« PreviousContinue »
the eve of a rebellion, which caused afflictions unparalleled in history, “ In that unhappy period,” writes Mr Petrie, “nearly all the original materials of this compilation probably perished, for cne or two of them only have survived to our times.” Of this inestimable MS. the original copies passed from the O’Gara family into the possession of other persons, the first vol. to Charles O'Conor, and the second to colonel Conyngham; from these, different transcripts appear to have been made, both by the compilers for their own use, and for the chevalier O'Gorman, who borrowed the originals for this purpose. From the testimonies brought together by Mr Petrie, it would appear that the whole work was presented by colonel O’Gara, in 1734, to Charles O'Conor, the elder, who seems to have transferred the second volume to his cousin-german, colonel Conyngham. It was long supposed that no complete copy of the second volume was extant. Nor does it appear to have been distinctly known, which of the different manuscripts were the originals. At length the second volume in a perfect state, was purchased by Mr Petrie at the sale of the books of Mr Austin Cooper, to whom colonel Conyngham's library had passed: and the question of originality was completely set at rest, by the clearest and most demonstrative statement, in an able and perspicuous essay, read before the Academy for that purpose, and inserted in the sixteenth volume of its transactions. Into this question we cannot here enter in detail. Two arguments seem to decide the point: the first drawn from the inspection of the documents, and their comparison with the other pretended original; in this the main points are, the characteristic variations of the hand-writing in accordance with the account given in the testimonium of the witnesses: and also the accompanying papers of extracts and memora
oranda, such as could have no other origin or use, than the convenience of a task of compilation: while on the contrary, the other manuscripts are written throughout in one continuous hand, which should be sufficient of itself to decide the question. The second argument consists in the clear authentication of the history of the transmission of the MS.
Of the Psalter of Tara, we are informed by O'Flaherty, that it was a compilation made in the college of Tara, under the authority of king Cormac, and contained the ancient archives of the country, the series of its kings, supreme and provincial, and showed the synchronism of events with the reigns of foreign princes; it also contained an account of the tributes and taxes imposed on the provincial kings, and fixed territorial confines, the frontiers
of kingdoms, as well as the lesser subdivisions of chiefs and townships. Some antiquarians have referred the origin of this document to a much earlier period; and if the document should be really extant, we should have little doubt in admitting, that substantially it must be in a great measure composed of pre-existing documents. At the early part of last century, its existence was a matter of dispute, and it was only known by the references and extracts of other writers. The same doubts still exist, and in this age of search have acquired added weight. Mr Petrie sums the evidence with his ordinary perspicuity;* “no allusion to it,” he observes, "has
* In a valuable, learned, and most laborious work, “On the Antiquities of Tara Hill,” printed in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, vol. xviii.
been found in the works of any author, anterior to the eleventh century:" to this he adds the important objection, that no ostensible extract from it occurs in the great compilations of Glendalough, Ballymote, Lecan, and Hy-Many.” The references of the Four Masters, he adds, have not been verified, by the references to the authorities they have adduced. There seems a probability, that an extract given by Mr Petrie, from a poem of Cuan O’Lochain, is the authority from which O'Flaherty derived his account as given above.
Of this we give a short extract; the whole will be found in the essay here referred to:-
“ Cormac gained fifty battles ;
Of these lines the statements of O'Flaherty, already cited, is but a version. Now, in addition to the observations made in Mr Petrie's
essay, there seems to us to be a very strong ground of doubt, arising from the mere consideration of the high degree of probability that the existence of such a document would be assumed. The antiquaries of earlier times were an enthusiastic and credulous class of mortals; and for such an assumption, there were unquestionably strong grounds in Irish tradition. This method of inference which seems to neutralize itself, and weigh in either scale, will on reflection appear to be very strong against a doubtful authority for the actual existence of such å book; as it answers the question, on what ground can we imagine such authorities to have been gratuitous? The high probability that such a book did actually exist at some early period, must be tried on other grounds, and is a different question. The objection arising from the
general belief of the learned, that the Irish were wholly unacquainted with letters, until the establishment of Christianity in the fifth century,” is a belief which we trust the learned will abandon, as the ancient history of Ireland is more generally known.
