:: TRANS 27. MISCELÁNEA. Literaria. Págs. 85-97 ::

Maria Edgeworth’s Arrival in Galician Literature: O castelo Rackrent (2022)


Carmen María Fernández Rodríguez

Escola Oficial de Idiomas A Coruña

ORCID: 0000-0001-5165-6083


Since its publication in 1800, Castle Rackrent became Maria Edgeworth’s best and most cherished work. It inaugurated the Big House Novel and turned into a reference for many European authors that came later. Nevertheless, and despite being translated into several languages during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was not until the 2020s that Edgeworth’s narratives were rendered into Galician. This paper analyzes the recent translation of Castle Rackrent as O castelo Rackrent using Itamar Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory and Gerard Genette’s approach to paratexts as a theoretical framework. After a brief contextualization of Edgeworth’s life and work, I examine the main features of the target text and its impact on Galician literature.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent, Anglo-Irish literature, literary translation, Galician literature.

La llegada de Maria Edgeworth a la literatura gallega

Desde su publicación en 1800, Castle Rackrent se convirtió en el mejor y más apreciado trabajo de Maria Edgeworth. Inauguró la llamada “Big House novel” y se erigió como referente para muchos autores europeos posteriores. Sin embargo, y a pesar de haber sido traducidas a varios idiomas durante los siglos diecinueve y veinte, no fue hasta la década de 2020 cuando las narraciones de Edgeworth se tradujeron al gallego. Este artículo analiza la reciente traducción de Castle Rackrent como O castelo Rackrent utilizando la teoría del polisistema de Itamar Even-Zohar y el enfoque de los paratextos de Gérard Genette como marco teórico. Tras una breve contextualización de la vida y obra de Edgeworth y Castle Rackrent, examinaré las principales características del texto meta y su impacto en la literatura gallega.

key words: Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent, literatura angloirlandesa, traducción literaria, literatura gallega.


recibido en enero de 2023 aceptado en noviembre de 2023


1. Introduction

This paper analyzes the recent translation of Castle Rackrent into Galician entitled O castelo Rackrent by using Itamar Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory and Gerard Genette’s approach to paratexts as a theoretical framework. After a brief contextualization of Edgeworth and Castle Rackrent, I examine the main features of the target text and how Castle Rackrent can be significantly related to Galician literature.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) was the daughter of the Anglo-Irish landlord Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who had contacts with the best British and European intellectuals and decided to return to his Irish properties in 1782 with enlightened ideas to improve the lives of his tenants. Though Richard Lovell was renowned for some achievements —he was an inventor and a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, and he supported Catholic emancipation—, Maria outshone her father in the literary realm: Castle Rackrent made her a name as the founder of Anglo-Irish literature and the Big House novel, a major tradition in Irish fiction in which “[The Big House] is set on isolated country estates [and] dramatizes the tensions between several social groups: the landed proprietors of a Protestant ascendancy gentry; a growing, usually Catholic, middle class; and the mass of indigenous, rural Catholic tenantry” (Kreilkamp, 1998, p. 6).

In the last years, Edgeworth has drawn a good deal of critical attention. The celebration of her 250th anniversary was followed by the publication of Still Blundering into Sense: Maria Edgeworth, her Context, her Legacy. This anthology compiled by Raffaella Leproni and Fiorenzo Fantaccini focused on Edgeworth’s views on education and tolerance and contained contributions by many Edgeworth scholars worldwide. Julie Nash’s recent Broadview’s edition of Castle Rackrent places the text in Ireland’s relevant political, socio-economic, religious and personal context. Nash labels this novel the best of Miss Edgeworth’s Irish novels and considers that with it she inaugurated an Irish canon, the Big House tradition.

Edgeworth’s merit is more remarkable considering that authors like Sir Walter Scott or Ivan Turgenev felt indebted to this prolific writer. Edgeworth’s works range from children’s stories (The Parent’s Assistant 1796), epistolary fiction (Leonora 1806), drama (Comic Dramas 1817), feminocentric novels (Belinda 1801, Helen 1834), and Irish tales (Castle Rackrent 1800, Ennui 1809, The Absentee 1812 and Ormond 1817). Almost an icon of Ireland for many Britons who got acquainted with Irish life due to Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent had the merit to disseminate the Irish idiosyncrasy far from Ireland, as King George III himself admitted: “We hear from very good authority that the king was much pleased with Castle Rackrent —he rubbed his hands and said “‘What what—I know something now of my Irish subjects’” (qtd. in Cronin, 1980, p. 25).

