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Women Playwrights, Politics and Convention: the Case of Elizabeth Inchbald’s "Seditious" Comedy, Every One Has His Fault (1793)

    I. Introduction

  1. Many scholars of early women’s writing will recognise the temptation which Jeffrey Cox has pointed out – and one which it is indeed difficult to resist - the temptation not simply to research neglected women writers, but to represent them, if at all possible, “as somehow contributing to a feminist tradition."  He illustrates his caveat with reference to Hannah More and Felicia Hemans, women who demonstrate a “strongly conservative cultural presence” but who have “somehow” been “recouped as oppositional writers” in accounts by some revisionist readers (Cox, 2000: 24).  Other recent researchers have also argued for a widening of political possibilities, demonstrating that by no means all women who took up issues relating to the cultural position of their own sex in the early modern period were necessarily speaking from a radical position.[1
  2. It would seem that, for writers of either sex, the environment of the patent theatres of Georgian London, subject as they were to censorship after the Licensing Act of 1737, was especially unlikely to support the expression of radical views.[2]  Women writers in particular seem to have been placed in a constraining environment by the forms and conventions of late eighteenth-century theatre, to have been held in a tension between liberation and containment; and commentators differ in interpreting the politics of the texts they produced.  While Jeffrey Cox emphasises an ultimate conservatism, Betsy Bolton attributes to Elizabeth Inchbald specifically a covert radicalism in handling ideas of despotism in her Oriental plays of the 1780s and 1790s (Bolton, 2001: 202-229).
  3. But another play by Inchbald, a five-act comedy entitled Every One Has His Fault, was actually attacked as subversive in a London newspaper, the True Briton, early in 1793. This essay explores something of the context and reception of this work, in order to propose a historicised interpretation of the rather startling fact that a play of such a date, by a woman writer, was perceived as openly polemical.
  4. II. Shades of radicalism

  5.  How startling might the charge have seemed at the time?  Elizabeth Inchbald was known to have radical sympathies.  By the time Every One Has His Fault appeared in January 1793, she was a notable figure in literary circles, entirely self-educated, a widow in her mid thirties who had managed to build up a basic financial independence by writing successful stage plays and a well-regarded novel.  Having given up her acting contract with the Theatre Royal Covent Garden in 1789, she was now completely focused on writing professionally to support herself and a number of dependent relatives.  She was a Catholic and therefore part of a disadvantaged minority in England whose loyalty was an issue in the wake of the French Revolution.  Her biographer of 1833, James Boaden, makes just a few, brief references to what he calls her “liberal notions”; he also reports that a friend once warned her to “beware of her politics, as their apparent leaning might injure her fortune” (Boaden, 1833. I: 262; I: 314).[3]  Her literary friends included radical dissenters, Thomas Holcroft (indicted for treason in 1794, but acquitted) and, from October 1792, William Godwin who, with Holcroft and others, had helped to arrange the publication of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in 1791.[4 Of the letters from Inchbald to Godwin in the Abinger papers, one undated fragment in particular, which must date from 1793-94, conveys her personal exhilaration in the expression of Jacobin ideas.  She is commenting on the draft of her “Satire on the Times” (now lost) which she later reworked as her second novel Nature and Art and which included a satiric portrait of George III.
  6. “and then” (said I to myself as I folded up the Volumes) “how pleased Mr Godwin will be at my making the king so avaricious – and then” (said I to myself) “how pleased the king will be at my making him so very good at the conclusion, and when he finds that by throwing away his money he can save his drowning people, he will instantly throw it all away for flannel shirts for his soldiers, and graciously pardon me all I have said on equality in the Book merely for giving him a good Character”.[5]

    With this sort of background, it is hardly surprising to find her play Every One Has His Fault attacked as “very exceptionable” by the True Briton, one of the pro-government papers, as soon as it opened.  The charges were that the play portrays a “Military officer” as capable of committing an armed robbery, that it alludes “to the dearness of provisions in this Metropolis” and that “in several sentences the Democrat displays a cloven foot” (30 January 1793).[6]

