Obrázky na stránke

But the history and description of distinguished places, afford subjects of rational curiosity and gratification. The annals of a particular town often assist in developing obscure passages in the history of a country at large ; and a delineation of its prevailing features forms a species of literary portraiture, the value of which is denoted by the increasing taste for its cultivation manifested in every polite and lettered part of the British empire. The noble or private demesne, also, acquires additional charms, in the esteem of the examiner, when the scroll of its records is unfolded, and the names of such former possessors as were eminent for virtue, wit, or warlike exploit, are held forward to notice. Such historic recollections render every hill and lawn in the fair possessions à sort of consecrated ground, and interest the feelings in an examination of a decaying pile, whilst they emblazon and dignify the page of genealogy.

Actuated by the convictions thus briefly stated, we present in this work a comprehensive outline of intelligence respecting the extent, and the natural and artificial character, of each county, but adopt a principle of selection in describing its different towns, mansions, and antiquities, and expatiate only where interest appears to demand an amplitude of discussion.

Previous to topographical inquiries it is obviously necessary to submit a statement of many particulars relating to the island, in a general view. These prefatory remarks shall be as concise as is deemed compatible with the duty of conveying information respecting the NATURAL CIRCUMSTANCES ; the POLITICAL and ecCLESIASTICAL DIVISIONS § the HISTORY, as ILLUSTRATING TOPOGRAPHY and ANTIQUITIES ; and the PRESENT STATE OF, IRELAND.

This island, has been described under various NAMEs in different ages, but is chiefly recognised, by foreign writers in antient times, under the successive appellations of Hibernia and Scotia. It is certain that Ireland was known to the Greeks, at least three centuries before the christian æra. Strabo observes that Eratosthenes, librarian to Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt, was so well acquainted with the western parts of Europe, that he determined the distance of Ireland (lerne) from Celtica. In the

Argonautica, a work of uncertain but great antiquity, and which is by some writers ascribed to Orpheus of Crotona, Ireland is mentioned by the name of lernida. In the book de Mundo, attributed to Aristotle, the British islands are noticed with their specific names, Albion and lerne.

By Julius Cæsar, and several other Roman authors, the name is written Hibernia, a term probably bestowed on account of the cold and stormy severity of climate erroneously supposed to prevail in this country. Diodorus Siculus notices Ireland under the appellation of Iris, and is thought by a modern writer to “ have preserved the genuine name" of the island. “Iri," says this anthor, “ or as now written Eri, in Irish, is the great isle. Iu Teutonic, Er-aii, contracted into Eri, is the farther isle."

Camden, after reciting the various names by which this island is noticed by antient writers, submits, but with the diffidence which he almost uniformly preserves on subjects of etymology, the possibility of the term Eri (or Eire) “ being derived from HIERE, an Irish word signifying West, or the Westward.”+ In regard to this suggestion it must be remarked that H is not admitted, as a letter, into the Irish alphabet, by modern grammarians; nor is it otherwise employed in the Irish language than as a mere aspirate. The word lar, in that language, signifies back, backwards, or the West.

Ireland is first recognised under the name of Scotia in writings of the fourth century; and by that appellation it is noticed in many succeeding ages, by various authors of different countries. It would appear, however, that this name did not entirely supersede

Antiqs. of Ireland by Ledwich, p. 19. In a subsequent page the same author observes, that, “ as to the change of Iris into lërne, whoever is acquainted with the alteration of words by Greek dialects, and the effect of their epenthesis and paragoge, will easily account for the mutation.”

+ Britannia, vol. iv. p. 217. edit. 1806; to which edition of Camden's Britannia we refer on every future occasion in this work, unless the contrary be specified,

the original form of designation ;* but that it very generally prevailed is sufficiently proved by numerous literary documents. An enumeration of writers who thus described the island, down to so late a date as the fourteenth century, is contained in the works of Sir James Ware. Archbishop Usher maintains “ that it was not till after the coalition between the Scots and the Picts in the eleventh century, that both nations, viz. Ireland and the modern Scotland came promiscuously to be called Scotland : and even then all correct writers, in mentioning the two countries, distinguished them by Vetus et nova Seotia, major, or minor, ulterior and citerior.

In regard to the term Scotia, or Scotland, some writers believe the Scots to have derived their appellation from Scythia, which these writers suppose to have been their original country. But Whitaker and Chalmers, whose opinion appears to be preferable, contend that the Scots acquired their name from their love of roving, or passion for enterprize; the term Sceite signifying dispersed and scattered.

