« AnteriorContinuar »
We cannot help obferving that there are two circumstances which muft particularly recommend this Grammar: first, that the rules laid down are illuftrated and fupported by examples, quoted from the above-mentioned manufcripts; fecondly, that it exhibits both dialects, to one of which we have been hitherto entire ftrangers. The late Mr. Swinton of Oxford intended to have added to this work a differtation, De Numis Copto-Phæniciis, part of which is actually printed off; but the remainder cannot be found among his papers. Mr. Woide, likewife, informs us, that, befide fome curious books, in the dialect of Upper Egypt, there is a very ancient and valuable translation of the New Teftament, of which he intends foon to give an account, and to publish the various readings; and we hope it will not be long before he fulfils his promise, made at the end of the preface to the Grammar, to gratify the curiofity of the learned with his differtation on the Egyptian language and its characters. We do not doubt but there will appear feveral things, in this branch of literature, which are altogether new; and we join in opinion with a right reverend prelate, who, in his preface to his applauded Commentary on Ifaiah, thinks that the Public will be benefited by it. Researches of this kind muft, undoubtedly, throw greater light on the critical study of the New Teftament, and on Chriftian antiquities, than the Arabic, which of late, (particularly abroad) has been the hobby-horse of many profeffors, and young mafters of arts, who use their knowledge of the Arabic, which, heaven knows, is much confined, like a juggler's box, to make the ignorant ftare, and to raise a smile on the countenances of those who have difcernment enough to fee how far they are from being critical conjurors.
* Of which an account is preparing for our Review.
ART. III. A general Hiftory of Ireland, from the earliest Accounts to the clofe of the Twelfth Century, collected from the most Authentic Records. In which new and interefting Lights are thrown on the remote Histories of other Nations, as well as both BRITAINS. By Mr. O'Halloran, Author of an Introduction to the Hiftory and Antiquities of Ireland. In two Volumes, 4to. 11. 11 s. 6d. boards. Robinson, &c. 1778.
ONTENTIONS concerning antiquity, birth, and rank, either as to nations, or private perfons, may often, perhaps, be best fettled by recurring to the epitaph of honeft Matt. Prior. As defcendants of Adam and of Eve, all may put in an equal claim, and higher none can rife. We do not mean, however, by this reflection, to condemn all enquiry into the origin of nations, which may in fome inftances be attended not only with pleasure but with improvement. Mr. O'Halloran has already appeared as a warm and zealous advocate for
the honour and antiquity of his country. The fame nationality and ardour, which were manifested in a volume published fome years ago, are obfervable in the prefent performance. The duty,' fays this gentleman, I owed to my much neglected and much injured country, fuperfeded every other confideration; and determined me to publish * An Introduction to Irish Hiftory. This work met with a more favourable reception than I durft have flattered myself, not only in Britain and Ireland, but on the continent; and the Academy of Infcriptions and Belles Lettres at Paris, have expreffed their approbation of it, in terms highly honourable to the author. Here I had refolved that my hifto rical researches fhould end, but I found myself mistaken. Since that period, other writings on the same subject appeared, in which ancient hiftory and modern hypothefis, are ftrangely affimilated. It appeared to me, that if fome generous attempt at a general history of Ireland was not speedily undertaken, the annals of our country, fo important to letters, would be loft for ever; as at this day, few are found hardy enough to explore a fubject fo little countenanced, and fo long neglected. But who bold enough to engage in fo arduous a task? That I have attempted; but could I have foreseen the tenth part of the labours and difficulties I had to encounter, in all probability, it would never have appeared!'