The enduring influence of Castle Rackrent had a downside. A good deal of Edgeworth’s production was ignored until its revival in the third quarter of the twentieth century by Edgeworth’s biographer scholar Marilyn Butler, as well as by cultural and gender studies. Currently, Edgeworth Studies flourish worldwide, and so do conferences and studies on her, and the Anglo-Irish author’s intellectualism, colonial views and pedagogical insights have been explored from varied perspectives since the 2000s. However, it is undeniable that Edgeworth’s Irish tales have been considerably more studied than the rest of her production, for instance, her dramas. More specifically, Castle Rackrent keeps drawing on critical attention: Julie Nash reedited it in 2019 for Broadview Press, and in the 2020 issue of European Romantic Review devoted to Edgeworth there is also an article by Claire Connolly about the novel.


In order to analyze the translation, I adopt the polysystem theory as methodological approach, which takes contributions from both translation and semiotics. At the turn of the 1990s, structuralist Israeli scholar Itamar Even-Zohar provided a theoretical framework to explain the complexity of cultural systems which bore in mind all the elements of the literary system defined as “[t]he network of relations that is hypothesized to obtain between a number of activities called literary, and consequently these activities themselves observed via that network” (1990a, p. 28). His polysystem theory accounts for the integration and interdependence of several components:

Thus, a CONSUMER may “consume” a PRODUCT produced by a PRODUCER, but in order for the “product” (such as “text”) to be generated, a common REPERTOIRE must exist, whose usability is determined by some INSTITUTION. A MARKET must exist where such a good can be transmitted (1990a, p. 34).

Based on functionalism, Even-Zohar’s approach emphasizes the dynamism and heterogeneity of the literary system and proves to be very useful to describe the production of literature in diverse cultural milieus. Even-Zohar develops his views from Descriptive Translation Studies, which is application-oriented, interdisciplinary, and aims at describing, understanding and explaining the regularities that are representative of translational phenomena (Toury, 1995). Besides, Even-Zohar is deeply concerned with the situation of minority languages, and, interestingly, he is not ignorant of the Galician situation through his collaboration with Ramón Piñeiro Centre, which is an institution dependent on the Ministry of Education and University Planning in charge of promoting, developing and disseminating Galician projects and programs for linguistics, as well as literary, historical and anthropological studies. Eager to analyze the Galician identity, Even-Zohar upholds that it is not only necessary to deal with traditional economic capital, but with others such as cultural, social or symbolic; and, when doing research, the welfare, success and quality of life of the community must be prioritized (see Gómez, 2010). In his scheme, Galician literature fits in the category of peripheral or weak: “such literatures often do not develop the same full range of literary activities (organized in a variety of systems) observable in adjacent larger literatures (which in consequence may create a feeling that they are indispensable)” (1990b, p. 47). The number of Galician translations, and the production of books in Galician, is more limited than those produced in Spanish. In Galicia translated literature is a way to bring fashionable repertoires home, but it can also become a source of reshuffling and supplying attractive alternatives for readers.

Another remarkable approach, which can complement Even-Zohar’s to understand the nature of the written text, is the one by poststructuralist scholar Gérard Genette. A respected narratologist, Genette accurately combines the internal and external studies of literature and defines the paratext as the physical layout and the group of verbal and non-verbal productions accompanying a text and guaranteeing its reception and consumption:

[…] lieu privilégié d’une pragmatique et d’une stratégie, d’une action sur le public au service, bien ou mal compris et accompli, d’un meilleur accueil du texte et d’une lecture plus pertinente —plus pertinente, s’entend aux yeux de l’auteur et de ses alliés (Genette, 1987, p. 8).1

Genette goes on further to divide the paratext into peritext and epitext: the former being aspects that are relatively closely associated with the book itself (the cover, the title, genre indication, foreword and epilogue or even various themes), whereas the latter comprises statements about the book beyond its physical bounders (interviews, correspondences and journals). Thus, Genette considers both what is on the written page and the afterlife of a printed document. The French critic shows that paratexts play a role in interpreting a text, revealing more than it is written on the page:

