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Castle Rackrent

3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  2,201 Ratings  ·  135 Reviews
Set in Ireland prior to its achieving legislative independence from Britain in 1782, Castle Rackrent tells the story of three generations of an estate--owning family as seen through the eyes—and as told in the voice—of their longtime servant, Thady Quirk, recorded and commented on by an anonymous Editor. This edition of Maria Edgeworth's first novel is based on the 1832 ed ...more
Paperback, 87 pages
Published March 15th 2007 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (first published 1800)
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Bill  Kerwin
Feb 02, 2011 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

This enjoyable one volume novel--brief as a medium-sized novella--was published in 1800, but is set in the years from the middle of the 18th century to the establishment of the Irish constitution of 1782. It gives us a satirical view of four generations of the Rackrent family, each an example of the irresponsible Irish gentry. Parsimonious or profligate in his habits, amiable or arrogant in his demeanor, each Lord of Rackrent herein described impoverishes his peasants and abuses his wealth, lead
This is a little novel that deserves to be well known.

It is the every day story of the decline and fall of a noble Irish house into poverty through drinking, extravagant living and a wild passion for loosing cases at law as told from the point of view of a loyal old retainer. A man so loyal that he interprets all that behaviour as demonstrating the admirable grandeur of the family, none of that penny pinching miserliness of others, noble extravagance whether they can afford it or not is the way
Castle Rackrent, by Maria Edgeworth, published in 1800.

Who is Maria Edgeworth you may ask, well, she was an English/Irish writer during late 18th century and early 19th century. She was a contemporary of Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, and Sir Walter Scott, among others. I mention these three because they acknowledge being influenced by Edgeworth's writing. She wrote several novels and many works that were politically and socially motivated by Irish politics and social class inequality.

Castle Rackre
Nov 12, 2014 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Irish stewards, profligate heirs, English landowners less dashing than Darcy
Cited as an early satirical work and one of the first English historical novels, Castle Rackrent is the story of the Rackrents, formerly the O'Shaughlins, a family of land-holding Anglo-Irish aristocrats who sink into dissolution and ruin over the course of four generations. The narrator, "Old Thady" or "Honest Thady," is the Rackrents' steward. Offering occasionally obsequious, occasionally wry commentary, never directly insulting the family he's served for his entire life but making it pretty ...more
MJ Nicholls
Edgeworth’s satire inspired the oeuvre of Walter Scott—this unappealing fact aside, it is an excellent lampoon in the Swiftian tradition and something of a progenitor to the popular technique of frametales, found books ‘edited’ by the authors, and unreliable narrators. The rambling narrator Thady Quirk tells of the Rackrent clan and their various adventures in the age of Irish revolt over landlordism. More impressively, this book boasts three levels of foot- and endnotes, making the book read mo ...more
Travelling Sunny
Not exactly a page-turner, but I understand why this made it onto THE LIST.

So, to sum up the novel’s story, there’s this working-class servant type guy in Ireland named Thady Quirk; he’s about eighty years old and is telling the history of the owners of the Rackrent property. The first third or so of the novel is a quick breezing through the stories of three owners, but then what seems to be the ‘good part’ of the story is in the last two-thirds with the story of Sir Condy Rackrent. Each of thes
Aug 25, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing
Maria Edgeworth’s father owned an estate in Ireland, and it was through observing the lives and fortunes of Anglo-Irish landowners that she derived the material from which she wrote this novel, published in 1800. It is considered one of the first Irish novels and seems certainly to be the first to use the narrative devise of an unreliable narrator, in this case Thady Quirk, the steward of the Rackrent family during four generations. The novel traces the mismanagement of the sequential heirs to t ...more
Renee M
May 17, 2014 Renee M rated it really liked it
Readers of Austen and Scott should not miss this one. It's quite short and kinda odd, but funny and fascinating from a historical perspective. (Poor old Thady!) The glossary in itself is a hoot. And the traditional introduction is not to be missed, but can be saved until the end when you'll be curious about this Maria Edgeworth.
Sherwood Smith
Most people assume that the first historical novel was written by Sir Walter Scott, but this one was penned by Maria Edgeworth while he was still a poet. I don't think this is yet another case of women's work being ignored, as I suspect that most modern readers who make these lists aren't aware that the novel, published in 1800, is actually set roughly fifty years before, before the Irish constitution was established.

