Within the last two decades of the eighteenth century, Elizabeth Inchbald and Jane Austen both responded to the need to critique and rewrite the biblical story of the Fall and the stature of Eve in Christian Britain as a way to turn the romance novel towards feminist social criticism. In A Simple Story (1791) and Persuasion (1817) the Catholic Inchbald and the Anglican Austen, respectively, turn the novel into a forum for feminism and towards a recognizably Romantic method of inquiry. Each edits Eve, in characters such as Miss Milner, Lady Matilda, Louisa Musgrove, and Anne Elliot, in order to anatomize the fate of women in the fallen world. For each, the novel must rewrite the fall of woman if it is to rise above certain eighteenth-century limits and thereby modernize itself. Although they engage with the same Christian tradition, Austen more profoundly explores its ethical consequences, while Inchbald vividly dramatizes its psycho-sexual dynamic.

Contributor's Note

John Morillo, associate professor of English literature at North Carolina State University, is the author of Uneasy Feelings: Literature, the Passions, and Class from Neoclassicism to Romanticism (2001), and has published essays on eighteenth-century and Romantic authors, including Pope, Dennis, Scott, Shelley, and Southey.