The gothic novel in Ireland, 1760–1830 offers a compelling account of the development of gothic literature in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Ireland. Against traditional scholarly understandings of Irish gothic fiction as a largely late-nineteenth century development, this study recovers to view a whole body of Irish literary production too often overlooked today. Its robust examination of primary texts, the contexts in which they were produced, and the critical perspectives from which they have been analysed yields a rigorous account of the largely retrospective formal and generic classifications that have worked to eliminate eighteenth-century and Romantic-era Irish fiction from the history of gothic literature. The works assessed here powerfully demonstrate that what we now understand as typical of ‘the gothic novel’– medieval, Catholic Continental settings; supernatural figures and events; an interest in the assertion of British modernity – is not necessarily what eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers or writers would have identified as ‘gothic’. They moreover point to the manner in which scholarly focus on the national tale and allied genres has effected an erasure of the continued production and influence of gothic literature in Romantic Ireland. Combining quantitative analysis with meticulous qualitative readings of a selection of representative texts, this book sketches a new formal, generic, and ideological map of gothic literary production in this period. As it does so, it persuasively positions Irish works and authors at the centre of a newly understood paradigm of the development of the literary gothic across Ireland, Britain, and Europe between 1760 and 1830.
Romances, novels, and the classifications of Irish Romantic fiction
than not turns all forms of literature, factual or fictional, into latent threats.
The final section of this chapter turns attention to one of the leading formal classifications of Romantic-era fiction that has led to the continued neglect of Irish gothic literature in this period: the recognition of the ‘nationaltale’ as distinct from ‘the Gothic novel’. Pioneered by Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan in 1806, the nationaltale has become a major focal point in scholarship of Irish Romantic fiction, designated as a new literary form
The cartographic consciousness of Irish gothic fiction
significant unions associated with the nationaltale. Similarly, its attempts to inform its (English) readers about Ireland and its people through lengthy descriptions of Irish landscape as well as explanatory details about Irish language and folklore, recall Castle Rackrent 's glossary and foreshadow Owenson's dense use of topographical and antiquarian material to establish Ireland's cultural significance in The wild Irish girl (1806).
As in the cases of Roche's The children of the abbey (1796) and Cullen's The castle of Inchvally (1796), The
overlaps between gothic fictions and apparently distinct forms such as the historical novel and the nationaltale, and positioning the literary gothic not as the disreputable, popular output of hack writers unworthy of cultural memory but as an invaluable body of widely read literature vital to the transnational development of nineteenth-century literature and culture.
The aim of this book has been to outline a new model of gothic literary production reflective of these realities without falling prey either to the trap of unnecessarily limiting
is far from an innocent victim. Instead, he is actively presented as an unsympathetic, if not hateful, character for much of the story. At the same time, his reconciliation with his wife shortly after she sees his ‘ghost’ and realises that he has survived the attack against him, coincident to his own personal reformation, gestures towards the allegorical unions of the later Irish nationaltale, as popularised by Sydney Owenson's The wild Irish girl (1806) (‘Conjugal fidelity’, p. 184). By vilifying the prominent Protestant character in the story and by suggesting
Regina Maria Roche, the Minerva Press, and the bibliographic spread of Irish gothic fiction
rightful position in Ireland through marriage, much as in the nationaltale popularised by Owenson and Edgeworth ( The castle chapel , vol. 1, p. 258). As noted at the start of this chapter, though, O’Neil's projected union with Rose Cormack never comes to pass. Suffering from scruples over their pre-marital intimacy and the subsequent birth and death of their child, Rose feels ‘unworthy of associating with those she loved’ and resolves to retire to solitude, after having signed over her fortune and estates to the O’Neil family ( The castle chapel , vol. 3, p. 24). But
‘Gothicism’, ‘historicism’, and the overlap of fictional modes from Thomas Leland to Walter Scott
nationaltale: hidden origins of Scott's Waverley ’, Nineteenth-century literature , 46.1 (1991), 30–53; Ian Duncan, Modern romance and transformations of the novel: the gothic, Scott, Dickens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Fiona Robertson, Legitimate histories: Scott, gothic, and the authorities of fiction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994); and Michael Gamer, Romanticism and the gothic: genre, reception, and canon formation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), particularly Chapter 5, ‘ “To foist thy stale romance”: Scott, antiquarianism