Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (1800)


[ In the original these appear at the foot of the corresponding pages, with symbols as references (e.g., *, †, ‡). ]

1] The cloak, or mantle, as described by Thady, is of high antiquity. - Spencer [sic], in his ‘View of the State of Ireland,’ proves that it is not, as some have imagined, peculiarly derived from the Scythians, but that ‘most nations of the world antiently used the mantle; for the Jews used it, as you may read of Elias’s mantle, &c.; the Chaldees also used it, as you may read in Diodoros; the Egyptians likewise used it, as you may read in Herodotus, and may he gathered by the description of Berenice, in the Greek Commentary upon Callimachus; the Greeks also used it anciently, as appeareth by Venus’s mantle lined with stars, though afterwards they changed the form thereof into their cloaks, called Pallia, as some of the Irish also use: and the ancient Latins and Romans used it, as you may read in Virgil, who was a very great antiquary, that Evander, when Eneas came to him at his feast, did entertain and feast him, sitting on the ground, and lying on mantles; insomuch as he useth the very word mantile for a mantle,

Humi mantilia sternunt.

so that it seemeth that the mantle was a general habit to most nations, and not proper to the Scythians only.’
 Spencer knew the convenience of the said mantle, as housing, bedding, and cloathing.

Iren. Because the commodity doth not countervail the discommodity; for the inconveniences which thereby do arise, are much more many; for it is a fit house for an outlaw, a meet bed for a rebel, and an apt cloak for a thief. - First, the outlaw being, for his many crimes and villainies, banishert from the towns and houses of honest men, and wandering in waste places, far from danger of law, maketh his mantle his house, and under it covereth himself from the wrath of Heaven, from the offence of the earth, and from the sighl of men. When it raineth, it is his pent-house; when it bloweth, it is his tent; when it freezeth, it is his tabernacle. In summer he can wear it loose; in winter he can wrap it close; at all times he can use it; never heavy, never cumbersome. Likewise for a rebel it is as serviceable; for in this war that he maketh (if at least it deserve the name of war), when he still flieth from his foe, and lurketh in the thick woods (this should be black bogs,) and straight passages waiting for advantages; it is his bed, yea, and almost his household-stuff.’

2] These fairy-mounts are called ant-hills in England. They are held in high reverence by the common people in Ireland. A gentleman, who in laying out his lawn had occasion to level one of these hillocks, could not prevail upon any of his labourers to begin the ominous work. He was obliged to take a loy from one of their reluctant hands, and began the attack himself. The labourers agreed, that the vengeance of the fairies would fall upon the head of the presumptuous mortal, who first disturbed them in their retreat.

3] The Banshee is a species of aristocratic fairy, who in the shape of a little hideous old woman has been known to appear, and heard to sing in a mournful supernatural voice under the windows of great houses, to warn the family that some of thern are soon to die. In the last century every great family in Ireland had a Banshee, who attended regularly, but latterly theIr visits and songs have been discontinued.

4] Childer - this is the manner in which many of Thady’s rank, and others in Ireland, formerly pronounced the word children.

5] Middle men. - There was a class of men termed middle men is Ireland, who took large farms on long leases from gentlemen of landed property, and set the land again in small portions to the poor, as under tenants, at exorbitant rents. The head-landlord, as he was called, seldom saw his under tenants, but if he could not get the middle man to pay him his rent punctually, he went to the land, and drove the land for his rent, that is to say, be sent his steward or bailiff, or driver, to the land, to seize the cattle, hay, corn, flax, oats, or Potatoes, belonging to the under-tenants, and proceeded to sell these for his rent; it sometimes happened that these unfortunate tenants paid their rent twice over, once to the middle man, and once to the head landlord.
 The characteristics of a middle man were, servility to his superiors, and tyranny towards his inferiors - The poor detested this race of beings. In speaking to them, however, they always used the most abject language, and the most humble tone and posture - ‘Please your honour, - and please your honour’s honour,’ they knew must be repeated as a charm at the beginning and end of every equivocating, exculpatory, or supplicatory sentence - and they were much more alert in doffing their caps to these new men, than to those of what they call good old families. - A witty carpenter once termed these middle men journeymen-gentlemen.

