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Bonds of Union

Isabelle Bour
Antoine Mioche

Union displaced? The 1798 rebellion in the national tale (1809-1828)

Isabelle Bour

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1Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, which is usually considered the first national tale, was published in 1800, while the Act of Union between the British and the Irish parliament was under discussion. It was in some ways a political novel, exposing as it did the reckless negligence of four successive generations of Ascendancy landlords. But the national tale was to become much more overtly political after the Union, in its effects at least, if not in its aims: did not an optimistic Walter Scott suggest in the 1829 General Preface to the Waverley Novels that “Miss Edgeworth... may be truly said to have done more towards completing the Union than perhaps all the legislative enactments by which it has been followed up” (Scott 523)?

  • 1 Stephen Brown, in his 1916 bibliography lists a few novels, all written after the period here under (...)

2The 1801 Act of Union hardly lending itself to fictional treatment in the early nineteenth century,1 I have chosen to look at the fictional representation of the 1798 Rebellion, on the assumption that the uprising having been the proximate cause of the Union, authors who wrote in the decades immediately following the legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland would in one way or another be commenting on the Union when depicting the rebellion or the activities of the United Irishmen.

  • 2 References to the novels will be given in abridged form: Ε for Ennui, MC for The Milesian Chief, IC(...)
  • 3 A dialogue which takes place towards the end of the book makes it clear that, with his democratic b (...)
  • 4 In Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire, page 325, note 11, Katie Trumpene (...)

3The novels I shall consider were published between 1809 and 1828—Maria Edgeworth’s Ennui, the first novel to include episodes set during the rebellion, was published in the decade of the Act of Union, and Michael Banim’s The Croppy; A tale of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in 1828, that is to say, just before the Catholic Emancipation which had been one of the demands of the rebels and which, once it was granted, made the rebellion less of a sensitive topic to address. Identifying the relevant novels was no easy matter. Some novels do not explicitly state that the rebellion they describe is that of 1798. A date has to be inferred from a reading of Ennui; more deviously, the narrator of Charles Maturin’s Milesian Chief, published in 1812, claims that the uprising which Connal O’Morven, the protagonist, leads, happened in the early nineteenth century, after Emmet’s failed rising;2 the rebellion in The Milesian Chief would thus be purely imaginary, but those very references to 1798, as well as the place where the plot is set, the county of Galway, and the sequence of events, strongly suggest that, while Maturin wanted to be free from factual constraints, he was really discussing, with some minor chronological displacement, the 1798 insurrection, which he presents sympathetically, though he does not endorse it. Indeed Norman Jeffares states that “Connal’s experience and disillusionment are sadly akin to those of Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, one of the gentlemen who led the Wexford rebels in 1798” (Jeffares 143). There is no such referential problem with James McHenry’s novel, whose title is unambiguous: The Insurgent Chief or O’Halloran. An Irish historical tale of 1798. Lady Morgan’s The O’Briens and the O Flahertys (1827), side-steps the Rebellion, like Maturin’s novel, but in a different fashion: its main plot, centred on a protagonist who becomes a United Irishman, runs from 1790 to 1802, at the time of the French Consulate, but does not actually describe the uprising—though it is very much the absent centre of the book and Morgan’s plotting strongly suggests that to her the “national union “between Catholics and Protestants (which was promoted by the United Irishmen) should happen under Protestant aristocratic supervision.3 So, the least one can say is that the body of relevant novels is not an obvious one and is not homogeneous.4

  • 5 My corpus is nearly comprehensive—I was unable to read O’Hara, or 1798, by William Hamilton Maxwell (...)

4Any critic nowadays would say that the novels under consideration were highly political, but this often did not strike contemporary reviewers in the 1810s. Thus the author of the notice on The Milesian Chief in the Monthly Review discusses the characters—whom he finds outrageous—but completely ignores the plot, contenting himself with saying that “the... adventures in this work are carried beyond all probability” (Review of The Milesian Chief 322). Things changed in the next decade. In 1825, when discussing the first series of Tales by the O’Hara Family, by John and Michael Banim, the reviewer of the Monthly Magazine said that Ireland offered the spectacle of “a barbarising oppression, the immolations of tyranny, and the acme of human wretchedness and suffering,” which explained, in his eyes, “the wild energy” of the characters (Review of Tales by the O’Hara Family). And in 1831, in the Edinburgh Review, T. H. Lister, the author of the review essay entitled “Novels descriptive of Irish Life” deplored that in Maria Edgeworth’s novels, though she was highly regarded “[a]s a pourtrayer of national manners,” “[t]here is a careful avoidance of political topics, the bearing of which upon Irish society is too marked and important to be altogether neglected” (Lister 412). In the same piece, when discussing The Croppy, the reviewer found it regrettable that the reader was “allowed to see very little of the outbreaking and progress of the Irish rebellion,” adding that “[a]ttention is diverted from it by a very improbable and unnecessarily complicated plot” (417).5

  • 6 Comparison also seems called for on the ground that Scott himself famously said in the Postscript t (...)