Shortly after the reception of Christianity, the superior knowledge, piety, and zeal displayed by Irish missionaries and other ecclesiastics, caused Ireland to be distinguished by the title of Insula Sanctorum, the Isle of Saints.

As to circumstances of SITUATION AND EXTENT, Ireland is the second in magnitude, and the most western, of the British islands. The sea which separates it from Britain varies in breadth from fourteen to forty leagues, except as to the part contiguous to Scotland. Between that country and the county of Down, this sea is contracted to a channel not more than six leagues in width ; and farther north, between the north east point of the coast of Antrim and the Mull of Kintyre, it is diminished to a strait less than four leagues wide. The island is situated between 51° 19' and 55° 23' north latitude, and between 5° 19' and 10° 28' west longitude.

* Claudian, in his panegyric on the consulate of Honorius, introduces a passage which has been thus translated :

The Orcades were wet with Saxon gore ;
The Picts' warm blood was pour'd on Thule's plain,
And cold Ierne mourned her Scottish slain.

It has been truly observed that the situation of Ireland, in relation to other countries, capable of receiving and bestowing the mutual benefits of external commerce, is particularly favourable. In this respect, as is remarked by Mr. Newenham, Ireland may be said to excel England; “ it being possible for ships, departing from a majority of the ports of the former, to reach the western coast of France, the coasts of Portugal and Spain, and even that of North America, to perform half the voyage to the West Indies, or to the different countries bordering on the Mediterranean sea, before the ships, which sail from the greater part of the ports of the latter, can enter the Atlantic ocean."

The greatest length of Ireland is found in a line struck from north-east to south-west. Fairhead, in the county of Antrim, and Mizen-head, in the county of Cork, form the extreme points in this direction ; and the distance between them is about 241 Irish miles, or rather more than 306 English miles, of statute mea

The longest line that can be stretched across the kingdom, extends from Emlagh-Rash, in Mayo, to Carnsore Point, in the county of Wexford. This line would intersect the former in an angle of 75 degrees, and would measure 163 Irish, or 207 English miles. But the greatest length that can be measured along a meridian, will not exceed 185 Irish or 235} English miles. The greatest breadth, if measured in the same manner, occurs between Emlagh-Rash and the mouth of Strangford Lough, and is 143 Irish, or 182 English miles. The narrowest part is found between Tiellen-head and Island-Magee, where the breadth is 98 Irish, or 124 English miles. It has been often remarked, and must be repeated here, that there is not any part of Ireland quite

sure. *

* In all future pages the distance of places, and the measurement of lands, are stated according to the Irish mile and the Irish acre, except where the contrary is specified. The difference between these and the English mile and acre, is explained in the last section of this introductory part of our work.

+ The above particulars respecting the extent of Ireland are stated on the authority of the “ Memoir of a Map of Ireland,” &c. by D. A. Beaua fort, L. L. D.

fifty miles distant from the sea,-so devious is the coast, and so deep are the indentations effected by the numerous bays.

It is stated by Mr. Newenham, that the sinuous line of the sea-coast of Ireland, " exclusive of such parts as lie within estuaries, or above the first good anchorage in every harbour, but inclusive of the river Shannon, as far as the tide reaches, and the shores of Bantry bay, Dunianus bay, and Kenmare river, will, if accurately followed through all its windings, be found to measure 1,737 miles." In this line, according to the same writer, there are no less than “ 130 harbours, and places where ships may anchor for a tide, or find shelter during the continuance of adverse winds." The most commodious of the bays and harbours are found on the line of coast stretching towards the west from Waterford on the south, to Lough Foyle on the north coast; in which line it is believed that they are more numerous than in the same extent of coast in any other part of the world. Here the shore opposes to the fury of the Atlantic Ocean unnumbered promontories, often of a bold and commanding character, that assist in forming many noble havens, several of which are capable of receiving the whole of the British navy.

Adjacent to the Irish coast are very numerous small islands, nearly one hundred of which are inhabited, exclusive of those which are embosomed in the different principal bays. Most of these are fertile, and many are productive of useful vegetation in an eminent degree.

There has not yet been made a Survey of Ireland with sufficient accuracy to enable us to state, with any resemblance of certainty, the superficial contents of the island. Dr. Beaufort has made a computation, by measuring the area of each county on the map formed by himself, and asserts, that, after rejecting all fractions, Ireland contains considerably more than 18,750 square miles, or several thousand acres above twelve millions Irish measure; which is equal to 30,970 English miles, or 19,436 acres. Mr. Wakefield, in his “ Account of Ireland," supposes the contents to be greater. His calculation is founded on the map formed by Mr. Arrowsmith, and he believes the super

« PredošláPokračovať »