Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)
The second of five children, Maria Edgeworth's
father made education no small matter, and wished with every
bit of his heart for his young daughter to contribute something
of import to the world. Her father sent her to be educated
in a prestigious school in London, and one day through a
letter, ordered her to write a story on generosity. Her
father gave the same topic to a young man from Oxford, who
was visiting the Edgeworth household. Maria's stepbrother
judged the stories and declared Maria's the better of the
two. Maria's earliest works were of romantic, horrifying,
and extremely melodramatic subjects. In 1782, Maria assisted
in managing her father's estates and there formed the conclusion
that the upper class should be responsible for its tenants.
This would be the subject of her later novels, and her motivation
for helping the Irish peasants during the potato blight
famine in 1845. Her first published work, Letters for
Literary Ladies (1795), demanded reform in women's education.
Her first novel, Castle Rackrent (1800), was her
first success. Maria never married, despite a proposal from
a Swedish count. She was also close friends with Sir Walter
Scott. Nevertheless she was a renowned literary figure in
her own right; her didactic novels portraying Irish peasant
life reflected realism, humor, and her own unique style.
Letters for Literary Ladies (1795)
Castle Rackrent (1800)
Moral Tales (1801)
The Absentee (1812)
Allard, Jody. Women Novelists. 6 Sept.