5It is this political content that I want to focus on now. What is the male protagonists’stance in relation to political events and to the novelist’s implied readership? To what extent does the choice of a political subject make the national tales under discussion historical? How do they relate to Walter Scott’s historical novels? (Many reviewers compared “Mr Banim”—they were not aware that there were two authors hiding behind the O’Hara family—and Walter Scott.) This is a way of asking how these national tales represent time, that is to say, what kind of time events are set in. I also want to discuss the impact of political content on literary genre—which will again bring us to some comparison with Scott as a benchmark, as his novels are contemporary with three of the national tales I am considering.6 While the authors of national tales keep up some kind of dialogue with Scott, they also seem to be carrying out a critique of each other and, in one case, of themselves. The analysis of the interaction of political content, construction of time and literary genre will lead me to question one of the conclusions of Liz Bellamy in her 1998 essay on “Regionalism and nationalism: Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott and the definition of Britishness.”

  • 7 This is the OED’s definition of “croppy”: “One who has his hair cropped short, applied esp. to the (...)

6It has often been said that the typical protagonist of the national tale is an outsider to the region the author wishes to introduce to the reader. This is perhaps more applicable to Scott’s fiction than it is to the national tale, where the protagonist is often only partly an outsider, especially in the novels dealing with the Rebellion; moreover, in these there are often two protagonists rather than one. Lord Glenthorn, in Ennui, was born in Ireland, though he grew up in England, and has vast estates in Ireland. In The Milesian Chief, the main characters are both hybrids: though Connal O’Morven is the “Milesian Chief” of the title, he is the son of a Milesian man and the sister of Lord Montclare, the new English owner of the land which that Milesian had to sell. As for Armida Fitzalban, the daughter of Lord Montclare (with whom Connal falls in love), she is an English girl brought up in Italy, with gifts for recitation and singing which make her akin to Madame de Staël’s Corinne (in a much more hysterical, and unconvincing, vein). She is thus not a typical representative of the theoretical English reader that Maturin had in mind, but is exotic in relation to an Irish context which is itself exotic. In The Insurgent Chief, the young protagonist, Edward Barrymore, is a Dubliner and a member of the Protestant Ascendancy who discovers the North of Ireland, while O’Halloran, the rebel leader, is an Ulsterman. The author is at least as concerned to vindicate Ulster people in the eyes of the southern Irish as he is to explain the Rebellion to an English, and American, audience. In an “Introductory Address to the Judicious Reader,” he deplores the “unfair comparison” that “[t]he authoress of the ‘Wild Irish Girl’ hath drawn in that work, between the southern and northern inhabitants of the island” (IC xviii-xix). The main protagonists of Lady Morgan’s novel are both Irish: Murrough O’Brien is a descendant of a man who betrayed his Catholic faith, converted to Protestantism and became an attorney, before reclaiming his title and converting back to Catholicism; as for Beavoin O’Flaherty, she is the daughter of an Irishman who went over to France to serve in the military there. The Croppy, despite its title,7 focuses on a member of the gentry, Sir William Judkin (who, at the very end of the book, turns out to be a villain), and on Harry Talbot, a leader of the yeomanry corps (who is a liberal Protestant spokesman for the Catholic cause—as is Sir Thomas Hartley, the heroine’s father), and not on any of the insurgents, who appear as a mob of peasants.

  • 8 What Thomas Flanagan says about the nineteenth century applies just as well to a slightly earlier p (...)
  • 9 Mitzi Myers also discusses the ending of Ennui in “‘Like the Pictures in a Magic Lantern’: Gender, (...)

