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The Absentee

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  1,226 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
The novel revolves around the lives of the Irish landlords who have left their native land and settled in England. From the green pastures of Ireland to the saloons of England, the novel focuses on politics and prejudices of the people of different nationalities and classes. It is a thorough commentary on the politics that transpired amongst the landed gentry of Ireland.
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Published January 1st 2006 by ReadHowYouWant (first published 1812)
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May 06, 2016 Bettie☯ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Description: Lady Clonbrony, determined to be accepted by fashionable London society, has sunk her family into debt to the moneylender, Mordecai. She wants her son to make a good marriage, but his affections are not to be bought.

Stars Stephen Rea as Lord Colambre, Anna Healy as Grace Nugent, TP McKenna as Lord Clonbrony Francine Mulrooney as Lady Clonbrony and Ben Onwukwe as Whipp.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.


In August 1811, we are told, she wrote a little play about landlords and tenants for the children of her sister, Mrs. Beddoes. Mr. Edgeworth tried to get the play produced on the London boards. Writing to her aunt, Mrs. Ruxton, Maria says, 'Sheridan has answered as I foresaw he must, that in the present state of this country the Lord Chamberlain would not license THE ABSENTEE; besides there would be a difficulty in finding actor
The Absentee is a novel by Maria Edgeworth, published in 1812 in Tales of Fashionable Life. From what I've read of the author Maria Edgeworth, she was a prolific writer of both adults' and children's literature. She held advanced views, for a woman of her time, on estate management, (which is what the book is about) politics and education, and corresponded with some of the leading literary and economic writers, including Sir Walter Scott and David Ricardo. When I read that she corresponded with ...more
Sherwood Smith
My edition was printed around 1900, which I don't see listed in Goodreads, but that's okay.

This novel was part of a longer collection, printed during the Regency period. It centers around an Irish family of title, the parents having come to England to be part of the Season. Edgeworth takes down the phoniness of high society with as much energy and verve as Cruikshank and the other satirical illustrators did.

Lord Columbre, their son and our hero, doesn't change so much as act as catalyst. He is d
Melissa Lenhardt
Full Review:

Maria Edgeworth was a popular author in the early 19th century that has almost been forgotten today. I never heard of her before I saw this Penguin edition at the used book store. Intrigued by a story focusing on the Anglo/Irish aspect of Regency life and bought it. Plus, I liked the cover.

Edgeworth did not like novels, she thought they were frivolous, and instead called her stories “moral tales.” While she does deal more directly with the lower class than Aust
Oct 02, 2013 Gregg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's a great little volume written by one of Jane Austen's contemporaries, a prolific author for whom Austen herself had much admiration. If the novel's subject matter - the social impact of absentee landlords on rural Ireland - gives you pause, then fret not. I too worried that I would not be able to follow such a specific (and now forgotten) social issue, but that proved not to be the case at all. Indeed, Edgeworth assumes zero knowledge on the part of the reader, weaving her subject into an ...more
You have to love Maria Edgeworth! Ok, you don't have to, but I do. She's definitely leading the running for Most Middle-Class Novelist Ever, but in a good way. It's amazing how reassuring it is to know that, in addition to true love conquering all, the lovers are going to turn out to be rational beings who enjoy reading, thinking, and learning, and who avoid the temptations to gambling, living beyond their means, and bad estate management.

If you love Wuthering Heights, you sure won't love The Ab
May 06, 2016 Wanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Bettie☯
Shelves: 2016, bbc
6 MAY 2016 - recommendation through Bettie. Thank you.

Download at Project Gutenberg -

16 MAY 2016 - BBC Radio 4 Extra -
Listening today.
Mar 25, 2013 Aileen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Young Lord Colambre sees that Lady Clonbrony, his mother's attempts to get into London society are being ridiculed behind her back, and putting his father ever deeper into debt. He travels to Dublin then incognito onto his father's Irish estates which are being run by agents on behalf of the absentee landlord. The first estate he visits is well run by a kindly agent, but the second and largest is in ruin, in the hands of an unscrupulous villain who thinks nothing of putting the tenants' rent up ...more
Jimmy Burns
Apr 11, 2012 Jimmy Burns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edgeworth was known as 'The Voice of Ireland' and this book was an attempt to bring the plight of ordinary Irish people to a wider audience. The title refers to the role played by largely English landowners in Ireland who were ready to take their income from their privileged position and leave the running of their estates in the hands of unscrupulous managers.

