This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a judicious selection of appendices, including correspondence between Edgeworth and Rachel Mordecai Lazarus, excerpts from John Toland’s Letters to Serena and Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews, an excerpt from Isaac D’Israeli’s article on Moses Mendelssohn, and contemporary reviews of the novel.
Castle Rackrent chronicles the declining fortunes and ultimate ruin of the Rackrent family through the mishandling of their estate by a series of incompetent and irresponsible heirs.
Edgeworth attested in a letter she wrote years later that “the only character drawn from the life” in the novel is Thady Quirk (servant to the Rackrent family, and the novel’s narrator). But the novel as a whole is grounded in real events—the careless landlords and the “middle men who grind the face of the poor” described in Edgeworth’s fiction were very real in eighteenth-century Ireland.
This edition does more than any other to set this classic novel in the political, economic, and religious context of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Irish life; in addition to an illuminating introduction, the edition includes a variety of background historical materials.
Belinda was author Maria Edgeworth’s first full-length novel, and was originally serialized in three volumes. Populated with witty and intelligent female characters, Belinda explores issues of gender, courtship, and race, and is believed to have served as inspiration for later authors’ strong female characters, like those of Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Ivan Turgenev.
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