Giraldus Cambrensis (?1146-?1223)

[1146?-1223 - var. 1220; Geraldus de Barry or Barri; Girald de Barry, occas. Gerald of Wales]; nephew of Maurice Fitzgerald and related to leading Welch-Norman families; arrived in Ireland with his br. Philip, and visited relatives, Feb. 1183, and remaining for a year; he returned with Henry II, arriving 24 April 1185 and departing between Easter and Pentecost 1186 [i.e., April-May]; served as a tutor to Prince John and a negotiator for the crown, and composed Topographia Hibernica in that year; he read the three parts of his Topographia Hibernica Hiberniæ [freq. var.Hibernica] to the assembled masters at Oxford at Easter 1186; commonly said to have ‘appeared’ in 1187 [vide FDA et al.], being an account of the geography, fauna, marvels, and early history of Ireland, in which he established the trope of the Irish as Scythian barbarians; gave account of illuminations of Book of Kildare (now lost); appt. Archdeacon of St David’s and served as administrator of Ely but failed to gain or refused to accept higher ecclesiastical office (e.g., a bishopric);
described the coastland as flat, rising to mountains inland; mistook the predominantly pastoral (herding) life of the Irish for indolence in comparison with English tillage; Expugnatio Hibernica, a narrative of the partial conquest, 1169-85 - containing a copy of the Papal Bull Laudibiliter, bestow care of Ireland on Henry II; Itinerarium, the most important of his works, is a descriptive of topography of Wales; read his Topographia Hibernica to Baldwin of Canterbury as they both toured Wales to preach the faith and was commended for its artistry called the Irish ‘a filthy people wallowing in vice’ and a ‘barbarous people’, thus inaugurating the colonial calumny against which Irish authors wrote strenuous refutations; called by Keating ‘the bull of the herd of those who write the false history of Ireland, and the author of ‘false and flimsy’ calumnies by Theophilus O’Flanagan; others incl. John Lynch (viz., ‘the excesses of a foreign soldiery in Ireland, the devastation of her provinces, the plunder and conflagration of her houses, the massacre of her sons, must all be laid at Giraldus’s door’, in Cambrensis eversus), Roderick O’Flaherty, Stephen White, Matthew Carey, et al..;
Giraldus’s writings on Ireland first appeared in English Ralph Higden’s Polychronicon (Trevisa 1387, reps. Caxton 1482; de Worde 1495), and later as The Irish Historie Composed and Written by Giraldus Cambrensis in Raphael Holinshed, The First Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Irelande (1577); an MS copy of the Topographia Hibernica and Expugnatio Hibernica [Topography of Ireland and History] jointly is held in the National Library of Ireland as MS 700, and contains trefoil decorations which are not, however, supposed to connote the shamrock or its Trinitarian associations. ODNB OCEL OCIL

The Topographia & Expugnatio are held together as MS 700 in the National Library of Ireland which has been imaged by the OSIS Manuscripts On-Screen Project - online > National Library of Ireland > MS 700. The manuscript runs from folio 8 verso to folio 98 recto with outside front board [f.8.r.] and outside back board [f.989.v.] The image of a monastic scribe said to be Giraldus is given on f.29 r. of the MS.

