of deceit that Blackman has constructed
and to embrace financial ruin with honesty rather than
riches obtained by fraud.
||But whereas the conventions and conditions of sentimental theatre support the
notion of heroism through plain speaking for men - the man of
integrity and feeling is, especially within the nationalist drama
of sincerity, an admirable figure - plain speaking for female
characters is much more complex and less straightforwardly admirable,
socially or theatrically. Bluntly's integrity is honourably displayed
in the fact that he is such a bad actor; by contrast, Inchbald's
genteel female characters, such as the Countess in The Widow's Vow, Amanthis in The Child of Nature and Eleanor in Next Door Neighbours, are not bad performers, but rather non-performers. Inchbald creates opportunities
for them to express themselves with abnormal directness, dropping
all social hypocrisy. She pursues what is virtually an ethic
of female directness and plain speaking within comedy, suggesting
an analogy between the conventions of comedy and the social conventions
that make genteel women's lives artificial, their femininity
||In The Widow's Vow, alongside the comic effect of the Marquis's indignation at finding himself
referred to and treated as a woman, there is a good deal of comedy
generated from the novelty value of witnessing the Countess,
a woman of quality, speaking informally and without inhibition
about her feelings to a man on first acquaintance, in a tête-à-tête, thinking that she is in fact conversing with a woman in disguise. This 'normal'
behaviour, just as Isabella, the contriving sister to the Marquis,
hopes, cuts through all the barriers of feminine decorum and
the rituals of courtship to make familiarity immediately possible.
Inchbald's emphasis is crucially different from her source, Joseph
Patrat's L'Heureuse erreur. The behaviour of Patrat's countess is governed by the sense that the spectacle
of what she believes to be a woman merely wearing the disguise
of a suitor makes fully explicit all the insincerities of the
language of courtship, and she remains aloof in her scepticism.
The startling freedom and openness of the Countess is Inchbald's
idea, and so is the mimicry of it by the servants in the play.
Flora's behaviour with the Marquis's valet, Carlos, brings knowingness
and sexual relish to their parallel interview, indirectly underlining
the titillating dimension of the exchanges between the Countess
and the Marquis, while allowing the Countess to appear innocent.
By the conventions of stage comedy, Flora's combination of forthright
speech (called 'pertness' by Don Antonio in the play's opening
scene) and an explicit interest in sex fit her class position
as a servant, from which there is by definition no claim to femininity, since femininity is class-specific at a higher social level. Accordingly, well-born
women are devalued by directness of speech. Lady Tremor in Such Things Are is a vulgar upstart and her outspoken wrangling with Sir Luke says as much.
When the disguised Sir William Dorrillon despairs over the verbal
style of his daughter (always assertive, sometimes defiant),
he speaks of her as he might speak of a insubordinate servant.
He considers her impertinent and laments that he cannot discern
in her conduct even 'one proof of discretion' (below, p. 186). In other words, she is, in his eyes, shockingly
||In a sense, all five plays in this volume construct opportunities for women to
speak honestly to men by devising abnormal situations which provide
a pretext for their failure to give a proper performance of femininity.
In The Child of Nature, Amanthis speaks her feelings with astonishing frankness to the libertine Count
as well as to her guardian-lover, the Marquis, because she has
the freedom of the ingénue, the pastoral innocent. She has been brought up in seclusion from the world
and is ignorant about sex, unversed in the language of seduction
which the Count employs. The play makes the point that the natural
girl feels love and sexual attraction but that the language she
uses in her attempt to express it causes high amusement because
it shows such ignorance of the conventions and protocols with
which polite society codes its meanings. The female prisoner
in Such Things Are and Eleanor in Next Door Neighbours also speak straight from their principles and their feelings; not because of
ignorance or low birth, but because of poverty and suffering.
In the seduction scene in Next Door Neighbours, Sir George taunts the resisting Eleanor with the supposition that she is inexperienced
and has learnt all her 'sentiments' from books. 'No', Eleanor
replies, 'from misfortunes - yet more instructive' (below, p.
148). Later in the same scene, she picks up a gun from a desk
to defend her chastity and looks as if she might use it. Here
female frankness becomes social protest, thence militancy.
||On occasion, Inchbald took the sheer unconventionality of staging direct words
and actions for women further than the audience would accept.