The notice which we have been here taking of the Psalter of Tara, has led us to turn over the pages of Mr Petrie's essay on the history and antiquities of Tara Hill. An essay from which much valuable information may be received on almost every subject of any importance connected with the antiquities of Ireland. And which we feel ourselves bound to recommend as a model of the most patient, intelligent, laborious, and practical investigation, which we ever recollect to have met with, among our numerous and learned antiquarians. This singular instance of combined observation and study, falls within the course of these notices, as being connected with an important specimen of Irish literature, used upon the occasion here referred to, by Mr Petrie, and the gentlemen who assisted in the observations of which the essay here noticed gives the account.
The progress of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, a work more truly beneficial to Ireland than centuries of experimental legislation, leading, as it has done, to an authentic investigation of the most detailed character into all the circumstances of its moral and physical condition, seems also to have been the means of enabling the antiquarian and the historian to extend his inquiries from the questionable record of old manuscripts to the evidences of locality. However deceptive and illusory either of these singly have been shown to be, by the vast range of conflicting theories and conjectures, there seems to be little doubt of the value of the comparison by which these two sources of authority might be made to check and illustrate each other. Whatever variety of interpretation the shallow ingenuity commonly bestowed on such investigations might waste on the monumental fragments of time immemorial; or whatever doubt the most candid scepticism might entertain upon the fretted scroll of contested antiquity; there can be no doubt whatever of the value of the inferences arising upon the undesigned coincidence of these two distinct evidences. Such is the nature of these remarkable investigations, conducted by the joint sagacity and intelligence of several members of the survey, and applied to these historical purposes by Mr Petrie, who himself assisted in the operation. The facts are as follows:— The progress of the survey of the county of Meath, appearing to favour such an investigation as we have mentioned, of the ruins of the hill of Tara; the first necessary step was to have the plan of the existing remains accurately laid down, “according to measurement, on the map.” Accordingly this important preliminary was effected, under the direction of Captain Bordes. In the mean time a careful search was made among the different collections for all such ancient MSS. as might give the most trustworthy information on the history and localities of the spot. The desired information was found in a very ancient MS., called the “Din seanchus,” a topographical tract, found in the books of Ballimote and Lecan, ancient collections of great authority, of which valuable copies are preserved in the Royal Irish Academy. To avail themselves the more readily of this authoritative tract, the gentlemen engaged in this undertaking called in the aid of Mr John O'Donovan, so frequently mentioned in this work, who made precise translations for their purpose, of such of the documents from this collection as were considered necessary. Thus prepared Mr Petrie, with Lieutenant Larcom, one of the most intelligent officers employed upon the survey, Captain Bordes the conductor of the Meath survey, and Mr. O'Donovan, proceeded to the hill of Tara, where they went through a most minute and searching verification of the ample details of the poem of Con O'Lochain, and other literary remains of local history. Of the particulars of this operation, this is not the place to offer any
detail. But it must be observed, that for precision of method, patient research, a philosophical abstinence from theory, and every possible precaution against the illusions common to such inquiries, the conduct of these gentlemen might well be offered as the most signal and praiseworthy example. The results are indeed no less remarkable; as it may
b3 safely said, that the curious exactness of coincidence between these ancient vestiges and the documents employed, amounts to a very full and striking confirmation of their authority as topographical guides, and a vast accession of probability to the historical records and tradi. tions of our ancient history. Mr Petrie has fully availed himself of these advantages, in a document which will, we trust, be placed in the hands of the public, as it forms part of a memoir drawn up to illustrate the Ordnance Map of the country. It is our appropriate task to observe, that the result of this inquiry confers additional value on the books thus employed—the books of Ballimote and Lecan, the books of Glendalough, and the Speckled book of M'Eggan, among the colections of which, valuable information was thus found; while the particulars thus verified may be extended as the tests of numerous other documents yet inadequately explored.