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Early editions
  • Stanihurst, De rebus in ibernia gestis libri quator; accessit ... Hibernicarum rerum, Appendix, ex. S. Giraldo Cambrensi ... collecta (1584), 4o.
  • Topographia Hiberniae sive de Mirabilis Hiberniae, Expugnatio Hiberniae, Itinerarium Cambriae seu Baldvin Cantvar. Archiespiscopi Walliam legationis descriptio cum annotationibus D. Poveli [Powell], Topographia Hiberniae, Expugnatio Hiberniae, in Camden, Anglica, Hibernica, Normannica, Cambrica, a veteribus scripta &c. (1602 [1603]).
  • Tractatus de quibusdem Hibernia Miraculis auctore Giraldo Cambrensi in Topographia Hiberniae see Messingham, in Florilegium Insula Sanctorum Hiberniae (1624).
  • Second Booke of the Histories of Ireland [trans. J. Hooker], in Holinshed, The First Volume of the Chronicles of England, vol. I (1577), fol.
  • The Irish Historie [...] trans. [...] by J. Hooker, see Holinshed, Chronicles, &c. Vol. 6 (1807).
  • Expugnatio and Topographia, published by William Camden [1551-1623] in 1602.
Standard edition
  • Opera, 8 vols. (1861-91) [J. S. Brewer, ed., Vol. 1-4; J. F. Dimock, ed., Vol. 5-7; E. A. Freeman, ed., Vol. 7 [ pref. by Dimock]; G. F. Warner, ed., Vol. 8].
Modern editions
  • Sir R. C. Hoare, Bart., ed., Itinerarium ... Balduini Cantuariensis Arch.episcopi ... William leg. accurata descriptio auctore S. Giraldo Cambrense [Vita Giraldus Cambrensis ex ejus scriptis Lelando et Baleo collecta] (London: G. Miller 1804); Sir R. C. Hoare, trans., Historical Works [containing Top. Hib., Exp. Hib., Itin. Camb., descriptio., rev. and ed., with additional notes by T[homas] Wright (Bohn: Antiquarian Library 1847).
  • J. S. Brewer, G. F. Warnock, & J. F. Dimock, ed., [Opera:] Works of Giraldus Cambrensis (1861-77), incls. Topographia Hibernica; Itinerarium Cambriae, c.1194; Gemma Ecclesiastica [charges to his clergy in Wales]; De Rebus a se gestis, and lives of St. Hugh of Lincoln, St. David, and others.
  • Expugnacio Hibernica [parallel text] (1869); Do. [rep. edn.] (NY: Haskell House 1969) [based on MS in TCD Library]; and Do. [another edn. as] Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica: The Conquest of Ireland. ed. A. B. Scott and F. X. Martin (RIA Dublin 1978).
  • Frere Phillipe, Les Meilleures de l’Irlande [trans. from part of Topographia Hiberniae] (Leipzig 1892).
  • F. J. Furnivall, et al., eds., English Conquest of Ireland, mainly from Expugnatio Hibernica of Giraldus Cambrensis, ed. (1896).
  • Historical Works of Giraldus Cambriensis (1905).
  • C. A. J Skeal, ed., Selections from Giraldus Cambrensis [Texts for Students, 3] (1918).
  • H. E. Butler, ed. & trans., The Autobiography of Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of St David’s, with intro. chap. by C. H. Williams (London: Jonathan Cape 1937) 368pp., ill. [plates; a narrative compiled from the works]; and Do., as The Autobiography of Gerald of Wales, ed. & trans. by H. E. Butler; with an introduction by C. H. Williams and a guide to further reading by John Gillingham (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer 2005), 373pp., 24cm.
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hiberniae, text of the 1st recension - i.e. MS 5.30 in Cambridge Univ. Library] ed., John J. O’Meara [Proceedings of the RIA, Vol. 52 Sect. C No.4] (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1949).
  • Topography of Ireland [1st version] , trans. by John J. O’Meara (Dundalgan 1951), 121pp., ill. [plates, map].
  • John J. O’Meara, trans. & ed., The History and Topography of Ireland [Topographia Hiberniae] (Dublin: Dolmen Press; Harmondsworth: Penguin 1982).
  • Jeanne-Marie Boivin, L’Irlande au Moyen Age, Giraud de Barri et la ‘Topographia Hibernica’ [1188] (Librairie Honré Champion 1995), 414pp.
See also De invectionibus and Speculum duorum [i.e., two women] available in the Oxford Text Archive [online].
Irish-authored texts contra Cambrensis
  • Lucius Gratianus [pseud. of John Lynch], Cambrensis Eversus (St. Malo 1662), and Do., as Cambrensis Eversus; or, Refutation of the Authority of Giraldus Cambrensis on the History of Ireland , ed. and trans. by Rev. Matthew Kelly, 3 vols. (Dublin: Celtic Society 1848-52).
  • Vitus [pseud. of Stephen White], Apologia pro Hibernia adversus Cambri calumnias fabulorum et famosorum libellarum S G Cambrensis sub vocalis topographia sive de mirabilis Hibernia et historiae vaticinalis sive expugnationis ejusdem insulae refutatio (1849).
Related texts
  • See also Giraldus Cambrensis [pseud.], The Disestablishment of the Irish Church (Carnavon: H. Humphrey 1868), 11pp., 12o.