In the first production, Eleanor's assertive speech was carried
through in the final act into her new identity, accompanying
her acquisition of wealth and her rise in social status as long-lost
sister to Sir George (not to Henry, as hitherto supposed). Deciding
how to dispose of her wealth, she also decides how to dispose
of herself and proposes marriage to Henry: 'Could you love me
by a nearer dearer Tie than Brother, say so instantly; now while
I am rich, and you in Poverty; lest fickle fortune change our
Circumstances, and forwardness on my Part, cannot lie hid under
the Mask of Bounty'. Henry accepts her 'Bounty' and herself as a 'Blessing'; but the reviewers found
the episode indelicate and it was cut, partly because the two
characters had been depicted as sister and brother up to this
point and partly because of the sheer immodesty and lack of femininity
of the idea of a woman of quality making a proposal of marriage. This rebuff must have contributed to Inchbald's sensitivity over modifying Amelia's
'indelicately blunt' declaration of her feelings to Anhalt, when
she adapted August von Kotzebue's Das Kind der Liebe as Lovers' Vows in 1799: in her preface, she remarks that 'the forward and unequivocal manner,
in which [Amelia] announces her affection to her lover, in the
original, would have been revolting to an English audience' (The British Theatre, vol. 23, pp. 5-6).
||The issue of femininity and performance is most interesting in relation to Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are. It is difficult to decide from the text how far Lady Priory is a performer,
how far single-minded, how far capable of duplicity; how far
she identifies unquestioningly with subordination to her husband
and how far she takes it up consciously as a role she must play.
The play is equally ambivalent as to how far Miss Dorrillon's
assertiveness is a fashionable posture and how far it allows
her simply to speak her mind. The antithesis of female fashion,
speaking little and only the truth, Lady Priory is so proper
in her responses to Bronzely's early overtures of seduction that,
modish and dissembling as he is, he misunderstands her. They
speak virtually different languages. Morally impressive in her
arguments with Bronzely, her lack of theatrical style and appeal
almost subverts her. In the seduction scene, as Bronzely proceeds
to threaten her, Lady Priory, used to employing all available
time in productive household work, sits down with almost bathetic effect and takes out, not a firearm, but her knitting.
The plot of the play is designed to tease the audience repeatedly
with the exciting possibility of Lady Priory's revolt, the uprising
of the enslaved; even after this display of unshakeable respectability,
the ensuing reported offstage action induces both Lord Priory
and the audience to believe that Lady Priory really has left
her husband for Bronzely. At this point Miss Dorrillon and Lady
Priory exchange theatrical potential: Miss Dorrillon is brought
to her knees, into emotional honesty and then into unconsciousness
as she faints away in the reconciliation scene with her father.
The theatrical fascination of her earlier, complex behaviour
collapses into the simplicity of conventional daughterhood. The
climax of the final scene is given to Lady Priory, who returns
with Bronzely to their previous circle in an atmosphere tense
with the anticipation of duplicity. At first she fails to give Lord Priory the assurances he
expects: she cannot say that her contempt for Bronzely is unchanged.
Inchbald exploits fully the dramatic possibilities of this moment:
Lady Priory first refuses to speak; then, in what seems something
like a revolt, rebukes her husband for gambling with Bronzely
on her honour; finally she reveals that the sentiment she now
feels for Bronzely is nothing more adulterous than gratitude
for bringing her back to her husband so soon.
||The staging of female candour threatens theatrical vitality. However, Inchbald
maintains histrionic verve through farce bordering on the carnivalesque
in The Widow's Vow; through the dualities of pastoral in The Child of Nature, where Amanthis is simultaneously inferior and superior to her sophisticated
audience; and through the shock of topical political confrontation
in Such Things Are, Next Door Neighbours and Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are. In his biography, Boaden discloses very little about Inchbald's politics, preferring
to gloss over the early 1790s, when she was discussing drafts
of her work with Thomas Holcroft and William Godwin and must
have been close to the development of the radical agendas of
the English Jacobin movement. He prefers to wrap all this up
by asserting that 'in spite of occasional leanings to what are
called liberal notions, she at all times cherished a personal
love for the Royal Family' (Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs Inchbald, vol. I, p. 262). The evidence of these plays, however, points to a commitment
to libertarian issues and a questioning of conventions that were
not occasional but consistent, yet were compromised inevitably
by the demands of theatrical viability.
