Chapter

The Fashionable Potato: Lady Blessington and W. H. Maxwell

James H. Murphy

in Irish Novelists and the Victorian Age

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596997
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191723520 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199596997.003.0002
The Fashionable Potato: Lady Blessington and W. H. Maxwell

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The 1820s and 1830s were years of ferment and experiment in fiction in Ireland. Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna wrote religious novels while Harriet Martineau wrote improvement fiction. Lady Blessington specialized in the fashionable novel, but on two occasions mixed it with an Irish setting that drew respectively on the works of William Carleton and W. H. Maxwell. The latter was the originator of the military novel, which imagined a world where Irishmen from different backgrounds could operate together on the basis of at least a temporary equality. Military life was seen as a refuge not so much for the irresponsible male as for the bereft romantic male. In addition, it is within the darker context of military life that ‘rollicking’, the enacting of humorous Irish stereotypes, can been seen as a reasonable strategy designed to elude harsh treatment, rather than merely as a pandering to British views of the Irish.

Keywords: Blessington; Maxwell; military novel; silver fork; fashion; resistance; Irish stereotypes

Chapter.  9362 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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