7Of course, this variety and the resort to two main protagonists reflect the often bewildering complexity of what it meant to be “Irish” in the late eighteenth century.8 It also means that the reader often is not in one place only, but shifts between two and constantly has to change his point of view. This applies even when there is only one protagonist as in Ennui, for there it is this one protagonist who changes his identity, thus being “dual”: Lord Glenthorn finds out that, because he was changed at nurse, he is only Christy O’Donoghoe after all, the son of an Irish peasant; at the end of the book, thanks to his marriage, and some narratorial sleight-ofhand, he becomes Lord Glenthorn again. As Mitzi Myers has put it, “the story’s symbolic action marks the self-making of the former earl as a narrative of national redefinition too” (“‘Completing the Union”’)9. Irish identity as depicted in these novels seems to be dialectical and reversible.

8The moral choices entailed by a rebellion against established authority are equally complex. Indeed, rebellion actual or potential (as in The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys), often causes the narrator to become intensely argumentative and to problematise his ideas in dialogues between some of his characters. The other narratorial technique used to make rebellion comprehensible is the appeal to history, which is an Irish topos. We shall study these two rhetorical tactics in conjunction.

  • 10 Interestingly, the man who foments rebellion on Glenthorn’s estate is Joe Kelly, his valet, who is (...)

9Maria Edgeworth’s Ennui stands apart, as she refuses to see the Rebellion as a political problem (I think it is safe to consider that Glenthorn, the first-person narrator, here speaks for Edgeworth). Glenthorn says that the rebellion is an “epidemic infection” (E 167), a “disease” (Ε 168). In other words, the rebellion is a purely physiological phenomenon which has to be eradicated; it is not granted the status of a social phenomenon with rational causes.10 At the end of the rebellion Glenthorn somewhat smugly states:

The poor people returned to their duty and their homes; the occupation of upstart and ignorant associators ceased, and their consequence sunk [sic] at once. The influence of men of property, and birth, and education, and character, once more prevailed. (E 173-74)

10A little later, Glenthorn deplores that he knows nothing about political economy (Ε 183-84), which is another way of saying that there are no political problems, only economic ones. It remains, as Tom Dunne put it, that, despite her “deflections and trivialisations,” Maria Edgeworth saw the rebellion “as another native Irish threat to the colonial land-settlement” (Dunne 21, 20).

11Adopting a very different stance, James McHenry, Lady Morgan, and Michael Banim feel that the 1798 Rebellion is too complex a moment in Irish history to be just dramatised: it needs to be introduced and explained, if not justified. Beside his prefatory address to the reader McHenry has a preface in which, while declaring that he will be “strictly impartial” (IC I: v), he asserts that the leaders of the insurrection “exhibited a combination of talents, courage, and disinterested patriotism” (IC I: vi). In chapter III of the novel, Edward Barrymore has a lengthy conversation with Old Saunders, a recluse, who assesses the rights and wrongs of the Ascendancy and the United Irishmen with a moderation and a lucidity worthy of a leading article in a newspaper; he is undoubtedly the author’s mouthpiece and contrasts with the fiery O’Halloran who rather appeals to the laws of nature (IC I: 131). Such disquisitions recur later in the novel, though they are shorter. In Michael Banim’s novel, the first chapter is a historical summary of political events in Ireland since the 1770s; later the narrator judges the decisions of Dublin Castle, stating that, if “measures of conciliation” had been adopted, the rebellion would not have occurred (C 161). Argument, however, is associated to descriptions of scenes of shocking violence, by far the most graphic in the novels under study. Banim also feeds the reader information about the forces involved in descriptive passages.

  • 11 For a slightly different approach to the handling of time in this novel, see Ferns 91-2.

12In The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys, history is used as argument. Chapter VI of Volume II consists in annals of Ireland focusing on the two eponymous families, annals which go back to the “Year of the world 500” (O’B & O’F); the two families have been in Ireland since 1100 BC. Is there a better way of saying that Irish politics started just after the Flood, and that the skein of rights and wrongs has become impossible to unravel? The insertion of these thirty-page-long annals (found and read in O’Brien House by Murrough O’Brien) is extremely interesting, echoing as they do the first chapter of Volume I, which consists in a series of letters between Terence O’Brien and Malachi O’Flaherty, charting the fortunes of the two families since the seventeenth century. Lady Morgan does not insert her plot into a homogeneous chronology: she builds up her chronological framework progressively and in patches, starting in the recent past, then, from the present of the narrative, delving into a very remote past which is fictionalised by its very remoteness and by the reference to the two eponymous families. This chronological “patch-work” creates a complex image of time and history—time is discontinuous and heterogeneous, unlike the progressive and continuous time of Scott’s fiction, it seems to me. 11 This also makes for a complex structure, which images the complexity of Irish society and is worthy of some post-modem fiction, of fiction, that is, which is bereft of epistemological and historical optimism and certainties. While going back into a very distant past which is bound to seem mythical, Lady Morgan is careful not to mythologise the old Irish. Twenty-one years after the publication of The Wild Irish Girl, she is anxious to distance herself from the mythologisation and allegorisation of the Milesians in that novel, namely Glorvina and her father the prince of Innismore. This is what Murrough O’Brien thinks:

  • 12 The same point had been made about the effect his reading of the “Annals of St Grellan” had had on (...)

