One of the most prolific and popular novelists of the Romantic period, Regina Maria Roche (c. 1764-1845), is yet little read today. Her current neglect belies the notable popularity of her works in Britain, Europe, North America, and, indeed, further afield, throughout the nineteenth century. Some thirty years after the publication of The Children of the Abbey (1796) – the novel that first brought Roche fame as an author – the American newspaper, the New England Weekly Review, claimed that the novel could be found ‘in the hands of every novel reader in Europe and America’. Its popularity was such that it went through approximately 80 editions and remained in print throughout the long nineteenth century. Jane Austen’s reference to it in her novel, Emma (1815), indicates the deep cultural impact The Children of the Abbey had on contemporary literary production in Britain. The many translations, dramatic adaptations, knock-off publications, and musical pieces the story of Roche’s orphaned brother and sister, Amanda and Oscar, inspired further suggests just how widespread this impact was, generically and geographically speaking.
This paper turns attentions to the material dissemination of The Children of the Abbey as well as what might be termed its afterlife: the publications and productions that appeared well after the novel’s first appearance and that attest to its long-lasting cultural influence. As it does so, it seeks to recover Roche from the margins of literary history and position her as a significant Irish female writer of this period.