OWENSON, Miss. Patriotic Sketches of Ireland, written in Connaught. Two volumes.


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OWENSON, Miss. Patriotic Sketches of Ireland, written in Connaught. Two volumes. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge-Street, Blackfriars, By T. Gillet, Wild-Court, 1807. pp. (1) [iii], xii, 178 (2) [iii], 162, [163-168 (books recently published by R. Phillips)]. Contemporary half calf over marbled boards, spine divided into six compartments by double gilt fillets, title in gilt on red morocco label in the second with volume number in gilt direct in the fourth. A very good set of an extremely rare item.

No printed version located on COPAC. WorldCat 2. Not in Woulf or Sadleir.

Sydney Owenson, (Lady Morgan) (c.1783-1859), novelist and literary celebrity, was born in Dublin. Her father, the Mayo-born Robert Owenson [originally Mac Eóin (Hughes?)], was an actor whose native command of Irish ensured his success with 'stage Irish' characters; her mother, Jane Hill, was from a Shrewsbury protestant family. Owenson was notoriously coy about her age; her date of birth may have been anywhere between 1778 and 1785. In her youth she imbibed the theatrical flamboyance and the Irish-patriotic politics of her father, who ran a 'national theatre' in Fishamble Street, Dublin. Her harp-playing, which became her trademark in later life, was already featured in the Irish-patriotic performances of this theatre.

Owenson's early activities followed the recent Irish rediscovery of the harp as the national instrument. A small volume of verse, published in 1807, was titled The Lay of an Irish Harp (see item 96); in 1805 she had published Twelve Original Hibernian Melodies, which foreshadowed Moore's Irish Melodies by three years. The topic of a harp-playing young woman as the spokeswoman of her nation was also central to her first and best-remembered novel in 1806, The Wild Irish Girl (see item 95). More romantic and romance-like than Maria Edgeworth's social satire Castle Rackrent (1800), The Wild Irish Girl became the prototype of a new kind of Ireland-related fiction: the National Tale. This genre, which flourished in the years between the Act of Union and Catholic Emancipation, and of which, besides Owenson, the main representatives are Charles Maturin and the brothers John Banim and Michael Banim, combines stirring incident and local-historical colour with the political agenda of disenchanted Grattanite patriotism, denouncing the exploitation and oppression of Ireland and its native peasantry.


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