  7. Indeed it is not at all difficult to find radical themes in this play.  Of the many strands in Every One Has His Fault, the most serious presents an aristocrat, Lord Norland, who is a figure of absolute power at the head of a family fractured by his own arbitrary conduct.  The audience learns that, after disobeying him by marrying beneath her for love, his daughter, Lady Eleanor, fled into a kind of exile in America (a country easily perceived in 1793 as Britain’s own rebellious and estranged daughter).  As the play begins, she has recently returned to London with her husband whose regiment has been disbanded, reducing them to poverty.  Irwin, the husband, is driven by desperation into violence – the armed robbery to which the True Briton objects – and contemplates suicide.  The robbery is perpetrated against Lord Norland himself, an act of violence which Irwin rationalises as a bid to restore to Norland’s daughter what should naturally be hers; but it goes wrong.  Meanwhile the philanthropist, Harmony, manages (true to Jacobin values: not by violence but by persuasion) to contrive a reconciliation of the family and change the whole basis upon which its members renew their relationships.  Most significantly, Lord Norland, who earlier condemns Irwin’s conduct as culpable criminality, now accepts his own responsibility for it: "Lord NORLAND Runs to Irwin, and embraces him.  My son! [Irwin falls on his knees]  I take a share in all your offences – The worst of accomplices, while I impelled you to them."[7]
  8. There is however a major distinction between the ethos of this play and any Jacobin position; it lies in Inchbald’s emphasis on the authority of feeling, the undeniable primacy of family ties, perceived as natural.  As commonly happens in many other Inchbald texts, her plot contrives to surprise characters into disclosing and acting upon feelings of love, often associated with family ties, long hidden or denied.  Holcroft rejected this element of the play in a piece in the Monthly Review (n.s., 10 (1793): 302-308).  He calls “vulgar” the morality of a scene where Lady Eleanor’s behaviour suddenly becomes more altruistic towards a young boy, Edward, as soon as she finds out that he is in fact her own son.  There should be no difference between her son and “the son of another," Holcroft argues, for "Virtue ... has no respect to persons" (304).
  9. Not sufficiently radical to please Holcroft, the play’s harnessing of long-established conventions of stage comedy, such as the plot of reuniting a divided family, links to recent critical discussion of the tendency of traditional genres in the 1790s to impose – even upon plays with a radical message – an overwhelmingly “conservative ideological charge” (Cox, 1991: 598).  Inchbald’s crucial strategy in this regard is her adoption of a distinctive tragi-comic mode, involving multiple plotting with tragic and comic scenarios – a point which will be developed further later in this essay.
  10. III. The politics of stage success

  11. Researching the context of the production in more detail indicates that the attack on Every One Has His Fault was more about the nervousness of the government at the time than about any actual political impact of Inchbald’s play.  It seems to have been part of the conservative reaction to the September Massacres in France in 1792 and the preparations for war with France which broke out a matter of days after the play opened.       
  12. The possibility of audience riot had been a permanent consideration in the minds of the London theatre managers throughout the Georgian period.[8]  From 1789 John Larpent, the stage censor, suppressed a whole series of plays containing action or spectacle relating to the events in France, regardless of political colour.  Conolly notes that a play about William Tell’s opposition to tyranny was turned down by a manager in 1792 on political grounds; and on 8 December 1792, only just ahead of the appearance of Every One Has His Fault, Cumberland’s opera, “Richard II," a piece about Wat Tyler and the Peasants’ Revolt, was refused a licence by the censor for staging at Covent Garden (86; 95-96).  Inchbald herself had written a tragedy, “The Massacre," a historical play which made an emotive case against political violence by displaying the effects of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on a family.  She had offered it, in 1792, to both theatre managers, Harris at Covent Garden and Colman at the Haymarket.  When they refused it she went so far as to have it printed, but her friends, including Godwin and Holcroft, were strongly against publishing it and the publisher suppressed it (Boaden, I: 303-04).[9 Reaction had set in.  In the November following the September Massacres in Paris, John Reeves formed the Association for the Preservation of Liberty and Property against Republicans and Levellers; in the December, Thomas Paine was convicted of seditious libel for his Rights of Man and Pitt’s government moved to tighten its control of the group of London papers which were subsidised by the Treasury.  The True Briton was actually brand-new when it made its attack on Inchbald’s play and had been set up by the ministry to operate from 1 January 1793 with a remit to defend the Constitution against the reformers.[10]  Its writers proclaim themselves “awake to every insinuation that affects the character, the peace, or the interests of our Country” (1 February 1793). 
  13. Exceptionally, Inchbald published an answer to its attack on her play, writing to Woodfall’s Register, a pro-Pitt but not Treasury-supported paper.  The charge after the first night, that the play conveys “seditious sentiments to the Publick” (Inchbald’s paraphrase) is one which she is content to leave to the judgment of the theatre audiences.  However, the True Briton’s suggestion, after the second performance, that she has altered the text in response to its original charge, must be contradicted and she declares “that not one line, or one word has been altered or omitted since the first night of representation."  Notably, she adds,
  14. As a further proof of the injustice with which I have been treated, had I been so unfortunate in my principles, or blind to my own interest, as to have written any thing of the nature of which I am accused, I most certainly should not have presented it for reception to the Manager of Covent-Garden Theatre. (4 February 1793) 

