This week’s insult comes courtesy of Maria Edgeworth’s The Absentee. The Widow O’Neill attempts to renew the lease on her property, but local rogue agent Nicholas Garraghty (known to the tenants as Old Nick) won’t humour her request.
‘Take those leases off the table; I never will sign them. Walk off; ye canting hag; it’s an imposition—I will never sign them.’
The Widow has already proffered some cash to sweeten the deal, her rent is paid, and she is a model tenant, but Garraghty and his brother Dennis have other plans for her patch of land:
‘YOUR little place—it’s no longer yours; I’ve promised it to the surveyor. You don’t think I’m such a fool as to renew to you at this rent.’
Gentrification, nineteenth-century style. However, the landlord’s son, Lord Colambre, is there in disguise (it seems a shabby greatcoat was all that was necessary to fool the whole estate). The Widow’s plight inspires him to reveal himself and come back at Garraghty with some serious shade.
‘Distress,’ continued his lordship, ‘however incurred, if not by vice, will always find a refuge in this house. I speak in my father’s name, for I know I speak his sentiments. But never more shall vice,’ said he, darting such a look at the brother agents as they felt to the backbone—’never more shall vice, shall fraud enter here.’