Castle Rackrent

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A novel by M. Edgeworth, published 1800.

This work may be regarded as the first fully developed historical novel and the first true regional novel in English. Set in Ireland before 1782, it is narrated by the elderly Thady Quirk, steward to three generations of Rackrents. The narrative begins with the wild life of the hard‐drinking Sir Patrick, ‘inventor of raspberry whisky’, who lived before Thady's time. He was succeeded by the litigious and debt‐ridden Sir Murtagh, a skinflint who died of a fury. His brother Sir Kit, who inherits, brings to the castle his unfortunate English Jewish wife, who, after many arguments over sausages, diamonds, and other matters, is shut up in the Castle for seven years, until her gambling husband is killed in a duel. Meanwhile the cunning young lawyer Jason Quirk, Thady's son, is gathering more and more of the family's affairs into his hands. The next heir, Sir Condy, is an ardent, extravagant politician, who tosses a coin to decide whether to marry the rich Isabella Moneygawl or the pretty Judy M'Quirk (Thady's grandniece). He marries Isabella and, keeping lavish open house in their tumbledown castle, they finally exhaust the last resources of the Rackrents. When the bailiffs arrive Isabella flees and Jason Quirk is found to own almost everything. The Castle is sold and Condy amuses himself by feigning death at his own wake. When he eventually dies Isabella contests the property, but Jason emerges as a ‘high gentleman with estates and a fortune’.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Maria Edgeworth (1767—1849) novelist and educationist

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.