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Radical Translations

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Elizabeth Inchbald


  1. A simple story has translation author
  2. Nature and art has translation author
  3. The child of nature. A dramatic piece, in four acts. From the French of Madame the Marchioness of Sillery, formerly Countess of Genlis. Performing at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden translation has paratext translator
  4. The Massacre: Taken from the French. A tragedy, of three acts, in prose. By Mrs. Inchbald translation translator



Inchbald acted with Thomas Holcroft in Dimond's company based in Canterbury. William Godwin commented on an early draft of 'A simple story' (1791), which she may have started writing after her husband's death in 1779. Never considered a great actress, she considered writing as a possible alternative to her stage career where her wide-ranging experience gave her familiarity with stage techniques, plots and character types, as well as themes from earlier dramatists, such as Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (in 'A simple story'). Her first successful play, a farce, The Mogul Tale (1784), ran at the Little Theatre, Haymarket after being submitted to the theatre manager Colman under an assumed name. Her most successful play, which earned her £900 was Such Things Are (1787), with a character based on the prison reformer John Howard, allowing her to give up acting and devote herself to writing full-time after 1789. She shared a publisher and friendship with William Godwin until she broke with him in 1797 following his marriage to Mary Wollstonecraft. Despite her growing wealth, she always lived frugally, while helping out friends and family. While her independent attitude and lack of personal scandal struck her contemporaries as remarkable. If her autobiography, started in 1795 (and for which she was offered £1000), had matched the psychological skills displayed in her novels, it would have proved a remarkable insight into a female author of the 18th century. However, sadly, she destroyed it on the advice of her confessor, although some volumes of her diaries did survive. Her final years were spent in a state of belated piety and social seclusion. Jane Spencer, ONDB (online) gives an excellent summary of her life. Gary Kelly lists Inchbald, along with Godwin, Holcroft and Bage, as one of Britain's leading 'Jacobin' novelists' ('The English Jacobin novel, 1780-1805', Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976, pp.64-113).