Rev. Matthew Kelly, Introduction to Cambrensis Eversus by [Gratianus Lucius Hibernus [John Lynch] (Dublin: Celtic Society 1850)

[ Bibliographical note: The text is copied from the PDF file made available at Internet Archive online; accessed 29.01.2011. Vols. I-III are available in separate files. The introduction is prefaced to Vol. 1. Page numbers in the original appear at head-of-page and are inserted here - to the contrary - at end of the corresponding body of text, indicating the number of page just finished (in keeping with the practice throughout RICORSO).
  Footnotes are included parenthetically, but only when they refer to sources rather than to other parts of the work in question. Paragraphs are here rendered as text blocks except in cases of verse transcription. Commas before and after dash-marks, and stops after the ordinals for kings, &c., have been suppressed. No attempt has been made at the present time to reproduce the bilingual text of the chapters of Cambrensis Eversus, though a copy of the table of contents has been attached to this document.]

Cambrensis Eversus has been generally esteemed one of the most valuable works on the history of Ireland. Viewed merely as a refutation of Giraldus de Barry, it was on some points unsuccessful; but its comprehensive plan, embracing a great varicty of well- digested and accurate information on every period of Irish history, imparts to it a value entirely independent of the controversial character inscribed on it a title-page. A summary of the work is found at the close of the first chapter. The Introduction must be confined to a biographical notice, including some views of the author on his own times.

John Lynch, the author, waa one of those eminent men who rose with such promise about the close of Elizabeth’s reign, and, within less than half a century, restored, both at home and in foreign universities, the literary honor of their country. He was contem- porary of Rothe, Ussher, Fleming, Colgan, Ward, Stephen White, Wadding, and Ware, - names which nearly exhaust the catalogue of our standard authorities, - as well as of 0’Flaherty, the Four Masters, Keating, and McFirbis, who are less famillar to foreign scholars, but justly prized by all who have studied those domestic records to which they applied their honest zeal and successful industry. When we consider how much was written, and what was contemplated in those times, and the cordial literary intercourse between men who were fiercely opposed in religion and politics, it would be difficult to find, in any country of equal resources,and under the same legal disadvantages, a greater love of [iii] learning, or a greater amount of good accomplished, than in the first half of the seventeenth century. That literary period stands alone in our history, and, in its own order, it may well bear a comparison with the contemporary literature of other countries.

The personal history of Dr. Lynch is unfortunately almost unknown, or known only from the dates of his works, though he maintained epistolary correspondence with some of his learned contemporaries, and has given us some finished sketches of the political events and characters of his time. Unlike his famous antagonist, who compiled, in his fiftieth year, an elaborate and highly eologistic autobiography, he alludes but three times to himself in the Cambrensis Eversus. It was only in the evening of his days, broken down by age, the sorrows of exile, and the ruin of his country, that a pressing invitation to return to Ireland drew from him a touching letter, which, with some meagre notes collected from other sources, are the only materials for a sketch of his life.

He was born in Galway, and descended from a family whose fame is written in all the monuments of that ancient town. The Lynches claimed descent from Hugh de Lacy, one of the most successful of the first race of Anglo-Norman invaders. With the exception, perhaps, of the Whites - an exception admitted by Dr. Lynch himself - no family gave a greater number of distinguished ecclesaiastics to the Irish Church.

There is no direct authority to fix the precise year of his birth; but, from some incidental sources, we may infer safely that he was born before the year 1600. He arrived in France a little after the completion of his seventeenth year, and was engaged in the atudy of humanity at Dieppe in 161S. He was near sixty years of age when composing the Cambrensis Eversus, which, though not publisheduntil 1662, must, from intrinsic evidence, have been composed before the Restoration in I660. From these dates, and collateral evidence, it appears he was born before 1600 - probably in 1599. [iv]