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  • Also, Thomas Jones, Gerallt Gymro [in Welsh] (National Univ. of Wales 1947). [Complete Irish titles.]
  • E. A. Williams, ‘A bibliography of Giraldus Cambrensis’, National Library of Wales Journal, 12 (1961-62), pp.97-140.
  • M[ichael] Richter, Giraldus Cambrensis: The Growth of the Welsh Nation (Aberyswyth Nationaly Library of Wales 1972).
  • Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales 11146-1223 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1982).
  • A. B. Scott & F. X. Martin, eds., Expugnatio Hibernica: The Conquest of Ireland (RIA Dublin 1978) [see editorial commentary & essays].
  • John Brannigan, ‘“A Particular Vice of that People”: Giraldus Cambrensis and the Discourse of English Colonialism’, in Irish Studies Review, 6, 2 (August 1988), pp.121-30.
  • Andrew Hadfield, ‘Rethinking Early-Modern Colonialism: The Anomalous State of Ireland’, in Irish Studies Review (April 1999), pp.13-26, espec. pp.13-14.
See also Francis Byrne, Irish Kingship and High-kingship (1973); James P. Myers, Jr., Elizabethan Ireland: A Selection of Elizabethan Writers on Ireland (Archon Books 1983); John P. Harrington, The English Traveller in Ireland (Wolfhound 1991); Andrew Hadfield & John McVeigh, eds., Strangers to the Land: British Perceptions of Ireland from the Reformation to the Famine (1994); Brendan Bradshaw, Hadfield & Willy Malley, eds., Representing Ireland: literature and the origins of conflict 1534-1600 (1994).

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William Nicholson [Bishop of Derry], Irish Historical Library (1724), writes of Cambrensis Girald [sic]: ‘this author deserves no manner of regard or credit to be given to him; and his chronicle is the most partial representation [182] of the Irish history that ever was impos’d on any nation of the world. He has endeavoured to make the venerable antiquities of the Island a meer fable; and given occasion to the historians that came after him to abuse the World, with the same fictitious relations’.

P. W. Joyce, A Short History of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1608 (Longmans 1893): ‘Giraldus Cambrensis has an account of a disgusting ceremony which he says was observed by the Kinel-Connell at the inauguration of their chiefs, and which need not be detailed here. But it is obviously one of the many silly stories which we find in Giraldus - like those of the sorcerers who used to turn stones into red pigs at fairs, of a lion that fell in love with a young woman, and many others of a like kind. It is so absurd indeed that many believe it was told to him in a joke by some person who was aware of his unlimited credulity. Irish writers have left us detailed descriptions of the installation ceremonies, in none of which do we find anything like what Giraldus mentions, and some have directly refuted him; and their accounts have been corroborated in all leading particulars by a writer whom many will consider the best authority of all - Edmund Spenser. Spenser knew what he was writing about, and his description, though brief, is very correct and agrees with the Irish accounts. ‘They use to place him, that shal be their Captain, upon a stone alwayes reserved for that purpose, and placed commonly upon a hill: In some of which I have seen formed and ingraven a foot, which they say was the measure of their first Captain’s foot, whereon hee standing, receives an oath to preserve all the ancient former customes of the countrey inviolable, and to deliver up the succession peaceably to his Tanist, and then hath a wand delivered unto him by some whose proper office that is: after which, descending from the stone, he turneth himself round, thrice forward, and thrice backward.’ (Ftn: Spenser, View, p.11. ‘For an exhaustive account by O’Donovan of the inauguration of Irish kings, see his Hy Fiachrach, pp. 425 to 432.’ [See further quotations from Giraldus in Joyce"s Short History - as infra.]

