Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Griffith, Elizabeth

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

GRIFFITH, Mrs. ELIZABETH (1720?-1793), playwright and novelist, whose maiden name was also Griffith, was born in Glamorganshire about 1720. After an engagement of many years' duration she married, about 1752, Richard Griffith (1714?-1788) [q. v.], a poor Irishman of good family. Soon afterwards she appeared on the stage in Dublin, and in 1753 and 1754 she played at Covent Garden Theatre, but without any marked success. In 1757, at the instance of Margaret, countess of Cork, she published with her husband (anonymously) ‘A Series of Genuine Letters between Henry and Frances,’ 2 vols., a selection from her correspondence with her husband before their marriage. It is a sentimental production, but met with great success. In 1769-70 the Griffiths published two companion novels in letters, ‘Delicate Distress’ by ‘Frances,’ and ‘The Gordian Knot’ by ‘Henry,’ 4 vols.

In 1764 Mrs. Griffith published ‘Amana: a Dramatic Poem,’ designed ‘to show the folly of human wishes,’ &c., written in very indifferent verse. Her comedy, ‘The Platonic Wife,’ adapted from ‘L'Heureux Divorce’ of Marmontel, was played for six nights at Drury Lane Theatre in 1765. In the following year another comedy, ‘A Double Mistake,’ was acted on twelve successive nights at Covent Garden. The success of this piece induced Mrs. Griffith to bring herself by letter under the notice of Garrick, whom she continued to pester for twelve years with an unceasing flow of applications for employment. Garrick at length suggested a translation of Beaumarchais' ‘Eugénie,’ which was produced by him with great success as ‘The School for Rakes’ in February 1769. The play was reprinted in book form several times. Mrs. Griffith's next play, ‘A Wife in the Right,’ was played for one night only at Covent Garden in 1772, its failure being attributed by the author to the negligence of Shuter, the actor. An adaptation from Goldoni's ‘Bourru Bienfaisant,’ called ‘The Times,’ another suggestion of Garrick's, was played for six nights in 1780. She also published translations of the Marchioness de Caylus's ‘Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV,’ 1770; Yiaud's ‘Shipwreck,’ 1771; Noel Desenfans's ‘Letter to Mrs. Montagu,’ 1777; the ‘Letters of Ninon l'Enclos,’ and the ‘Barber of Seville,’ from the French of Beaumarchais (1776). In 1775 she dedicated to Garrick her longest work, ‘The Morality of Shakespeare's Drama Illustrated.’ A high-flown panegyric on this work from her husband's pen was found a few years ago written on the fly-leaf of a copy of the book, and was printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 6th ser. vii. 66. She also published two novels in letters, ‘The History of Lady Barton,’ 3 vols. 1771, and ‘The Story of Lady Juliana Harley,’ 2 vols. 1776, and edited a ‘Collection of Novels’ in three volumes, consisting of works by Mrs. Behn, Mrs. Aubin, and Eliza Haywood, and some translation. Her novels are much inferior to the plays, which, though without originality, are often brightly written. One of her latest publications was ‘Essays to Young Married Women,’ 1782, 12mo. She wrote, in spite of ill-health, simply for the support of her family. She died 5 Jan. 1793 at Millicent, co. Kildare, the residence of her son Richard.

[Art. infra Griffith, Richard (1714?-1788) Williams's Eminent Welshmen; Baker's Biog. Dram. i. 301; Victor's History of the Theatres of London, pp. 69, 76, 137; Garrick's Private Correspondence, passim; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, vol. v.]

A. V.