Image of Elizabeth Inchbald


Lifetime: 1753 - 1821 Passed: ≈ 203 years ago


Novelist, Dramatist, Critic, Actress



Elizabeth Inchbald

Elizabeth Inchbald was an English novelist, actress and dramatist. She wrote two novels that remain prominent today.

Born on 15 October 1753 at Stanningfield, 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 nearby, was Roman Catholic. Her brother was sent to school, but Elizabeth and her sisters were educated at home. Elizabeth suffered from a speech impediment.

Determined to act at a young age, Elizabeth worked hard to manage her stammer, but her family discouraged an attempt in early 1770 to gain a position at the Norwich Theatre. That year her brother George became an actor. However, Elizabeth went to London to become an actress in April 1772 at the age of 18. Some thought her stammer affected her performance and the audience's reaction. Young and alone, she apparently suffered sexual harassment. Two months later, in June, she agreed to marry a fellow Catholic, the actor Joseph Inchbald (1735–1779), possibly also for protection. Joseph at the time was not a well-known actor, was twice Elizabeth's age and had two illegitimate sons. Elizabeth and Joseph did not have children together. The marriage was said to have met difficulties. Elizabeth and Joseph appeared on the stage together for the first time on 4 September 1772 in Shakespeare's King Lear. In October 1772, the couple toured Scotland with West Digges's theatre company, for almost four demanding years. In 1776, the couple made a move to France, where Joseph went to learn to paint and Elizabeth to study the French language. However, the couple became penniless in a month. They moved to Liverpool and Inchbald met actors Sarah Siddons and her brother John Philip Kemble, both of whom became important as friends after joining Joseph Younger's company. The Inchbalds later moved to Canterbury and Yorkshire and in 1777 were hired by Tate Wilkinson's company.

After Joseph Inchbald's sudden death in June 1779, Elizabeth continued to act for several years, in Dublin, London and elsewhere. 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.[4] Her acting career, only moderately successful, spanned 17 years. She appeared in many classical roles and in new plays such as Hannah Cowley's The Belle's Stratagem.

Books by Elizabeth Inchbald

Lover's Vows Cover image

Lover's Vows

Romance Fiction
Play Love Courtship

Lovers' Vows, a play by Elizabeth Inchbald arguably best known now for having been featured in Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park (1814), is one of at least four adaptations of August von Kotzebue's Das Kind der Liebe, all of which were published bet...

Nature And Art Cover image

Nature And Art

Family Love Nature Art Passion Life Relationships

In a society where nature is prized over art, two young people must choose between love and duty. Nature and Art is a novel by English actress, playwright, and novelist Elizabeth Inchbald. First published in 1796, the novel is a satire of the social...

Simple Story Cover image

Simple Story

The story could really have been simple: Miss Milner, who is admired for her beauty and charm, could have been a socialite, marry a respectable and good looking man and be happy in the standards of her time. But if it was so, why would there be a boo...

Wives as They Were, Maids as They Are Cover image

Wives as They Were, Maids as They Are

This Restoration-Era comedy of manners satirizes the hypocrisy, gamesmanship, and imbalance of power inherent in the institution of marriage as practiced by England’s upper class at the turn of the eighteenth century. Departing from the norm, this te...