Nature and Art commands a central place in the history of the English Jacobin novel. Published in 1796, the story explores the opposition between the upbringing and actions of Henry Norwynne, an unspoiled "child of nature" who has been reared without books on an African island, and the corrupt conduct of his aristocratic older cousin, William. Inchbald was one of the best-known writers of her time, and Nature and Art represents her most concerted attempt to analyze the effects of education, power, and privilege on human behaviour.
This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction, contemporary reviews of the novel, and primary source material relating to the novel's composition and its philosophical influences (including documents by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and William Godwin). Documents on education, political and religious corruption, and African colonization provide further historical context.
"Elizabeth Inchbald was arguably one of the most important literary figures working in Britain in the early Romantic period, but the complexity of her career has been obscured both by the hybridity of her output and by the recent unavailability of key texts. Shawn Lisa Maurer’s edition of Nature and Art brings a crucial, yet troubling, work to a wider reading public. Her superb introduction and the edition’s contextual materials open up the novel’s political imperatives without closing down some of its more difficult elements. This edition is certain to spark further re-evaluation of the place of feminist practice in Romantic studies and of Inchbald’s place in British culture."
Cheryl Nixon University of Massachusetts
"With this impressively researched and compellingly introduced edition, Shawn Lisa Maurer secures Nature and Art's important place in late eighteenth-century thought. This edition is to be commended for its expertly chosen contextual materials, which position Nature and Art within crucial debates concerning education and politics and also provide contemporary accounts of Sierra Leone and examples of critical responses to the novel and Inchbald. Maurer makes the ideological concerns and aesthetic delights of this novel clear; it is essential reading for students of the novel, the eighteenth century, gender studies, and philosophical and political literature."
Shawn Lisa Maurer is Associate Professor of English at The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts. She is the author of Proposing Men: Dialectics of Gender and Class in the Eighteenth-Century English Periodical (Stanford University Press, 1998).
Elizabeth Inchbald: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
Nature and Art
Appendix A: The Composition of the Novel and the Art of Novel Writing
1. Textual Changes from First (1796) to Second (1797) Edition, with Passages Deleted from Second Edition a. Passage deleted from Chapter 30
b. Passage deleted from Chapter 44
c. Conclusion to the First Edition
2. Letters between Inchbald and William Godwin a. Letter to Godwin Describing the Travails of Novel Writing (November 1792)
b. Two undated letters to Godwin on Reading Proofs of his Caleb Williams 
c. Undated letter to Godwin Describing his Reading of Her Manuscript, probably "A Satire on the Times" (1794/5)
d. Letter from Godwin to Inchbald (1 December 1817)
3. Inchbald's Essay on Novel Writing from The Artist (1807)
Appendix B: "The Prejudice of Education": Philosophical Influences
1. From Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile, ou de l'Éducation (1762)
2. From Thomas Day, The History of Sandford and Merton (1783-89)
3. From William Godwin, The Enquirer: Reflections on Education, Manners and Literature in a Series of Essays (1797)
Appendix C: Literary Cross-Currents: Political Critique in Inchbald's Jacobin Contemporaries
1. The "Noble Savage" and the British Aristocracy, from Robert Bage, Hermsprong (1796)
2. Corruptions in Church and State a. From Thomas Holcroft, The Adventures of Hugh Trevor (1794-97)
b. From Robert Bage, Hermsprong (1796)
3. Seductions and Prostitution a. From Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman: or, Maria (1798)
b. From Mary Hays, The Victim of Prejudice (1799)
Appendix D: Africa and the Sierra Leone Colony
1. From Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789)
2. Letter from First Governors of Sierra Leone Settlement (1788)
3. The Sierra Leone Company's Declaration (1791)
4. From Anna Maria Falconbridge, Narrative of Two Voyages to the River Sierra Leone, During the Years 1791-92-93 (1794)
Appendix E: Contemporary Reviews and Critical Preface
1. [Mary Wollstonecraft], Analytical Review (January-June 1796)
2. Monthly Mirror (March 1796)
3. Critical Review (March 1796)
4. Monthly Review (April 1796)
5. The Moral and Political Magazine (June-September 1796)
6. Anna Letitia Barbauld, Preface to The British Novelists Series, Vol. 27 (1810)