A vivid illustration of the tempering of radical ideas within the cultural reality
of Inchbald's theatrical world is provided by the striking
story of the quarrel between Inchbald and Mary Wollstonecraft
in 1797. When Inchbald heard by letter from Godwin in April
1797 that he and Mary Wollstonecraft had married, she immediately
tried to prevent them fulfilling an arrangement which had been
made with her prior to their wedding, by which Godwin was to
reserve a box for them all at the performance of Frederick
Reynolds's The Will on the author's benefit night. The main problem in the situation for Inchbald,
in all probability, was that the Godwins' marriage made absolutely
clear that although Wollstonecraft had been appearing in public
previously as Mrs Imlay, she had never been married to Gilbert
Imlay, the American writer with whom she had had a daughter,
and thus had never been the kind of proper female acquaintance
which Inchbald could permit herself. She wrote that 'another
person' would now secure the box and she was sure the newly-weds
would be too much occupied by joyfulness to remember 'every
trifling engagement'. The nature of the row which ensued when the Godwins did indeed join Inchbald
emerges in a letter from Godwin to Inchbald written immediately
after Mary Wollstonecraft's death in September of the same
year, explaining why he considered Inchbald guilty of 'unworthy
behaviour' towards his wife:
I think your shuffling behaviour about the taking places to the comedy of the
'Will,' dishonourable to you. I think your conversation
with her that night at the play base, cruel, and insulting.
were persons in the box who heard it, and they thought
as I do. I think you know more of my wife than you are willing
to acknowledge to yourself, and that you have an understanding
capable of doing some small degree of justice to her
I think you should have had magnanimity and self-respect
enough to have shewed this. I think that while the Twisses
and others were sacrificing to what they were silly enough
to think a proper etiquette, a person so out of all comparison
their superior, as you are, should have placed her pride
in acting upon better principles, and in courting and distinguishing
insulted greatness and worth; I think that you chose
a mean and pitiful conduct, when you might have chosen
that would have done you immortal honour. You had not
even their excuse. They could not (they pretended) receive
into their previous circles.
You kept no circle to debase and enslave you.
Here Godwin touches upon some of the basic principles of Jacobin philosophy,
which impinge upon the critiques of fashion in Inchbald's plays
of the 1790s: the primacy of personal honour, individual reason
and independent principle; valuing others by their human worth,
not by the status attached to them by any external authority;
having the courage not to follow fashionable opinion, to resist
intellectual slavery to the ideas and prejudices of others.
But what Godwin perhaps does not understand is that the theatre
must have been to Inchbald a very powerful 'circle': the social
arena in which she had with great care and pains developed
her professional and personal reputation. In its public, conventional
space she could not exercise independent judgement in her own
person; there was an imperative to conform which she could
not ignore. Godwin expected her to show independence of mind
in the very place where she could depict it, within limits,
on the stage, but could least afford it herself.
Angela J. Smallwood
University of Nottingham
Angela J. Smallwood is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature in the
School of English, University of Nottingham. She has published Fielding and the Woman Question: The Novels of Henry Fielding and Feminist Debate
1700-1750 (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf and New York: St Martin's Press, 1989)
and, in addition to the Inchbald edition excerpted here,
a series of essays on late eighteenth-century women playwrights
(details in endnotes to this essay). She is currently working
on interrelationships between French and English eighteenth-century
comedy in the work of women playwrights as her contribution
to a collaborative five-year international project, 'European
Intertexts: Women's Writing in English as part of a European
(1) The first London editions, which have been taken up as the copy-texts for this
volume, print the plays in the state in which they settled after
the first few nights of stage production. Comparisons with the
Larpent manuscripts (available for all except the The Child of
Nature ) reveal that the printed texts include changes made as
a result of the final rehearsals and the first performances; the
rewriting often relates closely to reviews and other comments in
the contemporary press. The first editions attempt to suggest stage
presentation for readers by increasing the number and detail of
the stage directions and by introducing italics extensively, apparently
to indicate spoken emphases. They are also heavily punctuated,
in a style which frequently seems at odds with the grammatical
construction of the sentences but generally proves plausible in
terms of the spoken delivery.
(2) Biographical material in this introduction is drawn from James Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs Inchbald, 2 vols (London: Bentley, 1833). Boaden tells how Inchbald worked over a long
period on an autobiography, dealing mainly with her pre-London years, but destroyed
it. Inchbald's acting experience in Yorkshire is indicated by Tate Wilkinson
in The Wandering Patentee; or, A History of the Yorkshire Theatres from 1770 to
the Present Time, 4 vols (York: for the author, 1795).
