English Actress, Dramatist and Novelist
1753 – 1821 A.D.
Elizabeth Inchbald was the daughter of John Simpson, a farmer of Stanningfield, near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England, where she was born October 15, 1753. When sixteen she secretly left her family, prompted by an irrepressible desire to visit London; and when eighteen she accepted a theatrical engagement. After escaping many dangers in a series of strange adventures, she betook herself to her relatives. During this period she met Joseph Inchbald, an obscure actor, whom she married on June 9, 1772.
Having now adopted the stage as a career, she went to Bristol, where she made her début as Cordelia on September 4, 1772; and for some years she played in provincial theaters. Her husband died suddenly in 1779, and in 1780 she appeared in London, playing Bellario in Philaster, at Covent Garden. Here she remained for nine years, but never rose beyond mediocrity, an impediment in her speech, which was, however, supposed to be cured, being certainly a bar to her progress.
After 1789 she devoted herself solely to literary labors, in which she found her true vocation. Her earliest efforts were plays, her first being The Mogul Tale, a farce, produced in 1784. She wrote or adapted nineteen plays her best being the comedies, Such Things Are, The Midnight Hour, and The Wedding Day; the farces, Appearance is Against Them, and The Widow’s Vow; and her adaptation from Kotzebue, Love’s Vows. But her fame rests upon her dramatic work so much as upon her novels. A Simple Story and Nature and Art rank among English standard novels.
Mrs. Inchbald, who was a Catholic, became very devout in her later years, and died at Kensington House, August 1, 1821. One wo knew her well thus describes her personal appearance: “The fair muse,’ as she was often termed, was above the middle size, rather tall, of a striking figure, but a little too erect and stiff. She was naturally fair, slightly freckled, and her hair was of an auburn hue. Her face and features were beautiful, and her countenance was full of spirit and sweetness.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.