Est official tout message paratextuel ouvertement assume par l’auteur et /ou l’éditeur, et dont il ne peut esquiver la responsabilité. Officiel, ainsi, tout se qui, de source auctoriale ou éditoriale, figure au péritexte anthume, comme le titre ou la préface originale; ou encore les commentaires signés para l’auteur dans une ouvrage, dont il est intégralement responsable, comme par exemple le Vent Paraclet de Michel Tournier. Est officieuse la plus grande part de l’épitexte auctoriale, interviews, entretiens et confidences, dont il peut toujours dégager plus ou moins sa responsabilité par de dénégations […] on parfois intérêt à ce que certaines choses « se sachent », and (être censé) les avoir dites soi même (Genette, 1987, pp. 14-5).2

Genette acknowledges that the elements of the paratext might vary and change over time from edition to edition, but also from one language and culture to another, so one paratextual element may appear, disappear and reappear again, and this fact affects the reception of the work in the new polysystem. Paratexts are the thresholds of interpretation: they mediate between book, author, publisher and reader, and they are part of a book’s private and public history, the way the book is appreciated and considered in other cultures through the years.

The reasons to adopt Genette’s poststructura-lism and Even-Zohar’s polysystems are three-fold. Firstly, Even-Zohar relates translation to the position of the text within the polysystem (Even-Zohar, 1990b, p. 51). Secondly, paratexts enable us to approach the complex apparatus where the components of Even-Zohar’s system crystallize. Thirdly, my approach is target-oriented and regards translation as part of the continuum of history. A special area of transition between two elements of the polysystem—the producer and the audience—, the concept of the paratext helps to analyze how the elements of Even-Zohar’s theory crystallize and interact in a specific cultural setting, in this case, the Galician one.


Castle Rackrent deals with the decline of an Irish saga, the Rackrents, as a result of their neglect and incompetence to manage their properties, and also the greed of those around them. This family chronicle comprises the story of four generations after the death of Sir Patrick, whom the narrator Thady Quirk, a character inspired by the Edgeworth servant John Lagan and Brian Farrel (Butler, 2001, p. 272), held in great esteem. The novel also involves the arrival of four women to the house: the wife of Sir Murtagh’s heir, to whom no name is ever attributed; Jessica, Jewish wife of Sir Kit, heir to Sir Murtagh; Isabella, wife of Sir Condy, successor to Sir Kit; and Judy M’Quirk, Thady’s niece who almost became Condy’s wife. The three Rackrent males are as irrational as Edgeworth’s heroines and each one is defined by an obsession: Patrick (money), Murtagh (the law), Kit (game), Condy (family honour).

The English novel was published anonymously by Maria Edgeworth and, after the first text edited by J. Johnson in 1800, Castle Rackrent was repea-tedly and successfully edited in English through-out the twentieth century. Perhaps the most memorable editions are George Watson’s (1964) for Oxford Classics, Marilyn Butler’s for Penguin (1992), and, more recently, the Norton Criti- cal edition prepared by Ryan Twomey (2014).

One of the problems that the reader faces when approaching Castle Rackrent is the amount of paratexts that it contains. As some eighteenth-century novels, the work becomes a complicated textual apparatus seeking to justify itself. As mentioned above, in Genette’s theory, a paratext includes the elements presenting or guaranteeing the presence of a book in the world and comprising the author’s name, title, preface, and, occasionally, illustrations. Castle Rackrent features a preface, a coda written at the end, and a glossary prepared by Edgeworth which works as a dictionary of Irish culture and showcases the author’s enlightened approach. The glossary has a very specific function: it is composed of twenty-nine notes that were added at the request of Maria’s father, Richard L. Edgeworth, to explain to the English reader little versed in Ireland “many of the terms and idiomatic phrases, with which it [Castle Rackrent] abounds” (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 183).

In any novel, a distinction must also be made between the editor and the narrative voice in Edgeworth’s work. In the preface, the editor of Castle Rackrent states that the public is lately more attracted to simple material and condemns the taste for the exaggerated and embellished works of the “historians”, which has made readers see the heroes as distant beings. In fiction, a libertine can be presented as a respectable man and the editor prefers descending to “minute facts relative to the domestic lives, not only of the great and good, but even of the worthless and insignificant” (Edgeworth, 1800, pp. v-vi), so that the conver-sational, unfinished and personal can be appreciated. Details should not be treated in a solemn way, but through the ridiculous, and importance is attached to the domestic.

