Maria Edgeworth was born on 1 January 1768 to the Irish landowner Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his first wife, Anna Maria Elers. Neglected in her youth, Edgeworth and her family removed to Edgeworthstown, Ireland in 1782 where she began to collaborate with her father on literary and educational projects, as well as assisting with rents and estate business. Her earliest published works were treatises on women’s and children’s education (Letters for Literary Ladies (1795) and Essays on Practical Education (1798), co-written with Richard Lovell), stories for children (The Parent’s Assistant (1796)), a regional Irish novel (Castle Rackrent (1800)), and a domestic novel (Belinda (1801)). Edgeworth continued to write and publish prolifically in multiple genres through the early decades of the nineteenth century until her death on 22 May 1849. She was considered “the most commercially successful novelist of her age” (ODNB) and, besides her novels, was known for her educational texts, her intellectualism – she appropriated scientific diction and was an honorary inductee into the Royal Society of Ireland – and her liberal-mindedness; Edgeworth notoriously attempted to atone for past anti-semitic themes in her works by writing Harrington (1817), a novel in which the eponymous hero falls in love with a Jewish woman. Edgeworth wrote thousands of surviving letters that contain descriptions of literary and historical figures (among them Sir Walter Scott, Madame de Staël, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Inchbald, and Frances Burney), places (including Ireland, London, and Paris), and events (such as the French invasion of Ireland, the aftermath of the Act of Union, and the great Irish famine).
The Maria Edgeworth Letters Project creates a digital space where letters are posted in raw text, corrected/cleaned, TEI encoded, and accompanied with a photograph of the letter when possible. We welcome participation in the project (All work indicated below will be credited in the project metadata and on the public website.). Ways to get involved include:
- Correcting transcriptions: as we post raw text from Hare and other early publications of ME’s letters that are out of copyright, we seek participants to correct these texts against the letter manuscripts.
- TEI encoding: you or your students can code letters in TEI for publication on the site according to a template we will make available. This is a great opportunity for those teaching digital humanities skills.
- MS photographing and/or transcribing: do you have access to an archive that holds ME letters? You can photograph them and/or transcribe them for publication on the site.
- Digital research: as the text archive on the site grows, you can use the raw texts and/or the TEI-coded texts for your research on Edgeworth.
- We would be happy to post visualizations and other material you generate on the site for others to use and/or of course you would also be free to use whatever you generate with the ME letters data in your own research and publications.