Whitfields of Southern Africa
  New - Memoirs of Mrs Inchbald (1753 - 1821)
 

[additions by Pete Whitfield]

Elizabeth Inchbald (née Simpson) (1753–1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist. In April 1772, at the age of 18, she went to London to act. (Her brother George had become an actor in 1770.) Her stammer affected her performance and many audience members did not enjoy watching her on stage because of her speech impediment.

 Shortly after arriving in London she married an actor Joseph Inchbald who was twice her age. Joseph died unexpectedly in 1779 and due to her success in playwriting, Inchbald did not need the financial support of a husband and did not remarry.

Between 1784 and 1805 she had nineteen of her comedies, sentimental dramas, and farces (many of which were translations from the French) performed at London theatres. Eighteen of her plays were published, though she wrote several more; the exact number is in dispute though most recent commentators claim between 21 and 23. Her two novels have been frequently reprinted. She also did considerable editorial and critical work.  A four-volume autobiography was destroyed before her death upon the advice of her confessor, but she left some of her diaries.  In 1833, the two-volume Memoirs of Mrs. Inchbald by James Boaden was published by Richard Bentley.

Some extracts from these memoirs are shown below in which her great friends the Whitfields are mentioned>

Vol 2 pg 266 – “The Whitfields at the opening of her town life, were in some respects able to assist her widowed exertions and she prolonged the engagement of Mr Whitfield at Convent-Garden theatre after he had lost his wife. His daughter Caroline called upon her in November, to take leave, going out, with a colony, to settle in some part of Africa. Mrs Inchbald gave her ten pounds, with wishes such as her mother would have uttered on the occasion. She probably thought of the scheme itself, as she did when writing her ‘NATURE AND ART.’ Africa is the great problem in the improvement of the world.” [Pete Whitfield comment – interesting to note that the name used is Caroline and not Charlotte who was the sister who went out to Africa with the 1820 Settlers. Caroline is one of Charlotte’s sisters]

Vol 1 pg 132 – “Dec 1780. During this year she resided with a Mrs. Barwell, and paid 9s. per week for her apartments; and as she always knew how either to give some pleasant property to her abode, or by her personal charm to render it of no moment whatever, -- at such lodgings she received visits from the Marquis of Carmarthen, who was greatly pleased with her conversation. Among her intimates may now be numbered mr and Mrs Booth---Mr and Mrs Whitfield, who became her closest friends, and at whose house she commenced a very valuable acquaintance with that excellent and studious man, the late Francis Twiss Esq., who became a brother-in-law to the Kemble family.”

Vol 1 pg 141 – “The Whitfields, her most intimate acquaintance in the profession, took her to dine with their friend Mr Babb, for the first time at his country house, on Sunday 6th of May: he became her very steady and valuable friend.”

Vol 1 pg 172 – “The Whitfields in March last, had offered their house and she now immediately repaired thither, where she was comforted by intelligence that her mother was much better than she had been. Mr Babb abd a Mrs Barrs were on a visit at the Whitfields, so she merely called on her sister Hunt, and then passed her time with them until Sunday, when she dined with her sister; and getting into the Norwich coach at ten at night, arrived at eight o’clock the next morning at her mother’s house at Standingfield. She had the pleasure of finding her tolerably well; her sister Dolly was living with her, and her sister Bigsby and her husband were soon there to welcome her. She could only stay with them three days, and on the Wednesday morning early got into the coach, and arrived in London in the evening. Her friends, the Whitfields, were obliged to quit town, and the other visitors departed when they did ; but Mrs. Inchbald was left there, to reside rent-free, living of course at her own expense, until they came back again. .In the mean time she re-entered upon her Haymarket engagement, and her old friend Davis upon his daily visitations; the same week renewed her slender engagement with Mr. Harris; and on the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield, she supped with them, and then took possession of a lodging she had taken, which she always emphatically styled her home; and no human being was ever more attached to one.

Vol 1 pg 178 - Her. lodgings cost her seven shillings per week. She dined and supped almost daily with the Whitfields, and, when she did not, went without a dinner. We have no kind of doubt of her making -a suitable return for the accommodation of their table. She some­times accompanied them to their friend Mr Babb's, who had presented her With some china, and Seems to have greatly admired and respected her.

Vol 1 pg 182-183 – But not to anticipate upon the course of this narrative, we replace her in her humble lodging at the commencement of the year, and have tb remark upon the rigorous self-denial she thought herself obliged to practise. She ,refused all visitors, probably for their sakes, and even complimentary calls for her own. The Whitfields absolutely kept her in existence; but this sorry dependence at lest provoked its infallible follower, contempt. Her friend used her so ill, that Mrs. Inchbald would not even go in her company to the theatre, and was compelled to take her meal of discomfort at home.Mr. Twiss, however, the last day of March had her to _dine with him, to meet Mrs. Whitfield; and in April this foolish business ended. She needed a respectable address, to allow of visits from persons of any figure in the world, and wrote to Mrs. Whitfield for the use cif her house when she quitted town for Birmingham: a favorable answer was returned. This was of great consequence to her at that time. Mr. Colman had accepted her farce of The Mogul Tale,' and, during the alterations which he recommended, he occasionally called upon her at Whitfield's ; for it does not appear that he was ever apprised of her wooden tenement in the court.

