Rev. E. A. D’Alton

Life
1860-? [Edward Alfred]; author of History of Ireland (1903-25), a long-running project covering Irish history from the ‘earliest times to the present day’, though in fact to 1908; published in half-volumes [viz., 1, from beginning to a.d. 1210 (1903); 2, 1210-1547; 3, 1547-1649; 4, 1649-1842; 5, 1782-1879; 6, 1879-1908, 7, Ireland since 1906, 8, Ireland since 1906, and reprinted in volumes [viz., Vol. 1, -1547; Vol. 2, 1547-1782; Vol. 3, 1782-1908], with variable imprints at Dublin and London, latterly by the Gresham Publishing Co (Dublin and Belfast).

[ top ]

Works
History of Ireland from the earliest times to the present day
/ with a preface by the Most Rev. John Healy, D.D., LL.D., Vols. 1 & 2 (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker 1903); Do., Vol. 1 [2nd Edn.] (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner 1906); Do. (London: Gresham Publishing Company 1906-1910), 3 vols.; Do. (London: Gresham Publ. Co. 1908) [half-vol. 6]; Do. [2nd Edn.] (London: Gresham Publishing Company 1910), 6 vols.; Do. [3rd Edn.] (London: Gresham Publishing Company 1911), 6 vols.; Do. (London: Gresham Publishing Company 1912), 6 vols. [3 half-vols. in 6]; Do. (London: Gresham Publishing Company 1913) [half-vol. 6: 1879 to 1908, xi, p.273-580]; Do. [another edn.] (London: Gresham Publishing Company [1920, 1922]), 6 vols.; Do. (Dublin 1925), 8 vols.

History of Ireland from the Earliest Times (to the Present Day), by the Rev. E. A. D’Alton, LLD, MRIA (London: The Gresham Publishing Company: Thirty-four Southampton Street Strand MCMXI 1911]), Vol. I: to the year 1210, 285pp. Preface the First Edn. By John Healy, Archb. of Tuam [xi-xii]; short Third Edn. Preface notes that ‘as some fault was found with my spelling of Irish proper names’ corrections have been made ‘under the directions and with the assistance of Dr. Douglas Hyde’, as well as other changes [xiii]. Half-vol. II: 1210-1547; Half-vol. III: 1547-1649; Half-vol. IV: 1649-1782; Half-vol. V: 1782-1879.

[ top ]