So it stands out for being the first historical novel, and one of the first wit
J.G. Keely
An unexpectedly delightful book, one of the first I've read that really captures what I've come to think of as quintessentially British humor, the sort later typified by Wilde and Wodehouse. The pointlessly loyal teller of this tale is one of the best examples of the 'Unreliable Narrator' that I've seen in fiction, and seems to be a prototype for a similarly humorous servant in Collins' 'The Moonstone'. Add in the political and social satire concerning Anglo-Irish relations and you've got quite ...more
I skipped the lengthy introduction (~25% of this Kindle book!).

I wonder whether Susanna Clarke (author of "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell") was a fan of this classic because Edgeworth's glossary and Clarke's footnotes were similar in style!

I found many of the anecdotes amusing but the final story about Sir Condy struck me as rather sad.
Jan 13, 2010 Christy rated it liked it
Shelves: classic
Maria Edgeworth, a tiny English woman at only 4 feet 7 inches tall, published Castle Rackrent when she was 33. Her writing career was encouraged by her father, who moved the family to Ireland when Maria was fifteen. Her resulting acquaintance the Irish people is displayed in Castle Rackrent.

In this very brief novel (about 85 pages total), an old Irish peasant by the name of Thady Quirk narrates the “Memoirs of the Rackrent Family” – a tale that encompasses several generations of Rackrents whose
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2009 Spencer rated it really liked it
Very readable, amusing, charming, and short. What more could you ask for if you're considering trying out some 18th century lit? The narrator is instantly lovable and the footnotes by an "English Editor" allow Edgeworth some playfulness in developing her social satire (and they're all worth reading, however long). Most of the characters are one-dimensional and there isn't a strong central plot, but the themes of class and greed and family remain remarkably applicable.
Feb 16, 2011 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: serious-reads
I'm going to be honest. I read this book because I had too. I'm glad it was short because it was tremendously boring. The old Irish expressions make it difficult for a contemporary reader to understand.
Elizabeth Moffat
Didn't really enjoy it, the character of thady was good but it didn't flow as much as I would have liked. I understand it was difficult to write about religion in those times but I would have liked the story more if it had centred around this.
Jan 06, 2009 Wryly rated it really liked it
Hilarious. The names in this shorty are very interesting... it's sometimes hard to tell at points where the satire begins and ends.
Really more of a 2.5. I liked the writing, the satire made me laugh, but I kept expecting something to actually happen.
Having finished my previous book at the beginning of a long train journey, and being mindful of not spending any more money (and thanking the inventor of the Kindle for letting me carry a virtual library with me everywhere I go), I went for the free and fairly short Castle Rackrent thinking that a quick classic might help the journey to speed by. But, while short, this bored the ass off me, helping make the journey feel like it was three times longer than it was and driving me to play on my phon ...more
Originally posted at Majoring in Literature.

Oh, dear. I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew these past few weeks, first with A Sentimental Journey and now with Castle Rackrent. Eighteenth-century literature has certainly done an excellent job of kicking my butt with these two short novels.

I originally wanted to read Castle Rackrent because I studied another of Edgeworth's novels, Patronage, a few years ago. I enjoyed it immensely, and figured Castle Rackrent would be more of the same
Nov 05, 2012 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The historical timeframe of the material is vital to understanding the novel. It is interesting that an English author would criticize the landowners, who were all Englsih. Underneath the lampooning of tropes on both sides of the issue, the novel presents different aspects of the social structure for consideration. Political corruption is a large part of the Sir Conolley section. The abuse of the law to enable a land grab is central to the entire reason for the Enlglish being in Ireland.

