With an Introduction by Barbara Hayley
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.