In the tradition of Fanny Burney's "Evelina" and Elizabeth Inchbald's "A Simple Story", but with perhaps more serious intent, Maria Edgeworth's "Belinda" is a coming-of-age tale about a naive young girl thrust into the sophisticated world of late eighteenth-century London. Guided by Lady Delacour, the eponyous heroine must navigate her way through the maze that leads to love and marriage. Interwoven with this narrative is a sub-plot that exposes the hypocrisy of the fashionable world, as Belinda discovers Lady Delacour is estranged from both her husband and her daughter, and believes herself to be suffering from cancer, although she is unable to confide in anyone. A complex story of many strands, it is an extremely significant novel both in terms of the development of narrative fiction and the portrayal of women.
Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) was an Anglo-Irish novelist (writing for both adults and children) and essayist. She is best-known for her first novel, Castle Rackrent (1800), a satire on Anglo-Irish landowners regarded as the first true historical novel.