On the subject of titles and inheritances, however, he was completely disabused; and if his romantic imagination still gave him an interest in the historical names of his county, if a feeling of family pride still lay lingering in his mind, the mortifying position between rank and indigence, in which his father’s recovered honours had placed him, combining with opinions formed under the social philosophy of the day, left his aunt’s views and promises of hereditary honours without a single attraction. (O’B & O’F283)12

13This rejection of sentimental idealisation, combined with the creation of a chronological cento causes the explosion of the overarching generic framework familiar to Lady Morgan, that of the novel of sensibility. This aesthetic paradigm was grounded on a sensualist epistemology and an optimistic belief in man’s natural benevolence; the paradigm is no longer tenable. Though the narrator does not, in the few meta-fictional statements of the end of the novel, discuss literary form, the text of the novel seems to reveal awareness of some major aesthetic shift, in the following short dialogue between two smart Ascendancy ladies. To Lady Knocklofty, who says of herself: “I am the slave of impulse, and wholly led by my feelings, not by my experience: any one may deceive me, as long as I deceive myself, and that... I generally do,” her friend Honora Stratton answers: “... we begin by being sensible, and we end by feigning it” (O’B & OF481).

  • 13 Indeed, ultimately, the occurrence of the rebellion in The Milesian Chief is attributed to the vind (...)

14This same sentimental framework still survives in The Milesian Chief, at least in Volumes I and II, while the last two volumes depict the rebellion as a doomed epic struggle—Connal’s strength and valour are of Homeric dimensions (while also being reminiscent of Ossian’s heroes). Both modes are essentially a-historical, as individual causes and agents are not integrated into a broader explanatory framework. Historical agency is seen exclusively in terms of the behaviour of a few individuals.13 The protagonists’sensibility is so exacerbated that it becomes destructive and self-destructive, the universal disaster at the end of the plot figuring the exhaustion of a genre and a Weltanschauung.

15James McHenry and Michael Banim deal with the problem caused by the choice of a political topic by alternating between the romantic plot and the political one, even using radically different language in those different sections. There is no such split in Maria Edgeworth’s Ennui, but in this novel the protagonist’s ennui is in the place of, and in place of, romantic idealism—being the reverse side of it (Edgeworth could not have had a romantic hero, an enthusiast, without making him a satirical butt, but she could have an ennuyé as a protagonist, whose infinitely stretched-out personal time excludes him from historical time.)

16Coming back to my starting-point, the representation of the 1798 Rebellion, I would like to suggest that, in the novels under discussion, generic and epistemological hesitations, which are bound up with these novels’representation of time and history, are also due to the disruption of linear time implied in the métonymic and typological approach to this event. Depicting the Rebellion is a way of assessing the Union of 1801, it is also a way of judging the French Revolution, which is very much the type, the figura, in the hermeneutic sense of the term, of the Rebellion—not just because the rebellion was inspired by the ideas of the first revolutionaries, but because the later event is a structural variation on the earlier one, without reference to which it does not take on its full meaning. There is something fundamentally a-historical about this approach to events. I am not saying that it completely dehistoricises the novels I have been discussing; indeed, I have tried to show that they manifested a new apprehension of time (which is sometimes reminiscent of what Defoe was trying to do in his fiction), but it certainly has an a-chronic dimension. In the last chapter of her novel Lady Morgan makes explicit this approach to history, already implicit in the fact that her two protagonists, Murrough O’Brien and Beavoin O’Flaherty, had ancestors bearing the same names as they do, who also loved each other, when she states that “France in 1802, typified by England in 1660, beheld in Napoleon Bonaparte another Monk” (O’B & O’F 554). The Rebellion, in this reading, becomes a type of the Union, and the Union is read through the Rebellion and the French Revolution. The disruption that is a rebellion, the rupture of linear time, makes the use of typology easier. This rupture may also explain why the tales of the Rebellion do not resort to the spatialisation of time found in many national tales and historical novels— The Wild Irish Girl and Waverley being canonical examples.

