Troy University professor receives NEH grant to preserves plays of Elizabeth Inchbald

Posted: Thursday, 31 March 2016

TROY - A Troy University English professor will compile the first complete scholarly edition of plays by English writer Elizabeth Inchbald thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dr. Ben P. Robertson was recently awarded a $6,000 NEH Summer Stipend, which will fund two months of travel and research for the project.

Elizabeth Inchbald was a British actor, playwright, novelist, and literary critic who lived from 1753 to 1821. She was the author of more than a dozen plays and two novels, including "A Simple Story," which remains in print today.

Robertson describes her as a significant figure in Romantic-era Britain-one who defied the gender conventions of her day.

"Inchbald has been a significant interest of mine for about 15 years, partly because she was able to make it on her own as a woman in a culture that didn't especially value women's contributions," Robertson said. "I admire her bravery-her daring. She literally ran away from home at the age of eighteen (a very dangerous move at the time) to become an actor."

Though she was a popular and important literary figure in her day-admired by the likes of Lord Byron-only one incomplete edition of her plays exists today.

"My plan is to produce a fully edited and annotated edition that other scholars can use to study her works and that professors can use as textbooks in their classes," Robertson said.

Robertson plans to travel to the British Library in London, the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., and the Huntington Library in San Marino, Ca., to consult and transcribe original manuscripts of Inchbald's plays. A goal of the project will be to compare the originals with the government-sanctioned copies, which may have been subject to censorship.

Robertson's dissertation focused on Inchbald's two novels, and in 2007, he published a three-volume edition of her diaries. He is also the author of the books "Elizabeth Inchbald's Reputation: A Publishing and Reception History" (Pickering & Chatto, 2013) and "Inchbald, Hawthorne and the Romantic Moral Romance" (Pickering & Chatto, 2010).

The NEH Summer Stipends program supports individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both. In the last five competitions, the Summer Stipends program received an average of 930 applications per year. The program made an average of 81 awards per year, for a funding ratio of 9 percent.

Dr. Ben P. Robertson