Edgeworth, Maria

Manuscript page from her 1834 novel “Helen” by the late 18th-early 19th century popular Irish novelist

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Description:
(1768-1849) Prolific Irish writer of adult and children's literature, one of the first realist writers in children's literature and a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe. She held advanced views for a woman of her time on estate management, politics and education.. She was home-tutored in law, Irish economics and politics, science, and literature by her father. She also started her lifelong correspondences with learned men, mainly members of the Lunar Society. She became her father's assistant in managing the Edgeworthtown estate, where she lived and wrote for the rest of her life. She observed and recorded the details of daily Irish life, later drawing on this experience for her novels about the Irish. In her works, Edgeworth created a nostalgic past of Ireland in an attempt to celebrate Irish culture. Her goal was to show the Irish as equal to the English, and therefore warranting equal, though not separate, status. In Edgeworth's Irish novels, education is the key to both individual and national improvement. She thought boys and girls should be educated equally and together, drawing upon Rousseau's ideas. She believed a woman should only marry someone who suits her in "character, temper, and understanding, " and becoming an old maid was preferable to an incompatible union. Edgeworth strove for the self-realization of women and stressed the importance of the individual. She also wanted greater participation in politics by women, clearly demonstrated in her work “Helen”. She sympathized with Catholics and supported Catholic Emancipation. She wrote many children's novels that conveyed moral lessons to their audience. Her first published work was “Letters for Literary Ladies” in 1795." “An Essay on the Noble Science of Self-Justification" (1795) is written for a female audience in which she convinces women that the fair sex is endowed with an art of self-justification and women should use their gifts to continually challenge the force and power of men, especially their husbands, with wit and intelligence. This was followed in 1796 by her first children's book, “The Parent's Assistant”, which included Edgeworth's celebrated short story ”The Purple Jar. “ “Practical Education (1798) is a progressive work on education that combines the ideas of Locke and Rousseau with scientific inquiry. The ultimate goal of Edgeworth's system was to create an independent thinker who understands the consequences of their actions. Her first novel, “Castle Rackrent” (1800), a satire on Anglo-Irish landlords before the year 1782, showed the need for more responsible management by the Irish landowning class. It was an immediate success and firmly established her appeal. “Belinda” (1801), a 3-volume work published in London, was her first full-length novel. It dealt with love, courtship, and marriage, and was also notable for its controversial depiction of interracial marriage between an African servant and an English farm-girl. Later editions of the novel, however, removed these sections. “Tales of Fashionable Life” (1809 & 1812) is a 2-series collection of short stories which often focus on the life of a woman. The 2nd series was particularly well received in England, making her the most commercially successful novelist of her age. After this, Edgeworth was regarded as the preeminent woman writer in England alongside Jane Austen. Following an anti-Semitic remark in “The Absentee”, Edgeworth received a letter from Rachel Mordecai, an American Jewish woman, in 1815, complaining about her depiction of Jews. In response, “Harrington” (1817) was written as an apology to the Jewish community. The novel was a fictitious autobiography about overcoming anti-Semitism and includes the first sympathetic Jewish character in an English novel. “Helen” (1834), her final novel, focused on characters and situation, rather than moral lessons. It is also set in England, as Edgeworth found Ireland too troubling for a fictitious work in the political climate of the 1830s. She was an extremely popular author compared with contemporary writers Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott. She initially earned more than them, and used her income to help her siblings. She worked strenuously for the relief of the famine-stricken Irish peasants during the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849). She wrote “Orlandino” for the benefit of the Relieve Fund. Through her efforts she received gifts for the poor from America. AMsS, an 8 ¼ x 7 ¾ page from a draft of Edgeworth’s last novel, “Helen”, with corrections in her hand, signed at lower left adding “scrap of Helen”. No place, no date (post 1834).

Condition: Very good, slightly unevenly cut at bottom, mount remnant dots left edge verso, tiny hole top left
Type:Autograph Manuscript Signed






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