In 1799, When Maria was in London, she and her father went to call upon Mr. Johnson, the bookseller, who was then imprisoned in the King’s Bench for a publication which was considered to be treasonable, and they probably then and there arranged with him for the publication of castle Rackrent, for in January 1800, writing to her cousin, Miss Ruxton, Maria says, ’Will you tell me what means you have of getting parcels from London to Arundel, because I wish to send my aunt a few popular tales. . . . We have begged Johnson to send castle Rackrent, and hope it has reached you. Do not mention that it is ours.’
The second edition of castle Rackrent came out with Miss Edgeworth’s name to it in 1811. ‘Its success was so triumphant,’ Mrs. Edgeworth writes,’that some one—I heard his name at the time, but do not now remember it—not only asserted that he was the author, but actually took the trouble to copy out several chapters with corrections and erasions as if it was his original manuscript.’
It was when Miss Edgeworth first came to Ireland,—so she tells one of her correspondents,—that she met the original Thady of castle Rackrent. His character struck her very much, and the story came into her mind. She purposely added to the agent’s age so as to give time for the events to happen.
Honest Thady tells the story; you can almost hear his voice, and see him as he stands: ’I wear a long greatcoat winter and summer, which is very handy, as I never put my arms into the sleeves; they are as good as new, though come Holantide next I’ve had it these seven years: it holds on by a single button round my neck, cloak fashion. To look at me, you would hardly think “Poor Thady” was the father of Attorney Quirk; he is a high gentleman, and never minds what poor Thady says, and having better than fifteen hundred a year landed estate, looks down upon honest Thady; but I wash my hands of his doings, and as I have lived, so will I die, true and loyal to the family. The family of Rackrents is, I am proud to say, one of the most ancient in the kingdom.’ And then he gives the history of the Rackrents, beginning with Sir Patrick, who could sit out the best man in Ireland, let alone the three kingdoms itself, and who fitted up the chicken-house to accommodate his friends when they honoured him unexpectedly with their company.