ABSTRACT

In An Introduction to Feminism and Theatre, Elaine Aston argues that “feminist theatre history no longer accepts the concept of a theatrical tradition which either excludes women or considers them ‘lost’” and concludes that “bringing the ‘lost’ tradition of women’s theatre history into view is an important political step if feminist theatre scholarship is to change the future history of the stage” (34). Perhaps the most significant of “lost” nineteenth-century women playwrights is Catherine Gore, called “the best novel writer of her class and the wittiest woman of her age” by the London Times (4 February 1861:5). The undisputed leader of the Silver-Fork school of fashionable fiction, and universally acknowledged as a witty conversationalist, Gore exploited her skill for dialogue in eleven plays, ten of which were immensely popular on the professional British stage between 1831 and 1844. Ranging from farces of a single act to full-length comedies, Gore’s dramatic output is a major document of feminist theatrical history, the work of a woman playwright cited by Ellen Donkin as the first long-term theatre professional after Elizabeth Inchbald or Hannah Cowley in the nineteenth century (31). Yet, where are the critical studies of her dramatic work?