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Definition: Edgeworth, Maria from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1767–1849, Irish novelist; daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth. She lived practically her entire life on her father's estate in Ireland. Letters for Literary Ladies (1795), her first publication, argued for the education of women. She is best known for her novels of Irish life—Castle Rackrent (1800), Belinda (1801), and The Absentee (1812). Although her works are marred somewhat by didacticism, they are notable for their realism, humor, and freshness of style. She also wrote a number of stories for children, including Moral Tales (1801).

  • See selected letters ed. by C. Colvin (1971);.
  • studies by M. Butler (1972) and C. Owens (1987).

Summary Article: Edgeworth, Maria
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Irish novelist. Her first novel, Castle Rackrent (1800), dealt with Anglo-Irish country society and was the first regional novel in English. Other novels about Ireland include The Absentee (1812) and Ormond (1817). She also wrote four novels about English society, beginning with Belinda (1801). She was a fervent proponent of women's education.

Edgeworth was born in Black Bourton, near Oxford, daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Much of her life was spent on her father's Irish estate at Edgeworthstown and she helped him in his writing, especially in Practical Education (1798) and the ‘Essay on Irish Bulls’ (1802). She also wrote stories to amuse her father's large family by his four wives.

Her work was marked by ingenuity, inventiveness, humour, and acute description of character. As a writer of socially concerned and historical novels, she inspired Walter Scott. Leonora (1806) is the second of the novels dealing with contemporary English society. She wrote two series of Tales of Fashionable Life (1809) and (1812), and completed her father's Memoirs (1829). She published several books for or about children, including Moral Tales (1801), Popular Tales (1804), Frank (1822), and Harry and Lucy (1825).

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