Note: presumably Cambrensis is referring to the tarbfheis or bull-rite. Vide John T. Koch, ed., Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara ABC-Clio 2006), entry on ‘Feis’ [available online; accessed 15.01.2011.

P. W. Joyce also quotes Giraldus on the Irish custom of ignoring body-armour in battle - although apparently known to them: ‘They go to battle without armour, considering it a burden, and deeming it brave and honourable to fight without it’ (A Short History ... &c., citing Top. Hib., iii. x.)

Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literary and Musical Studies (1913), quotes Giraldus Cambrensis on Irish Music, ‘[...] their perfection of their art seems to lie in their concealing it, as if “it were the better for being hidden. An art revealed brings shame.” Hence it happens that the very things that afford unspeakable delight to the minds of those who have a fine perception and can penetrate carefully to secrets of the art, bore, rather than delight, those who have no such perception – who look without seeing, and hear without being able to understand. When the audience is unsympathetic they succeed only in causing boredom with what appears to be but confused and disordered noise ...’. (Note: the above employed by Thomas Kinsella as an epigraph for his poem “Out of Ireland,” in Blood and Family, OUP 1988, p.58.)

Charles Gavan Duffy, Bird’s-Eye View of Irish History (1882), Gerald Barry [sic], one of the ‘official libellers’; ‘one of the family, being a descendant of the same courtesan who was ancestress of so many of the invaders’; Giraldus ‘wrote an elaborate Latin treatise designed to prejudice the Irish race with the Holy See and justify their subjugation’ [19-22].

Edmund Curtis & R. B. McDowell, Irish Historical Documents (1943):
Laudabiliter: original Latin text is found in Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica, Bk. II, chap. vi; granted during pontificate of Adrian IV (1154-59), probably in 1155, not acted on till 1172. (pp.17-18.)

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Myles Dillon & Nora Chadwick, The Celtic Realms [History and Civilisation] (London: London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1967) [in discussing Celtic sovereignty]: ‘Giraldus Cambrensis describes a ritual, reported to him as still practisesd in one of the northern kingdoms, which involves the sacrifice [93] of a mare. The king-elect went through the symbolic union with the slaughtered animal and then bathed in the broth of its flesh and drank thereof. (Top. Hib., III, xxv.) This account has been discredited by some scholars, but there is little doubt that it is well-founded. It resembles closely the Hindu rite of asvamedha in which the queen goes through a symbolic union with the slaughtered stallion, plainly a fertility rite.’ (pp.93-94.)

Nora Chadwick, The Celts, with an introductory chapter by J. X. W. P. Corcoran (Pelican 1971; Penguin 1991): ‘Giraldus Cambrensis observes in Wales “the most ordinary folks among these people keep careful count of the family pedigree”.’ (p.116.)

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Stanford remarks that Giraldus - in Topographia (1185) - compares Henry II to Alexander, rather than a Trojan, perhaps because the Irish chose of Greek pedigrees [note at p.79, supra] would seem favourable to an Irish victory at the outcome. [202] See Topographia, ‘De Victoriis’, being the second last sect.

