ABSTRACT

Following the remarkable success of her rst comedy, Runaway, Cowley immediately began to experiment with a number of dramatic genres, one of which was the venerated high art form of tragedy.3 She was writing in a genre which would give her the higher status in her profession that had been denied to her as a woman writer of commercially popular plays.4 Despite having achieved success with Runaway, for instance, she disguised her name and sex when she had her new play presented to omas Harris at Covent Garden ‘by a Lady of Rank’, a friend of Lady Harrowby, the wife of her patron.5 Cowley wrote her Gothic drama Albina in 1777, and although tragedy was relatively unmarketable at the time, two years later it was performed at the Haymarket eatre.6 Reviews were mixed: the critic ‘Hospes’ in the Morning Chronicle wrote ve hostile reviews, branding the villainous Editha a ‘bedlamite’ and the whole a burlesque on tragedy, to which ‘LS’ responded by calling it a ‘beautiful and highly poetic tragedy’.7 One review suggested that Dr Johnson (‘a person of no less rank in the literary world than Doctor —’) was at a performance and spoke out loudly from the stage box that he thought the tragedy ‘beyond all comparison, the best that any living author has produced’.8 A review in the London Evening Post noted the versatility of Cowley, ‘who has now reached a degree of excellence in the three stages of dramatic writing, tragedy, comedy and farce.’9