Maria Edgeworth: Overview

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Author: Staci L. Stone
Editor: Pamela Kester-Shelton
Date: 1996
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 803 words

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Her nine novels, several essays, and numerous children's stories made Maria Edgeworth one of the most popular authors of her time and, as Marilyn Butler points out in Maria Edgeworth: A Literary Biography, "the most commercially successful," rivalled only by Walter Scott. Edgeworth was not only esteemed by the masses of middle-class readers who thronged the circulating libraries, making "Novels by Miss Edgeworth, and Moral and Religious Novels" a book category label, but contemporary authors and critics also praised her work. Although Edgeworth is known today for creating the regional novel, a form later popularized by Scott, she should also be recognized for a vision that produced strong heroines, influencing such later novelists as Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot.

Edgeworth, who was already writing by the age of 12 and penned tales for children in the late 1780s, first published in 1795. Letters for Literary Ladies is an epistolary treatise that insists on the importance of female education. The book is comprised of two series of letters—"Letter from a Gentleman upon the Birth of a Daughter, with the Answer" and "Letters of Julia and Caroline"—and "An Essay on the Noble Science of Self-Justification." Perhaps Edgeworth's most forthright defense...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420002531