The novel takes the form of the son of an absentee landord undertaking an odyssey through his native country and finding for himself the a
I am really torn with how I feel about this novel. It started out incredibly slow and the "old" language made it difficult to read. The pace of the book never really picked up, and there were many times where I considered abandoning the book, but there was something about the storyline, or maybe the concept itself, that kept me reading.
The fact that the father would become an absentee lord in Ireland, just so that his wife could have the fashion and society of London was crazy! The wife was cons
Rick F.
Oct 09, 2009 Rick F. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feb 04, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abigail Rieley
I read The Absentee as research so I'm not really in a position to comment on how the book ranks as entertainment. That said, I enjoyed this tale of absentee landlords, unscrupulous agents, scurrilous businessmen, stained reputations and rather improbable coincidences. This is an honestly political book and Maria Edgeworth makes her views of absenteeism absolutely plain. It is a landlord's duty, she suggests, to guide their simple tenants to a virtuous and industrious existence and not to beggar ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
This could be crudely and cruelly summed up as a second-rate Jane Austen with a bit of added social commentary. The story is indeed a romance and Edgeworth does not have Austen's lightness of touch or sense of pace in her writing. The social commentary is both a condemnation of absentee landlords from Irish estates, bleeding the locals to fund their brash London socialite lifestyle, and a critique of the shallowness of that very snobbish society. Interesting moral slant on marriage appears: our ...more
Feb 23, 2015 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as the March selection for the Art Institute of Chicago's Reading Between the Lions program, which matches literature with their current special exhibitions. Their new exhibition focuses on Irish art and design from this period.

Many have compared Maria Edgeworth to Jane Austen, her contemporary. Austen herself admired Edgeworth and sent her a copy of Emma upon its publication. Edgeworth eschewed the term "novel" to describe her writing, preferring to call her work "moral stories
Aug 10, 2014 Charlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top
Reading this book was like meeting a person from another country. I spent the first few chapters getting used to the cultural nuances, language, turns of phrase and other details that I assume were the norm 200 years ago when sources say this book was first published.

After the initial difficulty, I could appreciate the story. And a really good story it was with no points dragged out, suspense and a good dose of humour ('pon honour).

There are only two points that prevent me from giving it the hi
I needed to find a book whose author shared either my first name or last name. Since it's highly unlikely I'll find a book on FreeBooks that shares my last name, I found this one, by Maria Edgeworth.

The interesting thing about this book is that it was published in the same year as Sense and Sensibility. And yet they're different. This book focuses on Lord Colambre, who is an absentee from Ireland. He's not yet of age, he's in love with his cousin, Grace Nugent, and he's hoping to marry her once
Johnny Waco
Mar 12, 2008 Johnny Waco rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imperialism
The back of the book assures me that Edgeworth "influenced writers as disparate as Scott, Thackery, and Turgenev." All apologies to those gentlemen, but they certainly must have had the chimerical ability to produce gold from lead, if The Absentee is truly representative of Edgeworth's work. The story held promise enough--the son of an Irish nobleman who had relocated his family to London years before and continued to live upon the income of his estate back home decides to travel incognito to th ...more
Dara Salley
“The Absentee” is a forgettable book. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it and it’s mildly entertaining, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression. The main issue is the protagonist, Lord Clonbrony. He’s such a nice, smart, kind young man that I sort of wanted to punch him in the face. It’s very obvious that the reader is supposed to be on his side and root for him. It’s so obvious that it made me turn against him.