The cle
Mar 25, 2014 K. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely different. Had a totally wrong impression of the book based on it's name, thinking some sort of "Money Pit" story...totally opposite...Irish landowners, named Rackrent...yeah, they bleed their tenants dry. But in a way that makes them beloved. So weird, and perhaps a scoff at how the lowly hold up the high to be so special even when they're obviously not. Silly humor. Style of writing seems worlds apart from that of Edgeworth's "Helen" which I've just begun.

This edition (kindle) did
Michael Meeuwis
Aug 06, 2015 Michael Meeuwis rated it it was amazing
I almost wonder if we'd like this novel more--I mean, it's tremendous--if we didn't do what the course sequence I supervise does, which is stick it solidly into the History of the Novel. I mean, it's not not a novel--but it approaches those traditional bits of what novels are interested in (interior psychology, social life) so obliquely that I think people sometimes get disappointed by its failure to be "Pride and Prejudice." Whereas what it sort of is is Pride and Prejudice if a. the good peopl ...more
Jul 04, 2008 Siria rated it liked it
Castle Rackrent is probably only of interest to students of Irish history; as bitterly funny and infuriating as I found it, the layers of meaning, the references, and certainly the dialect used must be quite inaccessible to anyone not familiar with the circumstances in which Edgeworth was writing. If you are interested in the time period, though, it's a very interesting read. Though god, the colonialism and imperialism—there's no way of avoiding the fact that Edgeworth was part of the Ascendanc ...more
Catherine Letendre
Jul 18, 2011 Catherine Letendre rated it it was ok
Reading this book I started asking myself if I understood English or if my memory was bad and my second language wasn't actually Spanish. Irony is everywhere in this book but its purpose, as well as the storyline, was left unknown to me. My guess is that the use (or non-use) of the dot is probably at the root of the problem. The sentences are one page long, which makes it hard to remember the beginning when reaching the end. Memory problems again. This book made me realized that I either have al ...more
Interesting as a historical document, but choppy and hard to get into from a reader's perspective. This "satirical" history of the fictional Rackrent estate, as related by an aged family servant, has its moments but left me feeling drained, like I'd just spent hours listening to a shaggy dog joke. My favorite part was the glossary, which either pokes fun at the Irish, or pokes fun at the English poking fun at the Irish--I'm not sure, but the humor came through for me here in a way it didn't in t ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Rosemary rated it liked it
This is quite a short book, but even so I found it rather too long for the simple content - aristocrat has no idea how to manage his money, gets into huge amounts of debt, the same thing happens to his successor, etc. It's a reasonably interesting premise but needs the characters' personalities to be fleshed out more in order to be sustained throughout a whole novel - or else other plot devices need to be added. The Absentee is much better in terms of plot and characterisation.
Some books are definitely for certain times, people, contexts, etc. (or various combinations of said variables). This was not for me or my time at this reading. Edgeworth provided a brief yet scattered work in my eyes. Some insights about the relationship between Ireland and England and land ownership, but not much else this time around.
Dec 13, 2014 Rosemary rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
I found this enjoyable but without much substance. An old retainer tells the story of how the owners of an Irish estate came to ruin through the mistakes and profligacy of several successors, and finally lost the estate to an upstart. It was amusing in places and showed class mobility to an extent that must have only just been imaginable.
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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.
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“When a man's over head and shoulders in debt, he may live the faster for it, and the better if he goes the right way about it, or else how is it so many live so well, as we see every day after they are ruined?” 3 likes
“The prevailing taste of the public for anecdote has been censured and ridiculed by critics, who aspire to the character of superior wisdom: but if we consider it in a proper point of view, this taste is an incontestible proof of the good sense and profoundly philosophic temper of the present times. Of the numbers who study, or at least who read history, how few derive any advantage from their labors!” 2 likes
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