  15. The play had of course been passed by the censor and Inchbald’s reply steers a middle course politically: she is not to be influenced by the politics of the ministry, but neither is she to be associated with the “unfortunate ... principles” of the politics of sedition.  This letter has been cited alongside Hannah Cowley’s much quoted disclaimer (“I protest I know nothing about politics ... politics are unfeminine," Preface to A Day in Turkey, 1792), as evidence of some kind of common strategy among women playwrights in the 1790s to adopt a pose of political innocence.[11 Inchbald notably does not disclaim all politics here; rather, she rejects each of the polarised political identities which the True Briton attempts to foist upon her.
  16. But certainly the impression given by all reviewers, other than the True Briton’s, is that Inchbald’s play is simply not political at all.  Across the many London dailies and national monthlies which carried notices, there was no support for the True Briton’s interpretation of the play.  Although the paper complained non-specifically about “several sentences," its only identified target was “[a]llusions ...made to the dearness of provisions in this Metropolis," referring to the phrase “Provisions are so scarce” which becomes a catch-phrase in the mouth of the philanthropist, Harmony, excusing wrong-doing among the poor.  Other reviewers repudiate the charge and justify Inchbald’s use of this phrase on literary and moral grounds, as simply a stroke of characterisation, or self-parody by Harmony, or a corrective to pride.[12 When she records seeing the play two weeks into its run, Anna Margaretta Larpent, wife and collaborator of John Larpent the stage censor, sees no great offence in it, apart from remarking that “it were to be wished that the interest had not been founded on a crime, which Irwin’s robbery is” (Larpent, 1995: 16 February [1793]). 
  17. No doubt a touch of political controversy did not hurt the promotion of the play, but on the whole it was received as a traditional comedy, and a particularly high quality one at that.  Theatrically a huge success, the play ran to thirty-two performances before the end of the season, destined to enjoy a very healthy future as a stock play for years and frequently chosen by a wide range of players for benefit nights because it contained so many good acting parts.[13 The reviewers cover negative as well as positive points, but there is plenty of high praise in a fairly conventional vein.  They differ as to which is better, the comic or the serious plot, but praise the whole cast and comment on the endless and varied entertainment which the play provides, laughter succeeding to tears repeatedly.  Anna Larpent’s diary entry shows that she particularly admired the success of the play in “keep[ing] up the attention through 5 Acts” and several reviewers made the same point.  The Times (30 January 1793) finds the dialogue “replete with fashionable and moral point” and Woodfall’s Register (30 January 1793) praises the “observations on life," commenting that “that made by Captain Irwin, that the exchange of [visiting] cards was in all probability the whole extent of mutual friendship at the west end of the town, was sharp and cutting, but is unfortunately too true."  This is the closest anyone comes to responding positively to the play’s satire.  The critical dialogue on justice and mercy which the child Edward conducts with Lord Norland, in a scene which looks forward to Inchbald’s satirical novel of 1796, Nature and Art, is noticed by the Times only in order to be criticised as “a little too abstruse and irrelevant” (30 January 1793).[14]  Far from creating any radical impact, the play receives plaudits for a conservative aesthetic achievement.  It is praised as a “refined” and “elegant” work, restoring stage comedy to its traditional quality from the degeneration of modern farce, adding lustre to the reputation of English drama and to Inchbald’s own reputation as a writer.[15