He was educated by the Jesuits, and, with that fidelity which has generally characterized their scholars, he omits no opportunity of defending them, especially for the part taken by them in the affairs of the Confederate Catholics, 1642. While persecution was at its height. the Jesuits lived in the houses of the Catholic nobles; but as soon as it began to relax, they retned houses in several towns, Galway among others, where Dr. Lynch received the first rudiments of learning. Galway was, at that period, and for many years, the sccond town in Ireland, and, in some points, the rival of Dublin. So early as 1608, Alexander Lynch, who is traditionally said to have been father of our author, had no less than 1200 scholara from all parts of Ireland, even from the other towns, and the Pale. In 1615 the ecbool was suppressed by Ussher, who bas given a high character of the master; but the suppression was only temporary; for it is probable that notwithstanding the enactment of the penal Statute of 1634, Galway was never without a Catholic school down to the the capture of the town by Cromwell’s forces. It appears, from Dr. Lynch’s works, that Nicholas Skerrett, Archbisbop of Tuam, and other dignitaries, had taught school there in the worst times; thus combining, like many other colleagues, whenever it was practicable, the two professions of schoolmaster and priest.

I have not been able to ascertain from any of his writings how many years our authur remained in France, or in what colleges he gntduated; but he was probably ordained priest about the year 1622, for be had labored thirty years on the Irish mission before 1651. He had celebrated mass “in secret places and private houses before the opening of the Calholic churchesin 1642. Like many of his predecessors in Galway, he taught school, and acquired a great reputation for classical learning.

Though Dr. Lynch felt acutely the restriction on the public exercise of his worship during nearly twenty years, and expressed, in glowing language, his emotions on firt celebrating mass in the churches during the ten years from 1642 to 1652, he never speaks [v] of the war of 1641, but as “that ill-omened, miserable, fatal war.” It will be seen that he took no public part in political affairs.

Archbishop of Tuam, he lived secluded from the turmoil of civil strife, in the old castle of Ruaidhri O’Conchobhair, last King of Ireland. on principle, he was opposed to the active interference of the clergy in the critical politics of his time. He even maintained that such interference had been always, in every couontry, productive of evil; an opinion more in accordance with his own quiet temper and studious habits than with the history of Christian states. But, whatever were his motives, he does not appear as a public character in any of the voluminous contemporary documents on the wars and deliberations of the Irish Catholics from 1641 to 1652.

Yet he held decided opinions on the political questions which distracted the councils and paralysed the strength of the Irish Catholics, and at last made them helpless victims of the English regicides. Born in the loyal town of Galway, grand-nephew of one of those priests, who, in Galway, as elsewhere, preached political submission to Elizabeth, while his countrymen were in the field against her, - he could not approve the rising of the Ulster Irish, nor the peretensions of any party irreconcilable with loyalty to the King of England. His own brief experience had taught him to hope for the gradual and peaceful triumph over the privileges of creed and race. From the close of the reign of James I, persecution on the score of religion had relaxed; the Catholic religion had been embraced by the some of the most distinguished families planted under Elizabeth; the old Anglo-Irish familes - the Butlers, the Burkes, Nugents, and Fitzgeralds - still died in that religion, though the heads of those families sometimes temporised during life; the strong arm of Wentworth had compressed all the jarring elements of Irish society into something like unity, and consequently mutual toleration; the animosities of Anglo-Irish and mere Irish clergy were dying away; a “Peaceful Association” [ftn. founded in 1620 by David Rothe, Bishop of Ossory - Messingham, p.87] combined their energies for the common [vi] good; and the prejudices of some of the most intolerant of the ascendant party were gradually yielding before the softening influence of common literary tastes. Everythign promised the speedy adjustment of conflicting pretensions. That fond dream - the union of Irishmen on grounds of perfect equality in every respect, religious and political, for the national good - should soon become a reality. These were the views of Dr. Lynch, the hopes which, he believed, were blasted by the rashness of the Ulster Irish, the rapacity of Irish land speculators, and the complications of English politics, all which precipitated the catastrophe of 1641.

The Catholic Confederation of 1642, he maintained, was defensible as the only means of self-defence against the open enmity of the Lords Justice, Borlase and Parsons, the deep laid schemes of a hoary adept in confiscation, and the fanaticism of the extreme English part, which maintained, even prior to the Confederation, that the extirpation of Catholics was indispensable for the “settlement” of Ireland. Of course, Dr. Lynch defends the cessation of 1643, the peace of 1646 and 1648, condemns the Nuncio, approves the general policy of Ormonde, on the ground that these measures were indispensable for loyality to the English Crown, and for the safety of Irish Catholics. He even prasaies the Catholic Earl of Clanrickarde, for having never joined the Confederation. In general, his opinions agree with those of David Rothe, who, it is commonly believed, had drawn up the plan of the supreme council of the Confederates.

