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resolving itself into two parts, the one a fact, namely, that the Irish had such historic records or monuments before the time of Cimbaoth, and the other matter of individual opinion, that they were of uncertain credit. Imperfect copies of these Annals are preserved in the Bodleian Library, and in that of Trinity College, Dublin.
Emanating, as this work did, from the principal of a great monastery, such a source was not novel in ecclesiastical history; Ireland, as before suggested, had even earlier, in its greater establishments, chronicles regularly kept by an officer appointed for that purpose, and those compilations wholly independent of their individual chartularies; but, as might be expected, their mass of information has perished in the havoc of unsettled times. Some of those that succeeded Tigernach have, however, more fortunately, although sadly mutilated, survived to assert their former existence; and of these may be placed first in chronological order those Annals of Boyle, which are adopted as the running-text authority in the writer's “ History of Ireland,” and which shall be spoken of more particularly hereafter. Next succeed the Annals of Inisfallen, which, with some few notices of Ireland before the birth of Christ, may be described as extending from A. D. 254, down to the year 1320. The original, a vellum manuscript of 57 leaves, is in the Bodleian Library, and from its inspection would seem to have been compiled about the year 1215, and thence continued, in different handwritings, by the successive scribes of that religious house. The three chronicles last mentioned, viz., those of Tigernach and Boyle, and portions of those of Inisfallen, have been printed, but it can scarcely be said published, in the late Dr. O'Conor's “ Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores.”—The Annals of Lough Ke succeed, and may be considered as a continuation of those of Boyle, and as connecting the events of the thirteenth and fourteenth cen
turies, extending as they do from 1249 to 1356, and, like them, written partly in Latin and partly in Irish.— The next compilation in the native tongue was that venerable repertory of Irish literature-the Book of Ballymote, now preserved in the Collection of the Royal Irish Academy, a large folio volume, finely written, in double columns, on vellum of the largest size, and originally containing 550 pages; but the two first have perished. It was drawn up at different times and places, and by various hands, and although much blended with fable, contains a vast quantity of curious matter, derived from long pre-existing tracts now lost.— The Book of Lecan, compiled at the close of the fourteenth century, is likewise an extensive collection of pre-existing narratives regarding the Irish, from the earliest period: the genealogies of their saints and chieftains, transcripts of the provincial chronicles, the laws, customs, and tributes of the nation, that curious piece of topography entitled the “Din-Seanchus,” &c. And this book has also happily found its way to the same accessible repository—the Royal Irish Academy. carried to France by one of the adherents of James the Second, and was, after his death, lodged in the Irish Col. lege at Paris, where it remained until the year 1787, when it was restored by Doctor O'Kelly, Superior of that college, and deposited in its present place of custody. This book consisted originally of 624 pages, closely written, in double columns, on vellum of a large size; but at present the first nine folios are deficient.— The Ulster Annals (so styled, as although a general history of Ireland, they more particularly than others record the affairs of that province), are, like those of Tigernach, Boyle, and Inisfallen, written partly in Irish and partly in Latin; they commence at the year 431, were continued to 1541, and are now preserved, or at least a considerable portion, in what are called the Chandos MSS. of the Bodleian Collection. There is also a copy, but im
perfect and interpolated, in the British Museum. These Annals of Ulster, next to Tigernach's, are considered the most faith-worthy, and were therefore edited by Dr. O'Conor down to the year 1131.—Another provincial history, entitled the Annals of Connaught, succeeds in order of time; and a fine copy of it, transcribed in 1783 from the original, then in the possession of the elder Doctor Charles O'Conor, is in the Royal Irish Academy. It extends from 1224 to 1544, and is the fullest chronicle of the affairs of Connaught. The narrative is, in many instances, circumstantial, and the occurrences of the different years in every part of the province are, with the foundings of castles and churches, minutely noted in chronological order.— Next may be mentioned the Annals of Inchmacnerin, in Lough Ke; they commence, according to Doctor Nicholson, at the year 1013, and end with 1571, being possibly those in the Manuscripts of Trinity College, which, from an erroneous statement of Dr. Todd (since retracted), was, in the first volume of this work, p. 133, suggested as likely to be the Book of Kilronan. But the fullest, most important, interesting, and general of all, and what happily are now in train of publication, are the Annals of the Four Masters, sometimes called the Annals of Donegal, as having been written within the Franciscan Friary of that ancient town, the chief seat of the O'Donnel. Of this work it is here enough to say, that it commences with the year of the world 2242, according to Irish chronology, and closes at A. D. 1611.