  18. Now nothing could have pleased Inchbald more than this last tribute.  A major source of her anxiety over her autobiography (which she eventually burned), raised repeatedly in letters to Godwin, is whether publishing it will damage her, as a woman.  She is keenly aware that a substantial portion of the book relates to her life as an actress and that actresses’ autobiographies are synonymous with scandal.[16 But the issue she indicates as paramount to Godwin is whether it will enhance her achievement as a writer.[17 So, in the case of Every One Has His Fault, she seems to have produced exactly the result she wanted - a play which contained themes of some importance to her radical sensibility, but which antagonised almost no one and achieved spectacular success. 
  19. The key to this achievement was Inchbald’s success in managing audience responses almost perfectly, the result of employing highly developed skills.  Outside the sphere of dialogue and stage spectacle, which were regulated by the censor, the complex organism which was the late Georgian London theatre was alive with political double meanings.  The patent theatres were all politically alined and, in particular, the audiences were strongly partisan, readily attaching innuendoes of all kinds to lines delivered on stage.  Inchbald herself had experienced this with her farce, “Young Men and Old Women," at the Haymarket in 1792, when audience and press took pleasure in the very title of the piece, as a reference to the Prince of Wales’s liaison with the older woman, Mrs FitzHerbert (Werkmeister, 1967: 93).[18In this very slippery environment, focusing the audience’s response was a matter of the finest and most sensitive calculation. 
  20. Although Inchbald writes in Woodfall’s Register that no word of the play was changed after it opened, she had made changes in the last two weeks running up to that opening, after the copy was submitted to the censor, John Larpent.  Her portrait of the dissolute aristocrat is softened in the final version; some of his harsher features, present in the manuscript, are omitted.  One of the comic characters has two forms of his name in the manuscript, “Colonel Placid” and “Mr Placid”; the final version settles consistently on “Mr Placid," leaving only one disreputable soldier (Irwin) on stage instead of presenting two, thus avoiding what might be taken for a general attack on the military on the eve of war with France.  The philanthropist loses his most direct speech expressing sympathy for criminals; in the final version, these particular sentiments are delivered only once and in caricature form by Miss Spinster in an early scene in Act One (I, ii, 10).  But at the same time, two extra speeches are inserted into the role of Solus for one of the most popular comic actors, Quick, who had been dissatisfied with his part initially.[19]  Taken altogether, the final changes represent a process of fine-tuning the script in the light of audience tastes, cast needs and political context, to maximise the chances of success.  The differences are not extensive but they tend to tone the play down to avoid extremes. 
  21. So what do the production and reception of Inchbald’s Every One Has His Fault signify for our understanding of politics and women’s professional writing in the late eighteenth-century London theatre?  Is the truth really little more than that Inchbald, although a liberal thinker, produced a conservative stage triumph?  Is this yet another example in which the creativity of a potentially radical woman writer was, in practice, “exercised ... on the ... stage, in support of a conservative ideology," in Cox’s phrase?  Is it, moreover, a particularly disappointing example, because at first glance the situation seemed to promise something explicitly subversive? [20]
  22. IV. Inchbald’s achievement