The first book of this work contains the very early history of this country, from the fuppofed landing of Partholan (faid to be a defcendant of Magog, fon of Japhet), about 278 years after the flood, to the famous Milefian expedition, about the year of the world 2736. The accounts given of fettlements in Ireland, during this period, have been generally confidered as precarious, and founded on British emigrations thither. The Fir Bolgs have been regarded as Belgians or fouthern Britons, and a colony known by the name of Tuatha de Danaans, to be the Damnonian Britons: Mr. O'Halloran allows nothing of this; he is perfuaded that these different colonies arose from the fame ftock, and emigrated from Greece to Ireland, though the laft diftinguished by the name of Tuatha de Danaans, went first to Denmark, where they refided a confiderable time, after which they paffed, he fays, seven years in North Britain, and came from thence to his country where they fixed their abode. He produces fome proofs and authorities for his affertions; but after all that is faid on the fubject, it must furely be allowed, that what accounts remain of thofe early times are fo much inveloped in obfcurity, uncertainty, and fable, that, in general, little dependance is generally to be refted on them. Our Author thinks, there is every reasonable evidence, that the old British
* Vid. Review, vol. xlix. p. 193.
and old Irish, proceeded from one common stock; but which, fays he, is the parent country? To this he finds it not difficult to anfwer, that the first invaders of Britain were the followers of Briotan, grandfon of Neimheidh, chief of the fecond colony which failed from Greece to Ireland. From this prince (Briotan) the country affumed the name of Britain, as did the people that of Britons; and he adds,fince they must originate from fome colony, where can they trace a more honourable fource?'
In the fecond book, the Milefian hiftory commences, and the Irish race are traced back to Phoenius, the great grandson of Japhet. In the Irish annals, he is faid to be furnamed Fairfadh, or the Sage, celebrated for his wisdom, and as the inventor of letters, and for the labour he employed to establish arts and fciences in his dominions. His refidence is fuppofed to have been on the Syrian coaft, bordering the Mediterranean, the ancient Phoenicia, fo renowned in hiftory. The account of this prince, and his defcendants, with their emigrations, and fettlements in Crete, Egypt, Spain, &c. is purfued in this book, to the year of the world 2706, when Heber and Heremon leave Spain for Ireland. The narration of these diftant events, is intermingled with chapters, in which the Author, in a very elaborate manner, affigns his arguments in fupport of the fact, and particularly of his great and favourite topic, that he and his countrymen are defcended from Phoenius. The cuftoms of the Phoenicians and ancient Irifh, he obferves, greatly correfponded. 'They both adored Bel, or the fun, the moon, and the stars. The house of Rimmon which the Phoenicians worshipped in, like our temples of Fleachta, in Meath, was facred to the moon. The word Rimmon, has by no means been understood by the different commentators; and yet by recurring to the Irish it becomes very intelligible; for Re is Irish for the moon, and Muadh, fignifies an image; and the compound word Reamhan, fignifies prognofticating by the appearances of the moon.-The Phoenicians, under the name of BelSamen, adored the Supreme; and it is pretty remarkable, that to this very day, to with a friend every happiness this life can afford, we fay in Irish," the bleffings of Samen and Bel be with you!" that is of all the feafons, Bel fignifying the fun, and Samhain, the moon.
'Neptune was alike adored by the Phoenicians and Irish; and it is worthy notice, that the Irish language ONLY explains the attributes of this deity, though common to other countries; from Naomh, or Naoph, facred; and Ton, a wave!' But this reminds us of a derivation in another part of the work, in which our Author does not seem quite fo happy; when speaking of a festival appointed by Luigha for the month of August,
he obferves, that from the name of this king Luigha, Auguft is from whence, he adds, the English This by the way. Our Hiftorian
called in Irish, Lugh-nas, word Lammas for Auguft.' proceeds:
But to prove to conviction the origin of the Irish nation, it is to be noticed, that the Carthaginians, who were confeffedly a Phoenician colony, were, like the Irish, called alfo Poni, That they fpoke the Phoenician language will not be doubted, and if it will appear, that the Bearla-Pheni, or Irifh, is the fame with the Carthaginian, demonftration can go no farther. This the learned Colonel Vallancy, has proved beyond a doubt in a late publication*, and in the courfe of the present hiftory, it will appear, that a close connection and correfepondence was conftantly kept up between the two ftates. Both were renowned for their fleets and their commerce, and were alike attentive to the encouragement of arts, fciences, manufactures, and agriculture.'
