Anthony Trollope's first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847), is concerned with social and political conflict in rural Ireland; it is marked by episodes of extreme violence and by a generally episodic and ad hoc narrative form. In the early 1840s, when Trollope began writing, the form that had mastered the containment of violence was the historical novel, and Macdermots is clearly attempting to come to terms with the inheritance of Sir Walter Scott. It is equally preoccupied with the tradition of the Irish national tale, in particular with the models of national restoration promoted in the work of Maria Edgeworth. The national tale and the historical novel offered different but overlapping assessments of the colonial process in Celtic Britain, each relying on its own vision of economic and cultural development. Trollope's book applies a skeptical critique to these earlier generic formations, evaluating and rejecting the emerging liberal vision of history they each encode. But in rejecting the resolutions that Scott and Edgeworth proposed, Macdermots cancels out any possible resolution within its own form.

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