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For FEBRUARY 1790
Art. İ. Strictures on the Ecclefiaftical and Literary History of
Ireland, from the most ancient Times till the Introduction of the Roman Ritual, and the Establishment of the Papal Supremacy, by Henry II. King of England. Also an Historical Sketch of the Constitution and Government of Ireland, from the most early authenticated Period down to the Year 1783. By Thomas Campbell, LL.D. Chancellor of St. Macartin's, Clogher. 8vo. 6s.
White, Dublin. 1789. THE
HE remark has been long since made that no modest nation
has attempted to carry their claims to antiquity to such an extravagant height as has been done by the people of Ireland. The valour, the prowess, and the accomplishments of their ancestors, in times of the remotest antiquity, and in the days of western savageness, ignorance, and barbarism, have been the succeeding themes of the Irish historians in general. One of their latest writers * dwells on this favourite subject through two ponderous quarto volumes; he there riots in all the caprices of a luxuriant imagination, but disdains to prolong the theme beyond the inglorious declension of Ireland in the twelfth century! Yet to do strict justice, it is necessary to add, that, from what we have of the works of these gentlemen, of Keating, of O‘Flaherty, of O'Connor, and O'Halloran, they, in very few instances, seem to aim at deception; they appear to be themselves deceived,
* Mr. O'Halloran. ING. REV. VOL. XV. FEB. 1790,
They are borne so high by their own enthusiasm that they overlook those objections which must present themselves even to the fuperficial observer.
This passion we must also add has its origin in a vanity the most natural to the human heart, The relative situation of Ireland and Great-Britain, whether the crown of the former be fubjected' or annexed, places that kingdom in a fituation of dependence; and a people,' says Gibbon, who are dissatisfied < with their prefent condition, will eagerly grasp at any vision of
past or future glory.'. Thus being below her neighbours in wealth and power, Ireland confoles her in a proud and pensive contemplation of the figments of antiquity.
She sullenly turns away,' to use the language of Mr. Whitaker," from the light of reformation, and wraps herself in the gloom of her own legendary annals.'
It is fortunate for the reputation of Ireland that the gentleman who in this work has fo successfully encountered these phantoms, is himself a native of that kingdom. He has in this performed a task which was suggested by the late Dr. Johnson, and recommended by Mr. Burke. He has drawn, with an intelligent and steady hand, the lines between what was merely fiction ; what was at belt uncertain; and what was actually capable of proof. We do not mean to say that Mr. Campbell has done this in every instance; in' some that task was impracticable, and in many the toil is unavoidably left to be accomplished by the labour of others. He examines into the strongest proofs which the partisans of Irish antiquity have adduced from the monuments, the literature, and the manners, of that country'; and in general maintains the ground which he has at first occupied with, truth, force, and precision.
Of the first of these proofs, the monuments found in Ireland, Mr. Campbell expresses himself in the following manner :
- To substantiate our claim to a very remote antiquity, fome writers think it sufficient if they discover a fimilitude between fome present Irish custom, or remain of rude art, and those of ancient Gaul, Greece, Persia, Phænicia, or other countries celebrated in ftory; not considering that they, in so doing, only adduce arguments, for the ancient rudeness of those countries, not for the refinement of their own.
For rude monuments and customs, be they found where they may, are the most indelible teits of the rudeness of the times in which they were erected or used. If they would evince the re. finement of Ireland from its conformity to those ccuntries of quondam refinement, they should point out the vestiges of either ancient maga niitude or elegance in the works of this country:
! If then we are to be for ever collecting the beggarly elements of rude monuments, the rudest upon
which the penury of language is obliged to bestow the name of art, our pursuit is puerile, nay childish
indeed. If the most civilised countries on earth have still such res mains, this only proves that they once were barbarous, else such monuments would not have been erected. For if such things could establish antiquity, then all countries which possess them would be equally ancient; and we read of scarce any, without them. If antiquity means any thing honourable to any nation, it must mean that that Aation has been for a long period of time removed from the infantine ftate of society in which these rude monuments were produced. The pursuit of antiquity should go no farther than it is connected with higher efforts of art, and less equivocal symptoms of nafcent civilisation. All beyond are seas of glass, and ships of amber.
It is no shame for any nation to have been once barbarous; all nations in Europe have been so, because they once were young, and, like young children, they had nothing worth recording, and like them too, in another respect, they would have been incapable of recording them, even if they were worth notice. Upon this ground the intrinsic glory of Ireland is more firmly established by considering it as a new, than as an old, nation. For if her sons were once so accomplished, they must now confess themselves to have degenerated. If Pagan Ireland was the nurse of heroes and philosophers, is it not the greater reproach to Christian Ireland that he has for so many ages groaned in servitude and groped in ignorance? It must, upon a difpaffionate estimate, do most credit to this country to be considered as an infant state, emerging from ignorance and barbarism, lik Her cules arising from his cradle, and like him too labouring under a hard task-master. • For fuppofe that our Ogygian writers could trace
genealogy to Japhet, and could prove that they knew their letters before any nation in Europe, then Spencer's question will return, · If such old scholars, why lo unlearned ftill ?'Suppose also that it could be true, what is asserted, that our ancestors extended their conquests in Britain, and to the Alps; then let it be asked, after raising this vifion of ancient prowess, does it redound to the true glory of this country, that in the most early times, concerning which no two writers agree, our ancestors were so potent; but that in those less remote, of which there is no doubt, they were the trodden faves of Danes and Norwegians? Would not the Irish, if a civilised people, have been the verielt daftards upon earth to suffer such indignįties, as they confess they did, from the Turgesian crew! And if it be argued that they regained their ancient greatness and fplendour by the expulsion of the Danes, yet what mult that greatness and fplendour have been, which, almost without a blow, submitted to English domination?"
