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Castle Rackrent

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  3,186 ratings  ·  215 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 (first published 1800)
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Average rating 3.20  · 
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 ·  3,186 ratings  ·  215 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Feb 02, 2011 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 Rackrent impoverishes his peasants and abuses his wealth, leading to the destructi
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
Paul Bryant
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This is a short novel but it seems long like a visit to the dentist might only last 15 minutes but subjectively it lasts for three days.

I read this so you don’t have to. It’s a comic monologue by an ancient servant to the Irish Rackrent family. He has tunnel vision, all he is interested in is his master and his master’s money, i.e. lack of it. There is no plot, it’s just this guy got drunk, that guy got drunk, and this guy got drunk. Then this guy gambled all his money away. Then that guy marri
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 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
John Anthony
Published in 1800 at a time when a novel’s characters and places were given names which, whilst being silly were memorable and a helpful prompt to dozing readers like me. You know exactly who and what they are about. Thus: Rackrent, Stopgap, Skinflint, Moneygawl….Here Maria Edgeworth portrays the Irish Protestant Ascendancy, of which she herself was a part. I read that she wrote as its/their Apologist. Really! To read this is to become further aware of the inevitability of the “Irish Troubles”.

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
classic reverie
In my quest for first time novels by certain authors, Maria Edgeworth was on my list, especially after enjoying Belinda. I had no idea what to expect but I found a truly interesting portrayal of Irish gentry and it reminded me in a sense of Anthony Trollope's Macdermots of Ballycloran, in the sad state of these gentlemen and their positions. Having Irish ancestry, I found this very interesting in culture and custom. Edgeworth had great copy from her father's friends and neighbors. This story is ...more
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1315-read, all-boxall
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 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 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.
Oct 23, 2016 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.
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
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
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.
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.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-books
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.
Really more of a 2.5. I liked the writing, the satire made me laugh, but I kept expecting something to actually happen.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Review is pending…
DeAnna Knippling
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Today, it would be called Castle Trainwreck. Four generations of a family drive their fortunes from prosperity to poverty.

I expected this to be quite dark, but it's more a tale told in the vein of the White Rabbit's gardener in Alice in Wonderland--one long run-on history in which the narrator's voice is so foolish that you can't help but turn woe into humor. A satire, in other words. However, the book is also one of those pioneering books whose technique is refined through later works. So I enj
Not quite what I was expected. The decline of the Rackrent family and how they managed to lose all that mattered through the generations. An interesting insight into Ireland at the time.

Read the free edition without any issues.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice change to the "this is how you need to behave young lady" novels I've read from this period of English Literature. Very tongue-in-cheek and not too difficult to read.
Maan Kawas
Interesting book!
Jan 13, 2010 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 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.
Beth (bibliobeth)
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.
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: regno-unito, 1001
Castle Rackrent is often regarded as the first historical novel, the first regional novel in English, the first Anglo-Irish novel, the first Big House novel and the first saga novel.

Thank God such novels evolded fast from such a first step. I didn't enjoyed it at all
Jan 06, 2009 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.
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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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