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Harrington by Maria Edgeworth
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Harrington (1817)

by Maria Edgeworth

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"Unless I shut my eyes, how can I avoid seeing vulgar people, madame..."

Spurred on in part by a letter she received from a Jewish educator living in North Carolina, Maria Edgeworth's Harrington exposes the vulgar hatreds, which simmer beneath the surface of an otherwise "civilized" society. The book itself is the engaging story of a man's experiences with anti-Semitism and his ultimate rejection of it. Harrington has been an anti-Semite since he was a young boy, when his nurse threatened him with "Simon the Jew" and being turned into sausage. His parents and their friends also dislike Jews, so no one puts a stop to his antics until it is almost too late. After he is sent to school he befriends a young Jewish boy named Jacob as well as his future rival Lord Mowbray. It is during this time with Jacob that Harrington begins overcoming his fear, which proves convenient when as an adult, he falls in love with Berenice, daughter of a Spanish Jew. Things come to a head and romantic rivalry, threats of disinheritance, and even a full scale city riot promptly ensue. In the process, Edgeworth makes a pointed commentary on the nature of prejudice and freedom and how they can be manipulated for political gain. While the work at times strays into the predictable and cliché, Harrington never looses its enjoyability and makes for a interesting view of theme largely ignored by other writers of her time. ( )
1 vote inge87 | Jul 8, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maria Edgeworthprimary authorall editionscalculated
Manly, SusanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When I was a little boy of about six years old, I was standing with a maid-servant in the balcony of one of the upper rooms of my father’s house in London — it was the evening of the first day that I had ever been in London, and my senses had been excited, and almost exhausted, by the vast variety of objects that were new to me.
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