By Mary Jean Corbett
Corbett explores fictional and nonfictional representations of Ireland's dating with England during the 19th century. She considers the makes use of of familial and family metaphors in structuring narratives that enact the ''union'' of britain and eire. Corbett situates her readings of novels by way of Edgeworth, Gaskell, and Trollope, and writings through Burke, Engels, and Mill, in the various old contexts that form them. She revises the serious orthodoxies surrounding colonial discourse that at the moment be successful in Irish and English experiences, and gives a clean viewpoint on vital features of Victorian tradition.
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Additional resources for Allegories of Union in Irish and English Writing, 1790-1870: Politics, History, and the Family from Edgeworth to Arnold
It would be diﬃcult to overestimate the importance of Burke’s analysis in shaping liberal discourse on Ireland in the nineteenth century: it takes hold formally and ideologically in the literary ﬁctions of Edgeworth and Owenson, and in the political ﬁctions of Mill, Arnold, and other Victorian intellectuals. While it has been the fashion in some quarters to Allegories of Union in Irish and English writing dismiss Burke for the positions he took, his writings should be central to any investigation of English ﬁctions about Ireland if only because he looked steadily at the causes of catholic Irish disaﬀection and located them not in essentializing concepts of race or religion, but in the damages done to the many in the interests of the few: the penal laws ‘‘divided the nation into two distinct bodies, without common interest, sympathy or connexion; one of which bodies was to possess all the franchises, all the property, all the education’’ (Writings and Speeches ).
Their families should be reduced to obscurity and indigance [sic], without a possibility that they should be restored by any exertion of industry or ability, being disabled . . from every species of permanent acquisition’’ (Writings and Speeches ), with ‘‘industry’’ and ‘‘ability,’’ balanced by the ‘‘permanent acquisition’’ that primogeniture enables, being precisely the Burkean recipe for the stable family/state. ‘‘Deprived of the right of Settlement, no person who is the object of these Laws, is enabled to advance himself in fortune or connection by Marriage’’ (Writings and Speeches ), thus shutting oﬀ another route for catholic men to consolidate landed power and the cultural and political authority that accrued to it.
And if the feminine proprieties – ‘‘the pleasing illusions,’’ ‘‘the sentiments which beautify and soften private society,’’ ‘‘all the decent drapery of life’’ () – that should restrain masculine energy were to be cast aside, either by men or by women themselves, then the result in Burke’s estimation would be the destruction of civil society. Thus Burke’s emphasis on securing a ‘‘family settlement’’ of property and government also involves settling the aﬀective and libidinal forces at work among women and men in and on particular individuals, be they husbands, wives, or children.
Allegories of Union in Irish and English Writing, 1790-1870: Politics, History, and the Family from Edgeworth to Arnold by Mary Jean Corbett