Our writer endeavours to prove, that Ireland is meant by the famous Atalantic ifle of the Egyptians, mentioned by Plutarch, in his life of Solon, the Ogygia of Homer, and the Hyperborean Ifland, which Diodorus Siculus defcribes from Hecateus, an ancient author, who is faid to have written its hiftory; to all which, he adds proofs and reafons, that thefe ancestors of the Irish were the first reformers of Greece. In defcanting on thefe fubjects, he difplays his erudition and attention, together with a kind of enthusiastic ardour for his country's honour. He infifts on the care which the Milefians ufed, not only to collect and preferve their own annals from the time of Phoenius, but also, to inform themselves of the hiftory of those inhabitants whom they found in Ireland at their arrival, to preserve and to tranfmit it to pofterity. With regard to ancient hiftory in general,
the farther we pufh our enquiries, fays he, the more we find it abforbed in fable.-Beyond a certain period, every thing appears a perfect chaos! kings defcended from gods and demigods; reigns, revolutions, and interefting events, recorded without order, time, or place! Not fo in the preceding relation. We behold a regular fucceffion of rulers, without any thing of the fabulous, or even the marvellous. It carries too great an air of truth and fimplicity, to fuppofe it the work of invention, had we even wanted collateral evidences to support it.' To this, he adds, in another place, The foregoing narrative, faithfully extracted from the moft refpectable of our records, is the earliest account of colonization extant, and I think it the beft fupported. It has not only been carefully handed down from age to age by our antiquarians, but honoured by the pens
* Collection of the Irish and Punic languages, &c.
of our greateft princes, fuch as Ethorial, Ollamh-fodlah, Cormoc, &c. Ireland, as well in her Chriftian, as in her Ethnic ftate, deemed it the most precious monument of her glory and of her antiquity. In the fevereft fcrutinies our annals underwent-thefe truths were never doubted.' Farther, to secure our affent to all which, he endeavours to procure, as we have obferved, the aid of foreign evidence.
But amidst this glory which redounds to Ireland from its early, military, and learned ancestors, it may be demanded, and our Hiftorian afks, If the ancient Irish were these extraordinary luminaries fo celebrated by antiquity, but particulary by the early Greeks, how is this to be reconciled to the picture given of them by their fucceffors? Strabo tells us, that the Irish were the most abominable and deteftable of people; that they devoured human flesh, even that of their parents; committed inceft, &c. Among the Latins, Mela and Solinus, are equally fevere, in the short accounts they have left of this people. But, fays our Author, the account they give of the country itself is the best defence of its inhabitants; for they tell us, it is cold, bleak, and unhospitable, scarce affording trees or vegetation, much lefs milk or honey! He farther obferves, that however celebrated the Greeks were at a remote period for commerce and navigation, after their conquest by the Romans they were no longer confidered in that light; and farther, he remarks, it does not appear, that the Romans, after the deftruction of Carthage, gave much attention to commerce; nay, fo little did they know even of Britain, notwithstanding Cæfar's conqueft of it, and the different generals who afterwards governed there, that it was not till the reign of Domitian that they obferved it to be an ifland! So little informed, he adds, of a country in their poffeffion for more than a century, we muft not be furprized if fubfequent writers grofsly mifreprefented a nation, the avowed enemies of Rome. Inftructed, that every thing fhould fubmit to Roman power, they reprefented whatever oppofed this darling opinion in the most unfavourable light. If the ancient Irish were the favage nation those writers defcribed them to be, we should be able to trace fome remains of it. But even at this day, though DOUBLED by the hard hands of oppression and tyranny, the very common people difplay more innate virtue, bravery, and hospitality, than thofe of any other nation of Europe!
'But we will be lefs furprized at this account from these writers, when we reflect on the treatment we have received from British writers, even in this enlightened age. We see our hiftorians have affirmed, that the Welch are the defcendants of our Breotan, as the people of Devonshire and Cornwall are of our Tuatha De Danaans, and the Brigantes from Breogan, B 4