David Cairns & Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism and Culture (Manchester UP 1988), call him ‘the [author of] texts (The History and Topography of Ireland and The Conquest of Ireland) in which the Irish were made known to the wider world as a people descended from the Scythians who in many districts were wholly pagan, and in other parts only partly converted to Christianity, and who were in urgent ned of the Faith.’ Further: ‘In recounting fabulous happenings, the habits of the natives and the topography of the island [Cambrensis exemplifies the] attempts to know the Irish and Ireland within the framework of the pre-classical episteme. Such knowledge was intended to justify the expansion of Angevin temporal power by reference to the overriding necessity of securing Irish conformity to the spiritual power of the universal Church, and the extension of the Faith, but it was not founded on a conception of the Irish as irremediably, and therefore permanently, inferior ... In the new episteme, Giraldus’ texts, together with others such as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain (c.1136) and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (c.731), provided the discourses which underwrote both ‘a narrower definition of Englishness’ [acc. Nicholas Canny; ...] Spenser recognisably derived from Giraldus [though] within a framework quite different from that of the originator. [3] The form of the discourses produced by these Counter-Reformation Old English and Native Irish intellectuals is revealing, for their determination to advance their case took the form of refuting English and New English characterizations of the Native Irish as bestial and savage. Their discourses were, therefore, essentially negative and defensive - and hence Irish identity came to be founded upon the denial of Engish assertions, as may be seen in the attention that contemporary writers such as Keating paid to refuting Giraldus.’ [20]

Jeanne-Marie Boivin, L’Irlande au Moyen Age, Giraud de Barri et la ‘Topographia Hibernica’, 1188 (Librairie Honré Champion 1995), 414pp., reviewed by Éamon Ó Cionsáin, in Books Ireland (Oct. 1995), writes: this trans. edn. includes the whole of the later version includes a mass of fables from Church fathers that Barri added to the original matter of the version trans. by O’Meara, et al.; with the effect of contextualising the writing properly in its real genre of fable, not history; reviewer queries editor’s conclusion that Giraldus was the main source from matière d’Irlande in France. ( p.255.[ top ]

John Wilson Foster, ‘Encountering Traditions’, in Foster and Helena C. G. Chesney, ed., Nature in Ireland: A Scientific and Cultural History (Dublin: Lilliput 1997): ‘There is much that is accurate in Giraldus, for example the difference between Irish (hooded) and English (carrion) crows, the fact of female birds of prey being larger than their mates, the natural explantion of the absence of snakes in Ireland. There is much that is nonsense, for example cranes’ ability to digest iron, but nonsense largely derived from previous, including classical, sources. Giraldus finds much in Ireland and the Irish to his distaste, but he has points to make in their favour - the clemency of the Irish climate preventing poisonous creatures from living there, the healthiness of the native people and their great musicianship [… &c.] (p.27).

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The History and Topography, trans. & ed. by John J. O’Meara, trans. (1951) refers to the Irish as ‘a barbarous people devoted to laziness … living on beasts only and living like bests … a filthy people, wallowing in vice.’ Further, ‘[They have] little use for money-making of towns.’ (pp. 85, 86, 90.) Giraldus also alleges that the particular vice of the people is copulation between men and cows. (O’Meara, ed. History, p.74; quoted in John Brannigan, ‘“A Particular Vice of that People”: Giraldus Cambrensis and the Discourse of English Colonialism’, in Irish Studies Review, August 1988, pp.121-30; q.p..)

Topographia Hib. - The controversial reference to copulation between man and horse in the inauguration ritual of Gaelic kings in the Topography is quoted in Charles Doherty, ‘Kingship in Early Ireland’, in Tara: A Study of an Exceptional Kingship and Landscape, ed. Edel Bhreathnach ([Maynooth: An Sagart] 2005), pp.3-29; p.16:

Sunt et quedam, que nisi materie cursus expeteret, pudor reticenda persuaderet. Verumtamen, historie seueritas nec ueritati parcere nouit nec uerecundie. Est igitur in boreali et ulteriori Vltonie parte, scilicet apud Kenelcunil, gens quedam, que barbaro nimis et abhominabili ritu sic sibi regem creare solet. Collecto in unum uniuerso terre illius populo, in medium producitur, iumentum candidum. Ad quod sullimandus ille non in principem sed in beluam, non in regem sed exlegem, coram omnibus bestialiter accedens, se quoque bestiam profitetur. Et statim iumento interfecto, et frustatim in aqua decocto, in eadem aqua balneum ei paratur. Cui insidens, de carnibus illis sibi allatis, circumstante populo suo et conuescente, comedit ipse. De iure quoque quo lauatur, non uase aliquo, non manu, sed ore tantum circumquaque haurit et bibit. Quibus ita rite, non recte completis, regnum illius et dominium est confirmatum.

