Inchbald, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Inchbald (1753-1821), novelist and actress, was originally from a Catholic family in Suffolk. She left home in 1772 to become an actress in London, and within a few months was married to the actor Joseph Inchbald (1735-79). They removed to Bristol and she made her stage debut on 4 September 1772. They toured and acted for the next four years in Scotland, then spent some time in France before returning to England, essentially broke. In 1776 she met Sarah Siddons (they remained friends thereafter) and her brother, John Philip Kemble, and soon shifted to writing fiction. She continued to act in various companies, even one the included Thomas Holcroft. Her husband died in 1779, leaving Elizabeth free to pursue her career. Her acting career would last for 17 years, but writing increasing attracted her attention. Her first dramatic creation was perforned in August 1784 in London, and she  produced several theatrical successes thereafter, including Appearance is Against Them (1785), Such Things Are (1787), Wives as they Were and Maids as they Are (1797), Lover's Vows (1798), and To Marry, or not to Marry (1805). Her friendships with Holcroft and Godwin preceded the entrance of Mary Hays into that circle by several years, though her political leanings toward reform would have been shared by Hays both before and after the French Revolution.  About this time she turned to writing fiction, and found considerable artistic success, though much less renumeration, with her first novel, A Simple Story (1791). She explored the limits of paternal power in that novel, and made further inroads into her critique of social institutions in Nature and Art (1796). After 1805, she turned to editorial work, producing a 25-volume The British Theatre (1806-09), 17-volume Collection of Farces and Afterpieces (1809), and the 10-volume Modern Theatre (1811).  She possessed considerable wealth from her various writings, but did not live ostentatiously and appeared to have a religious renewal in her later years.