  23. Certainly, in production, Every One Has his Fault seems to have displayed something much less polemical than the feminist reader might hope.  If we can, however, set aside the initial reaction of disappointment, we can see that what Inchbald displays in this work is no negative image of women’s writing.[21 It is true that Inchbald refers to her “painful anxiety” about the reception of her play, in her reply to the True Briton.  Nevertheless, the changes she introduced in the last two weeks do not make for a nervous, shrinking text, but a positively expert piece of writing for a living theatre.  Godwin suggested the opposite; he argued that the multiple plots in the play betrayed a lack of confidence.  He suggested both in his letters and in the review he wrote for the European Magazine that the play had too much in it and that the reason Inchbald had over-provided in this way was that she suffered from a “diffidence in her own talents” (Vol. 23 (1793): 106).  But Inchbald herself was clear that the plenitude of the play was not due to lack of self-belief.  One of her letters to Godwin explains that she could not cut out the whole of the Irwin plot, as he was urging her to do, because all the plots were fully integrated; in writing the play she had paid “a strict attention to a connection of one character with another and one plot with another and one scene with another."[22 Many of the reviewers noticed how well-made the play was, commenting not merely on the play’s variety, but on pairings and contrasts of characters which provoked thought.[23]  At the close of the letter just quoted, long before the reception of the play proved her right, Inchbald wrote to Godwin, “pity my anxieties and own you have mistaken my abilities."
  24. When, in writing to Woodfall’s Register, Inchbald refers to her “most laborious efforts to produce a Dramatic Work deserving the approbation of the town," her statement is not self-deprecatory but points to the study, the expertise and the perilously fine judgment required to frame an original play for substantial stage success in the volatile medium of Covent Garden early in 1793.  Inchbald often wrote under commission from Thomas Harris, manager of Covent Garden, who asked her to adapt translations of plays which had already been well-received in Paris.  But as her comments on dramatic translation indicate (those relating to her adaptation of the character of Amelia in Lovers’ Vows being perhaps the best known), the hard work of adaptation was all about making intricate assessments of what would and what would not appeal to a London audience (Smallwood, 2001: xv-xvii).  Perhaps the most significant accolade presented to her by the reviewers of Every One Has His Fault is the repeated compliment to her command of the audience’s responses; several note that every scene is applauded and Woodfall’s Register remarks on the effectiveness of all the scenes involving the Irwins, in which “Mrs Inchbald has proved herself a perfect mistress of the mind and feelings of the audience” (30 January 1793).
  25. By contrast with her many commissioned adaptations from French drama, Every One Has His Fault was an original play, one which Inchbald herself chose to write.  The structural connections she built into it throughout, and defended against Godwin’s advice, indicate that she wanted to stimulate ideas: the juxtaposed figures, scenes and plots stimulate reflection on the various versions of concepts which the play presents: marriage examined in four different examples, absolutism (Lord Norland, the stern law-giver and Mrs Placid the hilarious termagant wife), female obedience both in Lady Eleanor, Lord Norland’s estranged daughter, and in Miss Wooburn, Sir Robert Ramble’s divorced wife, to name just some of them.  For those in search of feminist meaning, there are elements of this text which engage with issues about women, alongside other political concerns of the moment, all of which Inchbald tends to place deliberately in both serious and comic lights.[24 The social injustice of Miss Wooburn’s position (she possesses a nobler character than any of the men who concern themselves with "disposing" of her) is enforced with an outrageously unquestioning speech by Lord Norland, who argues that the injustice she suffers is in the interests of preserving “the order of society."  Men, only, he pronounces, have the right of choice in marriage (III, i, 56).  The same sense of social injustice is also rendered in a moment of preposterous comedy when Sir Robert claims that his former wife, although younger than he is, is old.  “In years I am certainly older than she”; Inchbald makes him explain, “but the difference of sex makes her a great deal older than I am” (II, i, 23).   With an altruism beyond Sir Robert’s understanding, Miss Wooburn attempts to present him with the bond which  controls her fortune so that he will have “liberty” and never be the “debtor, perhaps the prisoner of my future husband” (III, i, 53).
  26. At other times, serious points are elided with sheer comic froth, turned into witty metaphors, as when the desperate Solus turns topical political preoccupations into laughter with his “Oh! I am impatient for all the chartered rights, privileges, and immunities of” ... “a married man” (III, ii, 65-66).  Similarly, when Miss Spinster suddenly appears in wedding clothes, as the new wife of Solus, she answers Harmony’s shocked reaction with an explanation which is the ultimate comic variation on a serious theme: “Mr Harmony, it is a weakness I acknowledge; but you can never want an excuse for me, when you call to mind ‘the scarcity of provisions’” (V, iii, 109).
  27. The mixed mode of the play, which the True Briton in its original review feigned to be unable to comprehend and which Godwin thought better dismantled, is the very feature which enables Inchbald to embody the same issues in both serious and comic images and allows ideas and meanings to ricochet around the audience – between the oblivious consumer of sheer entertainment on the one hand and the politically aware spectator on the other. 
  28. One member of the audience we can number among the politically alert (in addition to the alarmist writer for the True Briton, of course), would have been Godwin, whose diary shows that he attended the first night.  His interesting response to the play, set out in his review, indicates that, for him, the text was, above all, tantalising.  He saw in it merely the germs of ideas which Inchbald, in his view, failed to develop.  He urged people to read rather than see the play, or, better still, to read Inchbald’s much deeper novel, A Simple Story, instead.  But Godwin had none of Inchbald’s grasp of theatrical realities.  Every One Has His Fault is a text which is positioned precisely to operate on the margins of radical ideas and discourse.  Expertly calculated to please across a wide range of audience tastes, it demonstrates a sophisticated and fully professional understanding, on Inchbald’s part, of the complex conditions in which it was both performed and read.