On the surrender of Galway in 1653, Dr. Lynch fled to France, one of those fugitive whom he describes so feelingly in this work, as scattered to the four winds of heaven by the English Puritans. The particulars of his life in exile are unkinown. But as some of his works were prointed at St. Malo’s, we may infer that he had taken refuge on the borders of Brittany, where the States alloted public support for Irish exiles. His kinsman, Andrew Lych, Bishop of Kilfenora, resided at St. Malo’s, and was visited there in 1661 [vii] by Francis Kirwan, Bishop of Killala, and uncle of Dr. Lynch. Some of these clerical exiles were engaged in professional duties but our author’s time must have been devoted to his books.

His translation of Keating into elegant Latin, I think, was his first production, and composed in Ireland. The preface gives a just estimate of Keating’s work for industry and honesty, repfutres the objections urged against its publication, and demands for its manifest deficiencies that indulgence from Irishmen, which all nations have extended to those who had first endeavoured to compile a national history. The style of Dr. Lynch’s preface, though fair, is deficient in that ease whcih characterizes a large portion of his subsequent writings. The translation is free, sometimes paraphrastic, but always faithful.

In 1662, his great work, Cambrensis Eversus, was published under the name of “Gratianus Lucius”. His motives in composing it may be learned from the first chapter. Though they may appear now not to differ from those which suggest an ordinary literary project, it is certain that the want of some work of this this kind had long been felt as a national calamity - from the commencement of the reign of Elazabeth, the national antipathy of England to everything Irish was roused into aggressive acerbity, and soon found an exponent in the literature of the day. The publication of Giraldus Cambrensis imparted fresh vigor to this spirit, for, whatever Camden or Ussher might prove to the contrary, he was the popular oracle, especially with the small minority of new settlers in Ireland who profited by slander. To meet that fell temper which at last demanded, by the potent voice of Milton, nothing less than the extirpation of the Irish, the Catholic prelates in their first breathing moment, resolved to publish, at the public expense, a defence of the history of Ireland. The resolution was not carried into effect, and it devolved on our author, alone and in exile, to execute the task. How he has acquitted himself the reader may judge from the present volume, though it is far less [viii] interesting than the remaining chapters of the work. Throughout the whole work, he proves himself superior to the fatal animosities and prejudices which has so long divided the two great branches of of Irish family. Taught, perhaps, by bitter experience, and beholding the Irish, old and new, involved in indiscriminate ruin, pinig at home under the soldiers of Cromwell, or begging their bread abroad from doreigners, who must have despised them for their frantic discords, he holds the balance even between both races. He does fair justice to the old Irish, and even appears to bear heavily on his own Anglo-lrish family, by copying the political tracts of Sir John Davies which, however valuable in general, have all the characteristic faults of government reports ordered for spccial objects. He saw clearly enough that a new era was Opening on his country, when landlords were to become tenants, and masters slaves, and victorious Puritan soldiers were to become the fathers of a new aristocracy, not less ferocious than Strongbownians in the field, and more unscrupulous in extorting the fruits of their victory.

