chapter  2
Maria Edgeworth in Blackface: Castle Rackrent and the Irish Rebellion of 1798
WithSusan B. Egenolf
Pages 30

In the waning years of the eighteenth century, Ireland, following the American and French examples, attempted its own revolution between May and September of 1798. As many as 30,000 people were killed in the Irish rebellion—more than in the French Reign of Terror. Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, an Hibernian Tale. The editorial preface to Castle Rackrent attempts to introduce to the still evolving form of the novel the literary innovation of a complete narrative in dialect, promising the reader a "plain unvarnished tale". In England's oldest colony, Ireland, dialect and language were, of course, the markers of difference, and these become the means of Edgeworth's performance in Castle Rackrent. In a lengthy Glossary note about the Irish peasants' knowledge of legal terms, Maria Edgeworth presents a native Irish defendant petitioning the Justice of the Peace to acknowledge the falsity of the story his accuser has just related and the validity of the one he is about to present.