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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 26 December 2016

"Castle Rackrent" by Maria Edgeworth

This is a two part story first published in 1800. It is narrated by an old retainer (Thady Quirk, honest Thady or old Thady) of a family of Irish gentry.

The first half relates the history of the family till the present day. Sir Tallyhoo Rackrent died from a hunting accident and left the estate to his 'cousin-german' (we would now say first cousin) Sir Patrick O'Shaughlin on condition that he changed his name (and presumably his religion, O'Shaughlin being a Catholic name). Sir Patrick was a party animal who died after a particularly heavy party; his body was seized for deby which gave his heir (Sir Murtagh Rackrent) the excise to refuse to pay any debts. Sir Murtagh was a lawyer who sued everyone: "Out of forty-nine suits which he had, he never lost one but seventeen" but died while arguing with his wife about an abatement. The estate then passed to his younger brother Sir Kit Stopgap who immediately went to Bath and became an absentee landlord leaving the estate to "middle men" who bought leases cheap and rented them out dear but Sir Kit abroad gambled away all the money until everything was mortgaged. Then Sir Kit appointed Thody's son Jason as agent and married an heiress who was a Jewess and brought her back to Ireland and then locked her up in a room in the castle to extort money from her. Seven years later she was let out after her husband was killed by the third of his adversaries in consecutive duels. And so eventually a new heir arrived, Sir Conolly (Condy) Rackrent.

The second book his Condy's story, still narrated by Thody who becomes even more gossipy and full of Irish idiom than before. Si Condy gets into debt and has to decide whether to marry the neighbouring heiress (against her father's wishes) or his childhood sweetheart. A toss of the coin decides him on the heiress. But the newlywed and rather unhappily wed couple are extravagant and soon the money has all gone and Thody's son Jason the agent starts to persuade Sir Condy to sell a little here and a little there and so starts but by bit to acquire the estate.

Sir Condy's wife at one stage reads 'The sorrows of Werter'.

This is a delightfully written and utterly picaresque family saga written very briefly and with a brilliant ear for the language of the time by one of the most gossipy narrators I have ever read. Great fun and very short.

December 2016, 90 pages

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