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HISTORICAL SKETCHES.

HISTORICAL SKETCHES.

SECTION J.

LITERARY HISTORY;

Or Gleanings from the Early Ages to the Present Day, including some notice of

the most eminent Men; references to Irish Typography, whether in Britain or on the Continent; and an Account of the translation and printing of the Sacred Volume in the vernacular tongue.

Whatever may be presumed as to the character and attainments of any race of men, it is only by the examination of their own written compositions, if they have such in possession, that we can arrive at any precision respecting the extent of their attainments in literature. With regard to the native Irish, however, such has been the singular fate of their manuscripts, and even such is their present condition, that difficulties almost insuperable present themselves at the threshold of inquiry. Many of these, unquestionably, perished in the Danish invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries, and that singular species of policy which obtained for centuries after the Anglo-Norman invasion, must account for the loss of many others.* Collections of others are, it is true, happily still in existence; but whether those of greatest value are to be found in this kingdom, or on the continent, it is impossible for any one to affirm. The probability is, that they are abroad.

I am aware of the valuable collection in Trinity College,

* According to Ussher, in 848, the Bishop of Armagh and all the students were expelled by Tergusius. Armagh, however, was pillaged four times in succession from 890 to 913.-Tria Thuam. 296. In 1016 the library again sustained material injury from the Normans and Ostmen.-Ann. Innisfal. and Tria Thuam. 298, Injured by fire in 1074, the city was rebuilt by the year 1091, but in the AngloNorman invasion of 1178 various literary works, which had escaped the Danes. were destroyed in the libraries of the monks, so that the native Irish, in order to harass and disappoint the invaders, began to burn the religious edifices with their own hands. See Annal, quoted by Leland, i. 123,

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