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Castle Rackrent: An Hibernian tale taken…
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Castle Rackrent: An Hibernian tale taken from facts, and from the manners… (original 1800; edition 1969)

by Maria Edgeworth (Author), George Watson (Editor), Edward Bawden (Cover artist)

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7011921,475 (3.02)1 / 206
With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott's Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie.… (more)
Member:donutage
Title:Castle Rackrent: An Hibernian tale taken from facts, and from the manners of the Irish squires, before the year 1782
Authors:Maria Edgeworth (Author)
Other authors:George Watson (Editor), Edward Bawden (Cover artist)
Info:London : Oxford U.P, 1969. Reprinted 1975.
Collections:Moorestown
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, novel, irish, 19c, hiberno-english, regional novel

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Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth (1800)

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I read this brief novel by Irish author Maria Edgeworth because it was on the 1001 books to read before you die list and I'm always interested in female authors on the list. This book was published in 1800 and seems to have been written about a "typical" Irish gentry family for the English public. She certainly didn't give Ireland the best representation! This book is narrated by Thady, a servant for the Rackrent family, who witnesses three generations squander away their money and land through poor management, gambling, drink, and unwise marriages. Their land ends up in the hands of Thady's son.

This book is important historically because the English ate it up and took it as a real insight into the rise of the middle class in Ireland and the bad habits of the Irish landed gentry. But the writing, plot development, and character development are basically non-existent. Thady's voice gives some character and there are a few funny moments, but this is basically a long run-on sentence in 90 pages. Any book published in the early 1800s will be compared by me to Jane Austen and there is zero comparison here. I'm always impressed with Austen's tight plot and character development and coherence when compared to her contemporaries.

This was interesting from a historical perspective, but not really a pleasurable reading experience. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 6, 2019 |
I was glad I read this because it has such a prominent place in literary history, but I did not find it as amusing as it is meant to be. ( )
  PatsyMurray | May 26, 2018 |
This was a novella of 89 pages about the Rackrents as told by Sir Condy's loyal servant, Thad or "Old Thady." This is hailed as the first British novel. I found the narrator to be unreliable and babbling. I found the the story boring and plotless. ( )
  Tess_W | Jul 31, 2017 |
Published in 1800, Castle Rackrent is described in the introduction as one of the most famous unread novels in English.

Also from the introduction, 'combining the subtle wit of the French tale, the Gaelic cadences of Irish oral tradition, and Gothic intrigue over property and inheritance, Castle Rackrent has gathered a dazzling array of firsts - the first regional novel, the first socio-historical novel, the first Irish novel, the first Big House novel, the first saga novel.'

How all this could fit in 114 pages, which includes a preface and a glossary by the author, is pretty amazing. But on reflection I guess it does! I read this along with the glossary and explanatory notes - the glossary was so much more than a glossary, taking 3 pages to explain the Irish lamentation for the dead, a couple of pages on Fairy Mounts and explaining well and truly what a raking pot of tea is (raised eyebrows...). It's about four inhabitants of the Castle Rackrent, Sir Patrick, Sir Murtagh, Sir Kit and Sir Conolly and how the run their estate.

I picked this up ostensibly to fit in a short 1001 book that also met the March RandomCAT and I'm so glad I did! ( )
  LisaMorr | Mar 21, 2017 |
I skipped the lengthy introduction (~25% of this Kindle book!).

I wonder whether Susanna Clarke (author of "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell") was a fan of this classic because Edgeworth's glossary and Clarke's footnotes were similar in style!

I found many of the anecdotes amusing but the final story about Sir Condy struck me as rather sad. ( )
  leslie.98 | Mar 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Having, out of friendship for the family, upon whose estate, praised be Heaven! I and mine have lived rent-free time out of mind, voluntarily undertaken to publish the MEMOIRS OF THE RACKRENT FAMILY, I think it my duty to say a few words, in the first place, concerning myself.
The prevailing taste of the public for anecdote has been censured and ridiculed by critics, who aspire to the character of superior wisdom. (Preface)
Castle Rackrent (1800) may well be one of the most famous unread novels in English. (Introduction)
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