Viz., There are some things which, if the exigencies of my account did not demand it, shame would discountenance their being described. But the austere discipline of history spares neither truth nor modesty. There is in the northern and farther part of Ulster, namely in Kenelcunil [Tyrconnell], a certain people which is accustomed to consecrate its king with a rite altogether outlandish and abominable. When the whole people of that land has been gathered together in one place, a white mare is brought forward into the middle of the assembly. He who is to be inaugurated, not as a chief, but as a beast, not as a king, but as an outlaw, embraces the animal before all, professing himself to be a beast also. The mare is then killed immediately, cut up in pieces, and boiled in water. A bath is prepared for the man afterwards in the same water. He sits in the bath surrounded by all his people, and all, he and they, eat of the meat of the mare which is brought to them. He quaffs and drinks of the broth in which he is bathed, not in any cup, or using his hand, but just dipping his mouth into it round about him. When this unrighteous rite has been carried out, his kingship and dominion has been conferred. (Quoted in Doherty, op. cit., 2005, citing O’Meara, ‘Giraldus Cambrensis in Topographia Hibernie’ and O’Meara, The First Version of the Topography [for trans.].

Giraldus on Irish music
‘But the strongest evidence of all — evidence quite conclusive as regards the particular period — is that of Giraldus Cambrensis, who seldom had a good word for anything Irish. He heard the Irish harpers in 1185, and gives his experience as follows: “They are incomparably more skilful than any other nation I have ever seen. For their manner of playing on these instruments, unlike that of the Britons (or Welsh) to which I am accustomed, is not slow and harsh, but lively and rapid, while the melody is both sweet and sprightly. It is astonishing that in so complex and rapid a movement of the fingers the musical proportions [as to time] can be preserved; and that throughout the difficult modulations on their various instruments, the harmony is completed with such a sweet rapidity. They enter into a movement and conclude it in so delicate a manner, and tinkle the little strings so sportively under the deeper tones of the base strings - they delight so delicately and soothe with such gentleness, that the perfection of their art appears in the concealment of art.”’
Joyce, Short History (1893), pp.95; citing Top. Hib., iii. 11 [Bohn’s trans.].
Giraldus on Irish illumination

Giraldus Cambrensis, when in Ireland in 1185, saw a copy of the Four Gospels in St. Brigit’s nunnery in Kildare which so astonished him that he has recorded - in a separate chapter of his book - a legend that it was written under the direction of an angel. His description would exactly apply now to the Book of Kells. ‘Almost every page is illustrated by drawings illuminated with a variety of brilliant colours. In one page you see the countenance of the Divine Majesty supernaturally pictured; in another the mystic forms of the evangelists: here is depicted the eagle, there the calf: here the face of a man, there of a lion; with other figures in almost endless variety ... . You will find them [the pictures] so delicate and exquisite, so finely drawn, and the work of interlacing so elaborate, while the colours with which they are illuminated are so blended, that you will be ready to assert that all this is the work of angelic and not of human skill.’ [1]

Joyce, Short History (1893), pp.105-06; citing Top. Hib., ii. xxxviii [Bohn’s trans.].

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The History and Topography (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1982): ‘[They] condemn the rights and privileges of citizenship.’ (Penguin edn., p.102.) Further: ‘[They are so far removed in these distant parts from the ordinary world of men, as if they were in another world altogether and consequently cut off from the well-behaved and law-abiding people.’ (pp.102-03.)

