About this book
Castle Rackrent is a short novel by Maria Edgeworth published in 1800. Unlike many of her other novels, which were heavily “edited” by her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, before their publication, the published version is close to her original intention. The novel is set prior to the Constitution of 1782. It tells the story of four generations of Rackrent heirs through their steward, Thady Quirk. The heirs are: the dissipated spendthrift Sir Patrick O’Shaughlin, the litigious Sir Murtagh Rackrent, the cruel husband and gambling absentee Sir Kit Rackrent, and the generous but improvident Sir Condy Rackrent. Their sequential mismanagement of the estate is resolved through the machinations—and to the benefit—of the narrator’s astute son, Jason Quirk.
Castle Rackrent is sometimes regarded as the first historical novel, the first regional novel in English, the first Anglo-Irish novel, the first Big House novel, and the first saga novel. William Butler Yeats pronounced Castle Rackrent “one of the most inspired chronicles written in English”. Sir Walter Scott, who met and carried on a correspondence with Edgeworth, credited her novel for inspiring him to write his Waverley series of novels:
“Without being so presumptuous as to hope to emulate the rich humour, pathetic tenderness, and admirable tact, which pervade the works of my accomplished friend, I felt that something might be attempted for my own country, of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland – something which might introduce her natives to those of the sister kingdom in a more favourable light than they have been placed hitherto”