Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Ireland’s absentee landlord system, coupled with the emerging greedy Irish middle-class, oppressed the disenfranchised, indigent Irish peasants. In London, the Clonbrony family, especially Lady Clonbrony, attempts to buy its way into high society. Going to great lengths to deny her Irish roots, Lady Clonbrony denigrates her former country and attempts to marry off her son, Lord Colambre, to a local heiress. London here represents decay, and because of the absentee landlord system, the Clonbrony family sinks into decline.
*Ireland. Roman Catholic country ruled by Britain. The hero of Edgeworth’s novel, Lord Colambre, finds hope and salvation for the Clonbrony family in Ireland. Young and intelligent, he travels incognito to Ireland to investigate his family’s Irish estates and learn whether his mother’s negative ideas about Ireland are justified. Traveling anonymously to each of his father’s estates, he comes to know the truth. Known as Evans, on the first of his father’s estates, he finds that his father has just fired the likable and honest estate agent Burke for not extorting sufficient income from the estate’s tenants. The Brothers Garraghty manage the second estate, which Lord Colambre finds in complete disorder: Its church is falling down, its roads are almost impassable, and its tenants are terribly abused. Although the brothers almost openly embezzle estate funds, Lord Clonbrony fails to take action against them because they still send him enough money to support his sumptuous lifestyle in London. Again, Edgeworth emphasizes the decay of the Anglo-Irish social order.
Lord Colambre also finds a more peaceful existence in Ireland, where he comes to realize the true quality of the people his mother so severely criticizes. Eventually, he begins to view Ireland as a haven. Upon his return to London, he promises to pay off the family debts himself on the conditions that the Garraghty brothers are let go and his family ceases being absentee landowners. They must, he declares, return to Ireland and take up their ancestral responsibility of caring for their estates. Eventually, his family finds salvation by returning to Ireland–precisely what Edgeworth urges as the political solution to the decaying Anglo-Irish social order.