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A Simple Story

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  380 ratings  ·  30 reviews
When Miss Milner announces her passion for her guardian, a Catholic priest, she breaks through the double barrier of his religious vocation and 18th-century British society's standards of proper womanly behavior. Like other women writers of her time, Elizabeth Inchbald concentrates on the question of a woman's "proper education," and her sureness of touch and subtlety of c ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 19th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1791)
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Oxford World's Classics
70th out of 198 books — 40 voters
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Romantic List
53rd out of 86 books — 9 voters

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This is an amazing novel. It's very different from most 18th-century novels. It's way more naturalistic, in that it's not as mannered and self-consciously 'literary' as a lot of the other novels of the time. Which is not to say that they are bad, it's just that this is just so different. It's amazingly realistic. And astonishingly sexual. The latter half of the novel, which deals with the heroine of the first half's daughter, is very different, but the force of sexuality from the first half of t ...more
Elizabeth Inchbald was a late 18th-century actress and playwright who also wrote two books, of which this one is the better known; the other, Nature and Art, is hard to find nowadays, though you can read it at Project Gutenberg.

A Simple Story is a penetrating character study, of the passionate Miss Milner and her love for the stern Dorriforth, her guardian, who is also a Catholic priest. The plot becomes a little didactic, but Inchbald's gift for characterization is evident on every page: Miss
Andrea Lundgren
I would recommend this to Jane Austen fans as well as those of Georgette Heyer. Inchbald combines the strong heroine that Heyer is known for while writing during Austen's time period. (And thus just writing a novel instead of a historical novel.)

I was impressed by how real the characters were, how close I felt to them and the action, despite the lack of description or extensive narration, both of which I had expected (the former is used heavily by Heyer, and the latter can be found in Edgeworth
Not bad, and as a book has been severely overlooked for a number of years, but I feel that the two halves of the book (originally conceived as separate novels), don't quite sit together. Further, the ending seems a bit of a let down after the denouement which precedes it.
I read this ofc because of Jane Austen, and I wonder what other writer wrote during her lifetime, especially since some people say it sort of 'inspire' Jane. And once again I'm overwhelmed by Jane's genius! hah! I like the first half of the book, it's at times terribly frustrating because if only people can be true to each other... geez. And I also somewhat hate Mr Sandford by his rudeness towards miss Milner until the last chapter of second volume, and how incredibly uncomfortable it is to see ...more
I did not enjoy the beginning all that much, but it gets very interesting around the middle of Volume II. It's surprisingly "modern" in its focus on psychological realism and thought processes, but its interiority does make it less witty than Burney or Austen or Edgeworth or Ferrier or any of your other favorite novelists from that era. I had always heard she was a moralist, and I suppose you could read it that way, but I thought it was actually quite racy in parts. It's certainly franker about ...more
Helen Kitson
A novel of two parts. The first concerns Miss Milner (we never know her first name) who, upon the death of her father, is placed in the care of a guardian, Mr Dorriforth. She loves him, but he is a Catholic priest. Her desire for him is less shocking than it might be because she is not a Catholic. However, when he inherits the title Lord Elmwood he is conveniently released from his vows, so that he might marry and have a son to inherit the title, thus keeping the title within a Catholic family.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth Inchbald's A Simple Story was a long overdue read for me. I love women novelists from this period, but for some reason this book kept slipping under my radar, or I just couldn't seem to pick it up. Now I'm wondering why it took me so long.