6] This part of the history of the Rackrent family can scarcely be thought credible; but in justice to honest Thady, it is hoped the reader will recollect the history of the celebrated Lady Cathcart’s conjugal imprisonment. - The Editor was acquainted witb Colonel M’Guire, Lady Cathcart’s husband; be has lately seen and questioned the maid-servant who lived with Colonel M’Guire during the time of Lady Cathcart’s imprisonment. - Her Ladyship was locked up in her own house for many years; during which period her husband was visited hy the neighhouring gentry, and it was his regular custom at dinner to send his compliments to Lady Cathcart, informing her that the company had the honour to drink her ladyship’s health, and begging to know whether there was any thing at table that she would like to eat? the answer was always - ‘Lady Cathcart’s compliments, and she has every thing she wants - An instance of honesty in a poor Irishwoman deserves to be recorded. - Lady Cathcart had some remarkably fine diamonds, which she had concealed from her husband, and which she was anxious to get out of the house, lest he should discover them: she had neither servant nor friend to whom she could entrust them; but she had observed a poor beggar-woman who used to come to the house - she spoke to her from the window of the room in which she was confined - the woman promised to do what she desired, and Lady Cathcart threw a parcel, containing the jewels, to her. - The poor woman carried them to the person to whom they were directed; and several years afterwards, when Lady Cathcart recovered her liberty, she received her diamonds safely.
  At Colonel M’Guire’s death, her ladyship was released. - The Editor, within this year, saw the gentleman who accompanied her to England after her husband’s death. - When she first was told of his death, she imagined that the news was not true, and that it was told only with an intention of deceiving her. - At his death she had scarcely cloaths sufficient to cover her; she wore a red wig, looked scared, and her understanding seemed stupified; she said that she scarcely knew one human creature from another: her imprisonment lasted above twenty years. - These circumstances may appear strange to an English reader; but there is no danger in the present times, that any individual should exercise such tyranny as Colonel M’Guire’s with impunity, the power being now all in the hands of government, and there being no possibility of obtaining from Parliament an act of indemnity for any cruelties.
7] White-headed boy - in used by the Irish as on expression of fondness. - It is upon a par with the English term crony. - We are at a loss for the derivation of this term.
8] Boo! Boo! an exclamation equivalent to Pshaw! or Nonsense.
9] As made me cross myself - The Roman Catholics.
10] Pin read pen - it formerly was vulgarly pronounced pin in Ireland.
11] Her mark - It was the custom in Ireland for those who could not write, to make a cross to stand for their signature, as was formerly the practice of our English monarchs. - The Editor inserts the facsimile of an Irish mark, which may hereafter be valuable to a judicious antiquary:

Judy X M’Quirk

In bonds or notes, signed in this manner, a witness is requisite, so the name is frequently written by him or her.
12] Vows - It has been maliciously and unjustly hinted, that the lower classes of the people in Ireland pay but little regard to oaths; yet it is certain that some oaths or vows have great power over their minds. - Sometimes they swear they will be revenged on some of their neighbours; this is an oath they never are known to break. - But what is infinitely more extraordinary and unaccountable, they sometimes make a vow against whiskey; these vows are usually limited to a short time. - A woman who has a drunken husband is most fortunate if she can prevail upon him to go to the priest, and make a vow against whiskey for a year, or a month, or a week, or a day.
13] Gossoon - a little boy - from the French word garçon. - In most Irish families there used to be a bare-footed gossoon, who was slave to the cook and the butler, and who in fact, without wages, did all the hard work of the house. - Gossoons were always employed as messengers. - The Editor has known a gossoon to go on foot, without shoes or stockings, fifty-one English miles between sun-rise and sun-set.
14] Gulteeshinnagh - At St. Patrick’s meeting, London, March 1800, the Duke of Sussex said, he had the honour of bearing an Irish title, and, with the permission of the company, he should tell them an anecdote of what he had experienced on his travels. When he was at Rome, he went to visit an Irish Seminary, and when they heard who he was, and that he had an Irish title, some of them asked him, ‘Please your Royal Highness, since you are an Irish peer, will you tell us if you ever trod upon Irish ground?’ When he told them he had not, ‘O! then,’ said one of the Order, ‘you shall soon do so.’ They then spread some earth, which had been brought from Ireland, on a marble slab, and made him stand upon it.’ [Sole additional ftn.; printed in 1810 Edn.]
15] This was actually done at an election in Ireland.
16] To put him up - to put him in gaol.
17] My little potatoes - Thady does not mean by this expression that his potatoes were less than other people’s, or less than the usual size - little is here used only as an Italian diminutive, expressive of fondness.
18] Kith and kin - family or relations - Kin from kind - Kith from - we know not what.
19] Wigs were formerly used instead of brooms in Ireland, for sweeping or dusting tables, stairs, &c. The Editor doubted the fact, till he saw a labourer of the old school sweep down a flight of stairs with his wig; he afterwards put it on his head again with the utmost composure, and said, ‘Oh please your honour, it’s never a bit the worse.’
  It must be acknowledged that these men are not in any danger of catching cold by taking off their wigs occasionally, because they usually have fine crops of hair growing under their wigs. - The wigs are often yellow, and the hair which appears from beneath them black; the wigs are usually too small, and are raised up by the hair beneath, or by the ears of the wearers.
20] This is the invariable pronunciation of the lower Irish.
21] A wake in England is a meeting avowedly for merriment - in Ireland, it is a nocturnal meeting avowedly for the purpose of watching and bewailing the dead; but in reality for gossipping and debauchery. [See Glossary.]
22] Shebean-house, a hedge alehouse. - Shebean properly means weak small-beer, taplash.
23] At the coronation of one of our monarchs, the king complained of the confusion which happened in the procession - The great officer who presided told his majesty, ‘That it should not be so next time.’
24] Kilt and smashed - Our author is not here guilty of an anticlimax. - Tbe mere English reader, from a similarity of sound between the words kilt and killed, might be induced to suppose that their meanings are similar, yet they are not by any means in Ireland synonymous terms. Thus you may hear a man exclaim - ‘I’m kilt and murdered!’ - but be frequently means only that he has received a black eye, or a slight contusion. - I’m kilt all over - means that he is in a worse state than being simply kilt - Thus - I’m kilt with the cold - is nothing to - I’m kilt all over with the rheumatism. [See Glossary.]
25] The room - the principal room in the house.
26] Tester - Sixpence - from the French word tête, a head. A piece of silver stamped with a head, which in old French was called, ‘un testion,’ and which was about the value of an old English sixpence - Tester is used in Shakspeare [sic].

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