(3) Information about London theatre productions is based upon Charles Beecher Hogan
(ed), The London Stage 1660-1800: A Calendar of Plays ... Part 5: 1776-1800, 3 vols (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968).
(4) Indications of Inchbald's reading by year are provided by Boaden, who draws on
these notebooks. Boaden's information has been collated in George Louis Joughin,
'The Life and Work of Elizabeth Inchbald', (unpublished PhD thesis, University
of Harvard, 1932), pp. 420-3, who notes that Boaden is probably selective.
A wider range of information from manuscript diaries, account books and pocketbooks
now held in the Folger Library is reflected in Patricia Sigl, 'The Literary
Achievement of Elizabeth Inchbald [1753-1821]' (unpublished PhD thesis, University
of Wales, 1980).
(5) I am thinking primarily of Susannah Cibber, The Oracle (1752), an afterpiece based on St Foix, L'Oracle (1750); and Catherine Clive, The Rehearsal; or, Bayes in Petticoats (1750), a farce. Clive went on to write between three and five further pieces,
the last being The Faithful Irishwoman (1765). For Elizabeth Griffith's negotiations with Garrick, see Betty Rizzo,
'Depressa Resurgam: Elizabeth Griffith's Playwriting Career', Curtain Calls: British and American Women and the Theater, 1660-1820, eds Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski (Athens: Ohio University Press,
1991), pp. 120-42; and Ellen Donkin, Getting Into the Act: Women Playwrights in London 1776-1829 (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 60-2.
(6) See Judith Phillips Stanton, 'Statistical Profile of Women Writing in English
from 1660-1800', Eighteenth-Century Women and the Arts, eds Frederick M. Keener and Susan E. Lorsch (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988),
pp. 247-54. Inchbald's publisher Robinson paid her £200 in 1791 for A Simple Story and £150 in 1796 for Nature and Art, when Inchbald was an established success. In 1797 Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are earned her over £400.
(7) Inchbald wrote over twenty plays, some of which were neither produced nor published
and have not survived; the total is unknown. See Patricia Sigl, 'The Elizabeth
Inchbald Papers', Notes and Queries, 227 (June 1982), pp. 220-4; also her article, 'Mrs Inchbald's Egyptian Boy', Theatre Notebook, 43. 2 (1989), 57-69. Paula R. Backscheider's collection of The Plays of Elizabeth
Inchbald, 2 vols (New York and London: Garland, 1980) contains twenty-one plays,
including facsimiles of first editions of eighteen published plays and editions
of three unpublished plays: 'All on a Summer's Day', 'The Hue and Cry' and
'Young Men and Old Women (Lovers No Conjurors)'.
(8) James Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs Siddons Interspersed with Anecdotes of Authors and Actors, second edition, 2 vols (London: Colburn and Bentley, 1831), vol. II, p. 10.
(9) Although Inchbald wrote short prefaces for all the plays in The British Theatre (1808) and gave her name to the collection, she had no say about the content.
She may have had much more influence on the contents of A Collection of Farces and Afterpieces (1809) and The Modern Theatre (1811).
(10) Inchbald began a novel in 1777, which was rejected by a publisher in 1779; Boaden
assumes that this was an early version of A Simple Story but Sigl regards this as unproven. Inchbald had begun a farce in 1776. Her first
work to be accepted was The Mogul Tale; or, The Descent of the Balloon, produced at the Haymarket in 1784 and published in 1786. Her untitled piece
comparing drama with the novel appeared in the periodical The Artist (13 June 1807), reprinted 1810.
(11) On afterpieces see Richard W. Bevis (ed), Eighteenth-Century Drama: Afterpieces (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. vii-xvi; Leo Hughes, 'Afterpieces:
or, That's Entertainment' in George Winchester Stone, junior (ed), The Stage and the Page: London's 'Whole Show' in the Eighteenth-Century Theatre (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981), pp. 55-70.
(12) This tedious line of remark was to continue for another ten years at least. These
instances occurred as journalists picked up news of Inchbald's progress in
writing Such Things Are in Morning Chronicle (21 July 1786), Morning Post (18 December 1786), and New London Magazine, III (1787), 102. For the identification of significant material on the reception
of Inchbald's plays, I am indebted to Sigl, 'The Literary Achievement of Elizabeth
Inchbald', Appendix A, an extensive collation of contemporary press reviews.
