Among the possessions seized from Theobald Wolfe Tone upon his arrest in 1798 were two copies of Belmont Castle, the epistolary novel he wrote and published with his friends Richard Jebb and John Radcliffe in 1790. Much more than a mere youthful literary squib, Belmont Castle is an elaborate roman à clef, satirizing the lives of several prominent figures of the Anglo-Irish establishment and redressing a painful love affair from Tone's past. Written in a style that mocks the popular sentimental fiction of the period, Belmont Castle gives us a xenophobic Lord Charlemont, a foppish Sir Thomas Goold, a social-climbing William 'Index' Ball and 'Humanity' Dick Martin as one of several villains in a frothy tale of love and intrigue, abductions and duels, dances and dandies, blushing belles and charging rams. In a tour de force of scholary recovery, editor Marion Deane's introduction and annotations guide us through a labyrinth of truth, half-truth and innuendo. Deane shows that Tone composed more than half of the novel, and that the love affairs at the centre of the plot are based on Tone's own infatuation with Lady Elizabeth Vesey, and on Lady Vesey's subsequent celebrated adultery and elopement with a Mr Petrie. Belmont Castle is at once an amusing mock-Gothic novel and a fascinating historical document, shedding new light on the lives of the great and the good of Anglo-Irish Dublin in the period of 'Grattan's parliament', and on Tone himself in the years before he embraced revolutionary politics.
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