chapter  10
Radical Politics and Dialect in the British Archipelago
By– R. Stephen Dornan
Pages 14

Recent scholarship on Irish and Scottish writers of the period, most notably concerning Maria Edgeworth and Robert Burns, has shown that Wordsworth was certainly not alone in positing a plainer, more democratic aesthetic. Wordsworth’s desire to claim ‘the real language of men’ for poetry echoes Burns’

claim to sing in the ‘native language’ of himself and his ‘rustic compeers’.5 Edgeworth, too, chose to tell ‘a plain unvarnished tale’ when she published Castle Rackrent in 1800.6 Indeed, in some senses, the achievement of the Irish and Scottish writers calls into question the extent to which Wordsworth and the other traditionally ‘Romantic’ writers were truly radical in their linguistic choices. In Susan Manly’s study of language, custom and nation, she argues that, of the Romantic period it is the work of Maria Edgeworth that most clearly forges links between politics and language.7 She argues that, Edgeworth’s championing of ‘plain language’ represents a re-politicization of the idea in response to Wordsworth’s neutralization of the import of common language. Furthermore, Wordsworth’s ‘purged and puri ed … real language of men’ looks somewhat insipid in the light of recent Burns criticism which has authoritatively established the linguistic hybridity and variety of his poetry. ese three major writers certainly seem to suggest an archipelagic impulse to use more accessible or democratic language in literature; their endeavours, however, produced strikingly di erent results.