Disputed Titles illuminates the ways in which inheritance shaped British novels of the Romantic period allowing them to negotiate the broader concerns of religious, ethnic, and national identities. It examines legal and material practices of inheritance and traces how the political and discursive implications developed of inheritance in discrete but parallel ways in both Ireland and Scotland since the “Glorious” Revolution, through the Jacobite Uprisings, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and up to the Reform Act.
Disputed Titles: Ireland, Scotland, and the Novel of Inheritance, 1798-1832 argues for the centrality of inheritance—often impeded, disrupted inheritance—to the novel’s rise to preeminence in Britain during the Romantic period. Novels by Maria Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson, Charles Maturin, Walter Scott, and John Galt are densely populated by orphans, changelings, and lost and kidnapped heirs, and privilege a romance plot of dispossession that undermines the illusion of continuity implicit in the very concept of legacy. Through narratives of illegitimate ownership and other similar genealogical aberrations, authors from Britain’s “peripheries” interrogate their equivocal places in the uneasy compound of “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” Moving between the local and global manifestations of inheritance, their novels imagine history as contested property in order to explore vital issues of historic transition and political legitimacy, issues of immense consequence in the revolutionary climate of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Introduction: Inheriting the Novel
1. “[M]ementi of ancient national splendour”: Sydney Owenson’s Ireland
2. Prophesying the Past: Guy Mannering and Scott’s Grid of Inheritance
3. “Arresting fleeting property”: Inheritance and the (Il)legitimacy of Historical Discourse in Scott’s The Antiquary
4. Legacy of Blunder: Maria Edgeworth’s Ireland
5. Fielding Fielding: Irish Tom Jones and a Plea for Passion in Maria Edgeworth’s Ormond
6. A “fraud against aature”: John Galt’s The Entail
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