Gothic Labyrinth

Maria Edgeworth is best known for her innovative and influential novel, Castle Rackrent written when when she was 18. While her other works were suggested and edited by her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, a well-known author, inventor, and educational reformer, Castle Rackrent was written and submitted for publication while he was absent. Nevertheless Edgeworth credited him with joint authorship. All her works after this were of the didactic and improving sort her father preferred. Later, also on his advice, she stopped writing altogether. Her last literary efforts were spent preparing his papers for publication.

Byron commented perceptively after meeting the Edgeworths, One would never have guessed she could write her name; whereas her father talked, not as if he could write nothing else, but as if nothing else was worth writing.

Edgeworth was the aunt of Thomas Lovell Beddoes and an influence on the works of Jane Austen who sent her a copy of Emma. Apparently Edgeworth was not pleased with it and did not acknowledge the gift. Elsewhere she wrote: There is no story in it, except that Miss Emma found that the man whom she designed for Harriet's lover was an admirer of her own--& he was affronted at being refused by Emma & Harriet wore the willow--and smooth, thin water-gruel is according to Emma's father's opinion a very good thing & it is very difficult to make a cook understand what you mean by smooth, thin water-gruel.

Maria was also a close friend of Sir Walter Scott who visited her in Edgeworthstown and toured the countryside with her. Maria returned Scott's visit and stayed at his home, Abbotsford, in Scotland. There is a stone at Tyhmer's Waterfall inscribed Edgeworth Stone in honour of Maria who is said to have rested there. Scott's move from poetry to novels was in part influenced by Edgeworth's work. In the preface to Waverley, he wrote: the extended and well-merited fame of Miss Edgeworth, whose Irish characters have gone so far to make the English familiar with the character of their gay and kind-hearted neighbours of Ireland, that she may be truly said to have done more toward completing the Union than perhaps all the legislative enactments by which it has been followed up, and felt he could do for Scotland what Edgeworth had done for Ireland.

The character of Harriot Freke, in Belinda is said to be based on Mary Wollstonecraft while Mrs. Delacourt appears to be modelled on Mary Wortley Montagu.

If I survive
I will have five

Castle Rackrent was inspired by the true case of Lady Cathcart, locked up by her fourth husband for over twenty years, reportedly after he found the above inscription engraved on her ring.

She lived to be 98, and did, indeed, marry again.