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115 3 “His­ tor­ i­ cal Facts” and “Stu­ pen­ dous False­ hoods” An Irish In­ sur­ rec­ tion at the Lim­ its of Schol­ ar­ ship, c. 1865–c. 1965 Em­ i­ nent Vic­ to­ rians? To­ ward the end of the nine­ teenth cen­ tury, in the twi­ light of his life, the re­ nowned Dub­ lin law­ yer John Pat­ rick Pren­ der­ gast re­ flected on the times in which he had lived and wrote a me­ moir that, among other ­ things, con­ tained an ac­ count of what he ­ termed his “lit­ er­ ary work and ex­ pe­ ri­ ences.” The me­ moir ­ marked a new de­ par­ ture for him, as his “lit­ er­ ary work” had until then been his­ tor­ i­ cal in na­ ture. His inter­ est in Irish his­ tory had orig­ i­ nally been ­ prompted by his in­ volve­ ment in a chan­ cery case in the 1840s that had ­ touched on as­ pects of the­ eighteenth-century penal laws. To ­ satisfy his bur­ geon­ ing cu­ ri­ os­ ity he began to dig ­ through the co­ pi­ ous pamph­ let hold­ ings of the li­ brary of ­ King’s Inns and­ slowly began, as he put it, to “per­ ceive the im­ por­ tance of the land set­ tle­ ment” of the 1650s.1 Since no­ body ­ seemed to know any­ thing about this par­ tic­ u­ lar sub­ ject, by Sep­ tem­ ber 1848 Pren­ der­ gast was por­ ing over the Com­ mon­ wealth doc­ u­ ments held in Dub­ lin Cas­ tle, “and here I found the ­ record of a ­ nation’s woes.”2 His en­ thu­ siasm in­ ten­ sified as he “ran­ sacked other de­ pos­ i­ to­ ries.”3­ Through the op­ por­ tu­ nities pro­ vided by his ­ travels on the legal cir­ cuit and­ through var­ i­ ous con­ nec­ tions and ac­ quain­ tances, he ac­ cu­ mu­ lated more and 116 “Historical Facts” and “Stupendous Falsehoods” more ma­ te­ rial until he even­ tu­ ally con­ cluded that “all the in­ for­ ma­ tion that could be hoped for had now been ob­ tained; and if not ­ brought forth, the sub­ ject might sleep for an­ other pe­ riod as long as the last.” Fur­ ther­ more, he re­ marked, “much of it had been col­ lected with the view of being able some time or other to treat the sub­ ject of the set­ tle­ ment of ­ landed prop­ erty in Ire­ land his­ tor­ i­ cally con­ sid­ ered be­ fore the bar of Ire­ land.”4 This is what Pren­ der­ gast even­ tu­ ally did; the fruit of his la­ bors was the pub­ li­ ca­ tion in 1865 of The Crom­ wel­ lian Set­ tle­ ment of Ire­ land. Pren­ der­ gast is not eas­ ily pi­ geon­ holed. A mem­ ber of the ­ Church of Ire­ land (an an­ ces­ tor con­ formed in the eigh­ teenth cen­ tury) who in later life was ve­ he­ mently op­ posed to Home Rule, he was none­ the­ less a na­ tion­ al­ ist whose ex­ pe­ ri­ ence as the ad­ min­ is­ tra­ tor of the Clif­ den es­ tates made him a ­ strong pro­ po­ nent of ten­ ant right. ­ Prendergast’s opin­ ions on con­ tem­ po­ rary ­ events, how­ ever, were by no means di­ vorced from his schol­ arly pre­ oc­ cu­ pa­ tions; ­ rather, the two went hand in hand, and this could be said for vir­ tu­ ally all who ­ sought to en­ gage with the Irish past amid the tu­ mul­ tu­ ous up­ hea­ vals of the later nine­ teenth cen­ tury. The book that es­ tab­ lished ­ Prendergast’s schol­ arly cre­ den­ tials cor­ re­ sponded to a Cath­ o­ lic inter­ pre­ ta­ tion of Irish his­ tory. In­ deed, the com­ po­ si­ tion of The Crom­ wel­ lian Set­ tle­ ment was ­ prompted by con­ tem­ po­ rary con­ cerns, for the epon­ y­ mous set­ tle­ ment, hav­ ing al­ leg­ edly been de­ signed “rather to ex­ tin­ guish a na­ tion than to sup­ press a re­ li­ gion,”5 was quite sim­ ply “the foun­ da­ tion of the ­ present set­ tle­ ment of Ire­ land.”6 To reach this point Pren­ der­ gast had some pre­ lim­ i­ nary­ ground to cover, and ­ within...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299289539
Related ISBN
9780299289546
MARC Record
OCLC
859686981
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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