KEATING, Jeoffry. The General History of Ireland. Containing I. A full and impartial Account of the first inhabitants of that Kingdom;


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With the Lives, and Reigns of an Hundred and Seventy-Four Succeeding Monarchs of the Milesian Race. II. The Original of the Gadelians, Their Travels into Spain, and from thence into Ireland. III. A Succinct Account of the Reigns of all the Kings of Ireland, with the several Attempts and Invasions upon that Island. IV. Of the frequent Assistance the Irish afforded the Scots against their enemies the Romans and Britons, particularly their obliging the Britons to make a Ditch from Sea to Sea between England and Scotland, to guard themselves from the Surprizes and frequent Incursions of the Scots and Irish. V. A genuine Description of the Courage and Liberality of the ancient Irish, their Severe Laws to preserve their Records and Antiquities, and the Punishments inflicted upon those Antiquaries who presumed to vary from the Truth; with an Account of the Laws and Customs of the Irish, and their Royal Assemblies at Tara, &c. VI. A Relation of the long and bloody Wars of the Irish against the Danes, whose Yoke they at last threw off, and restored Liberty to their Country, which they preserved till the Arrival of Henry II King of England. Faithfully translated from the original Irish Language, with many curious Amendments taken from the Psalters of Tara and Cashel, and other authentick Records. Newry: Printed by Alexander Wilkinson, Margaret-square, 1817. Octavo. pp. (1) lxvii, 411 (2) 354. Modern half calf on marbled boards, title in gilt direct on spines. Neat early owner’s signature on titlepage. A fine set. Extremely rare Newry edition.

COPAC locates the Bodleian and NLW copies only.
Geoffrey Keating was born c.1570 in Burges, County Tipperary, the offspring (as he himself reminds us) of the ‘Sean Ghaill’, or Old Foreigners (Normans). He was educated at a local bardic school and he takes care to inform us, that he was at an early age sent to be educated for the priesthood at Bordeaux. There in the cloisters of the Seminary his young heart was aching with accounts from his native land of robbery, plunder, and confiscation, as chieftain after chieftain was driven from his home and patrimony. Doubtless this inspired his lovely exile poem ‘Beannacht leat a sgríbhinn’. Returning to Ireland around 1610, Keating, now a doctor of divinity, was appointed to a church near to his birthplace. He became known as a great orator and his fame as a preacher soon drew great crowds together. Amongst those who arrived one day, unluckily for Keating, was a damsel of dubious morals, intimately known to the President of Munster, and it so happened the subject of the preacher’s sermon that very day. All eyes were directed against her, and she, returning aggrieved and furious, instigated the President to at once put the anti-Popery laws in execution against Keating, who had to take refuge in the Glen of Aherlow. It was while in hiding that he began his famous ‘Foras Feasa ar Éirinn’ -
‘Groundwork of the Knowledge of Ireland’, gathering most of his research from manuscript sources which were held by the gentry. He is also known to have gone about Ireland in disguise collecting his materials, and apparently he met Michael O’Clery, Chief of the Four Masters, on his travels. In the Northern Half of our Kingdom, he was refused aid by the custodians of documents who feared that a Munsterman would not do justice to ‘Leath-Cuinn’. Was this unhappy prejudice one of the fruits of the Contention of the Bards? The history, begun in 1629, was completed in 1634 by which time he was parish priest in Cappoquin. Circulated in manuscript during the late seventeenth century as ‘Foras feasa ar Éirinn’. It was not published however for almost a century and O’Connor’s translation was not well received at the time. If, the story of the Old and Middle Irish periods never was forgotten by the Gaelic generations, Keating’s vivid narrative may be thanked. He gave the story of ancient Ireland the form in which it survived when the schools were overthrown and the tradition like Keating himself, was outlawed and fugitive. He wrote he tells us, lest “so honourable a land as Eire, and kindreds so noble as those who had inherited it, should pass away (dhul i mbáthadh) without mention or report of them”. Of the prose writers of the seventeenth century Dr. Douglas Hyde states: “of these men, Keating, as a prose writer, was the greatest. He was a man of literature, a poet, professor, theologian, and historian, in one. He brought the art of writing limpid Irish to its highest perfection”. It was translated into English by “Timothy Roe O’Connor”, i.e., Dermod O’Connor, and printed for the first time in 1723 under the title, A General History of Ireland.


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