Letters of Charles O’Conor [...]: A Catholic Voice in Eighteenth Century Ireland, ed. Ward, Wrynn, & Ward (1988)

Bibl. details: Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare: A Catholic Voice in Eighteenth Century Ireland, ed. Robert E. Ward, John F. Wrynn, S.J., & Catherine Coogan Ward (Cath. Univ. of America Press 1988), 537pp. Note: O’Conor is abbreviated as ’C in the follow synopsis.

‘Central to O’Conor’s project was the refutation of the calumniation of the pre-Norman Irish both through his own writing by persuading others to write similarly in theirs, as in his letter to Dr Thomas Leland: ‘from the accounts given by the enemies of the Irish … one would conclude that their history might well be dispatched in two or three lines: That they were a nation of cowardly brutes, indifferent to events and contingencies and to the last degree ignorant of the first principles of religion and civil government ... ’ (Letters, p.221.)


Discusses O’Conor as Historian: displays familiarity with Montesquieu (often cited on constitutional matters), Toland, and Temple; follows medieval annals; critical of constitutional failings of pre-Norman Ireland, esp. failure to separate and balance powers and weakness of executive; sees squabbles over high-kingship persistently in terms of dynastic revolutions against “Hy-Niall” house; opens with series of essays on language, politics, religion, arts and sciences, topography; reflects Toland’s view that pre-Christian Ireland (‘seat of our Celtic Religion’) was involved in struggle between ‘natural religion’ and Druidic superstition; insists on existence of writing in Ireland before arrival of Christianity [a theory not now accepted], to support authenticity of annals as source against Anglo-Irish chronicles; later adopted Isaac Newton’s Chronologia Universalis; expressed debt to Ruairdhrí Ó Flathartaigh (Roderick O’Flaherty), and severely critical of Keating; for injudicious collection … degraded by the fabulous [and] debased by many vulgarism in language’ all of which ‘ought never to be published’ (Diss., p.x.)

O’Conor warned Ferdinando Warner that Ceitinn is ‘not to be trusted in a single line where he is not supported by our old Annals’ Univ. Microfilm Inc. Edn., No.127]; includes Appendix on settlement of North Britain (Scotland), much expanded in 2nd edn. to combat Macpherson’s claims; in Introduction to his edition of Touchet, 1753, he compared the conflict of 1641 with the Roman Civil War in which ‘the best … were butchered by the worst’; observed in Collectanea (1786) that religious confrontation was being replaced by ‘unanimity in one creed of politics and in a profession of civil faith abundantly sufficient for every purpose of political salvation’ (p.245.)

Also remarked, ‘we are … all good Protestants in politics’ (UMI, No.407.)

Came to question reliability of Annals and even O’Flaherty in later years, though maintaining their authenticity of dates from ‘seven generations before our vulgar aera’ (c.250b.c.) onwards; supported Vallancey’s claim to have discovered Irish-Phoenician link since this would confer an alphabet on Irish; [O’Conor as Catholic Apologist:] wrote to Archb. Lincoln of Dublin during Munster disturbances of early 1760s recommending a letter to be read in the pulpit in Dublin advising congregations of their duty to the royal family, and reminding them that it was the Stuarts through Queen Anne, not the Hanoverians, who were responsible for the Penal Laws; regarded Penal Laws as ‘ty[ing] up the hands of industry and co-operation’ in the country; urged that Catholics ought to deem their exclusion from political power ‘no real hardship’; saw Penal Laws as deriving from ‘resentment of former injuries, when Protestant and Papist … contended about the mighty stake of power and property’; condemned Laws as driving enterprising Catholics and their capital abroad, and inhibiting reclamation of marginal land, as well as encouraging culture of sloth; set up ‘late immortal King William III’ as hero in moderation and tolerance; pointed out that the Penal Laws, established by Queen Anne, were ‘tinctured deeply and fatally, with all the Ductility and Irresolution of the Stuart-Race’ (The Case of the Roman Catholics, pp.44-45). [Biographical details as above.]

