ISSN 1744-9618
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This paper focuses on a comedy of 1793 by Elizabeth Inchbald, Every One Has His Fault, which was attacked in a London newspaper for political subversion but achieved major stage success. Exploring the context of the play's production and the nature of its reception, the essay proposes a historicised assessment of its political and cultural significance. A contribution to the growing study of eighteenth-century women playwrights, the essay considers Inchbald's case in the context of recent, somewhat sceptical, investigations of the specific political positions of women writers in the 1790s. It also takes up debates in theatre history about how far the London stage possessed any radical scope in the later eighteenth-century, in the context of censorship and within the confines of the conventions of established dramatic genres.

The historical moment of the production of Inchbald's play is examined in terms of Inchbald's career, the progress of the French revolution, the level of censorship and the influence of political parties over the theatres and the press. Drawing upon contemporary reviews and correspondence and analysing the manuscript version of Inchbald's play, the essay shows that the London newspaper attack was politically motivated and isolated. It argues that, while Inchbald was indeed a radical, a primarily feminist reading of this play would misrepresent its principal achievement. The play's stage triumph is a tribute to Inchbald's professional judgment and command of audience response, and highlights an appreciation of the potential of tragi-comedy, on her part, which was both imaginative and pragmatic.

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