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Castle Rackrent

3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  2,111 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
When a long-time servant of the Rackrent family decides to write about family members whom he has served, the result is a stylishly entertaining exploration of master/servant relationships. Edgeworth's brilliant satire of early-19th-century Anglo-Irish landlords pioneered the regional novel andchanged the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class. ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 24th 2005 by Dover Publications (first published 1800)
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Bill  Kerwin

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.

Best of all it is based on events that actually occurred, including locking up wives until they handed over their va
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
Dec 13, 2015 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
Renee M
Aug 29, 2016 Renee M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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 17, 2009 Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 14, 2009 Wryly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious. The names in this shorty are very interesting... it's sometimes hard to tell at points where the satire begins and ends.
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 18, 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 26, 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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Mar 15, 2016 Rosemary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 16, 2011 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alia S
Nov 20, 2011 Alia S rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are actually really funny things buried in here, but it's a lot of work to tease them out of the dialect and period details. Basically I need someone to make this into a movie with lots of attractive Irish men and then I could probably enjoy it more.
Valerie Kyriosity
This is a satire, but the narrator read it so straight that I really wasn't able to enjoy it as such. I confess that probably makes the low rating unfair to the author, but that's what she gets for being dead and not having any say in the audio production. ;^)
Oct 23, 2016 Mathieu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sure, it has some historical value.

But blimey is it not subtle ; I can't stand heavy handed satire.

If drunk aristocrats living in debt in derelict castles is your thing, then go for it, it's an easy and short read ; otherwise, go on your way.
Really more of a 2.5. I liked the writing, the satire made me laugh, but I kept expecting something to actually happen.
2016 READING CHALLENGE: A book you can finish in a day
Ranting Wright
This book makes us ask, "Who is worse off? Those who are part of the ups and down---the pinnacles and embarrassments---of history, or those who observe the ups and down in safety and passivity?"

First, the good. Castle Rackrent is my first experience with Maria Edgeworth, but the novel reads like a cross between Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. The preface is thought-provoking and it helps situate readers with the approaching chatterbox that is Thady Quirk. The narrator has the countenance of
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Shelfari 1001 group: Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth 1 3 Jul 13, 2016 01:16PM  
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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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“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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