‘To the Westerner that Charles O’Conor was by birth, Dublin would always be the city where he spent two years of his youth learning French and science with Mr. Skelton, and also where he met Dr. Fergus and discovered the amount of Gaelic scholarship that still survived in the land of the Gall. As he came to spend more and more of each winter in Dublin, he found a growing interest in Ireland’s history even among those whose own ancestors had not participated in that history. As the Irish establishment became more independent in spirit from the Westminster government in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, it is not difficult to see why its members would lay claim to more than the present of their country they had come to settle. They wanted to be part of its past as well. To all who were curious about Ireland’s past O’Conor was generous with his knowledge and his encouragement. As the pre-Romantic fascination for Europe’s Celtic past spread out from the whirlwind that followed the extravagant Ossianic claims of Macpherson in 1760s, O’Conor received inquiries from beyond the confines of Ireland … doing justice to the past, making suggestions to the people of his generation, and responding with courtesy and deference to the great and small, to those from near and far, who were anxious to do justice to the complex reality of Ireland.’ [xxxiv; end Intro.]

Bibl. [chiefly as supra], includes ‘Short View of the Ancient State of Ireland from the Earliest Times to the Establishment of the Tuathalian Constitution’, publication unknown and believed to be part of Vallancey’s Collectanea for 1753 or 1754; note also that Castlehaven’s Memoirs, otherwise given as Waterford, published by Caldwell, are here given as Touchet, Lord Audley and Earl of Castlehaven, Memoirs, ed. O’Conor, London, n.pub. 1753.

The Letters

O’Conor [CO’C] seeks Curry’s opinion of the poss. inclusion of a maxim stating that the only invasion of the ‘independent kingdom’ of Ireland was effected by a pope supported by an English king, but that this reflects little upon the [presumably present] capacity and constitution of either (Letters, p.29.)

CO’C asks Faulkner to forward letter to Dr. Johnson (p.33.)

CO’C laments use of land for pasturage by Roman Catholics to furnish rent for landlords to import wine (ibid..)

CO’C condemns the part of the Nuncio in Waterford, Jamestown, and Galway, but sides with the Confederation in the Rebellion of 1641; records acrimony with Dr. Fergus arising from his publication of translations from Leabhar Gábhala and Newton [Chronologia], which Fergus claims to have made first (p.45.)

Note that O’Conor appears not to know who is the author of Curry’s Historical Memoir of the Rebellion of 1641, and seeks the latter’s information on the author of same, which he has received from a Mr Cusack; also that he received from George Faulkner a copy of Lawson’s Lectures on Oratory; speaks of forwarding publication of O’Kelly’s Macaria (p.89 &c..)

address to George III, at his accession in 1760 (p.92-93.)

CO’C questions by Hume has not received copy of Curry’s Memoirs, in March 1761 (p.100.)

CO’C talks of pointing out Curry as author of Historical Memoirs if Smollett should deign to correspond about the history of this island (p.102.)

Circumstances of Brooke’s offer to assist in writing History of Ireland, and O’Conor’s wariness about it, arising from information from Richard Digby regarding his intended use of the material for Ogygian Tales (p.103; n.2.)

First notice of communication from Ferdinando Warner in London, ‘who is writing the general history of Ireland’ (‘You have seen his letter to the nobility and gentry on this subject in Faulkner’s Journal. he solicits my assistance, or rather contributions. He writes politely and puts some queries relative to several things advanced in the Dissertations. I shall write and in my answer fairly confess my own mistakes in one or two places to which he points. Those Dissertations lie under all the disadvantages of a first endeavour on a very difficult subject …’; p.105.)

Letter to Warner, 26 June 1761 (p.107.)

Notes on Knocknarea and Miosgan Meaibhe, or Carne of Meaba (p.111f..)

CO’C responds to Warner’s interest in Curry’s Review, and informs him rightly of the title, Critical Review (p.125; June 1762.)

‘[H]e still has credulity enough to think the epic poem Fingal a translation’; reports that he has explained the disturbances in Munster to Warner in terms of enclosures for pasturage (ibid..)

CO’C to Warner, regarding Hume’s view of Ireland in his History of Britain: ‘Mr Hume’s general character of the old Irish before [16]41 is this: that they were a degree below barbarians; they were savages. I showed this not to be the fact by opposing to it the most stubborn evidence in the world, the manners and literary compositions of that people even in the worst stage in their history from the conquest to that fatal years he describes so pathetically and unfairly. Of these literary and poetical compositions from the conquest to the year 1631, I have a quarto volume of 1,000 pages — many, as to sentiment and force, equal to the best of our times. I confessed that during those ages of bad government the Irish were barbarians, but not in a greater degree than the other nations of Europe during those periods. Savages they were not.’ [Speaks of urging ‘some corrections and retractions relative to Ireland]]; Had I known where to direct him, I should trouble him with an expostulatory but civil letter on this subject. (p.126.)