(13) The British Theatre (1808) included five plays by Inchbald, all five-act pieces: Such Things Are, Every One has his Fault, Wives as they Were, and Maids as they Are, Lovers' Vows (adaptation) and To Marry or not to Marry. The last four date from 1793 onwards when Inchbald was a fully professional
writer. A Collection of Farces and Afterpieces (1809) included The Midnight Hour (adaptation), The Child of Nature (adaptation) and The Wedding Day, three of her most successful two-act pieces, all of which were to stay in print
for many years. In The Modern Theatre (1811), she placed I'll Tell You What, Next Door Neighbours (adaptation) and The Wise Man of the East (adaptation), plays drawn from all phases of her career, none of which was reprinted
after the publication of The Modern Theatre in 1811. The texts of the Inchbald plays in these anthologies are not authoritative;
they correct some errors which appear in the first editions but also introduce
some new ones. The texts in this edition follow the first editions as closely
as possible, including retaining inconsistencies of spelling where the variations
are possible for the period. Obvious errors have been corrected silently. Emendations
supported by a manuscript or a later edition are made silently but recorded
in the end notes. A few stage directions have been added where they were lacking,
to provide entrances and exits for all characters in all scenes, and to indicate
essential stage business on which the first edition is silent. All editorial
additions appear in square brackets.
(14) Sigl in 'The Literary Achievement of Elizabeth Inchbald' discusses the influence
of earlier English plays on new plays of Inchbald's time and shows fascinating
interrelationships between new plays promoted by rival theatres in the same
or neighbouring seasons. For French influence on English stage comedy in the
period, see Willard Austin Kinne, Revivals and Importations of French Comedies in England 1749-1800 (1939; reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1967).
(15) On Goldsmith and Marivaux, see Kinne, Revivals and Importations of French Comedies, pp. 131-2; on The School for Scandal see James Boaden, Memoirs of the Life of John Philip Kemble, 2 vols (London: Longman, 1825), vol. I, pp. xii-xiv.
(16) See Gary Kelly, The English Jacobin Novel 1780-1805 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), pp. 93-9; Betsy Bolton, 'Farce, Romance, Empire:
Elizabeth Inchbald and Colonial Discourse', The Eighteenth Century, 39. 1 (1998), 3-24; Katherine S. Green, '"You Should Be My Master": Imperial Recognition Politics in Elizabeth Inchbald's Such Things Are', CLIO 27. 3 (1998), 387-414; Daniel O'Quinn, 'Inchbald's Indies: Domestic and Dramatic
Re-Orientations', European Romantic Review, 9. 2 (spring 1998), 217-30, 'Elizabeth Inchbald's The Massacre : Tragedy, Violence and the Networks of Political
Fantasy', British Women Playwrights around 1800, http://www-sul.stanford.edu/mirrors/romnet/wp1800/essays/massacre_intro.html
(1999), and 'Scissors and Needles: Inchbald's Wives as They Were, Maids as
They Are and the Governance of Sexual Exchange', Theatre Journal 51 (1999), 105-25.
(17) See Morning Post, 11 July 1791; Attic Miscellany, vol. II (1 October 1790-1 September 1791), p. 408.
(18) On the eighteenth-century theatre audience see Leo Hughes, The Drama's Patrons (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1971) and Hogan (ed), The London Stage, pp. cxcv-ccxviii. On theatre interiors see Richard Leacroft, The Development of the English Playhouse, revised edition (London and New York: Methuen, 1988), pp. 118-65, and Hogan
(ed), The London Stage, pp. xliii-liv.
(19) 'Remarks' prefaced to Ambrose Philips, The Distressed Mother in The British Theatre, 25 vols (London: Longman, 1808), vol. 7, text 3, p. 3.
(20) In comparing Inchbald's work with her French sources, I have used the following
editions: J[oseph] Patrat, L' Heureuse erreur (Amsterdam and Paris: Brunet, 1783); Stéphanie Félicité Brulart de Genlis, Marchioness de Sillery, Zélie, ou l'ingénue in her Théâtre de société, 2 vols (Paris, 1781), vol. II, pp. 158-323; Destouches, Le Dissipateur, ou l' honnête friponne (1736) in Oeuvres Dramatiques de N. Destouches, nouvelle édition, 6 vols (Paris: Tenré, 1821), vol. III, pp. 365-505; Louis Sebastien Mercier, L' Indigent (1772; Paris: Brunet, 1784). The broad differences between the French sources
and Inchbald's adaptations are outlined in the headnotes; selected examples
are detailed in the endnotes.