The project, however, of publishing this last-mentioned muniment of national history, does not include the very extensive portion of that work, which precedes the English invasion; it has been, therefore, the desire and object of the compiler of the “History of Ireland,” as prefatory to which these pages have been drawn up, to embody the prominent events, as well from these, as from other accredited Irish Annalists,
as far as concurrent with those of Boyle, and thus present to the public the fullest native authorities for the subject down to the year 1245. They will be found to preserve singularly faithful outlines of remote events; undisguisedly exhibiting, on the one hand, the battles, feuds, and vices of the ages they record, the rivalries of petty princes and dynasts, the desolating visitations of foreign oppressors, and on the other, with unadorned simplicity, registering the succession of kings, bishops, abbots, scribes, bards, and sages, the founding and flourishing of schools, the care and custody of relics, -a “hortus siccus” of by-gone vegetation: and, most assuredly, when examined in conjunction with the ancient laws, poems, and tales of the country, presenting singularly interesting memorials of a lettered and thinking people, secluded from the habits of the rest of Europe, and wintered beyond the tropics of Roman power; a treasure of language, manners, social intercourse, and religious rites. From those Annals, laws and poems, preceding by centuries the period of official records, yet ever since unalterably reiterated; from the synods of Ireland, the decrees of her councils, the rules of her monks, the registries of her churches, and the lives of her bishops and holy men, the speaking evidences of her former days can alone, perhaps, be legitimately traced. Regardless, however, of these native authorities, the later historians of this country have but dipped their pens in the gall of its animosities; the devoted liegemen of a party, they wrote to maintain a position, and without regarding or inquiring into the grounds of the statements they adopted.
The Annals of Boyle preceded the era of such falsifying influence, and, although the nearest in time of compilation after the English invasion and the interesting events of that period, they yet exhibit none of the rancorous and exciting spirit of national hostility, which too soon commenced to dissociate the ardent but misguided subjects of one empire.
The original of this historic work is preserved in the Cottonian Collection of the British Museum, a vellum manuscript of 68 pages, classed there Titus, A. 25; and a very accurate copy on paper is bound up with other Annals and Ecclesiastical Registries, in a volume of the Dublin University Manuscripts, classed E. 3. 2. They commence at the earliest period of scriptural history, and, treating briefly of general history, with some few notices of Ireland interspersed, to the time of St. Patrick, they are, from that period, almost exclusively devoted to national events, down to the year 1245, where the work closes. The late Doctor O'Conor, the Venerable Bede of his country's history, has indeed done much towards re-uniting the fragments of her Chronicles to the period of the English invasion, in his “ Rerum Hibercarum Scriptores,” printed under the auspices of the late Marquess of Buckingham; and wherein he not only translated and diligently collated these portions of the Annals before alluded to, but, yet more, accompanied them with such notes and illustrations as his genius, research, and learning could supply. In this Collection Dr. O'Conor includes the Annals of Boyle, but he has omitted that first section of its manuscript, which more particularly refers to general history, and to the affairs of Greece and Rome, concluding, its transcription would but weary the reader; his publication of them, accordingly, only commences with the year 420.
In the “ History of Ireland," however, which is annexed to this Essay, all of these notices relating to that country are restored, and will be found running through its pages, like the other “ Annals” of Boyle, translated, and in a distinguishing type. These few early notices being almost wholly in Latin, while those of subsequent date are printed in the second volume of the “ Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores," it would unnecessarily increase the expense of this work to repeat a text of such practicable access.