‘Dr Warner tells me that Hume, like Voltaire, writes on dogmatically against positive evidence’; ‘my letter to Hume is finished’ (6 Aug. 1762; p.129.)

CO’C rewrites letter to Hume; contests remarks in Hume on Laws of Tanistry and adverts ‘artfully’ to ill-effects of Penal Laws ensuant on broken Treaty of Limerick (p.130.)

‘In his declamation against the Tanistry Laws, I have contrasted the (e-re-nata) with the Popery Laws since King William’s demise and should think that the latter are more ruinous to the public interest than the former. This I hope will not hurt’ (to Curry; 21 Aug. p.131.)

George [Faulkner] is very urgent with me to prepare a new edition of the Dissertations on our Irish history. Could I sit down to castrate and amend the work, I would indulge him. I would be better pleased to see those Dissertations dead and buried than to see them comes out in a second edition under all the disadvantages of the first’ (to Curry; 12 June 1976; p.149.)

[reporting a reply to Lady Lismore, who writes appealing to the author of the Dissertations to right the wrongs in Thomond’s history, O’Conor has promised to ‘execute all in my power in vindication of the surviving inhabitants of old inhabitants. I despair of a letter from Hume. (p.150.)

‘In spite of all my arguments Dr Warner has revived the exploded Usserian chimera [i.e., Archbishop Ussher, that the religion established here by Roman missionaries in the fifth century was that now established here by law. Such groundless hypothesis hardly deserves a serious refutation. Ussher did not dare aver that the Roman missionaries did not preach the Roman doctrines, but he avers by the strongest implication that Rome herself in those days was truly orthodox to a scheme of worship established by Act of Parliament in thirteen hundred years after’; proposes to Fr. Francis Sulivan of TCD that the Annals of the Four Masters be ‘printed accurately’ (p.153.)

‘The letter to Hume is … come out in some obscure London monthly collection, I suppose in broken and detached pieces. We must leave such orphans to their fate.’ (p.157.)

‘I am told that Mr Burke got £300 a year on our establishment, and I am extremely glad of it. he is a gentleman of excellent and cultivated parts, and it is happy that the writer is not superior to the man’ (6 Dec. 1763 p.163.)

‘The O’Briens for near two hundred years past have proved a galling spur in the side of their Milesian countrymen. They were the first among us who renounced the old religion of their ancestors, and with the spirit of all such converts they have proved of all enemies the most inflexible and rankled’ (p.1655.)

‘[r]evising some sheets of the Dissertations in this choice retirement, and yet I am so busy with personal affairs that my literary progress is but poor.’ (p.170.)

‘I have finished a detached dissertation on the Scottish monarchy in North Britain, and this a reply to the new scheme set up by the translator of Fingal and Femora. He pretends to show that we had no knowledge of letters in Ireland before the sixth century … MacPherson resembles a cuttlefish, which endeavours to escape by involving itself in a flood of muddy liquor, not unlike ink. I cost me some labour to bring him into open light; I then found it easy to master him.’ (Letter to John Curry, 15 Oct. 1765; p.179.)

CO’C mentions as ‘the Tipperary affair’ the judicial murder of Fr. Nicholas Sheehy (p.180.)

‘[T]hrough Leland’s friendship I can now have access to the college manuscripts, not withstanding the strictness of their university statutes. I amuse myself in the business of an Irish antiquarian; and I am pained at being alone in such an occupation: none to improve by, none to instruct me.’ (Letter to Faulkner, 28 Oct. 1766.)

CO’C expresses shock at hearing the Faulkner has read his letters to the company at dinner, as he did to Dr Johnson (p.189.)

CO’C regrets last page of Curry’s Candid Inquiry, in which there are unnecessary errors (p.191.)

‘I am surprised that no English or Irish Catholics undertook a single line to vindication Lord Taaffe’s pamphlet’ (p.192.)

‘Dr Leland would fill such a post [historian of Ireland] with dignity … I should in such a case, though in decline of life, sit for months to translate the Irish Annals for him’ (13 June 1767; p.193.)

‘Dr Leland is mounted too high on the steps of fame; does he not think it would be descending to write the history of his native country down from the time of Henry II? The history of freebooters on the one side and savages (what Mr Hume calls them) on the other? But this is grounded on a mistake. We have not been much greeter savages and freebooters than our neighbours during the Feudal Ages; and the history of man on every stage is worthy of being known … shall this, and this island alone be a blank in the history of Europe? Dr. Leland will let it be so, and let him be answerable for it. (Letter to Faulkner, 4 Sept. 1767; p.201.)

