Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-7j4dq Total loading time: 0.472 Render date: 2022-10-04T21:10:16.141Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

11 - Prose writing and drama in English, 1830–1890: from Catholic emancipation to the fall of Parnell

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Margaret Kelleher
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Philip O'Leary
Boston College, Massachusetts
Get access


The 1830s have been termed by some commentators as the decade in which Irish fiction faced collapse, and, in support of this view, critics commonly cite a letter written by Maria Edgeworth in 1834, the year in which Helen, her last novel, was published. Writing from her home in Edgeworthstown to her brother Michael Pakenham Edgeworth in India, the novelist observed: ‘It is impossible to draw Ireland as she now is in a book of fiction – realities are too strong, party passions too violent to bear to see, or care to look at their faces in the looking-glass. The people would only break the glass, and curse the fool who held the mirror up to nature – distorted nature, in a fever.’ As chapters 8 and 10 by Ross and Connolly have shown, by 1830 Ireland was well established as a locale for fiction and Irish fiction was firmly embedded within emerging definitions of realism – trends exemplified by the success of Edgeworth’s writings. While the remarks quoted above spell the end of her own novel-writing career, they greatly underestimate the tenacity of Irish fiction. Five years earlier, in an address ‘to the reader’ which prefaced her Book of the Boudoir (1829), Sydney Owenson had delivered a more accurate prediction of the future for Irish writing: ‘Among the multitudinous effects of catholic emancipation, I do not hesitate to predict a change in the character of Irish authorship.’

However, with the exception of the much-cited William Carleton and the undervalued George Moore, the period of 1830 to 1890 is still not readily identifiable through major prose writers or dramatists, and many of the most popular authors of the time – Charles Lever, Anna Maria Hall and Hubert O’Grady, for example – fared badly in subsequent criticism.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1902; cited in Moynaghan, JulianAnglo-Irish: The Literary Imagination in a Hyphenated Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
Anon., , History of the Theatre Royal Dublin (Dublin: Ponsonby, 1870).Google Scholar
Armstrong, NancyDesire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
Arnold, MatthewOn the Study of Celtic Literature (London: Smith and Elder, 1867).Google Scholar
Backus, Margot GayleThe Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice, and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
Bareham, TonyIntroduction’ to Bareham, , ed. Charles Lever: New Evaluations (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1991).Google Scholar
Bareham, Tony, ed. Charles Lever: New Evaluations, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1991.Google Scholar
Belanger, Jacqueline, ed. The Irish Novel in the Nineteenth Century: Facts and Fictions, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Benson, CharlesPrinters and Booksellers in Dublin 1800–1850’, in Myers, Robin and Harris, Michael, eds. Spreading the Word: The Distribution Networks of Print, 1550–1850 (Winchester: St Paul’s Bibliographies, 1990).Google Scholar
Black, HelenNotable Women Authors of the Day (Glasgow: Bryce, 1893).Google Scholar
Bowen, Elizabeth preface to Uncle Silas (London: Cresset Press, 1947), reproduced in The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen, selected and introduced by Lee, Hermione (London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986).Google Scholar
Brew, MargaretThe Chronicles of Castle Cloyne, 3 vols. (1884; reprinted New York: Garland Press, 1979), I.Google Scholar
Brewer, Betty“She Was a Part of It”: Emily Lawless, 1845–1913;’, Éire-Ireland 18, 4 (1983).Google Scholar
British Critical Reception of Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Fiction’, in Zach, Wolfgang and Kosok, Heinz, eds. Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World, 3 vols. (Tübingen: G. Narr, 1987), I.Google Scholar
Carleton, WilliamGeneral Introduction’, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, new edn, 2 vols. (Dublin and London: Curry and Orr, 1843–4), I.Google Scholar
