The whole fabric must be perfect: Maria Edgeworth's Literary Ladies and the representation of Ireland

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Ó Gallchoir, Clíona
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Irish Academic Press
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This essay combines a stylistic analysis of the first part of Maria Edgeworth's Letters for Literary Ladies, entitled 'Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend, upon the Birth of a Daughter, with a reply', with a closer examination than has so far been offered of the literary-historical context of this work. Recent criticism on Edgeworth has begun to dismantle the traditional divisions between her four 'Irish Tales', Castle Rackrent (1800), Ennui (1805), The Absentee (1812) and Ormond (1817), and her other writing;' this essay extends this re-examination of Edgeworth's representation of Ireland in the context of her work as a whole, by deriving a theory of representation from the 'Letter from a Gentleman· which can be applied to her fiction. More specifically, I argue that the strategies by which Edgeworth sought to represent Ireland (an ambitious undertaking in the development of the novel which she virtually pioneered) must be acknowledged to be historically grounded in her position as a woman writer in post-revolutionary culture. The 'Letter from a Gentleman', based on an incident in 1782, was eventually published in 1795, thus spanning the chasm which the French Revolution created in European history, and providing a perspective on Edgeworth's engagement with history which has not yet been examined.
Maria Edgeworth , Novelists, Irish , French revolution , Women writers
Ó Gallchoir, C. (1997) 'The whole fabric must be perfect: Maria Edgeworth's Literary Ladies and the Representation of Ireland', in Kelleher, M. and Murphy, J. M. (eds). Gender and Nineteenth Century Ireland: Public and Private Spheres, Dublin: Irish Academic Press, pp. 104-115. isbn: 9780716526247
© Irish Academic Press and the various authors 1997.