Alone, Alone, Oh is based on the lives of two Irish-born women, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who came to be known as the Ladies of Llangollen. In 1778, Eleanor, age 38, and Sarah, age 23, ran away together, rather than be forced into a convent and an unwanted marriage, respectively. They were caught and brought home but soon “eloped” again, and this time were allowed to leave. Making their way across to England, they searched for a proper home and finally settled in a house they called Plas Newydd, in Llangollen, Wales, where they lived together from 1780 until Eleanor’s death in 1829. Sarah continued living in the house until her death in 1831.
The playwright has made a determined effort to hold the facts close, yet this play is a work of fiction and for the sake of story, she has taken some liberties with the truth. Ann Radcliffe was one of the most popular authors of her time and was the namesake of the Radcliffe School of Gothic literature, but as far as I know, she was never a guest at Plas Newydd. It is a fact, however, that she disappeared for a period of time in 1787, after the scathing criticism of her book, The Italian. It was falsely rumored, at the time, that she had been committed to an asylum. Ann never wrote another work of fiction. Josiah Wedgwood died in 1795, two years before the time in which this story takes place. However he was a regular visitor at Plas Newydd, and his oldest daughter, Sukey (Susannah, mother of Charles Darwin) was Ann Radcliffe’s only known childhood friend.