Why the name of Maria Edgeworth is not as well known as that of Jane Austen is a question that academic Susan Manly has often pondered. She explores the life and works of this underappreciated writer, and puts her case for declaring that she ought to be as celebrated as Austen, in the Lyric Feature, on Sunday 19th May at 6 pm on RTÉ lyric fm, entitled Maria Edgeworth: A Radical Life.

Maria Edgeworth was born in 1768 and was the most successful author of her generation. She published a huge number of books, including novels, stories for children and for adults, and a manual on Practical Education. Her ideas on education were ground-breaking, as were her ideas about the rights of women and on issues like slavery. She died on 22nd May 1849.

Susan Manly

The programme is presented by Susan Manly, a Reader in English at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, who is currently writing a new biography of Maria Edgeworth. Susan meets a range of contributors , including Claire Connolly and Clíona Ó Gallchoir of UCC, Aileen Douglas of TCD, Sara Maurer of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and James Chandler of the University of Chicago. Sara Lodge vividly conjures the horror of slavery in the final years of the 1700s, and Maria’s response.

Throughout the programme we hear Maria’s own words, through readings from her novels and other writings, read by Doireann Ní Bhriain. Here’s Doireann reading an extract from Maria Edgeworth’s novel Belinda:

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Andrew Bennett provides the voice of Maria’s father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth.

In the company of Matt Farrell, Chairman of the Edgeworth Society, Susan visits Maria’s home in Edgeworthstown, her garden, and the church where she worshipped and where she is buried. She also meets Camilla Kelly of the Edgeworth Society, and local man Peter Costello, who took part in a stage version of Castle Rackrent, one of many events that marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Maria Edgeworth in 2018.

Read an extract from Letters from Ireland by Maria Edgeworth here

Read Paddy Kehoe's review of Letters from Ireland here

The Lyric Feature: Maria Edgeworth: A Radical Life, Sunday 19th May, 6 pm, RTÉ lyric fm - listen back to more from The Lyric Feature here.