CO’C reports to Curry his information that the Memoirs, so ill-reviewed by Smollett in Critical Review, were supplied to him by Burke and Counsellor Ridge (p.212.)

CO’C echoes Horaces’s Satires and Epistles, written in exile; sends money to buy Gaelic MSS from the estate of Michael Dugan since ‘the college is now sufficiently supplied with books in our native language’ (9 Sept. 1768; p.114.)

‘[M]y unfortunate son’ – a spendthrift (pp.216-18); Frank, another, in military service in Austria; Martin in medical school in Paris; correspondence with Mr. [Agmondesham] Vesey (p.219.)

CO’C gives George, Lord Lyttleton an account of the Four Masters: ‘set to work by one Fr. Ward of Louvain in 1630. He dying, their undertaking was patronised by Mr. O’Gara of Coolavin, one of the reps. in Parl. for the Co. of Sligo in 1634. That gentleman laid a scheme for transcribing into several volumes all that escaped the gradual destruction of our archives in the Danish wars of the ninth and tenth centuries. To this end, those four compilers sat down in the convent of Donegal and proceeded from time to time in their transcripts, as materials could be collected, till the fatal Rebellion of 1641 obliged them to desist and leave unfilled those many blanks we find in the work as it came out of their own hands. In their preface [218] they make mention of the originals they made use of …’ (pp.217-18.)

CO’C to Dr Thomas Leland: ‘from the accounts given by the enemies of the Irish … one would conclude that their history might well be dispatched in two or three lines: That they were a nation of cowardly brutes, indifferent to events and contingencies and to the last degree ignorant of the first principles of religion and civil government ... ’ (p.221.)

‘No revolution of so great importance was ever less accurately described that that of Ireland in Henry II’s time, and I trust that some good documents relatively to it may be found in Mr. Harris’s collections and particular to those in Mr Lodge, who is a very diligent, as well as able, antiquarian …’ (14 Jan. 1769; with Leland’s searching queries as the character of Roderic O’Conor, ‘your ancestor’, appended.)

CO’C elucidates behaviour of Roderic O’Conor retreat to Lyttleton (p.223-4.)

CO’C gives an account of the invasion, calling first Norman arrivals Free-Booters with but a ‘general licence’ from Henry II, and noting that not until Earl Richard arrived was the ‘English invasion … a serious affair’ (p.225.)

CO’C discusses early evident of writing in Ireland, assigning Hebrew and Greek inscriptions at Clonmacnose [sic] to fourth century; warns O’Halloran against pitfalls of etymology and scholarly extravagance (To O’Halloran, 10 Feb. 1769; p.226.)

CO’C refers to Toland’s History of the Druids, perused years before and thought ‘ingenious’, and recommends a ‘diligent and critical examination’ (227.)

CO’C recommends usher[ing] in Curry’s Memoirs with a ‘short preface setting forth (by way of contrast) the equity of the present government’; ‘Religious indifference and apostasy, its concomitant, are making large and hasty strides among us …’; letter to Dr. Carpenter, congratulating him an election as Archb. of Dublin, 10 Sept. 1770; ‘In the character of a moderate Protestant I have written Observations on the Popery Laws … The whole consists in a contrast between the different schemes of King William and Queen Anne for the good of this kingdom; and you will observe that it is a comment throughout on Bishop Berkeley’s Queries of which I have inserted those that answered my purpose …’ (12 Oct. 1771; p.248.)

CO’C receives copies of O’Halloran’s Introduction to the History and Antiquities of Ireland from Major Vallancey (Nov. 1771; p.255.)

CO’C argues that Penal Laws ‘tie up the hands of industry and co-operation’ to Vallancey – who agrees (29 Nov. 1771; p.256.)

Ewing indiscreetly identifies O’Conor as author of Observations to Vallancey on basis of handwriting (p.259.)

CO’C tells Carpenter that he is ‘chastising and amending’ the volume of printed Dissertations, and that ‘the second will be of much greater value as it will include the times from Henry II to the present. We are interested in this latter period of history more and in any other, and it will require the greater labour to give a just idea of the civil an ecclesiastical revolutions which fell with it. This second volume is yet … in disjectis membris …’; also, give notice that Curry’s ‘excellent work …collected from a multitude of writers from the first dawning of Protestants under Henry VIII to our own times. He very justly keeps it a secret and it will come out in London in 2 quarto volumes’; refers to the discovery of the authorship of Observations [by O’Conor] as ‘the chance of a million to a single unit’; ‘I have thrown my last javelin at popular prejudices, for as old Swift observed, “A needle can have no effect against a stone wall” [and quotes MacDavy, ‘I leave that rock to other marksmen’ – viz Tadhg Mac Daire Mac Bruaidheadha’ in Contentions] (10 Jan. 1772; pp.265-66.)

