I am reading a book, Passion and Principle: the Loves and Lives of Regency Women by Jane Aiken Hodge.
Here is an amazing story I rustled up from this book:
Have you ever heard of Elizabeth Inchbald (1753-1821)? She is a woman with an incredibly independent spirit for her age (well, for any age!) who was a novelist, playwright, and actress.
Elizabeth was a farmer’s daughter who was never formally educated but read a lot. Her passion was the theater, and she ran away at 17 to London to become an actress, leaving a note of apology for her mother. A few days later, she sought refuge with her married sisters, and her mother forgave her for fleeing. An actor, Joseph Inchbald, who had two illegitimate daughters, pursued her and offered marriage. They were in an acting company together, and performed Shakespeare as well as plays by popular playwrights.
Her marriage was not perfect. In her diaries she recorded that her husband was often jealous and made scenes after his drinking. In her travels, she met the actor and stage manager John Phillip Kemble, worked in one of his plays, and clearly made her husband jealous by her friendship with him. He was her lifelong friend and also apparently her unrequited love, but she denied that they were ever lovers.
Here are some images of Elizabeth, before I continue on with her story:
In all, Elizabeth wrote over 20 plays. The work she is most well known for is a novel called A Simple Life. Reportedly, she patterned the hero after Kemble. He is handsome, romantic, but unheroic–it is not a flattering portrait.
The theme of A Simple Life is that a proper education is essential for women to make the right choices in life.
Elizabeth continued to live independently on her earnings until her death.
Spunky, intelligent, and independent…now that’s a real-life Regency heroine for you!
Passion and Principle: the Loves and Lives of Regency Women by Jane Aiken Hodge. John Murray Publishers, London, 1996.
Elizabeth Inchbald, article by Elma Scott, Chawton House Library, viewed at: http://www.chawton.org/library/biographies/inchbald.html