This is the week of Saint Patrick and in the run up to his big day on Friday we’re devoting our posts to matters Irish. To kick off, we’ve got an excerpt from Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth (1768 – 1849). It was published in 1800 and is regarded as the first Anglo-Irish novel.
Castle Rackrent satirises Anglo-Irish landlords and their mismanagement of their estates. The main characters are the spendthrift Sir Patrick O’Shaughlin, the litigious Sir Murtagh Rackrent, the cruel husband and gambling absentee Sir Kit Rackrent and the generous but improvident Sir Condy Rackrent. The novel is narrated by their steward, the sly Thady Quirk. For Maria Edgeworth, who was born in Oxfordshire and educated in London, the native Irish were a tempestuous people and her observations about their attitudes to notions of authority and time ring true today:
“Thady begins his memoirs of the Rackrent Family by dating MONDAY MORNING, because no great undertaking can be auspiciously commenced in Ireland on any morning but MONDAY MORNING. ‘Oh, please God we live till Monday morning, we’ll set the slater to mend the roof of the house. On Monday morning we’ll fall to, and cut the turf. On Monday morning we’ll see and begin mowing. On Monday morning, please your honour, we’ll begin and dig the potatoes,’ etc.
All the intermediate days, between the making of such speeches and the ensuing Monday, are wasted: and when Monday morning comes, it is ten to one that the business is deferred to THE NEXT Monday morning. The Editor knew a gentleman, who, to counteract this prejudice, made his workmen and labourers begin all new pieces of work upon a Saturday.”