Published in 1791, A Simple Story concerns Miss Milner, who announces her passion for her guardian, a Catholic priest, thereby breaking through the barriers of his religious vocation and society’s standards for proper female behaviour.
Central themes of the novel include the importance of proper education for women. Elizabeth Inchbald was a dramatist and actress and this can be detected in her narrative, particularly her lively dialogue. The novel was well received on its publication, with one reviewer writing that "Mrs Inchbald has discovered the true path which she ought to pursue".
In several respects A Simple Story anticipates the writing of Jane Austen, especially in Inchbald’s concise and ironic style. Here it is given a delightful reading by the acclaimed actress Juliet Stevenson.