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Elizabeth Simpson Inchbald (1753–1821) was one of the leading literary figures of the late eighteenth century—an actress, a successful playwright and editor of several collections of plays, a popular novelist, and a drama critic. Considered a beautiful, independent woman, Inchbald was much involved in the theatrical, literary, and publishing life of London.
Elizabeth Simpson ran away from home at age eighteen to seek fame as an actress in London and quickly married Joseph Inchbald, an actor twice her age. They toured the stage together until his sudden death in 1779. She made her London stage debut a year later, and her writing debut came in 1784 with the play The Mogul Tale; Or, The Descent of the Balloon. Over the next two decades she wrote or adapted twenty-one plays: comedies, farces, and works from French and German, including the version of Kotzebue’s Lovers’ Vows, later used in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Inchbald’s acclaimed first novel, A Simple Story, prefigured the work of later women writers such as Austen.
Using material from Inchbald’s own pocket books detailing her daily life (she destroyed most of her letters and journals late in her life at the advice of her Catholic confessor) as well as a wealth of other sources, Annibel Jenkins tells for the first time not only the full story of Mrs. Inchbald’s life but also provides a fascinating look at the society and politics, both public and private, of London in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Annibel Jenkins, professor emerita of English at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the author of several books, including Nicholas Rowe, and many articles on eighteenth-century literature and culture.
"Meticulously written and edited, its thorough, highly readable synopses of every literary work written or translated by Inchbald will make it valuable to students without other access to these documents, but it special strength is its judicious use of contemporary documents as sources."—18th Century Fiction
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Mrs. Inchbald, Elizabeth Inchbald, Women and literature, English actors, English playwrights
Literature in English, British Isles
Jenkins, Annibel, "I'll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald" (2003). Literature in English, British Isles. 91.