(21) Responses to revivals in the 1790s included complaints that The Child of Nature was a 'dull translation' (New London Magazine, VI (1790), 382) and 'insipid' (True Briton, 22 February 1796).
(22) Sigl, 'The Literary Achievement of Elizabeth Inchbald', pp. 139-54. The broader
comic expressions in The Widow's Vow had to be toned down and the bedroom scene in Appearances Are Against Them (1785) was criticised for indelicacy.
(23) See below, pp. 82, 131, 164 and Gerald Newman, The Rise of English Nationalism: A Cultural History 1740-1830 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987).
(24) This point is suggested by the discussion in Bolton, 'Farce, Romance, Empire',
(25) 'Sentimentalism is to be found in the mawkish attitudinizings of the inferior-gifted
moral ladies and, sometimes Reverend, gentlemen who chiefly capitalized on an
undiscriminating reading public'; this statement by Arthur Sherbo retains something
of the tone of the critical traditions which he otherwise challenges in English Sentimental Drama (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1957), p. 166; a more positive
interpretation of the relation between sentimental drama and feminisation is
provided by Janet Todd, Sensibility: An Introduction (London and New York: Methuen, 1986), pp. 41-8 (including a brief discussion
(26) Allardyce Nicoll, Late Eighteenth-Century Drama 1750-1800, vol. 3 of A History of English Drama 1660-1900, second edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), p. 14.
(27) Robert Markley, 'Sentimentality as Performance: Shaftesbury, Sterne and the Theatrics
of Virtue', The New 18th Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature, eds Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown (New York and London: Methuen, 1987),
(28) See Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs Inchbald, vol. I, p. 242. Reviews published on 12 February 1787 confirm the story, testifying
that 'We never felt a more powerful electrical stroke' (Morning Chronicle) and that never 'did ... a stroke of nature go so irresistably to the hearts
of a whole theatre' (The World).
Bolton, 'Farce, Romance, Empire', especially pp. 17-19.
(30) See Moira Ferguson, Colonialism and Gender Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jamaica Kincaid:
East Caribbean Connections (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 8-33.
(31) See Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman in The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, eds Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler, 7 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1989) vol. 5, pp. 65-9, 115-17.
(32) The scene is recorded by The Times, 6 March 1797.
is the title of the Larpent MS (see below, p. 166).
(34) E. P. Thompson, 'Patrician Society, Plebeian Culture', Journal of Social History 7. 4 (1974), 382-405.
(35) 'Bluntly' and 'Blackman' are instances of Inchbald's use of names which label
her characters. This feature of her drama was criticised for disclosing what
the audience would prefer to discover for themselves, ignoring its purpose
of satiric distancing.
(36) Inchbald provides an interesting contrast with Hannah Cowley who foregrounds
the performance of femininity by the virtually opposite device of metatheatricality;
see Angela J. Smallwood, 'Women and the Theatre', Women and Literature in Britain 1700-1800, ed. Vivien Jones (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 238-62.
(37) For a complementary discussion of The Widow's Vow and Patrat, see my paper, 'Elizabeth Inchbald and the "Jostling Race": Adaptations of French Comedy for the London Stage in the 1780s and 1790s', Interfaces artistiques et littéraires dans l'Europe des Lumières/Artistic and Literary Exchange and Relations in Enlightenment Europe, vol. 2 of Le Spectateur européen/The European Spectator, ed. Elisabeth Détis, 4 vols (Montpellier: Université Paul-Valery, 2000), pp. 207-21.
MS 912, fols 80-1.
(39) See Morning Chronicle, 11 July 1791; and Morning Herald, 12 July 1791.
(40) Inchbald to Godwin, 11 April 1797; quoted in C. Kegan Paul, William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries, 2 vols (London: King, 1876) vol. 1, p. 240. The gloss on Inchbald's motivation
in attempting to put off the Godwins is suggested by Ralph M. Wardle, Mary Wollstonecraft: A Critical Biography (London: Richards; Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1951) p. 288.
(41) Godwin to Inchbald, 13 September 1797; quoted in Paul, William Godwin, vol. 1, p. 278.