By Malcolm Kelsall (auth.)
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Extra info for Literary Representations of the Irish Country House: Civilisation and Savagery under the Union
It is a tragic irony that this celebration was written almost on the eve of the famine. Yet half a century later Mrs Hall’s panegyric was matched by Anne Thackeray Ritchie in a classic introduction to Castle Rackrent Edgeworthstown ‘Rebuilding’ 37 and The Absentee (1895). Ritchie wrote for Macmillan’s ‘Illustrated Standard Novels’, itself a quasi-unionist project, bringing together Edgeworth, John Galt, George Borrow and Jane Austen, each in their different ways examples of the diversity of the regional novel.
They perceived the interrelation of light with darkness. In the real world of things, of which their writing is a symbolic projection, the majority of these writers were chatelaines of country houses. Hence they were constrained by their sex to the contemplative life of the writer rather than the active world of masculinity. They were appreciative of the civilising function of their culture, participating as writers in that civilisation, and they wrote from within what they knew (a strength and a limitation).
As writers in English they belong to the European tradition that is intrinsic in the polyglot nature of their chosen language and the multicultural nexus of English literature. The most cosmopolitan of the writers are Edgeworth and Gregory. Edgeworth’s fiction belongs to the culture of the Enlightenment, and like the writer it moves between the nodes of the country house circuit and the salons of the metropolitan capitals of London and Paris. Gregory was plucked by marriage from provincial obscurity to serve as a great hostess (and patron) in an intercontinental empire.
Literary Representations of the Irish Country House: Civilisation and Savagery under the Union by Malcolm Kelsall (auth.)