Carleton, WilliamAutobiography (1896; new edition Belfast: White Row Press, 1996).Google Scholar
Carleton, WilliamThe Black Prophet (1847; Shannon: Irish Academic Press, 1972).Google Scholar
Carleton, William, Autobiography, first published 1896, new edition Belfast: White Row Press, 1996, with a foreword by Kiely, Benedict.Google Scholar
Carlyle, ThomasChartism’ (1839); reprinted in Carlyle, Thomas, English and Other Critical Essays (London: Dent, 1964).Google Scholar
Cole, John WilliamDramatic Writers of Ireland, I’, DUM 45 (January 1855).Google Scholar
Cole, , ‘Dramatic Writers of Ireland, XI’, DUM 47 (March 1856).Google Scholar
Comerford, R. V.Charles J. Kickham: A Study in Irish Nationalism and Literature (Dublin: Wolfhound, 1979).Google Scholar
Corbett, Mary JeanAllegories of Union in Irish and English Writing, 1790–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Beaumont, GustaveIreland: Social, Political and Religious, trans. Taylor, W. C., 2 vols. (London: Bentley, 1839), I.Google Scholar
De Beaumont, , Ireland, I. Kohl, J. G., Travels in Ireland (1843; trans. London: Bruce and Wyld, 1844).Google Scholar
Deane, , Celtic Revivals (1985; Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
Deane, SeamusA Short History of Irish Literature (London: Hutchinson, 1986)Google Scholar
Deane, Seamus, Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Duffy, Charles GavanConversations with Carlyle (London: Sampson Low, 1892).Google Scholar
DUM 6 (December 1835); cited by Hall, WayneDialogues in the Margin: A Study of the Dublin University Magazine (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1999).Google Scholar
Eagleton, TerryHeathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture (London: Verso, 1995).Google Scholar
Edgeworth, Maria to Edgeworth, Michael Pakenham, 19 February 1834; reproduced in Edgeworth, Frances, A Memoir of Maria Edgeworth, 3 vols. (privately printed, 1867), III.Google Scholar
Egan, MauriceOn Irish Novels’ (1904), reprinted in McCarthy, Justin, editor in chief, Irish Literature, 10 vols. (Philadelphia: Morris, 1904), V.Google Scholar
Ferris, InaThe Romantic National Tale and the Question of Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fitz-Simon, ChristopherThe Irish Theatre (London: Thames and Hudson, 1983).Google Scholar
Flanagan, ThomasLiterature in English, 1801–91’, in Vaughan, W. E., ed. New History of Ireland, vol. V: Ireland under the Union I, 1801–1870 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).Google Scholar
Frazier, Adrian, George Moore: 1852–1933, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
Frazier’s, Adrian invaluable biography, George Moore: 1852–1933 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
Froude, J.A. preface to Thomas Carlyle, Reminiscences of My Irish Journey in 1849 (London: Sampson Low, 1882).Google Scholar
Gladstone, William E.Special Aspects of the Irish Question: A Series of Reflections in and since 1886 (1892; London: The Daily Chronicle, 1912).Google Scholar
Gwynn, StephenNovels of Irish Life in the Nineteenth Century’ (1897), reprinted in his Irish Books and Irish People (Dublin: Talbot, 1919).Google Scholar
Hall, Wayne, Dialogues in the Margin: A Study of the Dublin University Magazine, Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1999.Google Scholar
Hayley, Barbara, ‘A Reading and Thinking Nation: Periodicals as the Voice of Nineteenth-Century Ireland’, in Hayley, Barbara and McKay, Enda, eds. Three Hundred Years of Irish Periodicals, Mullingar: Lilliput Press, 1987.Google Scholar
Hayley, Barbara, ‘British Critical Reception of Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Fiction’, in Zach, Wolfgang and Kosok, Heinz, eds. Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World, 3 vols. Tübingen: G. Narr, 1987, I.Google Scholar
Hayley, Barbara, Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Tradition, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1983.Google Scholar
Herr, CherylFor the Land They Loved: Irish Political Melodramas, 1890–1925 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
Hooper, Glenn, ed. The Tourist’s Gaze: Travellers to Ireland, 1800–200, Cork: Cork University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
