Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian
With a Foreword by Benedict Kiely
21.6 x 13.8 cm. 170 pp. 2000 Ulster Editions & Monographs series (ISSN 0954-3392) volume 8
At the peak of his career, Charles Lever (1806-1872) was one of the most successful novelists in the English language, and the only mid-nineteenth century Irish novelist to vie with Charles Dickens in popularity and earning potential. Yet, within three decades of his death, his works had sunk into uninterrupted obscurity. The light-heartedness of his earliest novels, The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer (1839) and Charles O’Malley - the Irish Dragoon (1841), brought condemnation from Nationalists who championed the serious and didactic purpose of literature in highlighting the desperate plight of Ireland’s indigenous population. It is in Lever’s positive and thoughtful reaction to these criticisms that his profound contribution to Irish literature in English is to be identified, most of all in his sensitive and ultimately pessimistic analysis of the role of the doomed Protestant ascendancy.
In this incisive critical study, Stephen Haddelsey charts the rise and fall of this gifted and much-maligned commentator on Irish affairs, and calls for a reappraisal of his position in the canon of Irish literature.
Using a selection from the thirty novels and five volumes of essays, he argues that Lever’s contribution is unique in its evolution from a Tory and non-separatist stance to the near-overt and despairing advocacy of Home Rule in his final and greatest novel, Lord Kilgobbin (1872).
STEPHEN HADDELSEY is a graduate of the University of Wales. Working as a freelance editor and writer, he has contributed to projects ranging from a study of European ethnology and cultural identity, to historical atlases of Ancient Greece and the American Civil War. He is currently working on a novel and is planning a comparative critical biography of the Victorian novelists, Charles Lever, George Whyte-Melville and Francis Smedley.
Foreword by Benedict Kiely
Introduction: Writing on the Margins
1: The Novels of Dr Quicksilver
2: A Year of Growth
3: An Iniquitous Act
4: The Double-Sided Coin
5: The Art of Brevity
6: Lever's Anti-Heroines
7: Last Efforts