Angela Smallwood (University of Nottingham)


[1] See Sutherland, 1991: 27-63 and Craciun and Lokke, 2001: 7. [back]

[2] The standard authority on the operation of the Licensing Act is Conolly, 1976; subsequent references to this work appear in the text.  Conolly’s view that eighteenth-century drama was virtually depoliticised has been challenged more recently e.g. by Russell, 1995: 16. [back]

[3] Much of the biographical material in this essay is drawn from Boaden, 1833.  The most recent biography is Annibel Jenkins. 2003. I’ll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald. Lexington: Kentucky UP. [back]

[4] On Holcroft see Colby, 1925; on Godwin, see Paul, 1876 and Marshall, 1984. [back]

[5] It is a pleasure to acknowledge the kind permission of The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, to quote from the Library’s collection of letters from Mrs Inchbald to William Godwin 1792-1817 and the diaries of William Godwin 1788-1833. The passage quoted here is from Oxford, Bodleian Library, [Abinger] Dep. c. 509.  A longer extract is quoted in Paul, 1876: I, 141. [back]

[6] Virtually all newspaper and magazine reviews of Every One Has His Fault in this paper were traced through the very full collation of extracts appended to Sigl, 1980; others were identified in Ward, 1979.  Microfilms of the original newspapers were read in the Burney Collection of Newspapers. [back]

[7] All references to the text of Every One Has His Fault are to Inchbald, 1980.  The present reference is V, iii, 112. Subsequent references to this play are incorporated in the text.  Modern editions of the play are also available in Nicoll, 1927 and Ellis, 1991.  For a discussion of Jacobin ideas and their place in Inchbald’s novels and some of her plays, see Kelly, 1976: 64-113. [back]

[8] The classic study is Baer, 1992. [back]

[9] For recent readings of The Massacre, see O’Quinn, 1999; and Hoagwood, 2001. [back]

[10]  Details of government and opposition involvement with the press and the theatres are drawn from Werkmeister, 1967.  For her account of the establishment of the True Briton, see 171-72. [back]

[11] Bolton, 2001: 5 and 39; and Kucich, 2000: 51-52. [back]

[12] See Woodfall’s Register, 31 January 1793 and 4 February 1793; also Philo Briton’s letter in Morning Chronicle, 1 February 1793. [back]

[13] Details of the performance history of Every One Has His Fault have been collated from Hogan, 1968.  Between 1793 and 1799, benefit performances were presented or planned for players in the roles of Edward, Lady Eleanor, Miss Spinster, Harmony, Placid, Mrs Placid and Lord Norland. [back]

[14] Moody, 2000: 49, in a very interesting reading of the True Briton’s response to Every One Has His Fault, makes the important suggestion that political animosity is expressed indirectly through the criticisms the paper makes of what it presents as aesthetic shortcomings, including the mixing of modes and the lack of “probability." Kucich, 2000: 67 warns of the difficulty of interpreting male reviewers’ pieces on plays by women at this date (male critics might be predisposed to find them non-political).  Even so, it is difficult to see any basis in the reviews for Bolton’s assertion that the play was attacked as subversive “because it seemed to support a woman’s right to choose her own marriage partner” (Bolton, 2001: 39). [back]

[15] I refer to pieces in the Morning Chronicle 1 February 1793;  Times 30 January 1793; World 8 February 1793; Walker’s Hibernian Magazine Pt 1 (1793): 254. [back]