Hooper, Glenn ed. Letters from Ireland: Harriet Martineau (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2001).Google Scholar
Jeffares, A. NormanYeats and the Wrong Lever’, in Jeffares, , ed. Yeats, Sligo and Ireland (Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1980).Google Scholar
Keane, MaureenMrs S. C. Hall : A Literary Biography (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1997).Google Scholar
Keary, ElizaMemoir of Annie Keary (London: Macmillan, 1882).Google Scholar
Kelleher, Margaret, ‘The Cabinet of Irish Literature: A Historical Perspective on Irish Anthologies’, Éire-Ireland 38 (2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelleher, Margaret, ‘Women’s Fiction, 1845–1900’, in Bourke, A., Kilfeather, S., Luddy, M., Mac Curtain, M., Meaney, G., Dhonnchadha, M., O’Dowd, M. and Wills, C., eds. Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, vols. IV and V: lrish Women’s Writing and Traditions, Cork: Cork University Press, 2002, V.Google Scholar
Kelleher, MargaretThe Feminization of Famine: Expressions of the Inexpressible? (Cork and Durham, NC: Cork University Press and Duke University Press, 1997), chapter 2.Google Scholar
Kelleher, Margaret“Wanted an Irish Novelist”: The Critical Decline of the Nineteenth-Century Novel’, in Belanger, Jacqueline, ed. The Irish Novel in the Nineteenth Century: Facts and Fictions (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005).Google Scholar
Kelleher, MargaretCharlotte Riddell’s A Struggle for Fame: The Field of Women’s Literary Production;’, Colby Quarterly 36, 2 (2000).Google Scholar
Kosok, HeinzThe Image of Ireland in Nineteenth-Century Drama’, in Genet, Jacqueline and Cave, Richard Allen, eds. Perspectives of Irish Drama and Theatre, Irish Literary Studies XXXIII (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1991).Google Scholar
Laird, Heather, Subversive Law in Ireland: 1879–1920, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Lawless, EmilyHurrish (1886; republished Belfast: Appletree Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Le Fanu, , The Cock and Anchor, 3 vols. (1845; reprinted New York: Garland Press, 1979), I.Google Scholar
Le Fanu, , The House by the Churchyard (1863; reprinted Belfast: Appletree Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Letters, Speeches and Tracts on Irish Affairs by Edmund Burke, collected and arranged by Arnold, Matthew (London: Macmillan, 1881), preface. Republished as Irish Affairs: Edmund Burke, with an introduction by Conor O’Brien, Cruise (London: Cresset, 1988).Google Scholar
Lever, CharlesLord Kilgobbin (1872; republished Belfast: Appletree Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Levey, R.M. and O’Rorke, J., Annals of the Theatre Royal, Dublin (Dublin: Dollard, 1880).Google Scholar
Lloyd, David, Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Post-Colonial Moment, Dublin: Lilliput, 1993.Google Scholar
Maria Hall, AnnaThe Whiteboy, 2 vols. (1845; reprinted New York: Garland Press, 1979), II.Google Scholar
Martin, Amy E., ‘Blood Transfusions: Constructions of Irish Racial Difference, the English Working Class, and Revolutionary Possibility in the Work of Carlyle and Engels;’, Victorian Literature and Culture 32, 1 (2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCormack, W. J.Past and Present State of Literature in Ireland’, Dublin University Magazine (DUM) 9 (March 1837)Google Scholar
McCormack, W. J.The Intellectual Revival (1830–1850)’, in Deane, Seamus, general ed. The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 3 vols. (Derry: Field Day, 1991), I.Google Scholar
McCormack, W. J.Sheridan Le Fanu and Victorian Ireland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980; 2nd edn, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1991).Google Scholar
McCormack, W. J., ‘The Intellectual Revival (1830–1850)’, in Deane, Seamus, general ed. The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 3 vols. Derry: Field Day, 1991.Google Scholar
McCormack, W. J., Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish History 1789–1939, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985; revised and enlarged edition: From Burke to Beckett: Ascendancy, Tradition and Betrayal in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939, Cork: Cork University Press, 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meaney, GerardineDecadence, Degeneration and Revolting Aesthetics: The Fiction of Emily Lawless and Katherine Cecil Thurston;’, Colby Quarterly 36, 2 (2000).Google Scholar