With these select notices of our ancient literature we shall for the present content ourselves. Many of the most important compilations were made in a period yet to come in the order of this work, and the notice of the compiler will afford the fittest occasion for all details on his work: the double claim of being the composition of one period and compilation of another, seems to give a choice to the discretion of the historian. Our present object, to exhibit a view of the general condition of our ancient literary remains, and of the materials of history, has perhaps been sufficiently consulted. These ancient records have been the object of much unreasonable doubt; for whatever justice there may be in the common cant about credulity, the contrary extreme is by far the more vulgar impulse. There is a distinction on this point which is not allowed for; superstition is credulous, for the simple reason, that in the peculiar class of ideas with which it is conversant, the true and false are equally beyond the scope of sense, and thus the mode of belief exercised on the objects of revealed religion, can be perverted to every spiritual abuse: the true principle tacitly established, is extended without question. But with reference to the phenomena and facts of the world of sense, there is a different rule of faith; the principle of assent is wholly different: the familiar state of things seems to be the order of nature to the shallow or the ignorant; and most persons feel more or less difficulty in conceiving the possibility of a state of national existence, and a class of social phenomena wholly and characteristically different from that which is habitual. They will not deny theoretically that such things may have been; the scepticism shows itself in an excessive reluctance to receive the specific statement. In examining the records of history, the most scrupulous and rigid precision is required in exacting all the evidence admitted by the nature of the case specially to be considered. But an enlarged and liberal view of this duty is necessary to counteract the narrow-headedness (if the word may be admitted) so characteristic of the sceptic, who is commonly misled from not understanding the true limits of proof and doubt, and from reasoning without any true comprehension of the
question at issue. On the authority of the records generally noticed above, it is indeed a valuable confirmation, that they concur with the local remains and the traditions of the country: a species of confirmation which we do not recollect to have yet seen treated as it deserves. We cannot consent to enter here on a hasty view of so curious and interesting a topic.
Conclusion. But we must hasten to the conclusion of these introductory remarks. We have here endeavoured to present within narrow limits some general idea of the state of Irish literature during the earlier portion of this period. It was indeed a time when concerns far different from the cultivation of the arts of peace, held the mind of Ireland. The poet's or the harper's hands were otherwise engaged than in the bower of pleasure. In England, poetry had reached its proud height-manners were refined— learning was assiduously and successfully advancing—the triumphs of science were preparing: Though shrouded in the sanguinary clouds of perpetual war, Ireland had too many points of connexion with her elder sister, not to receive a considerable influx of the same bright lights. Her nobles and chief gentry were in close and continual intercourse with the nobility and court of England, and their manners and modes of life were regulated by the same standard. So that, upon the whole, there was a continual advance. If the early part of the seventeenth century was grossly ignorant, the middle of the same century was adorned by a Boyle, and its termination by the pen of Swift.
1. POLITICAL SERIE S.
Sir George Carew.
BORN A. D. 1557.-DIED A. D. 1629.
Of the personal history of this great man little can be satisfactorily ascertained; the main events of his life belong to history, and have been already detailed under several heads.
His family was early settled in Ireland. On the death of Robert Fitz-Stephen, the kingdom of Cork descended by marriage to the Carews and De Courcys.* The Carews were ennobled, and handed down their possessions with the dignity of marquis of Cork till the time of the wars of the Roses in England, when they appear to have abandoned their Irish possessions, which were soon usurped by the surrounding chiefs, with some inconsiderable exceptions. They built the castles of Ardtullagh, Dunkeran, and Dunemarc; the last of which we find in the possession of Sir George Carew, while he commanded the queen's army as president of Munster. Sir George was the son of George Carew, dean of Christ's church, Oxford : he was born in 1557, and entered a gentleman commoner in Broadgate's Hall in Oxford university, in 1572. His first military services were in Ireland, where he