[16] The classic study is Straub, 1992; see also Crouch, 1997. [back]

[17] In a letter addressed to “Wm Godwin, Polygon” and headed “Monday Noon 8th April," Inchbald expresses concern about the effects of publishing her memoirs: .".. an act that may do me infinitely more harm as a woman, than any man could receive by a similar publication”; another letter addressed to “Wm Godwin, Polygon” and headed “Good Friday” asks, “Independent of my Reputation as a woman, do you think as a Writer I should be more or less esteemed by this publication?”  (Oxford, Bodleian Library, [Abinger] Dep. c. 509). [back]

[18] A basic political classification of a number of plays of the period is offered by Grieder, 1965. [back]

[19] I refer to the copyist’s manuscript of Every One Has His Fault reproduced in Three Centuries of Drama; see Inchbald, 1991.  Material cut includes a strong denunciation of Ramble by Miss Wooburn (see Act III, Scene i and compare Inchbald 1980: 50, with the ms, Act III, 8) and a threat by Ramble to lock Miss Wooburn up (see Act V, Scene iii and compare Inchbald 1980: 107 with the ms, Act V, 15).  References to Placid as "Colonel Placid" appear in the ms in the allocation of his speeches throughout Act I and in the first speech of Act V, Scene ii: compare Inchbald 1980: 98 with the ms, Act V, 7; for Harmony’s most direct speech see Act III, Scene i and compare Inchbald 1980: 46, with the ms, Act III, 4-5; for Quick’s extra speeches, see Solus in III, ii, and compare Inchbald 1980: 63-64 with ms, Act III, 19; for reference to Quick’s attitude to the part, see Victoria and Albert Museum Library, Forster Collection, 48 D. 2, autograph 1 (unsigned) MS letter from Mrs Inchbald to William Godwin, dated 9 January [1793], quoted in Sigl, 1980: 203. [back]

[20] More than one biographer of Wollstonecraft has seized upon the reference to the Vindication of the Rights of Woman which appears in the prologue to Every One Has His Fault as a sign of Inchbald’s interest, if not support: Tomalin, 1992: 328, n.1; Todd, 2000: 382.  It should not, however, be assumed that Inchbald endorsed the sentiments of this prologue, which was, in the accustomed manner, provided by a writer other than the author of the play, in this case the Rev. Mr Nares, probably Robert Nares, an establishment figure in the pay of the ministry (Werkmeister, 1967: 29).  Tolerant treatment of the Vindication in 1792-93 by such a writer is understandable in the light of the findings of Janes, 1978: 293-302, that in 1792 the Vindication was met fairly widely with “calm approbation” as an educational treatise; vilification came later, following the revelations in Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of the Vindication (1797). [back]

[21] For Donkin, 1995, Inchbald’s relationships with theatre managers in the 1780s reveal the first glimmerings of the free expression of “ambition, gift and tenacity” (131) in a generally dark story of the disabling effects of patriarchal constraints upon eighteenth-century women playwrights.  The nature of Inchbald’s writing, however, in the 90s especially, provides more complex and more powerful evidence of positive achievement in this sphere. [back]

[22] Oxford, Bodleian Library, [Abinger] Dep. c. 509, unsigned letter addressed to Godwin at 39 Devonshire St., Portland Place, and headed “Friday”; Sigl, 1980: 202 quotes the passage and supplies the date 30 December [1792]. [back]

[23] Morning Chronicle, 30 January 1793, notices “strong contrasts of situation and character”; Philo Briton praises Inchbald for “characters, actually existing in the world, and contrasted with great skill, and the true address of a Dramatic writer” (Morning Chronicle, 1 February 1793) and the reviewer in Woodfall’s Register for 1 February 1793 points out that “Placid and Sir Robert are well opposed as characters, and Solus serves to shew their foibles as a mirror, which looked upon by two individuals, reflects their different features." [back]

[24] A feminist reading of the play as an analysis of the “oppressive treatment of women” is provided by Overbye, 1993: 50-59, while Anderson, 2002: 171-99 discusses the play’s treatment of marriage and divorce. [back]

Angela Smallwood (University of Nottingham)

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