Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Ireland. Second-largest of the British Isles, a dependency of Great Britain throughout the nineteenth century. Among the novel’s several commentaries on the sorry state to which Ireland has been brought by its absentee landlords (even before Ireland’s great mid-century famine, which Carleton describes in other novels) there is one in particular—in chapter 24—which waxes lyrical about the unique affection that the Irish people have for their native soil, and the affliction of “home sickness” that eats away at exiles and sometimes kills them. It is an affection that is still preserved by American celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day.


Ahadarra. Hill farm in the Ballymacan district, one of two—the other being Carriglass—that have been in the M’Mahon family for generations. Ahadarra is now farmed by Bryan M’Mahon, whose father retains the other. Being in a mountainous region, the farm is necessarily extensive. Its fertile fields are widely spaced among barren slopes, but it has potential, including some three hundred acres of rough but cultivable land. Bryan has to invest heavily in order to develop this marginal terrain and thus stands in desperate need of the renewal of his family’s tenancy, which is promised but never delivered by the agent representing his aristocratic landlord Chevydale (whose name proclaims his English descent, although Carleton does not emphasize his alien origin).

Jemmy Burke’s farm

Jemmy Burke’s farm....

(The entire section is 632 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Flanagan, Thomas. The Irish Novelists 1800-1850. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959. An influential overview which did much to reestablish Carleton in the context of nineteenth century Irish literature and culture. Three chapters of the study are devoted to Carleton’s work, though treatment of the short fiction is more extensive than that of the novels. The author’s historicist approach emphasizes content rather than form.

Kiely, Benedict. Poor Scholar. Dublin: Talbot Press, 1948. Drawing on Carleton’s Autobiography, this study remains the most accessible and sympathetic introduction to the novelist’s world. The approach is essentially biographical, emphasizing Carleton’s peasant background, awareness with the nature of which is indispensable for an appreciation of his work. Kiely does not provide a systematic treatment of Carleton’s oeuvre, but the study contains some relevant commentary on the major works, including The Emigrants of Ahadarra.

Sloan, Barry. The Pioneers of Anglo-Irish Fiction 1800-1850. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1986. Ranging more widely than Flanagan’s The Irish Novelists, this study includes coverage of various phases of Carleton’s career as a novelist. The brief comments on The Emigrants of Ahadarra locate the novel in the appropriate phase, and enable the reader to see connections between the novel’s preoccupations and those of contemporary nineteenth century Irish fiction. The study includes a bibliography and an elaborate chronology of the literary period in question.

Sullivan, Eileen. William Carleton. Boston: Twayne, 1983. A critical introduction to Carleton’s life and works. Discussion of The Emigrants of Ahadarra links it to Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village, and the significance of the novel’s theme of reconciliation is briefly noted. The study contains a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Wolff, Robert Lee. William Carleton, Irish Peasant Novelist. New York: Garland, 1980. A brief general overview of Carleton’s fiction. Commentary on The Emigrants of Ahadarra concentrates on the way the novel treats the social aspects of emigration. The novel’s political context is also outlined.