The close connection between events and people coexists with the aim of preserving the text. Therefore, the male editor presents himself as a detached transcriber for Thady, senior and illiterate foreman of the Rackrents and a privileged witness of some events that he captures as “memoirs.” Criticism has traditionally debated itself between those who appreciate Thady and those who attack him as duplicitous (for a summary of the different positions, see Hollingworth, 1997, pp 71-107; O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 116-117). Thus, Kate Cochran coins Castle Rackrent as a neoslave narrative (2001, p. 58), and it is argued that Thady’s vernacular reinforces the authenticity of what is narrated. With this procedure, Edgeworth enhances the text and increases the reader’s interest. It seems that Thady told the story to the publisher several years ago and did not want it to be published for “the honor of the family”. Also, the editor is positive that only readers familiar with Ireland will perfectly recognize it and he keeps Thady’s language instead of making it into English as “Thady’s idiom is incapable of translation, and, besides, the authenticity of his story would have been more exposed to doubt if it were not told in his own characteristic manner” (Edgeworth, 1800, pp. xii-xiii).

The editor insists on the originality of presenting something that no longer exists ([“tales of other times”] Edgeworth, 1800, p. xiv). He complains that the English know so little about Ireland, although both nations are on the same level. To demystify that there has been corruption on the part of England or Ireland, he poses the question at the end of the main text: “Did the Warwickshire militia, who were chiefly artisans, teach the Irish to drink beer? or did they learn from the Irish to drink whiskey?” (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 182). The Irish have acquired new customs and consciousness and have lost their identity. This would soon be seen in practice and Ireland, united with Great Britain, would laugh at its former existence. Edgeworth’s text ends with a date that is not at all a coincidence from the political point of view, 1800, the date of the Act of Union.

Following Even-Zohar’s theory, the producer of Castle Rackrent is seen as engaged in numerous activities and creating a power discourse modeled after a legitimized repertoire. This is the position of Edgeworth, who belonged to the privileged Protestant Ascendancy and Castle Rackrent becomes a product which aimed at the British public or consumers. The latter are part of the institution, which reprimands and remunerates producers. In general, reviewers, editors and all these factors involved with the maintenance of literature as a socio-cultural activity were benevolent to Edgeworth in her lifetime, especially the Edinburg Review, and consolidated her in the market. All her works sold very well and favoured her popularity in Great Britain and abroad to the point that Edgeworth’s home rival was Lady Morgan and she vied with Mme de Staël on the Continent. The repertoire means the rules and materials governing both the production and the use of the product. In this regard, Edgeworth has to be classified alongside the moral tradition, as she refashioned Jean François Marmontel’s popular tale, and the national tale popularized by Lady Morgan, who was likewise concerned with presenting Ireland to the English-speaking audience.


This is not the first time that Edgeworth is rendered into Spanish or Galician3, but some comments about previous translations have to be made since all of them are characterized by changes affecting the integrity of the text. Castle Rackrent’s first translation was published in Bibliothèque Britannique (1796-1815) (BB), a Genevan illustrated publication by Marc-Auguste and Charles Pictet, who wanted to spread Anglo-Saxon knowledge on the continent. BB clearly sacrificed Thady’s idiolect. From a sociolinguistic point of view, the French version implied the transition to the great language of European culture of the time. This fact must be emphasized, since instead of reproducing the rhetoric of the people that Thady embodied, the translator adapted it for an enlightened reader. Both in the Swiss text by the Pictects and in the 1964 translation into French by Pierre Leyris, there was no original preface, as in the two German translations dating back to 1802 (Schloss Rackrent) and 1957 (Meine hochgeborene Herrschaft) respectively. The 2004 Spanish translation respected the integrity of Edgeworth’s original in this regard, but it eliminated the glossary.

If Even-Zohar’s scheme is applied to Castle Rackrent, the translator Alejandro Tobar is the producer of a product (O castelo Rackrent) addressed to Galician-speaking consumers. The publishing house in charge of the Galician translation is Hugin e Munin, whose name refers to Nordic literature. It was set up at the end of 2011 in Santiago de Compostela as a publishing house focused on the translation of foreign literature into Galician. Tobar is the author of articles on current literary topics for magazines and newspapers both in paper and online, such as the newspaper El Progreso de Lugo and the portal Vieiros. At the end of 2011, he created Editorial Hugin e Munin and he has been awarded as a translator into both Galician and Spanish. The institution of the target text is Hugin and Munin itself, whose list of translators is very extensive and has published works translated from English, French, Italian, Greek, Catalan, Swedish, Basque, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Croatian, Latin, Danish, Aranese, Japanese, Serbian, and Breton. This publishing house is interested in those works whose length, subject matter or format do not fit into the main collection, so they have created the collection called Vólvense os pajaros contra as escopetas. On the publisher’s page, their philosophy is defined: they aim to publish varied genres (noir, science fiction, psychological, adventure, realist, colonial, etc.) choosing works based solely on their quality.

