Belindaby Maria Edgeworth
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Maria Edgeworth won the admiration of her contemporary Jane Austen, as well as later writers such as Thackeray and Turgenev, and in Belinda (1801) she tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thought-provoking. Braving the perils of the marriage market, Belinda learns to think for herself as the examples of her friends prove singularly unreliable. Edgeworth's varied cast includes the bewitching aristocrat, Lady Delacour, whose dreadful secret puts her in the power of her volatile servant; the dashing Creole gentleman, Mr Vincent who almost succeeds in winning Belinda's hand if not her heart; the eccentric Clarence Hervey, whose attempts to create an ideal wife backfire; and the outrageous Harriet Freke, whose antics as social outlaw land her in a mantrap. This lively comedy challenges the conventions of courtship, examines questions of female independence, and exposes the limits of domesticity. The text used in this edition (1802) also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions.
Meet the Author
Although born in England in 1768, Maria Edgeworth was raised in Ireland from a young age after the death of her mother. After nearly losing her sight at age fourteen, Edgeworth was tutored at home by her father, helping to run their estate and taking charge of her younger siblings. Over the course of her life she collaborated and published books with her father, and produced many more of her own adult and children’s works, including such classics as Castle Rackrent, Patronage, Belinda, Ormond and The Absentee. Edgeworth spent her entire life on the family estate, but kept up friendships and correspondences with her contemporaries Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron, and her writing had a profound influence upon Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray. Edgeworth was outspoken on the issues of poverty, women’s rights, and racial inequalities. During the beginnings of famine in Ireland, Edgeworth worked in relief and support of the sick and destitute. She died in 1849 at the age of 81.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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On the surface this book is the story of Belinda and her search for a husband- but it touches on many themes that are worth thinking about even today. The characters are interesting and multi-faceted. They are not all "good" or "bad". Edgeworth shows insight into many different aspects of human nature and conveys them skillfully and without overdoing it. Although her "messages" are clear, her skill is subtle. The book ended somewhat unconventionally- but given the many unconventional topics that were covered in this book- I felt it was appropriate. You don't really know how the story ends- instead you are given your choice of a "happily ever after" or a "heart warming scene" and a challenge to have the "wit" to find the moral of the story.