A Simple Story
  • Publication Date: May 24, 2007
  • ISBN: 9781551116150 / 1551116154
  • 370 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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A Simple Story

  • Publication Date: May 24, 2007
  • ISBN: 9781551116150 / 1551116154
  • 370 pages; 5½" x 8½"

After its publication in early 1791, A Simple Story was widely read in England and abroad, going into a second edition in March of the same year. The novel’s young heroine, Miss Milner, scandalously declares herself in love with her guardian, Dorriforth, a Catholic priest. Dorriforth returns her love and is released from his vows. Though the pair go on to marry, the second half of the novel reveals the disastrous and far-reaching consequences of Miss Milner’s subsequent adulterous affair.

The critical introduction to this Broadview edition considers such issues as Catholicism, theatricality, the theatre, and the masquerade, while the appendices provide a wide selection of cultural, biographical, and literary contexts for the novel.


“This is an ideal teaching edition. The full and lucid introduction considers both biographical and formal elements. Particularly welcome and valuable is the generous set of appendices; the first, providing extracts from Inchbald’s own critical and dramatic writing, as well as from her pocket diaries, gives us a rounded and sympathetic view of the impressive variety of Inchbald’s achievements as a writer, while the contemporary reviews contained in the second appendix give a good sense of the prevailing understanding of the novel as genre.” — Aileen Douglas, Trinity College Dublin

“By situating A Simple Story against theatrical texts, Lott evokes the complexities of Inchbald’s life—as woman, actor, novelist, playwright, and eventually critic—and thus challenges us to understand the work as an ‘attempt to merge two forms, the novel and the play.’ Examples of conduct literature demonstrate that Inchbald was an astute reader of gender construction, while accounts of divorce proceedings illustrate the reality of social consequences facing women who balked at the double standard for female behavior. Excerpts from period debates over the politics of authority remind us that the novel was completed as the French Revolution was beginning and that many of Inchbald’s friends were shortly to be labeled Jacobin. This edition of Inchbald’s most famous novel will prompt revisions in many an eighteenth-century syllabus.” — Katherine Green, Western Kentucky University

Elizabeth Inchbald: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

A Simple Story

Appendix A: Inchbald’s Other Writings

  1. Letter “To The Artist” (1807)
  2. From Inchbald’s Daily Pocket Diaries (1788)
    1. Facsimile of a typical week’s diary entries
    2. Transcription of two week’s diary entries
  3. From Selected Plays
    1. From Wives as They Were and Maids as They Are (1797)
    2. From Every One Has His Fault (1793)
  4. Remarks in The British Theatre (1808)
    1. Hannah Cowley, The Belle’s Stratagem (1780)
    2. Robert Jephson, The Count of Narbonne (1781)
    3. William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale (1611)

Appendix B: Eighteenth-Century Reception of A Simple Story

  1. Reviews of A Simple Story
    1. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, The British Novelists (1810)
    2. The Critical Review; or, Annals of Literature (1791)
    3. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle (1791)
    4. Impartial Review (1791)
    5. Lady’s Magazine (1791)
    6. Mary Wollstonecraft, Analytical Review (1791)
  2. Exchange of Letters between William Godwin and Elizabeth Inchbald on the Day of Mary Wollstonecraft’s
    Death (10 September 1797)
    1. Godwin’s Letter to Inchbald
    2. Inchbald’s First Reply to Godwin
    3. Inchbald’s Second Reply to Godwin
  3. Maria Edgeworth, Letter to Elizabeth Inchbald (14 January 1810)

Appendix C: Cultural Contexts

  1. Portrait of John Philip Kemble
  2. Gender and the French Revolution
    1. From Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
    2. From Mary Wollstonecraft, An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution (1794)
    3. From Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
    4. From William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness (1793)
  3. Literature on Education
    1. From Hannah More, Strictures On The Modern System of Female Education (1799)
    2. From Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay Graham, Letters on Education (1790)
    3. From Mary Wollstonecraft, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1788)
  4. Masquerade
    1. From Eliza Haywood, The Female Spectator (1744-46)
    2. “Historical Account of Masquerades,” Lady’s Magazine (May 1775)
    3. “An Essay on Masquerades,” Lady’s Magazine (December 1777)
    4. Sample Advertisements for Masquerades and Costumes, The World (30 January 1788)
    5. From Hannah Cowley, The Belle’s Stratagem (1780)
  5. Female Transgression
    1. From William Godwin, Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798)
    2. Elizabeth Inchbald, Letter to William Godwin (18 September 1805)
    3. From Trials for Adultery: Or, The History of Divorces (1779)

Select Bibliography

Anna Lott is Professor of English and Coordinator of Women’s Studies at the University of North Alabama.