Vol 1 pg 184 - She would not take her sister Dolly into the house to pass some time with her, without express permission; she accordingly wrote to ask it, and received the sanction of the owners. Dolly accordingly lived with her at Mrs. Whit-field's, from the 6th of July till the 9th of August, when she returned to Standingfield, greatly missed by her sister. - To get the chapter of habitation to a close, we here add, that against the return of her friends to town, Mrs. Inchbald took a lodging for herself in Hart Street, at the house of a Mr. Morel], to which she removed on the 15th of September, leaving , a clear stage to her dramatic friends on the following day, when they arrived for the winter campaign.

Vol 1 pg 251 - Of her female friends, Mrs. Whitfield seems to have occupied the first place most decidedly this year: they could hardly pass a day apart, and they lived near each other. Notwithstanding this decided preference, they had frequent disputes, and sometimes violent differences; but they were usually slept off, and treated as dreams "signifying nothing."

Vol 1 pg 259 - She passed her leisure time this year, if she could be said to have any, chiefly with her friends the Whitfields : they went together in May to Epsom races, Mrs. Whitfield's brother, Mr. Lane, residing with her till he left England on a voyage to India.

The reader will smile at the girlish, or shall we say boyish, fully of the following memorandum; but Mrs. Inchbald's amiable character needs no management; we are sure never to despise her. "On the 29th of June [1788] (Sunday) dined, drank tea, and supped with Mrs. Whitfield. At dark, she and I and her son William [aged 8]  walked out. I rapped at doors in New Street and King Street and ran away." We are afraid Gray's ghostly prudes would here exclaim, " Jesu Maria, Madam Bridget, she's five-and-thirty to a minute i"

Whether the month of August saw her in higher glee or more tasteful amusement we will not decide; but she, Mrs. Whitfield, her sister Hunt and Nancy did not disdain to drink tea together in that place of vulgar resort, Bagnigge Wells, the exact character of which they did not, in all probability, entirely comprehend.

Vol 1 pg 266 - The return of Mr. Babb from Italy in June re-newed their Sunday dinners at Little Holland House. The Whitfields and Mrs. Inchbald continued their friendly intercourse, and we find that on the 10th of July Mr. and Mrs. Kemble, with Mrs. Whitfield and Mrs. Inchbald, took a fish dinner at Billingsgate together; returned by water, and drank tea at Mr. Kemble's in Caroline Street. Mr. Kemble was now manager of Drury-Lane theatre.

Vol 1 pg 313 - In July her friend Mrs Whitfield's eldest daughter [PBW assumes this refers to Anna Maria Emilia Whitfield b1779] ran off with a Captain Dalton; but returned to her family, and, accepting a theatrical engagement with Mr Powell, sailed in September for America.

Vol 1 pg 332 - Her Sister Dolly we should conceive to have quitted Miss Pearce, with the view of filling a situation more amusing, to be sure, - that of barmaid at the Staple-Inn Coffee-House; kept, it should seem, by their friend Bob Whitfield: and there Mrs Inchbald visited her frequently.

Vol 1 pg 351 – [1795] In August too, her apparently beloved friend Mrs. Whitfield was dangerously ill, and frequently confined to her bed. Her disorder fluctuated, and Mrs. Inchbald was sometimes cheered with a notion that she would struggle through. She visited and passed some hours with her every day, or with very few intromissions, until the 19th of December, when she died. Mrs. Inchbald had intended to follow her remains; but her very attached maid-servant, dying on the very day of her mistress's funeral, the accidental concurrence quite overset her fortitude, and she became literally unable to discharge the mournful but last calls upon a protracted friendship.

Vol 2 pg 216, Her old friend Mrs M’Crohn, who was an inhabitant of Kensington, was instrumental in settling her at Miss Hodges’s boarding-house, and assisted her in the agony, as she made it, of removing her furniture, trunks, &c. In November 1816, she accordingly gave a dinner to that obliging assistant, and the ladies of Miss Hodges’s establishment, who appear to have been five, herself included: they were a Mrs Henley, Miss Williams, Miss Whitfield [Charlotte or Caroline], and Miss Whitingdale.

Vol 2 pg 217 – The Miss Whitfield who resided in the same house with Mrs Inchbald was the daughter of her old theatrical friend: she left the establishment before it was broken up, which from Miss Hodges’s embarrassments, occurred in August.


 
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