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DECEMBER

12. St. Finian, Bishop of Cluain-iraird, (called Clonard,) in. Meath, an. 552.

St. Columb, Abbot, son of Crimthain, and founder of Tirdaglas, an. 548.

St. Cormac, Abbot.

St. Colman, Abbot of Glendaloch, an. 659.

15. St. Florence, (or Flann,) Abbot of Bencor.

16. St. Beanus, Bishop.

19. St. Samthana, Abbess of Cluain-bronach, in Teffia, an. 738.

26. St. Jarlath, Bishop of Tuam, an. 540.

The Irish commemorate on the 1st, St. Nessan, Confessor, disciple of St. Finbar, and patron of Cork, seventh century; he is also honoured on the 17th of March. On the 14th, SS. Fingar and Companions, Martyrs in Cornwall, an. 445. On the 18th, St. Flannan, first Bishop of Killaloe, seventh century. And St. Magnenius, Abbot of the monastery near Dublin, called from him Kilmainham. On the 26th, St. Comman, Abbot and founder of the church of Roscommon, since translated to Elphin.

Besides these saints, we find many others in Irish calendars, martyrologies, and annals. Nor will the greatness of the number be a matter of surprise, if it be considered, that for the space of three hundred years after its conversion to Christianity, Ireland has been celebrated, even by foreign writers, as an island of saints, and the mart of sacred literature, from which issued some of the greatest ornaments of the church. Hither the youths of the continent and of Britain resorted frequently for their cultivation, and from hence professors have been invited by foreign princes for the establishment of universities, and for founding seminaries of true knowledge in different parts of Europe. Though we have already touched on this subject, we find ourselves under an obligation of returning to it, that we may remove the aspersion of Mr. Hume, a celebrated modern historian, who scrupled not to contradict on this head all our ancient documents, domestic and foreign. He has done so, without giving us any authority but his own for the contradiction. In his history of England* he advances, that “the Irish, from the beginning of time, had been buried in the most profound barbarism and ignorance.” To this barbarism, common originally to all European nations, Mr. Hume sets no limitation in regard to Ireland; and in this, as in other instances, his candour failed him. Among the inhabitants of the West, civilization was slow and gradual; and among the remotest, the lights of nature, assisted by casual intercourses with other nations, might, in favourable periods of time, produce great efforts for forming a good civil state. In a country long free, and long undisturbed, the case is very probable, and the old annalists of Ireland affirm it to be a fact in regard to their own country. The observation made by ecclesiastical historians, that the gospel, on its first promulgation, made the quickest progress among civilized nations, affords no mean support to the relations of the Irish writers on this subject. Ireland’s being converted to the gospel in fewer than thirty years from St. Patrick’s mission, infers such a proof of anterior civilization, as no modern skepticism can overturn. On that conversion, it became the prime seat of learning in Christendom, as the learned Prideaux has acknowledged in his Connexion of the New and Old Testament: and to quote ancient authorities in proof would be endless.

But this state of things in Ireland had an unhappy reverse. In the ninth century it was invaded and wasted by successive swarms of heathen Normans. Its seats of learning were demolished to their foundations. A relaxation of morals commenced; and the license of a civil government, including all the mischiefs of the feudal system, had to the miseries of foreign depredations added those of domestic disorder. Mr. Hume, careless to correct, or unwilling to curb his inclination to general censure, has, in the case before us, made no distinction. On the contrary, he affirms on his own bare authority, that in the middle ages, “the Irish felt the invasions of the Danes and the other northern people; but the inroads (he says) which spread barbarism in the other parts of Europe, tended rather to improve the Irish.” The reverse is the real fact. The Irish, though in the decline of their virtue and power, improved those northern barbarians as soon as they consented to give them settlements on their sea-coasts. By the labours of their clergy, they converted them to Christianity; and it was then that the Ostmen (as they were called) began to build towns in the maritime districts granted to them, and to make some amends for the many populous, though unwalled towns they had demolished in their former inroads.

The re-establishment of facts important to ecclesiastical history and public edification, could not appear to greater advantage than in the present work. It is no unequivocal proof of its merit, that the French, a nation famous for biography and critical learning, have found it worthy of translating into their own language. The French editor does not hesitate to pronounce it the best work of the kind that ever was published.† We find, however, that he was not supplied with many of the corrections and additions which the author had prepared for a new edition: and this will account for the mistakes which we meet with in the French translation, particularly in the lives of the Irish and Scottish saints. These must readily occur to the reader, and it is hoped will be attended to in the next French edition.

J. C.

Dublin, 31st Oct. 1780.

 

 








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