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Irish Novelists and the Victorian Age$
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James H. Murphy

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199596997

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199596997.001.0001

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Peasant or Pheasant Novelist? The Authority of William Carleton

Peasant or Pheasant Novelist? The Authority of William Carleton

(p.45) 3 Peasant or Pheasant Novelist? The Authority of William Carleton
Irish Novelists and the Victorian Age

James H. Murphy

Oxford University Press

Recent scholarship has shown that William Carleton's work reflected the literary conventions of improvement literature and was not therefore especially representational of peasant life, the reason for which he was so acclaimed. During his lifetime, however, the perceived authenticity of his writing gave him enormous authority in the literary world. Carleton's novels are considered individually. As a critic Carleton could be fierce, especially against those he claimed to be misrepresenting the peasantry, such as Charles Lever. Carleton also attacked Samuel Lover, though his novels can be seen as just as much a satire of Irish stereotypes as an indulgence in them. It was, however, in part, a fear of a damaging comparison with the unassailable Carleton that prevented Lover's defenders from drawing attention to the more complex dimensions of this work. Carleton's reputation continued to grow during the rest of the nineteenth century, not least because the vibrant world he presented was believed, after the famine, to be a thing of the past.

Keywords:   William Carleton, Samuel Lover, Peasant, Yeats, morality, improvement

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