chapter  3
Margins and Marginality: Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent (1800) and Sydney Owenson’s Th e Wild Irish Girl (1806)
Pages 24

Introduction: Two Types of Marginality Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent (1800) and Sydney Owenson’s Th e Wild Irish Girl (1806) feature extensive notes, providing translations of Irish dialect, ethnographic accounts of native Irish social practices and polemical interventions into antiquarian debates of the period. Each of these works is addressed primarily to an English audience, seeking to elucidate the cultural and political situation of Ireland. Edgeworth’s novel is an account of a Protestant landowning family, the Rackrents, narrated by their native Irish servant, ady Quirk. Importantly, Ina Ferris has claimed that Th e Wild Irish Girl is ‘the rst national tale’:1 a genre popular in the early nineteenth century that typically featured an English protagonist travelling to the Celtic peripheries and coming to admire the cultural riches and independent spirit of the inhabitants. Other examples included Charles Maturin’s Th e Milesian Chief (1811) and Susan Ferrier’s Destiny: or the Chieft ain’s Daughter (1831). Owenson’s volume comprises a series of epistles written by Horatio Mortimer, the son of an English lord, as he journeys across Ireland, and falls in love with the native landscape and geography, eventually becoming engaged to Glorvina, the daughter of a deposed Irish king. In this chapter I argue that the notes for both novels manifest their authors’ dual marginality as Irish women writers.