O castelo Rackrent means the arrival of a canonized writer into Galician literature, and it must be inserted in the field of nineteenth-century literature translated in Galicia where Edgeworth is not so famous. In fact, a good deal of her corpus remains to be translated. Also, O castelo Rackrent evokes a familiar context for a Galician reader if sociological and historic events are considered. The closest paradigm to Edgeworth are manor house narratives in the line of Emilia Pardo Bazán (Los pazos de Ulloa 1886) in Spanish, or Otero Pedrayo’s works (Os camiños da vida 1928) dealing with the relationships between wealthy families and servants in the countryside. Even the decadent atmosphere in Ramón María del Valle Inclán’s Comedias bárbaras (1907-23) and Sonatas (1902-5) can resemble the world portrayed by Edgeworth. Thady himself features a faithful retainer of tradition, a privileged witness of events as attached to the land as Balbino was in Xosé Neira Vilas’s Memorias dun neno labrego (1961). Despite some cultural differences, the equivalent to the Anglo-Irish house is the Galician country home or ancestral home dealing with a powerful family where the lord lived taking advantage of her subordinates. Some Galician readers could associate that image with the cacique (chieftain) and oppression, just as the Irish do. These manor house narratives are very powerful in the Galician collective imagination and constitute the repertoire in the target polysystem. Then, the paratextual apparatus explaining the approach adopted by both the editor and the narrator becomes very significant.

Concerning the market, readers demand translations into Galician (Constenla, 2023; Luna, 2013), and there are governmental subsidies and initiatives to publish translations and create all kinds of audiovisual and artistic works in this language. Yet, sales cannot com-pare to the amount of books in other languages that are sold in Galicia. Sociologically, Galician is still quite restricted to rural areas and the language of the people who have been brought up in Galician, whereas the speakers who have recently embraced the language (but whose first language was not Galician) are increasing in urban areas. In demographic terms the latter cannot compensate for the dramatic loss of Galician speakers and the number of people who use Galician every day in all kind of transactions is plummeting (Monteagudo et al., 2020). The Galician language is at risk of becoming a relic, an object of study for anthropologists. Besides, in spite of the efforts to achieve linguistic normalization, a feeling of inferiority and shame has traditionally been associated to the Galician language since the imposition of Spanish as the prestigious language at the end of the Middle Ages, which consolidated diglossia and a certain stigma: Galician has been considered the language for home and the family, and Spanish has become the polite language for public transaction, business, and, sometimes, education.

The whole title of the work (Castle Rackrent: An Hibernian Tale. Taken from Facts and from the Manners of the Irish Squires, before the Year 1782) is reduced to O castelo Rackrent. There is no reference to the edition used for this translation neither any introduction about Edgeworth. However, some information about Edgeworth is printed on the front flap, and the back cover provides a summary of the book and its merit. A typographical feature to bear in mind is that paragraph division is different in the target text, so that Hugin e Munin edition is more modern and easier to read in comparison to Johnson’s original text containing long paragraphs.

Hugin e Munin’s commercial edition fares much better than an academic one which would include Edgeworth’s whole extensive paratextual apparatus, and this is the weakest point of the translation. The elimination of the glossary implies that some terms are neutralized for the target reader: in English “whillaluh” is explained in the glossary whereas in the target text it is rendered as “Carpían con tal desespero” (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 11). At the same time that the glossary is not included, the translator is aware that some expressions need clarification in Galician and includes nine footnotes, some of them relating Irish folklore to Galician one: “Fada do folklore irlandés que se aparece para anunciar a inminente morte dun parente. Ten o seu equivalente na figura da moura na literatura oral galego-portuguesa” (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 16). Also, the phrases used by Tobar bring the translation closer to the Galician audience: “ao fío da misiva, o capitán veunos ver, e sir Condy e el fixeron bo caldo até o punto de se tornaren grandes amigos” (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 43, my italics).

There is a clear aim not to eliminate the Anglo-Irish setting, which is seen in several instances. Thus, some keywords in Edgeworth’s original text, like gosoon or tester, are not rendered into Galician. For the former, the translator adds the footnote “O mozo, o lacaio. A palabra deriva do termo francés garçon e fica como proba da inserción de léxico irlandés na novela por parte da autora” (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 55). The same happens with titles, which are very numerous and define status in the novel (sir, lady, baronet, etc.) in that they are borrowed and retain the British flavour of the text. While “Castle” is rendered as “castelo”, Tobar is careful not to use “pazo”, which could be another option, but it might lead the reader to wrongly contextualize the novel.

Certain terms should be brought closer to the target reader and the translator resorts to equivalents if possible. The first footnote of the translation is about the meaning of “Rackrent” itself. Yet, the surnames referring to money, like “Skinflint” or “Moneygawls”, are not translated or explained in a footnote. The reader is then acquainted that the Scottish lady: “she was of the family of the Skintflints, and a widow; it was a strange match for Sir Murtagh” (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 12) “[p]ertencía á liñaxe dos Skinflint, e chegara xa de viúva; extraña parella para sir Murtagh” (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 12). However, the negative connotation of Skintflint as miser or somebody who is unwilling to spend money is missing. The same happens with “nabob”, which stood for a British person who has returned from India with a large fortune suggesting excessive influence in eighteenth-century England is not retained whereas it represented an important cultural reference in Castle Rackrent to understand the rejection towards the Jewish lady.

There are some calques referring to means of transport, such as “A mañá seguinte, a miña señora e a señora Jane puxeron rumbo a Mount Juliet, no tílburi. Moitos cuestionaron a escolla da miña señora, sen entender por que optaba por ese cabriolé, coma se fose unha mera viaxe por pracer” (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 74), which is the translation for “The next morning my lady and Mrs. Jane set out for Mount Juliet’s town in the jaunting car; many wondered at my lady’s choosing to go away , considering all things, upon the jaunting car, as if it was only a party of pleasure” (Edgeworth, 1800, pp. 129-30). The foreign flavour is preserved, even though a normative word is used. Tobar is respectful to Edgeworth and translates Sir Patrick’s song by keeping the meaning and the rhyme in Galician:

He that goes to bed, and goes to bed sober,
Falls as the leaves do, falls as the leaves do, and dies in October:
But he that goes to bed, and goes to bed mellow.
Lives as he ought to do, lives as he ought to do, and dies honest fellow
(Edgeworth, 1800, p. 9)

Aquel que vai para a cama e que o fai sen probar nin gota,
Cae como cae o outono, e morre en outubro, coas follas
Mais aquel que vai para a cama, e que o fai co caneco,
Vive como vivir se debe e more como home recto
(Edgeworth, 2022, p. 10).

From a lexical point of view, translating Castle Rackrent is certainly challenging due to the rich repertoire of English administrative, legal vocabulary, and specialized words difficult to be rendered into Galician. The translator accurately manages to capture the diversity of Edgeworth’s text. It might be argued that the translation of Anglo-Irish in Castle Rackrent is a major concern, but both the speech of the narrator and the main characters are easy to recognize and do not pose much difficulty for the translator. The only negative point is that Thady’s discourse is rendered into Galician as unmarked, undistinguishable from the rest of characters whereas there is a kind of linguistic individualization in the original narrative, as the editor explained. Specialized vocabulary and local terms are more troublesome since only a translator with a very good command of Galician can adequately render them into the target language. Some examples about Sir Murtagh show Tobar’s expertise in this regard:

Then his heriots and duty work brought him in something his turf was cut—his potatoes set and dug his hay brought home, and in short all the work about his house done for nothing; for in all our leases there were strict clauses with heavy penalties, which Sir Murtagh knew well how to enforce so many day’s duty work of man and horse , from every tenant, he was to have, and had, every year. (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 17)

Logo estaban os impostos extraordinarios e as prebendas. Cortábanlle o céspede, apañábanlle a pataqueira, carrexábanlle o feo até a casa, e, por resumilo moito, facíanlle os labores todos relacionados coa mantenza da herdade. E non lle custaban nin un patacón, pois todos os nosos contratos de arrendo incluían estritas cláusulas acerca de cuantiosas sancións e multas que sir Murtagh sabía moi ben como executar; por cada arrendatario, os beneficios dun número determinado de xeiras de labor humano e cabalar debían ir para el, e así acontecía un ano tras outro. (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 15)

My lady had her privy purse and she had her weed ashes, and her sealing money upon the signing of all the leases, with something to buy gloves besides; and besides again often took money from the tenants, if offered properly, to speak for them to Sir Murtagh about abatements and renewals. (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 22)

A miña señora tiña unha conta de seu, e dispuña dos réditos da queima de rastroxos e mais das guineas cobradas a modo de comisión por cada acordo contractual de arrendo, cunha adealla a maiores para mercar luvas; amais, era habitual que recibise cartos dos caseiros, se llos ofrecían con decoro, para que falase no nome deses perante sir Murtagh acerca de reducións na renda e das renovacións. (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 17)

In these examples, “custar un patacón” is informal language that brings the text close to the Galician reader and both “xeiras de labor humano” and “adealla” are accurate equivalents of the terms in the original text.

The ladies Rackrent are a novelty in the household. At times cold-blooded and always a mystery to servants and lords, they draw Thady’s attention. Neither Thady nor their husbands know what they mean; they witness their discomfort in Ireland, like in the following vibrant dialogue, which is rendered into Galician as follows and also conveys Thady’s irony as Galician retranca or double meaning:

‘You don’t see it, my dear,’ says he, ‘for we’ve planted it out; when the trees grow up in summer-time’ says he.
‘Where are the trees,’ said she, ‘my dear?’ still looking through her glass.
‘You are blind, my dear,’ says he; ‘what are these under your eyes?’
‘These shrubs?’ said she.
‘Trees,’ said he.

‘Maybe they are what you call trees in Ireland, my dear,’ said she; ‘but they are not a yard high, are they?’
‘They were planted out but last year, my lady,’ says I, to soften matters between them, for I saw she was going the way to make his honour mad with her: ‘they are very well grown for their age, and you’ll not see the bog of Allyballycarrick-o’shaughlin at-all-at-all through the skreen, when once the leaves come out.’ (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 42-3).

—Seica estás cega, rula? respondeulle. E logo, que é iso que tes xusto diante?
—As matogueiras estas, dis?
—Son árbores repetiu el.
—Poida que así lles chamedes en Irlanda, querido, pero teño para min que non chegan nin ao metro de altura, non si? redargüíu a dama.
—Plantámolas o ano pasado, miña señora intervín eu para afrouxar a tensión entre eles, pois vía que a muller ía camiño de lle quentar a cabeza ao amo. Para o tempo que teñen, medraron abondo, e asegúrolle á señora que os seus ollos non van ter que padecer a visión da presa de Allyballycarrick-o’shaughlin ao que principien a abrollar as primeiras follas (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 28)

When Isabella arrives, Thady is puzzled and the translator expresses his amazement at her looks:

She was dressed like a mad woman, moreover, more than like any one I ever saw afore or since, and I could not take my eyes off her, but still followed behind her, and her feathers on the top of her hat were broke going in at the low back door. (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 42)

Ía vestida coma unha demente, ou peor, nunca vin ningunha outra muller, nin antes nin despois, vestir coma ela, pois non lle daba quitado os ollos de enriba. As plumas que gastaba no alto do chapeu romperán o pasar pola porta traseira, que ten pouca altura. (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 48)

Edgeworth portrays Thady’s attitude to the family. He has lived with them for so long that he remembers celebrations and how they were honored. The way he sees the Rackrents and what he feels for them are conveyed into Galician mixing detachment and commitment to the family, objectivity and exalted feelings, which is quite revealing of his personality:

for rather than be left out of the parties at Castle Rackrent, many gentlemen, and those men of the first consequence and landed estates in the country, such as the O’Neills of Ballynagrotty, and the Castle Moneygawls of Mount Juliet’s Town, and O’Shannons of New TownTullyhog, made it their choice, often and often, when there was no moon to be had for love nor money, in long winter nights, to sleep in the chicken house, which Sir Patrick had fitted up for the purpose of accommodating his friends and the public in general, who honoured him with their company unexpectedly at Castle Rackrent; and this went on I can’t tell you how long. The whole country rang with his praises! long life to him!  (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 7)

Para non quedaren excluídos das festas en Rackrent, moitos cabaleiros, xentilhomes e terratenentes do lugar coma os O’Neill de Ballynagrotty, os Moneygawl da vila de Mount Juliet e os O’Shannon da recentemente creada poboación de Tullyhog optaban, cada vez máis seguido, cando non lles sorría nin o amor nin o diñeiro, por durmir, durante as longas noites de inverno, no curral, espazo que sir Patrick acondicionara a fin de acomodar nel as amizades e o público en xeral, é dicir, aqueles que o honraban coa súa inesperada compaña no Castelo; e aquilo prolongouse durante non sabería dicir canto tempo. O país enteiro adorábao! Longa vida a sir Patrick! (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 9)