Meisel, MartinShaw and the Nineteenth-Century Theatre (Oxford and Princeton: Oxford University Press and Princeton University Press, 1963).Google Scholar
Mill, John StuartEngland and Ireland’ (1868), republished in Robson, John M., ed. Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, 33 vols. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), VI.Google Scholar
Moore, GeorgeA Drama in Muslin (1886; republished Belfast: Appletree Press, 1992).Google Scholar
Moore, GeorgeParnell and His Island, ed. King, Carla (1887; new edition Dublin: Classics in Irish History series, University College Dublin Press, 2004).Google Scholar
Morash, Christopher, A History of Irish Theatre 1601–2000, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
Morash, Christopher, Writing the Irish Famine, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morgan, Lady (Sydney Owenson), The Book of the Boudoir, 2 vols. (London: Henry Colburn, 1829), I.Google Scholar
Mulholland, RosaWanted an Irish Novelist’, Irish Monthly 19 (July 1891).Google Scholar
Murphy, James H., Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873–1922 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997).Google Scholar
Murphy, James H., Ireland: A Social, Cultural and Literary History, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002.Google Scholar
O’Brien, R. Barry ed. Best Hundred Irish Books by ‘Historicus’ (Dublin: privately printed by the Freeman’s Journal, 1886).Google Scholar
Foster, R. F., ‘Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History’, in Foster, , Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (London: Penguin, 1993)Google Scholar
Read, Charles and O’Connor, T. P., eds. The Cabinet of Irish Literature, 4 vols. (London and Glasgow: Blackie, 1879–80), IV.Google Scholar
Russell, Matthew [early] December 1889; reprinted in The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, vol. I: 1865–1895, ed. Kelly, John (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).Google Scholar
Ryder, Seán, ‘Literature in English’, in Geary, L. and Kelleher, M., eds. Nineteenth-Century Ireland: A Guide to Recent Research, Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Samuel, and Hall, Anna, Ireland: Its Scenery and Character, 3 vols. (London: How and Parsons, 1841–3), I.Google Scholar
Sutherland, JohnVictorian Novelists and Publishers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976); cited in Haddelsey, S. P., Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 2000).Google Scholar
Thackeray, William M., The Irish Sketchbook 1842 (1843; Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1990).Google Scholar
Tonna, CharlotteThe Rockites (London: Nisbet, 1829).Google Scholar
Trollope, AnthonyCastle Richmond (1860; Oxford: World’s Classics, 1989).Google Scholar
Vance, NormanIrish Literature since 1800 (London: Longman, 2002).Google Scholar
Vance, Norman, Irish Literature: A Social History, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1990; new edition 1999.Google Scholar
Watt, StephenJoyce, O’Casey and the Irish Popular Theatre (Syracuse NY: Syracuse, University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
Watt, StephenThe Plays of Hubert O’Grady’, Journal of Irish Literature 14, 1 (1985)Google Scholar
Woolf, Robert Lee introduction to new edition of May Laffan (Hartley), Flitters, Tatters and the Counsellor and Other Sketches (1881; New York: Garland Press, 1989).Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.First Principles’, Samhain 7 (November 1908); reprinted in Explorations (1962; London: Macmillan, 1989).Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.Irish National Literature, II: Contemporary Prose Writers’, The Bookman (August 1895); reprinted in Frayne, , Uncollected Prose, I.Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.Popular Ballad Poetry of Ireland’ (1889), reprinted in Frayne, John P., ed. Uncollected Prose by W. B. Yeats, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1970), I.Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.Irish Monthly Magazine 1, 5 (September 1832).Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats