Susan Manly is a Reader in English at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Susan's research interests are in Romantic-period Irish and English literature. She is an expert on the work of Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), the best-selling Irish contemporary of Jane Austen, and has produced scholarly editions of a wide range of Edgeworth's writings, including her innovative books for children and young adults. She is currently completing a political biography of Edgeworth. This will be the first account of Edgeworth's life to appear in the last 45 years. It will provide a new assessment of Edgeworth's intellectual and political life, looking at her milieux, correspondence, allegiances, interventions, and influence. Edgeworth's sustained engagements with debates about Ireland, about slavery and about women will form a major part of the story told in this biography. In 2019, Susan made a radio documentary about Edgeworth, ‘A Radical Life’ which aired on RTÉ Lyric FM in May 2019 and re-aired in May 2020. You can hear it here.
As part of Susan’s research for her new political biography of Maria Edgeworth, she has been looking at Edgeworth’s attitude towards West Indian and especially Jamaican slavery in the early nineteenth century. Edgeworth’s fictions and plays often figured emancipated African and Creole characters: for instance, her celebrated novel, Belinda (1801) – originally entitled Abroad and At Home – features two such characters. The extent and nature of Edgeworth’s personal knowledge of and implication with the West Indies, however, has never been fully established before.