During the 1790s, with Ireland in political crisis, Maria Edgeworth made a surprisingly rebellious choice: in Castle Rackrent, her first novel, she adopted an Irish Catholic voice to narrate the decline of a family from her own Anglo-Irish class. Castle Rackrent's narrator, Thady Quirk, gives us four generations of Rackrent heirs - Sir Patrick, the dissipated spendthrift; Sir Murtagh, the litigating fiend; Sir Kit, the brutal husband and gambling absentee; and Sir Condy, the lovable and improvident dupe of Thady's own son, Jason. With this satire on Anglo-Irish landlords Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott's Waverley (1814). She also changed the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class and boldly predicted the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie.
Ryan Twomey is Lecturer in English at Macquarie University. A University of New South Wales Ph.D., he is the author of “The Child Is Father of the Man”: Importance of Juvenilia in the Development of the Author. He is co-editor of Maria Edgeworth’s The Double Disguise and of William Harrison Ainsworth’s The December Tales: A Selection.