  • 14 Significantly, Liz Bellamy generalises about Scottish and Irish regional fiction, though her only S (...)

17Four out of the five novels I have looked at end with marital unions (only The Milesian Chief ends in general calamity, the marriage of Lady Montclare, a member of the Ascendancy, and Randall O’Morven, a Milesian, being presented as a failure and a fraud). However, this does not indicate approval of the legislative union, because of the experience of the years which elapsed between 1801 and the time of writing, as well as because of the operation of the métonymic logic I have described. The Croppy’s confused plotting and contradictions reflect Michael Banim’s conflicting aims to please an English audience and not to appear sectarian, but ultimately, the novel suggests that the Union is only viable if it is accompanied by large-scale reform. Maturin’s imaginary rebellion of the first decade of the nineteenth century suggests that the Union has not alleviated poverty—peasants are shown who live in hovels—and has not brought the various communities closer together. Similarly in The Insurgent Chief the praise of Grattan, who “obtained our free trade and independent parliament” (IC I: 246) is an implicit condemnation of the Union. And in Lady Morgan’s novel the narrator refers to the period of the Act of Union as “that fatal period” (O’B & O’F 186). So I cannot agree with Liz Bellamy when she says that “the evolution of the regional novel stands as a symptom of the emergence of a sense of British identity confident enough to seek legitimation in the propagation of images of Irishness and Scottishness” (Bellamy 73). This may be true of Walter Scott’s and John Gait’s fiction, for instance, but it is not of the authors I have been discussing.14 In their novels, Britishness remains highly problematic.

18Ironically, it is the problematic link between England and its Celtic peripheries which drove forward the genre of the novel: the role of Walter Scott’s fiction has been studied at length, not least by Lukacs, but the part played by the national tale may not have been unimportant, as its hybridity, while it had no immediate descendants, looked forward to the twentieth century. Moreover, the national tale problematises the tension between history and myth, between romance and novel, its figurai logic being the conceptual engine that helps understand that a clear-cut distinction between those supposed antagonists is impossible. Because the Irish past could not be fully historicised, the national tale could not quite find itself, just as the Irish nation could not find itself.



Banim Michael, The Croppy; A Tale of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, By the O’Hara Family, 1828. Ed. Michael Banim. New York, Sadlier, n. d.

Bellamy Liz, “Regionalism and nationalism: Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott and the definition of Britishness”, Snell 54-77.

Brown Stephen J., Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish novels, tales, romances, and folk-lore, Dublin, Maunsel, 1916.

Dunne Tom, “Representations of Rebellion: 1798 in Literature”, Smith 14-40.

Edgeworth Maria, Ennui, 1809, Tales and Novels by Maria Edgeworth, Vol. 6. London, Baldwin and Cradock, 1832.

Ferris Ina, The Romantic National Tale and the Question of Ireland, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2002.

Flanagan Thomas, The Irish Novelists 1800-1850, New York, Columbia UP, 1959.

Jeffares A. Norman, “Maturin the Innovator”, Images of Invention: Essays on Irish Writing, Gerrards Cross, Colin Smythe, 1996.131-49.

[Lister T. H.] Review essay on “Novels Descriptive of Irish Life”, Edinburgh Review 52 (1831): 410-31.

Maturin Charles Robert, The Milesian Chief. A Romance, 1812. 4 vols. New York, Garland Reprints, 1979.

[McHenry James.] The Insurgent Chief; or, O’Halloran. An Irish Historical tale of 1798. By Solomon Secondsight... 3 vols. Philadelphia, Carey and Lea, 1824.

[Moore Thomas.] Review essay on “Irish Novels”, Edinburgh Review 43 (1826): 356-72.

Morgan Sydney, The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys. A National Tale, 1827. London, Pandora, 1988.

Myers Mitzi, “‘Completing the Union’: Critical Ennui, the Politics of Narrative, and the Reformation of Irish Cutural Identity”, Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism 18.3 (Dec. 1995): 41-77.

—, “‘Like the Pictures in a Magic Lantern’: Gender, History, and Edgeworth’s Rebellion Narratives”, Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal 19.4 (1996): 373-412.

Parnell William, Maurice and Berghetta; or, the Priest of Rahery, London, Rowland Hunter, 1819.

