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Author Biography

Heather Ladd (PhD, University of Toronto) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Lethbridge. She is currently at work on an academic monograph, Print Culture Theatricality: The Book Trade on the London Stage, 1690-1790.

Abstract

Georgian actress and author Mary Robinson famously wore a miniature portrait of her royal lover, the Prince of Wales, whom she captivated in the Shakespearean breaches role of Perdita. Intriguingly, Robinson’s final stage appearance was as the cross-dressing heroine of The Miniature Picture (1781), a three-act comedy penned by writer and socialite Lady Elizabeth Craven, later Baroness Craven and Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach. The play’s action, initiated by the threat of exposure, is driven by Eliza Camply, who aims to retrieve her miniature from the man who left her. Craven, like the actress playing her enterprising protagonist Eliza Camply, was no stranger to celebrity and infamy. Craven’s preoccupation with image-management in this play aligns with the experiences and views she recorded in her travel narrative A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople (1789), and her Memoirs (1826). This article reads The Miniature Picture as a generically fluid comedy about female objectification, the misuse of women’s bodies and images in practices of courtship and marriage, and in the celebrity culture the playwright negotiated throughout her life as an aristocratic woman embroiled in both sexual scandal and theatrical life.

Keywords

Elizabeth Craven; miniature picture; eighteenth-century comedy; theatre; celebrity; genre; cross-dressing