‘My implicit confidence in Mr O’Flaherty’s accuracy plunged me into some mistakes’ (28 Jan. 1772; p.266.)

Non mihi res, sed me rebus submittere conor [I try to submit myself to circumstances, not c. to myself’, Horace, Ep. I – and an ingenious pun on his own name] (p.270.)

‘I have met in the hands of one Mr Morris in Galway a manuscript entitled the Ogygia Vindicated &c., by the late Mr O’Flaherty … a refutation of the objections of Sir George mackenzie to that book … well-written and throws some useful lights on our antiquities’; makes reference to the two MacPhersons [no ftn.]; Dr Leland advises that he publishes it (25 March 1772; p.269.)

Faulkner offers to print it; Leland and Vallancey propose Select Committee of Antiquarians to facilitate purchase of the manuscript, and elect O’Conor as the editor; published by Faulkner, April 1775 (p.270 n.3.)

Vallancey ‘is now collating our Irish Celtic with the Punic speech in the Poenulus of Plautus … sent me a specimen that amazed me … some sentences in that Carthaginian speech … can be plainly understood by a tolerable Irish scholar … It will, beyond contradiction, show the early use of letters in Ireland.’ (Letter to Curry, 7 May 1772; p.271; and see p.427, infra.)

‘malicious accounts of Giraldus Cambrensis, who attended King John into Ireland, and who met no doubt with some personal treatment here which incensed him against the nation. He was such a man as Burnet …’ (p.272.)

Further endorsements of Vallancey’s Phoenician theory of Irish origins in letter to Carpenter (p.273.)

Letter to Vallancey in full support of his theory, citing berla teibidhe and berla fene, terms used in Auraiccept na nÉces where an account is given of the ‘extraction’ of Irish, the language of the Feni, by Fenius Farsaid after the Tower of Babel (7 June 1772.)

CO’C congratulated by Sir Lucius O’Brien, and invited to become correspondent of Committee, 26 May 1772 (p.276, n.2.)

CO’C receives parts of Leland’s History of Ireland, and offers criticism of ‘unfair apology’ for massacre of [Island]magee in particular (to Curry, 31 Oct. 1772; p.278-79]; on the Catholic gentry, he quotes an acquaintance: ‘A man of £2,000 a year in fee simple is no Papist at all; the Penal Laws against Catholics don’t affect him, and he is exempt from many expensive occupations to which Protestants are exposed’, adding ‘What we are to do is to keep such gentry in the best temper we can’ (p.286.)

‘Catholic members in Wentworth’s Parliament … were mostly of the old English race, of different political principles from their old Irish brethern. There was a mistrust between both (in consequences of old animosities) which no quantity of religious principles could remove. To tax the former with insincerity because the Irish, dispossessed of six counties by James I, were not so thoroughly attached to the son of their destroyer is confounding things which ought to be kept separate … Sir Phelim O’Neill and others endeavoured in one desperate plunge to shake off the oppression and the oppressors they so long groaned under. The general defection of 1642, that is the necessity which all the Catholics found themselves under to take part with the old Irish they disliked, was entirely owing to the wicked administration of Borlase and Parsons …’ (Letter to Curry; p.289.)

‘The measures of obedience to the Holy See are not irreconcilable with those due to secular princes; they are too well-known in the present age to be overturned by the Ghillinis of Rome or Ireland’ (p.292.)

[O’Conor seems to argue that the religious principles of Catholics regarding heresy, i.e., Protestantism, should not be silenced since Protestants themselves likewise profess that disbelievers will be damned eternally, and that calumnies must be combatted since religious principles are separate from secular arrangements; p.292-93]; refers to De Burgo, author of Hibernia Dominicana, 1762, and cautions Curry that ‘all that we offer on the subject of the Doctor’s book should be only whispered among ourselves’ (pp.296-97.)

CO’C employs Michael Reilly to copy Ogygia Vindicated (p.297.)

Further references to the Ghillini affair; O’Connor still does not disclose to Carpenter that he and Curry are the authors of Observations on the Popery Laws, 1771 (p.300.)

introduces A Short View of the Ancient State of Ireland … &c., to Vallancey (22 Oct. 1773; pp.300-01.)

