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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EDWIN RICHARD WINDHAM WYNDHAM QUIN,
THIRD EARL OF DUNRAVEN AND MOUNT-EARL,
LORD LIEUTENANT AND CUSTOS ROTULORUM OF THE COUNTY OF THE CITY,
AND OF THE COUNTY OF LIMERICK,
ETC., ETC, ETC.
The associations of a History of a locality in which your Lordship must necessarily take a deep interest, from the manifold ties, both ancient and modern, which so intimately connect you with many of the transactions recorded in the following pages, and your Lordship’s wellknown attainments as a scholar and antiquarian, would, independently of your large possessions and eminent position in the county, remind me of your Lordship as the most appropriate personage to whom such a book should be dedicated.
I therefore take the liberty of requesting your acceptance of a work of no inconsiderable toil, in which I have endeavoured, faithfully and impartially, to record events, the perusal of which, it is to be hoped, may both interest and instruct.
I have the honour to be, my Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient servant,
Limerick, February 20, 1866.
I HAVB already stated, in the prospectus of this book, that historical truth, local and general interest, fulness of details, and the publication of new and authentic matter, derived from original sources, were the main objects which I proposed to myself in undertaking the laborious and difficult task of writing a History of Ancient and Modern Limerick. Originally appearing at intervals in the ephemeral shape of a contribution to the newspaper of which I am the proprietor, the plan of the work, as at first contemplated, included only the history of the last sieges; but the resources developed in the course of the studies which I found indispensable for a competent discharge of the duties that I had undertaken, accumulated so much interesting matter, and attracted so much attention and encouragement from some of our most eminent scholars and patriots, that I was induced to think of giving these occasional contributions to local history a fuller and, I hope, a more permanent form. My own enthusiastic love of the subject, no doubt, as well as these friendly criticisms, made me underrate the labour and care, to say nothing of the other high qualifications and responsibilities involved in such an undertaking; and, in fact, as my materials increased by the addition of family muniments, pedigrees, and official documents, I found that the publication of my notes and memoranda alone would extend to three or four volumes. Of course, so weighty a work was beyond my private means, upon which exclusively I have had to rely for the publication of my book, and which have been the more heavily taxed because I resolved to publish it at so extremely low a price, compared with other works of the kind. I had, therefore, to choose a medium between a historical epitome, and a publication which would have been more fitly called Historical Collections for a History of Limerick, than by its present title.
In such circumstances, fine writing, ambitious narrative, studied graces of style, and philosophical reflections, have often to be sacrificed to the stern requirements of facts and figures. In a work too which alternates between sublimity and commonplace, sustained elevation, or even equality of style, is not to be always expected. All that could reasonably be looked for was truth, lucidity and interest of narrative, and accuracy of information, and whether I have realized these objects or not, public opinion will find no difficulty in deciding. My chapter on the county history, topography, and antiquities, alone contains condensed information which might easily be expanded into a goodly volume, for which, in fact, I still have copious materials in MS. I hope, however, my endeavours to render the book a readable as well as an instructive one, will not be entirely fruitless. As another contribution, collected from the best sources, to our local histories, which are so very few when compared with those of other countries, the work possesses an additional interest.
Should it attain the success I hope for, I shall be induced to try the history of Tipperary, and perhaps of Clare, for which also I have ample materials.
As for the spirit in which any reflections I have made in the course of the work may have been conceived, I think it unnecessary to offer any apology. Whatever my opinions may be on political, social, or religious subjects, I have not allowed them to interfere with strict impartiality as a historian. Had I, or could I have, written without making any reflections at all, I might as well have published a dry list of chronological events, instead of a history, and I could, in such a case, neither have felt nor imparted that degree of interest to the work which would insure its popularity or even its perusal. Such as it is, its publication in book form has originated in a suggestion of my venerable friend the Most Rev. Dr. Leahy, the learned and gifted Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.
That scarcely any diversity of opinion exists as to whether another History of Limerick was required at the present day, is, I believe, a settled point. A century has well nigh passed away since John Ferrar compiled his small history and directory; and more than eighty years have elapsed since the second and larger edition appeared. Ferrar drew all his materials from the Rev. James White's MSS., omitting much that did not suit the times and his patrons, and from Dr. Smith's MSS. in the Royal Irish Academy. Of the grand and salient features of the history he gave but little; he suppressed many annals; whilst the sieges and battles of Limerick, the heroism of its defenders, their triumphs and their sufferings, are passed over in a very short space: he left untouched many of the principal incidents, even in the sources from which he professed to draw, and other more important fountains of knowledge were to him sealed altogether. The immense mass of matter which has been brought to light in reference to Ireland since he wrote, through the labours of our archæologists and historians, through the Royal Irish Academy, the Gælic Society, the Archæological and Celtic Societies, etc., through tje extraordinary labours of my late lamented friend Professor Eugene O'Curry, the late Dr. O'Donovan, the late Dr. Petrie, Dr. Todd, etc., attests his deficiency in resources which are now abundant. Of the larger history of Fitzgerald and MacGregor, although possessing a certain amount of merit, which I am far from undervaluing, it will not, I trust, be deemed rash or invidious to say, that it is quite as much a history of Ireland as of Limerick; that its copious details, even if desirable in a local history, are often put forward upon the authority of some persons who were either imperfectly acquainted with the subject, or partially disqualified from offering their statements and opinions by personal and political prejudices and prepossessions; and that very considerable quantity of the matter which fills the two bulky volumes, can have little interest to readers who sit down with the wish to be informed of the facts of the particular history which the title page professes to give. Thanks to the labours of recent archæologists, to the wide spread of education, and to the more intimate intercourse between men of all opinions which exists in these days of frequent and rapid locomotion, many of the prejudices against nationality, so common even in the days of the last historians of Limerick, have already passed or are rapidly passing away, and have been succeeded by a spirit of honest inquiry, candid admission, and a love of historical truth, which have been greatly fostered by the eminent men and by the publications to which we have