New Critical Perspectives
Undermining Morality? National Destabilisation in The Wild Irish Girl and Corinne ou L’Italie Shortly after the publication of The Wild Irish Girl (1806), a vitriolic attack on the novel’s author, Sydney Owenson, appeared in the Dublin daily news- paper, The Freeman’s Journal. Signed by ‘M. T.’, a pseudonymic front for John Wilson Croker, the critique voiced outrage at Owenson’s authorship:1 [C]onscious that her merits have been over-rated, and her arguments over-praised […] I accuse Miss OWENSON of having written bad novels, and worse poetry – vol- umes without number, and verses without end – nor does my accusation rest upon her want of literary excellence – I accuse her of attempting to vitiate mankind – of attempting to undermine morality by sophistry – and that under the insidious mask of virtue, sensibility and truth. Such are the charges, which I am daring enough to bring forward, unawed by a host of treacherous sentimentalists. (Croker 1806) Acting as, in ef fect, the mouthpiece of Dublin Castle, Croker aptly expressed the danger Owenson and her hugely popular national tales encapsulated. Although Croker’s attack specifically singled out Owenson’s first novel, St. Clair, or, the Heiress of Desmond (1803), it was also clearly inf luenced by The Wild Irish Girl, ‘a few observations’ on which the author promises in due course (Croker 1806). The most (in)famous of Owenson’s national tales, The Wild Irish Girl had ostensibly finished on a note of optimism, presenting the marriage between the Irish princess, Glorvina, and her young English lover, Horatio Mortimer,...
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