‘our middling and labouring poor are almost undone in this western province, a case which possibly could not happen without some defect in our laws or some extraordinary revolution in our climate; … the northern contagion of emigration’ (ibid., p.301.)

encomium on Curry, learning of his illness from Carpenter [Nov. 1773] (p.303.)

‘Old Bishop Berkeley and old Swift offered remedies long since when remedies were available … (p.304.)

CO’C speaks of ‘forgers of the Tuatha dé Danann succession’ as ‘masters of their trade’ (p.305.)

correspondence with Hervey, Lord Bishop of Derry, over Test Oath, sadly results in a wording that O’Conor found impossible to accept and did not in fact sign until 1779 (pp.306-12; see also p.342, n.3) — though Curry did (see p.338.)

refers to Quebec Act, 1774, allowing Canadians freedom of religious belief (Letter to Curry; 27 aug. 1774; p.313.)

CO’C write lengthy letter to unnamed member of House of Commons on Test Oath and Papal power (pp.315-18.)

‘[H]urtful only when the Ghillinis, the ignorant, dogmatic Ghillinis, are in possession of the chief eccclesiastical authority, a case not likely to happen soon as well in this more enlightened age as in this declining state of secular power of the clergy’ (Letter to Curry; p.320.)

CO’C reading the proofs of the Dublin edn. of Curry’s Historical and Critical Review, April 1775 (p.323.)

CO’C regards the Test Act in its present form as a new edition of the Penal Laws (p.327.)

CO’C expresses concern that Curry’s signing swearing the Test Act will damage their friendship; further remarks to Thomas Lee on the ‘impertinent paragraph’ of the Test Act (p.338.)

CO’C considers ‘no inconsiderable number’ preferable to ‘no inconsiderable part of his Majesty’s loyal subjects’ (p.340.)

CO’C remarks on collection of letters of Clement XIV ‘himself disclaiming all jurisdiction over the temporal rights of princes’ (Feb. 1777; p.341.)

Editors here question statements of Dunleavy’s and Charles Owen O’Conor that the discovery case continued from 1756 to 1784 in view of O’Conor’s silence before this date (p.342, n.3; bibl. Ward & Ward, Corrigenda, Eire-Ireland, 14, Winter 1979, pp.154-55 [her cited fully]; communicates his distress at the Discovery Bill to Dr. Carpenter (2 April 1777.)

‘[I]t may be that the misfortunes of my family are on one respect my best answer’ (To Denis O’Conor; 24 April 1777.)

[see also quotations on the ‘poor plank that brought my father to shore’, infra]; wishes to have Reflexions on our Present Situation placed in hands of Robert Jephson (p.349.)

CO’C conceives an Association of a select few for ‘the refutation of invectives and the publication of our grievances’ (p.350.)

CO’C refers to Lord Baltimore’s receipt of patent to possess Maryland for RCs of these islands, overturned by Revolution of 1688; conceives idea of a petition to George III ‘reinstating us in our right [to Maryland] never forfeited by sedition or disaffection’ in the light of the rebellion in America by the posterity of Protestants and Puritans from Ulster; recommends reading of Mr Burke’s book on the subject written before the present troubles commenced’ and particularly his ‘account of Maryland’, rep. in 2 vols. by Wilson of Dublin (pp.353, 357.)

O’Conor cites his own prefatory contribution to Free Examination, together with an appendix to same, published by Dillon Chamberlain in Dublin [no ed. note] (p.356-57.)

O’Conor mentions Thomas Campbell’s Philosophical Survey, though the editors fail to identify the author and contribute no further comment on it [Letter of 9 May 1778] (p.362.)

‘old Swift’ – debating advice from (p.378.)

‘my present captivity’ (13 Apr. 1779; p.381.)

‘when his Majesty’s Protestant subjects of Ireland are arming themselves for the security of the govt. even without waiting on the usual commissions, the Roman Catholics are virtually called upon to take some active part …’ (24 Aug. 1779; pp.383-84.)

Successive references to his work on Lives of the Martyrs, presum. Butler (pp.393-97.)

O’Conor comments on Vallancey’s Collectanea: ‘I evidently see therein the hand of the late Dr. O’Brien, who indulged too much to fancy in his researches both philological and historical. I found some capital mistakes in those Collecteana, as well as some good observations, but thought it not polite to point out those mistakes to the Colonel except in one or two instances, which I trust gave him no offence’ (p.402.)

