Maria Edgeworth’s Harrington: The Price of Sympathetic Representation

  • Neville Hoad


In 1815, a young Jewish woman teaching in a girls’ school set up by her father in Warrenton, North Carolina, initiated what was to be a life-long correspondence with Maria Edgeworth by raising the issue of Edgeworth’s stereotypical and unjust representation of Jewish characters in her œuvre. Rachel Mordecai wrote:

Relying on the good sense and candour of Miss Edgeworth, I would ask how can it be that she, who on all other subjects shows such justice and liberality should on one alone appear biased by prejudice, should even instill that prejudice into the minds of youth. Can my allusion be mistaken? It is to the species of character which wherever a Jew is introduced is invariably attached to him. Can it be believed that this race of men are by nature mean, avaricious and unprincipled?1


National Identity Jewish Identity Sentimental Investment Nervous Disease English Nation 
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  1. 1.
    Edgar E. MacDonald, ed., The Education of the Heart: The Correspondence of Rachel Mordecai Lazarus and Maria Edgeworth (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), 6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Todd M. Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979; reprint, with new preface, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 114.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Maria Edgeworth, Harrington (London: J. M. Dent and Co., 1893), 154. Subsequent references to Harrington will be indicated parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    For a detailed discussion of the changing legal position of Jews in England, see H. S. Q. Henriques, The Jews and the English Law (Oxford: H. Hart, 1908; reprint, Clifton, NJ: A. M. Kelley, 1974), 221–64.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    R. Liberles, “The Jews and their Bill: Jewish Motivations in the Controversy of 1753,” Jewish History 2, 2 (Fall 1987): 31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Sheila A. Spector 2008

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  • Neville Hoad

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