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A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Edgeworth, Maria

Edgeworth, Maria (1767-1849). -- Novelist, only child of Richard E., of Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, was b. near Reading. Her f., who was himself a writer on education and mechanics, bestowed much attention on her education. She showed early promise of distinction, and assisted her f. in his literary labours, especially in Practical Education and Essay on Irish Bulls (1802). She soon discovered that her strength lay in fiction, and from 1800, when her first novel, Castle Rackrent, appeared, until 1834, when her last, Helen, was pub., she continued to produce a series of novels and tales characterised by ingenuity of invention, humour, and acute delineation of character. Notwithstanding a tendency to be didactic, and the presence of a "purpose" in most of her writings, their genuine talent and interest secured for them a wide popularity. It was the success of Miss E. in delineating Irish character that suggested to Sir W. Scott the idea of rendering a similar service to Scotland. Miss E., who had great practical ability, was able to render much aid during the Irish famine. In addition to the works above mentioned, she wrote Moral Tales and Belinda (1801), Leonora (1806), Tales of Fashionable Life (1809 and 1812), and a Memoir of her f.