However our author may have hoped to have buried the old domestic feuds, it was his lot to be involved in them very speedily. For, while he was putting the last hand to his work, and perhaps congratulating himself on that learned chapter, in which he proves, by such an imposing army of precedents, drawn from the authors of every country in Europe, that the Anglo-Irish are really Irish, and ought to be called so, a work was presented to the Propaganda, in 1659, by one of the old Irish race. It was an elaborate impeachment of the whole Anglo-Irish family, a kind of supplement to the Remonstrance of Domhnall O’Neill, in the fourteenth century, but urging accusations far more momentous. There could be no peace, it declared, until the Anglo-Irish had been corrected or expelled. They had supported heresy under Elizabeth, and by their half-measures in the late war had ruined Ireland. Dr. Lynch stood forward as the apologist of his race. In an exceedingly rare and valuable book, he reviews Anglo-Irish history, indignantly [ix] rejects the name of Anglo-Irishman, extols the superiority of his race; their greater wealth, power, and civilization, their stately cities and fertile lowlands; their fidelity to their faith, which so many of them has defended by their writings, or sealed by their blood; and, what accords badly with modern flimpsy theories, their numerical superiority. It must be admitted that the ardor of controversy hurries him into some statements which his cooler judgement rejects in the Cambrensis Eversus; but, as a history of the Anglo-Irish race, especially of their anomalous position under Elizabeth, the Alithonologia has no rival. It is in that work that he gives his opinion on the history of tbe Irish Catholics, and sketches of most of their leading men, from 1641 to 1652. His loyalty, of course, is of true Anglo-Irish burgher stamp, but never descends to that erastian compliance which secularized the Church without serving the country in Catholic times, and which, in his own day, for a gleam of roval favor, was but too ready to sell ecclesiastical rights. In point of style, the work combines, with the good qualitics of Cambrensis Eversus, the vigor and fire of animated controversy; while, in moderation, it presents a favorable contrast with most of the politico-religious literature of the age on both sides of the Irish sea.

In the year 1664 our author addressed a brief and learned letter to Boileau, historian of the University of Paris, who, by an error not uncommon at the time, had confounded the Scoti flud Scotia of the ancients with modern Scotland. How, he asks, would Frenchmen feel if the colonies of Guadaloupe, Madagascar, or Martinique, were to claim as their own the ancient glories of France. Yet you have been guilty of a similar injustice, by depriving Ireland of her scholars, who first taught in the University of Paris oud the Court of Charlemagne. Boileau retracted, in a polite letter highly complimentary to the to the learning of hiscorrespondent.

In 1667, Dr. Lynch published a Supplement to his Alithonologia. It has all the defects so generally found in continutations, [x] and most of the excellencies of the author’s other productions.His antagonist had been ordered to quit Rome, and his work was disowned by the superior of the religious order to which he had associated himself in Italy. The content had thus lost much of its interest. But Dr. Lynch gives full scope to his discursive humor, ranging over every period of Irish history, and indulging in his usual exhuberance of classical allusion and illustration. It is painful to find him at times bearing so heavily on the memory of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill; but it must be remembered that stories of the ferocity of the old Irish were probably nursery rhymes in Galway when Dr. Lynch was a child. The most significant, and indeed unpardonable trait of partisanship is, that, while he condemns the Ulster Irish, he appears altogether to forget the spoliations which goaded that noble race to desperate measures. His adversary accused the Anglo-Irish, and with great reason, of haviug co-operated with the new English in the Parliament of 1613, in confiscating the nine counties of Ulster. The charge could hardly be denied. That confiscation, on the principles of Dr Lynch, should have been regarded as the completion of the conquest of Ireland, commencwd 400 years before by his Anglo-Irish kindred. From the days of Henry II to the flight of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, the history of Ireland may be summed up in the words of Giraldus: “Hiberniae regio a nostris majori ex parte nondum habita vel efficaciter occuputa est.”

In the same year he wrote a pathetic poem, in answer to the question. “Why do you not come home to Ireland?” It is a mirror of his feelings in exile, and peculiarly interesting, because it is the only work in which we see himself. He would not return, he says, because, broken down by age and infirmities, he would be a burden to himself and others; he could not bear to see reduced to beggary those whose opulence and public spirit had adorned his native town; he could not exchange the free altars and noble churches of France for the garret chapels and dingy hiding places in Ireland; nor behold the churches, where he had [xiv] officiated for ten years, transferred to another worship: finally, his writings had given offence to the father of some person then in power; and, though many of the nobles were inclined to protect him, the son might sacrifice him to the vengance of his father. This dreaded personage was probably the Governor of Galway, a don of Sir Charles Coote; for Dr. Lynch denounced, in no measured terms, the sauguinary deeds of Sir Charlce and of his accomplices. From the chronologcal notices of his own labors in the exordium of the poem, one might conclude, at first sight, that it was intended for publication (though it was only addressed to a friend); but when we remember that he studiously abstains from all allusion to himself in his publiahed works, and published nearly all of them anonymously, we must rather regard the letter as the sincere apology of a noble-hearted and sensitive priest, for not encountering in his old age the perils of the Irish mission, on the grounds that he had labored there during thirty years of his prime, and, moreover, that he had leisure in a foreign land to devote the remainder of his days to the literature of his country.

