21.6 x 13.8 cm. with all the original illustrative etchings
Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry can be considered to be Carleton’s greatest work. It went through a number of transformations before the ‘definitive edition’ was published in 1842-44. This edition was the last that Carleton actually oversaw; thus it is the culmination of his own work on the collection, and for this reason is the edition we publish.
Traits and Stories contains a wealth of illustrations by famous illustrators of the time. They give a good impression of the tales themselves, being crowded with laughing, weeping, fighting, working, playing, dying, and praying peasants in sublime scenery, poverty-stricken cottages, cosy public houses, trim farms, broken-down barns, hillside chapels, hedge schools, and hovels. The inhabitants of Carleton’s world are villains, scholars, horse-thieves, pig-drivers, priests, farmers and shopkeepers. He aimed to show the Irish peasant honestly to the world, choosing simple, strong plots. Contemporary critics praised Carleton most for the ‘light and shade’ of his depictions of Irish character, and much of his power lies in the combination and contracts of light and shade, good and evil, fun and tragedy. He is a writer of great comic genius, as well as being able to convey the horrors of poverty and the peasant life.
He conveys, too, a sense of urgency. What he was describing was an Ireland of his youth that was passing or had already passed, hence his often lengthy annotations about the traditions, tales, customs and pastimes that he even then considered necessary for his readership.
A fine ability to tell a story distinguishes Carleton from many contemporary purveyors of folklore and folk life, and this contributed to his immense popularity in Ireland, England and across the Atlantic in the United States and Canada. There appeared over 50 editions of Traits and Stories, containing some or all the stories of the ‘Definitive Edition’, in the 19th Century alone. No other work of the first half of the 19th Century conveys so well the rural life of the period. Apart from being immensely entertaining, these stories are essential reading for the literary and history student of that period. This is the only complete printing of the ‘Definitive Edition’ presently available.
Volume 2 contains 'Geography of an Irish Oath' – 'The Lianhan Shee' – 'Going to Maynooth' – 'Phelim O'Toole's Courtship' – 'The Poor Scholar' – 'Wildgoose Lodge' – 'Tubber Derg'; or 'The Red Well' – 'Neal Malone'
Barbara Hayley died in a road accident at the time she was Professor of English at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Her publications include Carleton’s Traits and Stories and the 19th Century Anglo-Irish Tradition (1983), and A Bibliography of the Writings of William Carleton (1985). Her Carleton’s Alterations to ‘Traits & Stories of the Irish Peasantry’ is not yet published.
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