O’Gorman receives copies of the Annals of the Four Masters [1781] (p.407.)

O’Conor receives from O’Gorman in London remarks on MacPherson’s Ossiac in St James Chronicle; asked from The Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian, and Remarks on Dr Johnson’s Tour into the Hebrides, expressing amazement at credulity of Blair and Whitaker, and making 6 numbered points disproving Macpherson’s claim [as infra, ‘On the works fathered on Ossian …’(4 July 1781; p.409.)

CO’C expresses view that Normans of ninth century (i.e., Vikings) were not made change their religion but became Christian on principle (p.411.)

Topography in O’Gorman’s Book of Ballymote copied from Book of Glendalough, and O’Conor’s, being identical, in MacFirbis’s transcription ; further on Ossian (p.411.)

CO’C writes of ‘fifth year of my defence against conspirators’ ([1781]; p.413.)

‘Protestantism, varied, varying, and varibale, has no principle but such as it is retstrained to by the civil power; and some lovers of virtue among the several sects fatigued with the different interpretations of the Divine Text, have taken their uneasy repose in Deism’ (Letter to Charles O’Conor, the Younger, Feb. 1782; p.414.)

CO’C published ‘Heathen History’ in Collectanea, with detection of errors in Ledwich and Beauford, also in Collectanea vols. (p.419.)

CO’C believes Mr. French will not take Hugh’s part in the Discovery suit (p.420.)

Letter to John Count O’Rourke (4 Feb. 1783; p.421f.)

‘[...] has not my worthy friend Vallancey done wonders through the collation of our own ancient language with … the ancient Punic?’ (Letter to O’Gorman, 6 Aug. 1783; p.427.)

‘[B]y his researches the Colonel will every day throw more and more light on this subject. On the perusal of an excellent letter written to him by Mr Edmund Burke, I could not but acquiesce thoroughly in the judgement of the lattter, that some of our best documents should be printed in two volumes, one of the original text and the other in a literal translation as exact as possible. “until something of the kind”, he advances, “is done, the ancient period of our history which precedes official records cannot be said to stand on any proper authority”. This judgement is certainly just, but it is equally certain that the gentry of this kingdom will never patronise such a work, small as the expense of it would be when divided among them’; also, copious praises of Sir Lucius O’Brien; ftn. notes that Burke praised O’Conor as ‘judicious antiquarian’ (Letter to Gorman, 14 Sept. 1783; p.428-30, and n.5.)

CO’C offered room for third contribution to Collectanea (8 Oct. 1783.)

Third letter published in Vallancey, 15 Aug. 1783 (p.432, n.2.)

Copying the Connaght Annals; using a boy, Michael Hughes, to transcribe the Munster annals; ‘Phoenicians[,] arrived in Ireland in an early period of time and introduced the elements of arts and literature among the indigenous inhabitants …’ (Letter to O’Gorman, March 1784; p.434, n.1.)

CO’C regarding the Mt. Callan Stone, and hopes of its authenticity (p.438.)

Subscription to Sheridan’s Dictionary, in which appears O’Conor’s own dedication ‘To the Lords and Gentlemen of the Volunteer Association of Ireland’ (p.440, n.2.)

CO’C reads introductory discourse to Thomas Campbell’s intended History of Ireland [never finished], with its ‘thorough slight’ of pre-Norman Ireland (Letter to Thomas O’Gorman, 14 July 1784; p.442.)

CO’C quotes Burke on himself [see under Burke] (p.443.)

CO’C heavily criticises Thomas Campbell’s disparagement of Irish material (to O’Gorman; 14 Aug., 1784; p.447.)

CO’C receives copy of Thomas Astle’s denial, in Origin and Progress of Writing, that Irish had writing during pagan existence, attacking Keating, O’Flaherty, O’Halloran, O’Conor and Vallancey (p.448.)

In the first extant letter to J. C. Walker, CO’C professes to admire Flood’s speech on the Question of Attachments; predicts that Burke will separate from Fox on the question of Irish duties; greets Archdall’s Monasticon Hib.; and expresses his pleasure if his letter of encouragement from Johnson should appear in an edition of the latter’s correspondence (Letter to J. C. Walker, 22 Dec. 1784; Letters, p.451.)

CO’C expresses himself overcome by the kindness of Walker’s invitation to join the newly formed RIA, and undertakes to request Vallancey to propose him (13 May 1785; p.452.)

