The Irish Historical background seen through the Perspective of Maria Edgeworth

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Edgeworth was greatly inspired by the Enlightenment movement of eighteenth century Britain mainly due to her father’s active involvement in it. During this period, Edgeworth came in close contact with leading intellectual and literary figures of various places she travelled. Especially, her French connection and inspiration is part of it reflecting in her woman education-oriented narratives. Although significant events in Irish History made a great impact on Edgeworth’s literary works, four major historical events seem to have deeper reflection on her work and age. These events are: the Plantation and Penal Laws (1691-1778), the Protestant Ascendancy (1775-1800), the Act of Union (1801) and the rise of Irish Nationalism (1800-1847).Public writing was not the only approach Maria Edgeworth used to express her views, displeasures, suggestions and ideas about the four major events described above in her generation. Of course, Maria Edgeworth’s public writings were mainly characterised by the event in Ireland’s history but she also had personal forms of making her perceptions evident. What prompted Maria Edgeworth to write on the socio-political and other cultural events was the influence these events and eras had in her personal life and her family. As the daughter of a political feature, the four major events had adverse and for that matter negative influence on Maria Edgeworth and her family. She therefore reserved space in our life to do private articulation of her opinions by keeping person notes and through letters she wrote to friends and relatives even though these were not coherent and chronological. Gamer (2001) for instance quotes Marilyn Butler saying, An objective interest in human nature and the way it manifests itself in social custom no doubt lies behind Maria Edgeworth’s liking for facts. But she never makes a general declaration of this kind. The facts in the notebooks do not coalesce with one another or provoke trains of thought. They are merely evidence of a jackdaw-like attitude towards examples of human behaviour. (Gamer, 2001) Most critics of Maria Edgeworth admit that her private notes, letters and even conversation with friends and relation gives a better picture of how she perceived Ireland in her generation than do her public writings such as novels. This is so because they believe personal notes and letters are a more intimate ways of experiencing once view than are public writings. 1. The Plantation and Penal Laws (1691-1778) Plantations of Ireland is the outcome of colonialism in Ireland by the settlers from England and Scotland. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the government of England began confiscation of Ireland under the establishment of the Plantations. Moody and Martin (1984) provide a wider scope of the Plantations and Penal Codes in Irish History. The early Plantations are said to be dated back from the middle of sixteenth century based on small exemplary colonies. However, the later Plantations were based on mass confiscations of land from Irish landowners as well as importation of large numbers of settlers from England, Scotland and Wales. The establishment under Plantations also led to significant migration into Ireland from Britain