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Castle Rackrent (Oxford World's Classics) New Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199537556
ISBN-10: 0199537550
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Thady Quirk - or "honest Thady" - having lived on the estate of Castle Rackrent for most of his long life, takes it upon himself to "publish the MEMOIRS of the RACKRENT FAMLY." Speaking in Irish vernacular, he describes the masters he and his family have served under: Sir Patrick, who fills his house with guests and drinks himself to death; Sir Murtagh, his heir, a "great lawyer," who refuses - "out of honor" - to pay Sir Patrick's debts; and Sir Kit, who gambles and eventually sells his estate to Thady's son. Through Thady's memories of these landowners (and the tenants who all too often had to pay for the landownders' indulgences) we gain a picture of fedual life in Ireland before the Irish Revolution. Thady is an unreliable narrator who, it appears, cannot - or does not - tell the whole story. Which leaves a question. Is Thady a naive and loyal servant or is he a clever and self-serving man who knows how to get his point across and his plans accomplished without seeming to know what he is saying or doing? Adding to the underlying irony of the narrative is the contrast between Thady and the anonymous, condescending British voice of the mock glossary of terms. Humorous and biting, Castle Rackrent is a largely unrecognized jewel of social satire. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Set in Ireland prior to its achieving legislative independence from Britain in 1782, Castle Rackrent tells the story of three generations of an estate-owning family as seen through the eyes -- and as told in the voice -- of their longtime servant, Thady Quirk, recorded and commented on by an anonymous Editor. This edition of Maria Edgeworth's first novel is based on the 1832 edition, the last revised by her, and includes Susan Kubica Howard's foot-of-the-page notes on the text of the memoir as well as on the notes and glosses the Editor offers "for the information of the ignorant English reader." Howard's Introduction situates the novel in its political and historical context and suggests a reading of the novel as Edgeworth's contribution to the discussion of the controversial Act of Union between Ireland and Britain that went into effect immediately after the novel's publication in London in 1800. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New edition (July 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537556
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.4 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Mellon on April 5, 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This very short work give an account of three generations of Anglo-Irish landowners, each more short sighted and self destructive than the one that preceded him. The first two make efforts to preserve and increase the family fortune through such means as constantly dunning tenants for rents and feudal duties (hence the name of the estate, to “rack” or wring out the rent) or by constant litigation or the threat thereof. All this work goes to naught when the third heir, Sir Condy, completely wastes the estate through his own genial incompetence. While the most agreeable and pleasant of the three, Sir Condy is also the weakest and most dissipated. He comes to a horrible, drunken end, fully conscious of his ruin and the fact that he brought it about himself. All of this is narrated by his faithful retainer, Thady Quirk, who tearfully recounts the dismal downfall of his feudal lords in the most pathetic terms while all the while leaving you to wonder if he means devil a word of what he says and is really just about pulling your leg.

The tale seems to be composed of the essence of tragedy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is because it possesses the essential Irish quality, a sprightliness and energy that carries both narratives along at a relentless pace along with a lively eye for the absurd in any situation. Edgeworth had a keen ear for Irish patterns of speech. Although an Englishwoman, Edgeworth was raised in Ireland and had a tremendous feel for the Irish viewpoint of her time. The humor of her tale is especially poignant in light of the fact that it was written soon after the terrible Rebellion of 1798, one of the most internecine of Irish conflicts. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Irish history, the early English novel, and anyone with a good sense of humor.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read this novel for a literature class. I must say, Thady's narrative was irritating and unreliable at best. But, Edgeworth's clear and powerful satirical view of her culture bring the story of Rackrent and its masters to life. The Rackrent estate itself is an emblem of oppression and Edgeworth makes this assertion throughout the narrative.
Overall, a good read and a really excellent addition to the canon of 18th century literature.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being a confirmed fan of Maria Edgeworth, I found this to be a surprising change in both content and presentation. Cannot say I really liked it, as it seemed to be more a description of Ireland and its customs and quirks at the time - but interesting in a certain way, nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback
Often referred to as the original and first satirical comedy of regional manners this is a surprisingly accessible, readable and entertaining novel. It is politically incorrect, mildly offensive to Irish sensibilities, and occupies an odd historical niche. If you are a student of Irish and U.K. history you will no doubt find much to dislike. If you are looking for a light comedy of manners with a bit of an edge, or if you are interested in undeservedly overlooked women writers, this might be an intriguing choice.
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Format: Paperback
Castle Rackrent is not, as its title might suggest, a gothic novel. Instead it is an affectionate satire of Irish life in the 18th Century. The occasion for its publication was the forthcoming union between Ireland and Great Britain. The author proposes to introduce the Irish to their neighbors, claiming that the English know less about Ireland than about many other nations.

The novel is in the form of an oral memoir by Thady Quirk, a venerable servant of the Rackrent estate. He recounts four successive holders of the baronetcy, men varying from the genial, to the querulous, to the miserly, and the extravagant. His speech is sprinkled with regionalisms which the author explains in footnotes and an extensive glossary. Many of these notes contain anecdotes that are just as entertaining as the main narrative. Some of the descriptions of Irish customs, mannerisms and speech are no doubt still apt today.

Castle Rackrent is a pleasant little story that has its own place in the development of the English novel and will surely amuse anyone who wants to pay a visit to the Ireland of two centuries ago.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've studied this in some depth of late because it's in my dissertation. It's an unusually complex and ambitious work of fiction. The editor's notes add a very different dimension. The book is considered to be an important addition to lit of the time, as well. I personally prefer her book Belinda, but this short work is well worth reading and enjoying, especially if you enjoy unreliable narrators, are interested in the era, and like fiction that's a bit grittier.
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Format: Paperback
Set prior to the Constitution of 1782, "Castle Rackrent" 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" satirizes Anglo-Irish landlords and their overall mismanagement of the estates they owned at a time when the English and Irish parliaments were working towards formalizing their union through the Acts of Union. Through this and other works, Edgeworth is typically credited with serving the political, national interests of Ireland and the United Kingdom the way Sir Walter Scott did for Scotland. But neither Kirkpatrick's introductory essay nor the story itself make it clear why Edgeworth should have this status.
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