In 1669 he published the life of his uncle, Francis Kirwan, Bishop of Kilalla [Pii Antistitis Icon, sive de vita et morte Revnd. Francisci Kirovani, edited, with translation and notes, by Rev. C. P. Meehan, Dublin: Duffy 1848.] In his other works we see the scholar, patriot, and historian; in this we have a zealous Irisb priest, sketching, but not with too partial a hand, his own ideas of ecclcsiastical virtue, exemplificd in the life of a beloved relative, under whose care he himself had been educated, and who, in every phase of his eventful life, in persecution as in prosperity, as a bishop and as a priest, had labored to prove himself worthy of his vocation, and to supply the manifold wants of his Church. It is one of the very few biographical memoirs extant in Irish Catholic ecclesiastical literature.

Most modern writers state, on the authority of Dr. Burke and Dr. Nicholson, that our author was Bishop of Killala. Dr. Burke [xii] certainly calls him Vicar Apostolic of Killala, a title, however,which doee not imply that he was bishop, but the contrary, for, in the Catholic Church in Ireland, the vicar apostolic was only a priest. Dr. Nicholson mentions Dr. Lynch twice in the body of his work, once as a “secular priest,” and again, an “Arcbdeacon of Tuam;” in the preface only it is asserted that he was subsequently appointed Bishop of Killala. The authority of Dr. Burke is entitled to respect. Dr. Nicholson might easily have confounded our author with other Lynches. It is certain that Dr. Lynch was not bishop or vicar apostolic in 1615, the datw of 0’Flaherty’a letter to him on Irish chronology; nor in 1669, when the Life of Kirwan was published, the title-page styling him merely Archdeacon of Tuam. It is also certain that he died in France; so that, if he ever became vicar apostolic or bishop, it must have been in the seventieth year of his age. Now it is highly improbable that, in times so difficult, an old and infirm man, who had resolved not to return to Ireland, would be elected for the charge of a diocese; and it is more improbable that Dr. Lynch, if he acccpted, would remain in France, for he had strict notions of the obligations of chief pastors to encounter all hazards in the discharge of their duty. A conclusive argument may be founded on the fact, that, when a Spanish Dominican visited Galway in 1674, to inquire into the pedigree and family of the Lynches, Dr. Lynch’a name does not appear as vicar apostolic or bishop, but as the late Archdeacon of Tuam; though, were it in the power of the Lynches to adorn the catalogue of their episcopal connexions by his name, they would not have omitted it, the precise object of the inquisition being to ascertain the respectability of their family in the Catholic Church. Had he been bishop or vicar apostolic, would Peter Walsh cite him repeatedly, in the History of the Remonstrance, as Father John Lynch, and in the preface to the Prospect of Ireland, written in 1683, describe his rank as “sacerdotal,” the objcct of the passage being to magnify all Dr. Lynch’s claims to rcspect? Moreover, from Dr. Renehan’s comprehensive manuscript History of the [xiii] Irish Catholic Bishops after the Reformation, it appears that John Baptist de Burgo was Vicar Apostolic of Killala at the very time during which alone Dr. Lynch could have been vicar apostolic. The usual style dor an Archdeacon,“Reverendus admodum,” is prefixed to Dr. Lynch’s epitaph, preserved in a copy of his translation of Keating, transcribcd by Father John Donnelly, O.S.D., Drogheda, 1712, and now in the possession of Mr. O’Donovan.

From the manner in which Dr. Lynch’s name is introduced into the inquisition held at Galway, he was probably dead in 1674. In his poem, written sseven years before, he declares that,as he was even then tottering on the verge of the grave, it would not be worth his trouble to go so far as Ireland for a little clay to cover him. From the follwing epitaph, composed by his friend and fellow-laborer, O’Flaherty, it would appear that he died, where his works were published, at St. Malo’s:

Occidit Amoricis pius heu! Lynchaeus in oris,
  Lynchaeus patria lux, columenque suae.
Asseruit famam, commmenta refellit, Ierniae;
  Eruit e tenebris gesta vetusta stylo.
Gallia habet tumulum, cunabula Galvia jactat;
  Scripta vigent terris, spiritus arce poli.

