Other Literary Forms
Maria Edgeworth, best known as a novelist, acquired international fame with the publication of Castle Rackrent in 1800. Its unique narrative technique—the tale is told by a passive onlooker, the Rackrent family’s servant—was a fascinating innovation. Contemporary critics, comparing her novels favorably with Don Quixote (1605) and Gil Blas (1715), believed Edgeworth was greater than Henry Fielding. Earning more than £1,000 for each of four novels, Edgeworth, unlike William Carleton, the Banims, and Gerald Griffin, was financially secure. With her father, she coauthored numerous Sessays on education. “Toys,” “Tasks,” “On Truth,” “Wit and Judgment,” and “Prudence and Economy” are representative topics. The comic and juvenile plays added nothing to her fame or fortune, but they taught Edgeworth how to write spirited dialogue. While she did not write an autobiography, more than two thousand surviving letters describe her relationships with family, friends, and literary acquaintances, documenting her understanding of the social, political, and economic forces of her era.