Simply put, this novel does a lot in a relatively short amount of space. The plot is interesting, the characters are intriguingly stereotypical yet somehow subversive, and I would argue it is hard to determine what Inchbald really wants you to take
The title A Simple Story amused me, because this novel is so much more than that. While on the surface it teaches the contemporary moral don't flirt OR ELSE YOUR LIFE IS OVER , Inchbald is subtly critical of the stern moral guidance imparted by the novel's patriarchal figures Dorriforth/Elmwood and - at first - Sandford. (view spoiler) ...more
This book had promise and even though I didn't like too many of the characters, the first two volumes of the book were quite entertaining. Miss Milner, though a bit of a lame floozy, kept the story going. When she dies (oops spoiler) and the narrative shifts to her daughter, Matilda, everything just gets really boring. Though she is a "better" character as she is more demure than her mother, she annoyed me so much more. She just kind of weeps and cries a lot about her hardships. The worst part o ...more
Jenna M
I find this era of novel a struggle at time, with moralising and dull narration being common, but I nevertheless enjoyed this. The book is split in two parts, the first is about a sassy, witty young woman, by all accounts based on the author herself, who has a forbidden passion for her guardian-priest. Oh, la. Lots of fun. She comes to ruin, of course. Her hubby turns to a tyrant and locks his daughter in another house, with the threat that to see him would mean expulsion and poverty. Very gothi ...more
I was somewhat disappointed with this book. Inchbald was clearly a very intelligent and very witty writer, and her language has a great sense of activity to it which comes from her being a playwright. But I feel like, while she touched on some great things and wrote some particularly inspired passages, the cohesiveness of the novel as a whole lacked. People in my class would argue that this is part of what makes the novel so great, that Inchbald purposely surprised the reader with unorthodox met ...more
Oh man. This book. I should've seen the irony in the book's title a mile away -- this story is anything but simple. Dry and unmemorable at the beginning, somehow Miss Milner and Dorriforth's passion ensnared me as soon as I started envisioning the latter as Tom Hiddleston dressed in clothing of that era. I blame Tom for everything, including the strong desire to throw the novel across the room once I'd reached the end of its first plot. Fortunately, I refrained from doing so; the library would'v ...more
This was my first Inchbald novel, and I loved it. It's got both elements of the domestic novel and the gothic, and a lot of very improbable occurrences. The Broadview edition uses the original 1791 text, but footnotes Inchbald's later revisions. The first edition is slightly more melodramatic than subsequent editions, it seems, but I think it worked in this novel. Even if it was a bit predictable, it was great fun and never lagged, and the characters, if a little unrealistic were less one-dimens ...more
This was a sensational book (in both senses) that I ended up writing a paper on. I presented it at the BWWC in Columbus, in 2011.

A priest falling in love, a young woman overcome by books, plenty of dissipation and masquerade, and an eventual second-generation redemption that reinforces typical gender roles that have earlier been eviscerated by the much livelier first half. Lots to talk about.
Definitely worth a read. It is a nuanced look into the difficult and complex world of marriage and love. Don't be fooled into thinking it outdated because the heroine powders her hair - it raises interesting questions about independence. If you like Austen, give it a try although it made me think more of Jane Eyre and faithful Griselda of Chaucer.
Liz Bernardo
Nope. This book was definitely an educational read, but I never would have read it for pleasure. I really didn't enjoy the story and the characters didn't really actively work to do anything.
For all those costume drama lovers out there, this is a salacious read of Austen's era. The melodrama and angst may indeed prove a good tipple to those addicted shades of contemporary monotone as well!
I can't even begin to describe how awful this book was.

The writing format bored me to sleep. I had to read this for a class and to be honest I couldn't even finish it.
Valerie Raa
I loved this gothic style novel which I think precedes Austen. However the two part nature can reduce the flow of the barrative, but an excelent novel nonetheless
Good book, a lot of common 18th century themes. I have to admit, Iw as a bit lost for a while because my copy was missing about 40 pages of important information.
This felt a lot like a guilty pleasure book; all the overly convenient plot and character turns skipped explanations that would have been...less intriguing.
I found this one to be fairly dull and the writing style was a bit off putting. If I hadn't been reading it for a class, I wouldn't have finished it.
Ok, it's sort of funny at a few points, but largely it's tedious and blah. I signed up for a whole semester of this type of thing.
Nov 29, 2010 Kerri marked it as to-read
Elizabeth Inchbald is the author of "Lover's Vows", the play prominently featured in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park
read in grad school--an era of literature i had not been too familiar with--enjoyed it
Dry and boring with no ending.
The first part relating about the coquette miss Milner is definitely a unique story and must have been quite a novelty at the end of the 18th C. In order to make the book perhaps less sensational the second part is a nice read but far less unique and its demure victim heroine daughter of miss Milner less amusing and entertaining than her mother.
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18th Century Enth...: A Simple Story by Elizabeth Inchbald 1 3 Oct 19, 2012 05:26AM  
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Elizabeth Inchbald (née Simpson) (1753–1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist.
More about Elizabeth Inchbald...
Lover's Vows  Wives as They Were and Maids as They Are (Dodo Press) Such Things Are: A Play in Five Acts (1788) The Massacre (Dodo Press) The Wedding Day (Dodo Press)

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