There are a few interesting aspects of the novel. Edgeworth captures the hilari
Jun 08, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Absentee is the second of three Edgeworth novels that I plan on reading (all from 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die). It was considerably more complex than Castle Rockrent. I enjoyed the interaction of the characters and the historical context. For example, "absentees" review to Irish landowners who leave Ireland to live in England while not wanting to have their Irish roots apparent. For purposes of managing their estates, agents and sub-agents are employed some of home are decidedly disho ...more
Nor'dzin Pamo
Oct 08, 2014 Nor'dzin Pamo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
A book that is typical of its time with a simple story and rather-too-convenient coincidences of connection that enable the resolution of the problems. I found the view of the English and Irish relationship at the time most interesting. I did not understand a lot of the financial transactions - both the legal ones and the swindling. My kindle copy of the text did not have a glossary, which would have been helpful. I was with the hero all the way and cared about his future. I knew he would succee ...more
May 04, 2015 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this novel in conjunction with an exhibit on Irish art and design in the 1700s. The writing has the kind of two-dimensional characterizations common at that time, but it served to give a good picture of life among the landed Irish. As the title hints, a lot of them left their estates to go enjoy English society, and the book does a great job illustrating the problems for both the owners and the tenants that resulted from that practice.
Apr 17, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was willing to grudgingly give this book 5 stars up until the last 50 pages. But the end is just too neatly tied up. Too many threads in too short of a time. It turns into too much of a romance at the end, although really it is throughout. Still, it's a very pleasant read with likeable characters and a plot that moves along nicely. And it IS from 1812. The novel hasn't really gotten to the edginess of Victorianism.
Sep 11, 2008 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish, 2010
Another one sadly added to "couldn't finish." I tried a few chapters but this book just could not catch my attention. It took me way too long to read those chapters, and I was annoyed by the characters and bored. I supposed it might get better towards the middle of the book according to some of the other reviews, but I didn't want to waste anymore time struggling to get to a point where it might be good.
Oct 16, 2013 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. Needed to read this for my book group. Good points - it was a fast read - I learned a little bit about absentee Irish landlords. Otherwise it was an annoying read. Copious unnecessary notes. Once I learned to ignore them, the reading process went a bit more pleasantly. Her style of emphasizing oddly accented dialogue was very annoying. The wrap-up of the story was as expected. This could have been written by a 12-13 year old who had a political agenda.
Gareth Evans
Jan 28, 2014 Gareth Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a hard book to review. It's difficult to review by the standards of modern morality (especially regarding class and the role of women - don't marry a women whose mother is not virtuous). It's difficult to know how much is satire and how much is close to normal social practice. It's a long while since I read any Smollet, but this reminds me of Smollet toned down a bit and moved a little up in the hierarchy. It's certainly an enjoyable if relatively predictable read.
Aug 20, 2013 Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this novel for a college course studying Irish novels. I found it very similar to novels by Jane Austen, who, turns out, to be a contemporary of Edgeworth.

This novel is full of social realism and social criticism as well, which makes it an interesting read. The characters are interesting and they drive the plot forward. It is interesting to see how the characters are affected by Irish and English society and how they in turn react to the pressures of society.
Philip Lane
Nov 09, 2011 Philip Lane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Social conscience novel with a standard upper-class romance as a cover. Well written and interesting the story carried me along. It was generally very believable apart from the not so subtle revelations about the heroine's family origins. I don't understand why Maria Edgeworth is not more widely known.
Feb 18, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: out-of-print
I absolutely loved this book. The characters were rich and fell all along the lines of moral compass. The story was well-handled and though written, at times, in an odd manner, it may have been the fashion at the time. There was a good bit of foreign phrasing in the tale, but it was handled well enough with google's translate.
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Edgeworth was an Anglo-Irish gentry-woman, born in Oxfordshire and later resettling in County Longford. She eventually took over the management of her father's estate in Ireland and dedicated herself to writing novels that encouraged the kind treatment of Irish tenants and the poor by their landlords.
More about Maria Edgeworth...

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“Remember, we can judge better by the conduct of people towards others than by their manner towards ourselves.” 21 likes
“but don't you know that girls never think of what they are talking about, or rather never talk of what they are thinking about? And they have always ten times more to say to the man they don't care for, than to him they do.” 1 likes
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