Review of Tales by the O’Hara Family. Monthly Magazine 59 (1825): 359.

Review of The Milesian Chief. Monthly Review, ns, 67 (March 1812): 322-23.

Scott Walter, “General Preface” to the Magnum Opus edition of the Waverley Novels, Waverley. Ed. Andrew Hook. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972. 519-33.

Smith F. B., ed. Ireland, England, and Australia: Essays in Honour of Oliver MacDonagh, Canberra, Australian National U, 1990.

Snell K. D. M., ed. The Regional Novel in Britain and Ireland, 1800-1990. Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1998.

Trumpener Katie, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire, Princeton, Princeton UP, 1997.


1 Stephen Brown, in his 1916 bibliography lists a few novels, all written after the period here under review, which deal with the Act of Union; the novel with the most pointed title is Ill-Won Peerages, or an unhallowed Union, by M. L. O’Byrne, published in 1884.

2 References to the novels will be given in abridged form: Ε for Ennui, MC for The Milesian Chief, IC for The Insurgent Chief O’B and O’F for The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys, and C for The Croppy. When a novel is in several volumes, the volume number is given in Roman numerals. See MC I: 143.

3 A dialogue which takes place towards the end of the book makes it clear that, with his democratic beliefs, Murrough O’Brien would have taken part in the Rebellion, had he not been on the Continent at the time (O’B & O’F 559).

4 In Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire, page 325, note 11, Katie Trumpener states that William Pamell’s Maurice and Berghetta deals with the 1798 Rebellion, but it is actually set in the late 17th century, as some references to French and Spanish court life make clear.

5 My corpus is nearly comprehensive—I was unable to read O’Hara, or 1798, by William Hamilton Maxwell, published in 1825—and includes all national tales dealing with the Rebellion by the authors who were considered important by the Edinburgh Review in the two articles it devoted to Irish fiction in 1826 (Moore) and 1831 (Lister).

6 Comparison also seems called for on the ground that Scott himself famously said in the Postscript to Waverley and in the General Preface to the Magnum Opus edition of the Waverley Novels (1829) that Maria Edgeworth had provided the impetus for his own fiction.

7 This is the OED’s definition of “croppy”: “One who has his hair cropped short, applied esp. to the Irish rebels of 1798, who wore their hair cut very short as a sign of sympathy with the French Revolution.”

8 What Thomas Flanagan says about the nineteenth century applies just as well to a slightly earlier period: “The Ireland of the nineteenth century was a fragmented culture, a dismaying and complicated tangle of classes, creeds, loyalties, and aspirations” (Flanagan ix).

9 Mitzi Myers also discusses the ending of Ennui in “‘Like the Pictures in a Magic Lantern’: Gender, History, and Edgeworth’s Rebellion Narratives”

10 Interestingly, the man who foments rebellion on Glenthorn’s estate is Joe Kelly, his valet, who is too much of a “typical” Irishman—too garrulous, too jolly—to be a “genuine” Irishman and an honest man.

11 For a slightly different approach to the handling of time in this novel, see Ferns 91-2.

12 The same point had been made about the effect his reading of the “Annals of St Grellan” had had on Murrough O’Brien:
In the fables of national vanity and poetical hyperbole, he had then [before reading the annals] seen only a race of saints and heroes, perfect as the types of martyrology, and ideal as the chiefs of Ossian’s poetic strains. He now saw them as they were, a barbarous people, checked in their natural progress towards civilisation by a foreign government, to the full as barbarous as themselves; their boasted learning, a tissue of monkish legends; their government, the rudest form of the worst of human institutions... (O’B & O’F231)
The phrase “fable of national vanity and poetical hyperbole” would be a fairly apt description of The Wild Irish Girl.

13 Indeed, ultimately, the occurrence of the rebellion in The Milesian Chief is attributed to the vindictiveness of Wandesford, Connal’s rival for the love of Armida.

14 Significantly, Liz Bellamy generalises about Scottish and Irish regional fiction, though her only Scottish example is Walter Scott, and the only Irish novel she looks at is Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent.


Université François-Rabelais de Tours
Professor of English Literature and the History of ideas at the University of Tours. She has published widely on fiction from 1760 to 1825, focusing in recent years on the epistemology of the paradigm of sensibility. She recently contributed three chapters on the reception of Jane Austen in France to a collection of essays on the reception of Jane Austen in Europe edited by Brian Southam, to be published in 2006 by Continuum

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2005

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