"Castle Rackrent" is a classic novel written by British writer Maria Edgeworth. Published in 1800, "Castle Rackrent" is thought to be both the first historical novel and the first novel to feature an unreliable narrator.
Set in Ireland prior to its achieving legislative independence from Britain in 1782, "Castle Rackrent" follows the fortunes of the last four heirs to the Rackrent estate of three as told in the voice—of their longtime devoted servant, Thady Quirk. Over the course of several years (the Rackrent men die off in a timely manner), the Rackrents manage to run the estate into the ground, despite exploiting their Irish labourers. Is Thady’s dewey-eyed devotion to the Rackrents sarcasm or is he truly one of the gratefully oppressed?
The work satirises the Irish landlords of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Noted for its insight into Irish regional life, the book was the model on which Sir Walter Scott based his historical novels.
"Castle Rackrent" is a remarkably short novel, rendering a historical situation in order to expose the exploitative system beneath.