Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 1/Letter 30

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Jan, 29, 1800.

More precious to us than Arundelian marbles are letters from Arundel, and after an interval of almost three months dear Sophy's letter was most welcome. I have no complaints to make of you—sorrow bit of right have I to complain of you. Some time ago we took a walk to see the old castle of Cranalagh, from which in the last Rebellion (but one) Lady Edgeworth was turned out: part of it, just enough to swear by, remains to this day, and with a venerable wig of ivy at top cuts a very respectable figure; and, moreover, there are some of the finest laurels and hollies there that I ever saw, and as fine a smell of a pigsty as ever I smelt, and an arbor-vitae tree, of which I gathered a leaf, and thought that I and my gloves should never for the remainder of our lives get rid of the smell of bad apples, of which this same tree of life smells. But I have not yet come to the thing I was going to say about the castle of Cranalagh, viz.—for I love old-fashioned viz.—when we got near the ruined castle, out comes a barking dog, just such another as assailed us at the old castle near Black Castle, to which we walked full fifteen years ago; the first walk I ever took with Sophy, and how she got home without her shoe, to this hour I cannot comprehend. It was this barking dog which brought you immediately to my mind, and if I have given you too much of it you must forgive me. Now we are upon the subject of old castles, do you remember my retailing to you, at second hand, a description of my father's visit to the Marquis de la Poype's old château in Dauphiny, with the cavern of bats and stalactites? A little while ago my father received a letter in a strange hand, which I copy for my aunt and you, as I think it will please you as it did us, to see that this old friend of my father's remembers him with so much kindness through all the changes and chances that have happened in France. The letter is from the Marquis de la Poype, who addressed it to the Abbé Edgeworth, in hopes that the Abbé could transmit it to my father—the lines at the end are in the Abbé's own hand—the handwriting of so great and good a man is a curiosity.

Before this reaches you my father will be in Dublin, he goes on Saturday next to the call of the House for the grand Union business. Tell my aunt that he means to speak on the subject on Monday. His sentiments are unchanged: that the Union would be advantageous to all the parties concerned, but that England has not any right to do to Ireland good against her will.

Will you tell me what means you have of getting parcels from London to Arundel? because I wish to send to my aunt a few "Popular Tales," which I have finished, as they cannot be wanted for some months by Mr. Johnson. We have begged Johnson to send Castle Rackrent,[1]. I hope it has reached you: do not mention to any one that it is ours. Have you seen Minor Morals, by Mrs. Smith? There is in it a beautiful little botanical poem called the "Calendar of Flora."


Castle Rackrent, the story of an Irish estate, as told by Thady, the old steward, was first published anonymously in 1800. Its combination of Irish humour and pathos, and its illustration of the national character, first led Walter Scott to try his own skill in depicting Scottish character in the same way. "If I could," he said to James Ballantyne, "but hit Miss Edgeworth's wonderful power of vivifying all her persons, and making them live as beings in your mind, I should not be afraid." With the publication of Castle Rackrent, which was intended to depict the follies of fashionable life, and was speedily followed by Belinda [2] the Edgeworths immediately became famous, and the books were at once translated into French and German.


  1. Published without the author's name in 1800
  2. There is no doubt that Belinda was much marred by the alterations made by Mr. Edgeworth, in whose wisdom and skill his far cleverer daughter had unlimited and touching confidence.