He outlived nearly all his distinguished literary contemporaries, and, with a few brilliant exceptions, they have had, in their own order, no successon. Like the unfinished cathedrals of those ages to which they devoted their genius, their works remain the admiration and the reproach of posterity.

This Tolume is presented correctly from the original, no change being made, except in the incorporation of the addenda with the body of the work, in those places where, from inadverience or other causes, they had been omitted in the original. It is also hoped that, in the present edition, the number of errata is at least considerably dimimshed. The old paging is retained in our margin,for facility of reference, as the original is so exceedingly rare. [xiv]

The marginal headings of the original are collected at the head of each chapter, the topics discussed beign so various, that it was deemed useful to have the substance of the chapters indicated in some compendious form.

Many of the opinions advanced in the Appendix and some of the notices on the eighth chapter, may appear novel, but it is hoped that the errors, if any, are wrong conclusions from faithfully cited authorities. the Pagun histor of Ireland is an open field for speculation, if speculation condescend to tread upon solid ground. We need not agree with the schools represented by 0’Flaherty,or Ware, or Vallancey,or Pinkerton and Innes. O’Flaherty adopts as history the poetry of the bards; Ware rejects the whole pagan story as an inextricable tissue of fable; Vallancey would prove, by etymoIogy and conjecture, that we were the Egypt of the western world; Pinkerton and Innes. with some truth, blend more prejudice and insolonce. But least of all are the notes intended to countenance the vulgar assumption that Ireland owes her first fame to English connexion. Such a notion deserves but silent pity or contempt, except when prudence demands that the fool be answered according to his folly, or otherwise, as occasion may require. If the notes be in any way useful to the honest and intelligent school of living antiquarians, in eliciting the facts which may be involved in the copious records of pagan story, and arranging Irish epochs in harmony with the known contemporary revolutions in Britain and on the Continent, they have obtained their end. The whole work, amounting to 382 pages, was tranalated before November, l847, when many sheets of the present volume had not been printed. Some of the notes were planned to economize space in the subsequent volumes; others, especially at page 235, were indispensable. From Chapter IX, our author must speak for himself. All those who have toiled at our history know the apirit in which, at the close of his Preface to Keating, he quoted St. Jerome, “carpere et detrahere vel imperiti possunt, doctorum est, et qui laborantium novere sudorem, vel lassis manum porrigere, vel errantibus iter ostendere.” [xv]

The copy of the Alithonologia, and its Supplement, cited in this work, were transcribed for the Editor, under the direction of the Rev. J. Postlewhite, S.J., Stonyhurst. Stephen White;s Apologia against Giraldus, which will be very useful on several points, was transcribed from a copy in the Bibliotheque de Bourgogne, Brussels, and forwarded to the Editor by the Rev. J. Tinnebroek, S.J., Louvain. No sheet of this volume has passed through the press without the revision of J. O’Donovan, Esq., in those dctails on which his unrivalled knowledge of Irish lopography, and familiar acquaintance with Irish MSS., could alone secure accuracy: but he is not in any way accountable for the editorial speculations. Mr. Hardiman, the guardian of Dr. Lynch’s fame, has kindly given, through George Smith, Esq., the use of his copy of Cambrensis Eversus. To William Elliot Hudson the obligations of our Society are so great that if this volume is not inscribed to him, it is solely because the Editor’s earnest request could not induce him to suspend a rule made by the Society, that its publications should have no patron but the Public. It is but justicc to say, that if our edition of Cambrensis Eversus has not shared the fate of a fragment of it, dedicated fifty-three years ago, by T. O’Flanagan, to Henry Grattan, we we may thank the generous and untiring zeal of Mr. Hudson alone; for when a calamity, unprecedented in the annlls of the world, had concentrated on more pressing objects the attention of those to whom the SocIety has a right to look for support, he was true to the motto of Dr. Lynch, “Semper fidelis”, giving to the Editor encouragement and literary aid, and to the Society that substantial support which preserved its existence, and which which asks no reward but the co-operation of our Mumbers to complete the good work.

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
2nd February, 1849.


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