Quotations
History of Ireland from the Earliest Times to the Present Day
, by the Rev. E. A. D’Alton, LLD, MRIA (London: Gresham Publishing Co. 1911), Preface to the Second Edition: ‘It is old story and a true one that Irishmen have not studied and do not study the history of their own country. The omission to do so was intelligible in the past, when such study was proscribed, and when the rhymer and the story-teller were equally banned by law. But those days are part, and while there is little encouragement given to the study of Irish history as compared with other branches of knowledge, there is at least no prohibition. Irishmen may learn its facts if they will; but they are not willing, and there are few countries in the world where the people are so ignorant of their country’s history. For the mass of the people the rath and mound and dun have no significance; and the old Norman castle and the roofless abbey, under the shadow of which the dead take their rest, are heedlessly passed by, and nothing is known of the story which they tell. Even those writers and speakers who sometimes dwell upon the past, and call back the heroes of their nation from the land of shadows, do not speak or write form out the fullness of knowledge. On the contrary, their knowledge is often misty and dim, and they are ignorant of many things in the lives of those very men whose memories they invoke. / This ignorance of a subject which every Irishman should take pains to know is often attributed, in part at least, to the character for the histories that have been written, and, without injustice, it may be admitted that they leave much to be desired. Nor need this be a matter of surprise. So many of the facts [v] of Irish history are controverted, so many distorted by prejudice or interest, round so many events such fierce passions have played, that to discover the exact truth and to be courageous enough to tell it is not so easy as it may seem. Belonging to one or other of the parties or creeds that have been in such bitter conflict, the historians on both sides have inherited and felt the animosities of their ancestors, and forgetting that their duty was to tell the truth, they have degenerated into advocates and partisans, and in their pages the envenomed contests of the past are repeated and renewed. / This volume is not written on these lines. […] I have avoided speculation, and have not thought it necessary to write of what might be, but have dealt only with what was. / Thomas Davis, in one of his essays, gave his ideas of what an Irish History should be. He was a man of great capacity, and had he lived he might have written such a History himself, but those of us with less capacity must be content with a lower standard of excellence. On one point, however, I have endeavoured to follow his advice, and that is – to avoid bigotry of race or creed. As between England and Ireland there was no room for such differences until the twelfth century, the previous portion of Irish history being concerned with the [vi] triumphs of Ireland in religion and learning, and with the struggle against the Danes – perhaps the most interesting portion as it is the most glorious. Nor did the religious differences with England arise until towards the close of the reign of Henry VIII, and are, therefore, little dealt with in this volume. …. / And if the Irish were wronged and robbed, and if they lost their liberties, were they not themselves to blame? Those who would be free must be prepared to defend their freedom. They must make sacrifices, they must discipline their strength, they must learn even from their foes. Had the Irish done this, it is at least probable that not all the power of England could have subdued them. If they had, says Mr. Froude, any real genuine national spirit they would have pushed “the pitiful handful of English into the sea”. But they had not. They talked rather than acted; they could not but fail, for they took no pains to succeed; and while Scotland, with a less population and a country poorer and less in extent, was able to meet, and sometimes to defeat, the whole power of England, Ireland was kept for centuries, not in order, but in awe, by an army contemptible in its strength which never numbered but a few hundred men. It is not that she wanted soldiers, or that they were unable or unwilling to fight, for the Irish soldier, trained, disciplined, and capably led, is [viii] equal to the first soldier in the world, and has proved this on many a battlefield. But they were undisciplined, inferior in arms, incapably led; their chiefs quarrelled, and thought not of their country, but of their clans. It was not, therefore, the strength of England, but rather the weakness and folly of Ireland, which led to the loss of her liberty. Nor is there any advantage in concealing these facts; and if the English adventurers deserve to be censured for their rapacity, the Irish deserve to be censured for their folly. [/…] In the twelfth century, except a few seaport towns which were colonised by the Danes, all Ireland was in the hands of one race. War and conquest, and persecution and proscription, and confiscation and plantations have since supervene; the original race has largely disappeared; and Norman and Saxon, and English Protestant and Scotch Presbyterian, have inherited their fields. But the conquerors have often been absorbed by the conquered; and in the vast majority of the Irish of the present day we can still trace the faults and virtues of the original Celtic race. The want of initiative in the mass of the people, their utter helplessness without capable leadership, their reluctance to combine for any purpose, their want of foresight, their inability to take pains, their instability and infirmness of purpose - have not these characteristics appeared [viii] in the twentieth century as well as in the twelfth? And others might be added which the passing centuries have brought, for in the cruel trials through which the people have passed have accentuated and developed some of their finer qualities, and even added to them, there are points also in which the people’s character has suffered. Are not these defects of character still operative for evil? The government is more tolerant, the laws juster than they were, yet the country does not prosper, and the people are still flying from it as if from some plague-stricken land. It would be well for Irishmen to ask is there not something amiss with themselves; it is a healthy sign for a nation to discover its faults and to set right what is wrong, and that nation is doomed which neglects to learn and improve. / With the submission of the Irish chiefs to Henry VIII we have reached a period when the relations between England and Ireland seem to have become simplified. Unfortunately for both countries these relations became complicated and embittered by religious differences. How the Irish suffered and struggled under these new conditions remains yet to be told. [For further extracts see infra; on sources see Notes, infra ]

[ top ]

References
British Library holds lists History of Ireland from the earliest times to the year 1547 (to the present day) [3rd Edn.] (Dublin & Belfast: Gresham Publishing Co., [1920?]-25), in 4 vol.. 8o.; with BL catalogue note: published in 8 “half-volumes”, of which Nos. 7 & 8, entitled  “Ireland since 1906”, were published at London. Also, History of Ireland from the earliest times to the year 1547 (to the present day), 3 vols. (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker 1903-10), with catalogue note: Vol. 2 bears the imprint Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.: London; Vol. 3 bears the imprint Gresham Publishing Co.: London [Vol. 1, -1547; Vol. 2, 1547-1782; Vol. 3, 1782-1908].

University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds History of Ireland from the earliest times to the present day, 6 vols. (Gresham 1912); The Irish Church in the 7th and 8th centuries (1912).

[ top ]

Notes
O’Connor’s “Keating”: Note that Dalton uses [Dermot] O’Connor’s translation of Keating’s History of Ireland [Foras Feasa ar Eirinn] giving an account of the Nemedians and their predecessors the Migdonians; the Formorians, after O’Flaherty, are associated with Denmark and Norway, while Keating locates their origins in Africa; acc. the Annals of Clonmacnoise, they lived ‘by piracy and plunder of other nations, and were very troublesome to the whole world’ [Keating]. Dalton believes that the Nemedians were defeated by the Formorians, harshly treated, and returned to Greece, but that they were worse treated there, acquiring the name of Firbolgs from the leather sacks in which they were obliged to carry earth, and escaped back to Ireland in ships where they dominated the island until the arrival of the Tuatha-de-Danann, ‘a branch of the Nemedian colony, who had left Ireland about the same time as the Firbolg … went first to Denmark, thence to the north of Scotland, and finally landed in Ireland, about thirty years after their Firbolg kin.’ (History of Ireland from the Earliest Times [...] 1911, p.8.)

[ top ]