As a narrator, Thady tries to do his best, but she shows his partiality and needs to make a pause in his long narrative confession, as if he were talking with readers. In these cases, Toba prefers literal translation:

Here let me pause for breath in my story, for though I had a great regard for every member of the family, yet without compare Sir Conolly, commonly called for short amongst his friends Sir Condy Rackrent, was ever my great favorite. (Edgeworth, 1800, p. 62)

Chegados a este punto, permítaseme facer unha pausa para coller folgos antes de continuar coa historia. A pesar de lles profesar un gran respecto a todos e cada un dos membros da familia, o meu favorito indiscutible foi sempre e sen punto de comparación sir Conolly coloquialmente chamado, para abreviar, polas súas amizades sir Condy Rackrent. (Edgeworth, 2022, p. 37)


For Brian Hollingworth, Castle Rackent must be understood as a political instrument for its preface and folkloric for its glossary (1997, p. 105), but it is also an extensive footnote on the Anglo-Irish, an identity which has to be culturally and textually respected, like all identities. Castle Rackrent is also a thought-provoking work and its translation into Galician should encourage tracing parallelisms between Ireland and Galicia and giving some consideration as members of a thriving cultural community.

Translating a text which is so intimately rooted in Irish tradition and has become a symbol of Anglo-Irish literature is an imposing task, especially if it is surrounded by such a carefully engineered format. In his translation into Galician, Tobar keeps the Irish setting and uses footnotes to build bridges with the source text at the same time that he is respectful to the original polysystem. Regarding the body of the text, the translator’s technique is commendable. He preserves the rhyme, he uses a rich repertoire of Galician vocabulary and renders Thady’s speech naturally and accurately, and he does not eliminate any part of Thady’s speech. All in all, Galician readers grasp Thady’s nostalgia, attachment to the land and duplicitous character, so they can easily identify with him.

Though in some aspects O castelo Rackrent modernizes Castle Rackrent and makes it more appealing to the Galician audience, it is undeniable that, as a whole, it also censures and offers a partial representation of Ireland as portrayed by Edgeworth who anticipated James Joyce and understood Irish culture as the cracked lookingglass of a servant. This phenomenon is related to both the function of the paratexts in English and to editorial constraints. In Galician, the essence of Irish culture disappears with the suppression of the paratexts with which the author and her father diligently tried to bring Ireland closer to readers. If the target readers cannot properly enter the threshold of the world depicted by Edgeworth, if they are deprived of the original text with the main text and paratexts, as it was enjoyed and celebrated by English-speaking audiences, Edgeworth’s merit as the founder of a literary tradition fades out. The same happens with her importance in a new polysystem where Edgeworth can be so appreciated and where Edgeworth’s oeuvre could encourage self-reflection about the Galician identity itself, just as Castle Rackrent controversially did when it appeared in 1800. However, rather than a missed golden opportunity to edit the most representative text of Anglo-Irish literature and bring it to a peripheral literature with a voice of its own, O castelo Rackrent proves to be a highly achieved text and an invitation for a major academic translation of Edgeworth’s work.

As Carmen Millán-Varela (2000) states, asymmetrical relations of power with respect to Castilian have been shaping and determining the dynamics of translation, and, to a certain extent, Galician cultural life in general and domestication strategies have been preferred to promote Galician cultural and literary polysystem abroad. If translation is a mirror on which to contemplate pressing domestic debates on language and identity, as Millán-Varela maintains, then Castle Rackrent brings that dilemma to text and it bridges the gap between Galician and other cultures.


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1 “[P]rivileged place of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an influence on the audience that, either well or poorly understood, is at the service of a better reception for the text and a reading more pertinent in the eyes of the author and his allies” (translations from French are mine).

2 “Any paratextual message which is openly assumed by the author and (or the publisher, and for which he cannot evade responsibility becomes official. Thus, it is official everything which, from an authorial or editorial source, appears in the peritext anthume, such as the title or the original preface; or even the comments signed by the author in a work, for which he is entirely responsible, such as, for example, the Vent Paraclete by Michel Tournier. Most of the author’s epitext is unofficial, interviews, interviews and confidences, from which he can always extract more or less its responsibility through denials […] it is sometimes in our interest that certain things “be known”, and (to be supposed) to have said them oneself”.

3 The first translations of Castle Rackrent were into Asturian and Spanish (see references). Other works by Edgeworth have also been published in Spanish and later in Galician. Professor Luis Barbé i Durán wrote a book about the Edgeworth saga.