CO’C praises Col. Burton Conyngham for his fisheries project, ‘the greatest friend that Ireland has met through the lapse of six centuries; calls for skillful hand to copy annals of Tigernach and Inisfallen in Bodleian; warns against bad translation and effect of giving triumph to Scottish and Irish adversaries (Letter to O’Gorman, 30 June, 1785; 453-54.)

CO’C ‘roused from our lethargy’, sends literary felicitations to Charlotte Brooke for Reliques; ‘You enquire about Grace Nugent, a worthy lady the sister of the late worthy John Nugent of Castle Nugent Colambre (Letter to Walker, 20 Nov. 1785; p.455.)

CO’C writes of strong effects on him of Burke’s speech on British misconduct in India (Letter to Walker, 20 Nov. 1785; p.456.)

CO’C defends Catholics of Connaught against insinuation of countenancing insurrection (Letter to Walker, 16 Feb. 1786; p.461.)

Letter to John Pinkerton, on ancient Irish history (4 April 1786.)

‘[I]n these differences relative to the facts asserted by Dr Campbell, we have no ancient facts to prove but that our predecessors before the introducion of the Gospel were ignorant and unlettered savages …’ (To O’Gorman; 16 July 1786; p.469.)

‘The extent of his oriental learning and skill in modern languages is vast. In my last to him I ventured to predict that his last performance [Monasticon] will draw on him tha ttention of all the academics in Europe … it is from the conflict and collision of authorities and opinions that the truth will come out at last on every question [echoing Augustine, cited in Latin in a previous letter] (Letter to Walker, 15 Aug. 1786; p.471.)

CO’C remarks on Arianism and Deism, and Berkeley’s reflection on religious anarchy ending in Popery (p.472.)

‘profound researches, extensive reading, and oriental erudition of Co. Vallancey almost without example in the present time …’ (Letter to Walker, 21 Oct. 1786; p.475.)

Further encomia on ‘the great Burke’ (pp.475, 477.)

Letter to Edmund Malone (24 Dec. 1787); further letters to Edmund Malone answering queries regarding the O’Malone genealogy (pp.486-88; 489-90.)

CO’C expresses of gratitude to Walker for proposing his grandson Charles ‘to the principals of our Royal Academy’ (16 Feb. 1788; 490.)

Notes on Roscommon Abbey and defaced O’Conor monument of which the carved guards ‘were pulled down lately and scattered about as remains of Popish superstition …’; recommends Archdall’s Monasticon to Beaufort, now departed from Ireland (Letter to Walker, 28 Feb. 1788; p.491.)

CO’C welcomes work of Dr. Barnard on origin of Scots (p.492.)

CO’C’s Complementary letter to Vallancey ends with promise that all my Irish manuscripts’ will be left to him ‘in trust for the library of our RIA …’ (27 Mar. 1788; p.492.)

CO’C enquires if anything has transpired about the letter from the Pope to to Ferrar, with the remark, ‘In the history of the Papacy such a correspondence is truly singular form a Roman Pontiff to a Protestant bookseller, little known at home. Such a humiliation is edifying, though to others it will perhaps appear ridiculous …’; the enquiry was elicited by Charles O’Conor in Rome, who was apparently instrumental in securing the correspondence (Letter to J. C. Walker, 16 June 1788; p.493.)

Encomium of Earl Nugent [note that O’Conor employs the same phrase, ‘threw lustre back upon his ancestors’, which he has used in correspondence with Edmund Malone] (p.494.)

Letter to Ralph Owsley of Limerick: ‘I was born on the 1st of January 1709/10 … [&c., giving details of his life and family as appear in Wards’s Introduction which, however, gives 15 Jan. as his date of birth] (?1789; p.497.)

Writes a kindly letter to repair reputation of Protestant pastor in his bishop and kinsman Edward French’s eyes, dealing with other rumours; afflicted ‘with a paralytic hand’ (p.499.)

Letter to Walker recounts advance of rheumatism; thanks for speeches of Flood (reasonings … cannot be overturned’) and Burke (may be just … but they are not on the popular side of the question’.)

Defends Vallancey (5 May 1790; p.500-502; see quots. infra..)

CO’C sends thanks to Vallancey for 5th vol. of Collectanae: ‘you have exhibited so many proofs of the establishment of an oriental Colony of Scythians in Ireland in early times as must attract the attention of our ablest European antiquaries and quicken their labours on new researches … Antiquaries, from the nature of their object, must sometimes work in a kind of visible darkness, and many will lose their way even in the twilight … Your facts are impregnable’ (6 Aug. 1790; p.502-03.) [END].

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