Giraldus on St. Patrick’s Purgatory (Lough Derg): Est locus in partibus Vltoni[a]e continens insulam bipartitam, cuius pars altera probat[a]e religionis ecclesiam habens, spectabilis est & amoena angelorum visitatione, sanctorumq[ue] loci illius visibili frequentiâ incomparabiliter illustrata. Pars altera hispida nimis & horribilis, solis dæmoniis dicitur assignata: qu[a]e & visibilibus cacod[a]emonum turbis & po[m]pis ferè semper manet exposita. Et paulò pòst: Hic, inquit, vt asseru[n]t tormenta si quis semel ex iniunctâ poenitentiâ sustinuerit, infernares amplius poenas, nisi grauiora commiserit, non subibit. Hic autem locus Purgatorium Patricij ab incolis vocatur. De infernalibus namque reproboru[m] poenis, de verâ post mortem perpetuaque electorum vitâ vir sanctus cu[m] gente incredulâ dum disputasset: vt ta[n]ta, [unclear]am inusitata, tam inopinabilis rerum nouitas rudibus infidelium animis oculatâ fide [unclear]ertius imprimeretur, efficaci orationum in[unclear]antiâ magnam & admirabilem vtrius[ue] rei [unclear]otitiam, duræq[ue] ceruicis populo perutilem, neruit in terris obtinere.’ (Quoted in Richard Stanihurst, De Vita S. Patricii, Antwerp 1587, p.69 [citing Girald. Cambrens, Topographia Hiberniae, distinct. 2].)

Richard Stanihurst remarks: Giraldi hæc sunt verba: nihil addo de meo: in quibus & locum & auctore[m] satis luculentè exprimit. Stanihurst, pp.69-70.) Giraldus has spoken thus; I have nothing to add - in such a place the author speaks plainly enough]

Further [Giraldus]: ‘Fuerant, inquit, contemporanei Patricio Sanctus Columba, & S[anct]a Brigida: & apud Vltoniam, in ciuitate Dunensi scilicet, ipsorum tria corpora sunt recondita. Vbi & hiis nostris te[m]poribus, anno scilicet 1176., quo Comes Ioannes primo in Hiberniam venit: quasi in speluncâ triplici, Patricio in medio iacente: aliis duobus hinc inde. Ioanne verò de Curci tunc ibi præsidente, & hoc procurante, tres nobiles thesauri diuinâ reuelatione inuenti sunt & translati.’ (Topographia Hiberniae, distinct. 3; Stanihurst, op. cit., p.75; available at Renaissance Latin Texts [UUC] - online; or attached.)

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The Phantom Isle
Giraldus Cambrensis
[ As related by W. B. Yeats ]
Among the other islands is one newly formed, which they call the Phantom Isle, which had its origin in this manner. One calm day a large mass of earth rose to the surface of the sea, where no land had ever been seen before, to the great amazement of islanders who observed it. Some of them said that it was a whale, or other immense sea-monster; others, remarking that it continued motionless, said, “No; it is land.” In order, therefore, to reduce their doubts to certainty, some picked young men of the island determined to approach nearer the spot in a boat. When, however, they came so near to it that they thought they should go on shore, the island sank in the water and entirely vanished from sight. The next day it re-appeared, and again mocked the same youths with the like delusion. At length, on their rowing towards it on the third day, they followed the advice of an older man, and let fly an arrow, barbed with red-hot steel, against the island; and then landing, found it stationary and habitable.
 This adds one to the many proofs that fire is the greatest of enemies to every sort of phantom; in so much that those who have seen apparitions, fall into a swoon as soon as they are sensible of the brightness of fire. For fire, both from its position and nature, is the noblest of the elements, being a witness of the secrets of the heavens.
 The sky is fiery; the planets are fiery; the bush burnt with fire, but was not consumed; the Holy Ghost sat upon the apostles in tongues of fire.
—W. B. Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (London: Walter Scott 1888), p.213. See also Yeats’s short explanatory note: ‘Giraldus Cambrensis was born in 1146, and wrote a celebrated account of Ireland.’

