Playwrights, Politics and Convention: the Case of Elizabeth Inchbald’s
"Seditious" Comedy, Every
One Has His Fault (1793)
- 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
- 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.
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).
- 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.
Shades of radicalism
- 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).
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.
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.
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”.
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).
- 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."
- 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).
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.
The politics of stage success
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
- The possibility of audience
riot had been a permanent consideration in the minds of the London theatre
managers throughout the Georgian period.
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).
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.
Its writers proclaim themselves “awake to every insinuation that
affects the character, the peace, or the interests of our Country” (1
- 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,
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)
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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 ).
- 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.
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).
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.
- 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.
But the issue she indicates as paramount to Godwin is whether it
will enhance her achievement as a writer.
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.
- 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). In
this very slippery environment, focusing the audience’s response was
a matter of the finest and most sensitive calculation.
- 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.
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.
- 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
IV. Inchbald’s achievement
- 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.
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."
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.
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."
- 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).
- 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
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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
Smallwood (University of Nottingham)
 See Sutherland,
1991: 27-63 and Craciun and Lokke, 2001: 7. [back]
 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]
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]
 On Holcroft see Colby, 1925;
on Godwin, see Paul, 1876 and Marshall, 1984. [back]
 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]
 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.
 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]
 The classic
study is Baer, 1992. [back]
 For recent readings of The
Massacre, see O’Quinn, 1999; and Hoagwood, 2001. [back]
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]
 Bolton, 2001: 5 and 39; and
Kucich, 2000: 51-52. [back]
 See Woodfall’s
Register, 31 January 1793 and 4 February 1793; also Philo Briton’s
letter in Morning Chronicle, 1 February 1793. [back]
 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]
 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]
 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]
 The classic study is Straub,
1992; see also Crouch, 1997. [back]
 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]
 A basic political classification
of a number of plays of the period is offered by Grieder, 1965. [back]
 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
, quoted in Sigl, 1980: 203. [back]
 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]
 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]
 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 . [back]
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]
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]
Smallwood (University of Nottingham)
This article is copyright © of the author, and is the result of the
independent labour of the scholar or scholars credited with authorship.
The material contained in this document may be freely distributed, as
long as the origin of information used has been properly credited in the
appropriate manner (e.g. through bibliographic citation, etc
Cited and Consulted
Anderson, Misty. 2002. “Beyond the Law: Contract, Divorce and Community
in Inchbald’s Comedies." Chapter 6 of her Female Playwrights and Eighteenth-Century
Comedy: Negotiating Marriage on the London Stage . New York and Basingstoke:
European Magazine and London
Review 23 (January-June 1793).
Morning Chronicle 1 February 1793.
O’Quinn, Daniel J. 1999. “Elizabeth Inchbald’s The Massacre:
Tragedy, Violence and the Networks of Political Fantasy." British
Women Playwrights around 1800. Gen. Eds Thomas C. Crochunis
and Michael Eberle-Sinatra. Montreal. 1 June 1999.
Times 30 January 1793.
True Briton 30 January-6 February 1793.
Walker’s Hibernian Magazine Pt 1 (1793): 254.
Woodfall’s Register 31 January - 4 February 1793.
World 8 February 1793.