By Mary Jean Corbett
Corbett explores fictional and nonfictional representations of Ireland's courting 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 through Edgeworth, Gaskell, and Trollope, and writings via Burke, Engels, and Mill, in the various historic contexts that form them. She revises the severe orthodoxies surrounding colonial discourse that at the moment succeed in Irish and English reports, and provides a clean viewpoint on very important points of Victorian tradition.
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Extra info for Allegories of Union in Irish and English Writing, 1790-1870: Politics, History, and the Family from Edgeworth to Arnold
For Padel, writing from another position, albeit also as a stranger, there is a diﬀerent kind of responsibility in traveling as she does, literally and metaphorically, between England and Ulster. Her representations of the travels and travails of the colonial Irish past – as in a poem called ‘‘Conn’’ on the Flight of the Earls, an historical trauma that ‘‘every Irish child / counts back from / and no English kid’s ever known’’ (–) – are framed by a parallel experience of ignorance and indiﬀerence in the present.
This servitude, which makes men subject to a state without being citizens, may be more or less tolerable from many circumstances: but these circumstances, more or less favourable, do not alter the nature of the thing. The mildness by which absolute masters exercise their dominion, leaves them masters still. (Writings and Speeches ) Or, as he more succinctly puts it in his Letter to Richard Burke (), ‘‘new ascendancy is the old mastership’’ (Writings and Speeches ). In the s, granting catholic Irishmen the right to sit in parliament as well as to elect its members, on the same (limited) terms as citizenship was extended to (some) Englishmen, would make them ‘‘part of’’ the state: no longer ‘‘mere subjects of conquest’’ (Writings and Speeches ), but persons capable of fully and freely contributing to the empire, economically and politically.
By around the middle of the nineteenth century, deﬁning degrees of diﬀerence within a family likeness thus became an exacting task for racial theorists and social observers concerned to explicate how the Irish could be somewhat, but not entirely, other to the English – diﬀerent enough, that is, to be ‘‘othered,’’ but not so wholly diﬀerent or distant as to present no threat at all. From this angle, the question is not solely one of assessing the degree of anti-Irish prejudice at any given moment, as it has been articulated in most historical studies; rather, I seek to show how the rise of ‘‘race’’ itself as a category for producing likeness and diﬀerence has an important bearing on English colonial discourse about the Irish, and on the project of English nation-formation.