The author then pursues the assertors of Irish antiquity through a long train of allegations and pretended facts, which he is generally successful in proving to be fallacious and unfounded. His arguments are marked with
much precifion, and his illuftrations heightened with confiderable humour. Of both the reader will find a strong instance in his observations on the ideal palace of King Cormac, which was said to have been 300 feet square, and built upon three towers.
The sketch of the government and constitution of Irelarid, which is added as an appendix, contains much valuable matter, disposed in the best arrangement.
ART. II. Observations on the First Part of Dr. Knowles's Testimonies from the Writers of the First Four Centuries
. In a Letter to a friend. By Capel Lofft. 8vo. 2s.6d. sewed. Johnson,
London. 1789. WHATEVER comes from the pen of Mr. Lofft must be
perused with a degree of partiality. The known integrity, candour, abilities, and industry, of the author ensure a certain degree of respect, to which the present performance, however we may condemn it, in some respects has an undoubted claim. It has been the happiness of Mr. Lofft, in more than this instance, to concentrate the arguments and authorities of a worn-out fubject into a small space, and by a certain elegance of expression, but above all by the evident marks of an honest mind, to render that subject interesting.
In an advertisement prefixed we are told that the author having, to outward appearance, conformed to the establishment, conceives it his duty to acquaint the world that he limits his concurrence to such points as, in his opinion, are founded in fcripture. So it is to be supposed all mankind do in this and every other establishment; but if, after long deliberation, Mr. Lofft is convinced that many points supported by the church are to be regarded no otherwise than as corruptions, and still is ready to confider himself as not wholly separated from such an establishment, it would appear these points, however they may afterwards be represented, are not of sufficient importance to induce him to form a new society, or to join any of the numerous ones already formed. If this be the case, we cannot immediately fee the necessity that should induce a son of the establishment thus to take up arms against a venerable mother, to whose authority he has hitherto Thewn a dutiful submiffion; still less to recommend the opinions of writers who, though her lenity spares them, are endeavouring to destroy her existence.
Though by the title we should be led to expect fome observations on the earlier writers of Christianity, yet Mr. Lofft confines himself entirely to the passages in fcripture adduced by the favourers of the Trinitarian system. His answers to these contain nothing new, except an illustration from Homer, which, for the benefit of his parochial readers, he might at least have translated. The following are all the observations, if they can be called such, we meet with on the writers of the first century:
• When the opinions and practice of the times nearest to the promulgation of Christianity are examined, we find nothing contradictory to this idea. "For of the Apostolic Constitutions, as they have been termed (and the title sounds highly), I do not think it necessary to speak here ; unless their date and their incorruptness could be fatisfactorily established; and of the recognitions, which, with pro. per reserve, are said to be ascribed to Clemens, the very mode of in. troducing them speaks fufficiently.
• Whether I shall have leisure and inclination to examine the quotations from the writers of the three first centuries, is very uncertain. I am far from dreading the result of the discussion; or from doubting the fair conclusion in the mind of an inquirer who distinguishes, as Dr. Knowles admits we ought to distinguish between the fallibility of human imagination and the certainty of divine truth. I will only now remark that a proposition of the kind stated, which asserts three Persons to be one Divine Being, if it can indeed be a part of revelation, may be expected to appear and be recognised explicitly from the firlt; and not to be obscurely and ambiguously intimated by the writers of the early age, and gradually strengthened as rhetoric with her tropes and figures, and scholastic learning with her accommodating systems, mixed themselves with the fimplicity of the gospel.
· Such a proposition, if it can þe supposed capable of proof, ought to derive itself, with abfoluţe clearness, from the fountain of revelation ; it ought to prove itself coëval at least with the completion of the scriptural code. If we find it at the source, let us acknowledge our conviction ; but if it floats on the surface, when the streams of fancy rush in upon the waters of truth, let us not hastily refer it to a divine origin. Let us explore more deeply; and we shall yet trace the pure never-failing river, immiscible with the inundations."
In answer to this, we have only to observe that the opinions of the sincerest Christians being divided on the meaning of scripture, nothing can be more reasonable than to search for in formation from those who lived nearest to the times of the evangelifts; and therefore, though we give our author credit for his industrious production of a day, we cannot help thinking it an incomplete answer to any part of a work professing to thew the opinions of the first four centuries.
There are several learned and ingenious notes fubjoined, which, not having been written at the time the letter was, and to prevent too frequent interruption of the reader's attention, arę omitted in the body of the work. These conclude with many just and ingenious remarks on the true spirit of Christian benevolence, such as we should expect from ro amiable a character as Mr. Lofft,