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The Autobiography of Giraldus Cambrensis, ed. & trans. H. E. Butler (London: Jonathan Cape 1937): ‘The greatest of all disasters was this, that in our new principality we bestowed no new gifts upon the Church, and not only did we deem her unworthy of princely bounty and honour that was her due, but rather, taking away her land and possessions forthwith, we strove to mutilate or abolish her former dignities and ancient privileges.’ (p.89.) ‘He [the author - i.e., Giraldus himself] set himself with great zeal and diligent enquiry to collect materials first for his Topography and then for his Conquest of Ireland, that he might at least by his own labour win some profit or conqust thereby.’ (Ibid., p.90.) ‘He [i.e., Giraldus himself] hospitably entertained the poor of the whole town whom he gathered for the purpose; on the morrow he entertained all the doctors of the divers Faculties and those of their scholars who were best known and best spoken of; together with the knights of the townand a number of the citizens. It was a magnificent and costly achievement, since thereby the ancient and authentic times of the powers were in some manner revived, nor has the present age seen nor does any past age bear record of the like.’ (Ibid., p.97). ‘For it is clear that Ireland can with some right be claimed by the kings of Britain, even though the claim be from olden times.’ (p.99; note links the Irish with the Basques, both under the rule of the Angevin kings.) ‘You must be more afraid of their wile than their war; their friendship than their fire; their honey than their hemlock; their shrewdness than their soldiery; their betrayals than their battle lines; their specious friendship than their enmity despised.’ (pp.106-07.) [For the foregoing quotations, see John Brannigan, ‘“A particular Vice of that People”: Giraldus Cambrensis and the Discourse of English Colonialism’, in Irish Studies Review, 6, 2 (August 1998), pp.121-30 - who also records Giraldus’s allegation that the particular vice of the title is copulation between men and cows; vide O’Meara, ed. History, p.74.]

Crafty & subtle: ‘this people is a craftie and subtile people, and more to be feared when it is peace, then when it is open warres; for their peace indeed is but enmitie, their polices but craft, their friendship but coloured, and therefore the more to be doubted and feared’ (John Hooker, trans., in Holinshed’s History, Vol. II: The Conquest of Ireland [Expugnatio], p.59, quoted in Gottfried, ed., A View of The Present State of Ireland, in A Variorum Edition of The Works of Edmund Spenser, Vol. 10: Prose Works, 1949, ‘Variorum Notes’, pp.364-68; p.286.)

Black and barbarous: ‘They are so barbarous that they cannot be said to have any culture.... they use very little wool in their dress and that itself is nearly always black.... When they go riding they do not use saddles or leggings or spurs ... Moreover, they go naked and unarmed into battle.... They are a wild and inhospitable people. They live on beasts only, and live like beasts. They have not progressed at all from the primitive habits of pastoral living ... little is cultivated and even less sown ... The nature of the soil is not to be blamed but rather the want of industry on the part of the cultivator ... For given only to leisure, and devoted to laziness, they think that the greatest pleasure is not to work, and the greatest wealth to enjoy liberty’ (Quoted in Andrew Hadfield, ‘Rethinking Early-Modern Colonialism: The Anomalous State of Ireland’, in Irish Studies Review, April 1999, p.13-14.)

Lough Derg: ‘There is a lake in Ulster containing an island divided into two parts. In one of these stands a church of especial sanctity, and it is most agreeable and delightful, as well as beyond measure glorious for the visitation of angles and the multitude of saints who visibly frequent it. The other part, being covered with rugged crags, is reported to be the resort of devils only, and to be almost always the [theatre] on which crowds of evil spirits visibly perform their rites. This part of the island contains nine pits, and should anyone perchance venture to spend the night in one of them (which has been done, we know, at times, by some rash men), he is immediately siezed by the malignant spirits, who so severely torment him during the whole night, inflicting on him such unutterable sufferings by fire and water, and other torments of various kinds, that when morning comes scarcely an spark of life is found left in his wretched body. (Giraldus Cambrensis, Topography, 1186, V, 63 [q. edn.]; quoted in Michael Dames, Mythic Ireland, Thames & Hudson 1992; edn. not cited.)

Book of Kells: ‘If you look closely and penetrate the art, you will discover such delicate and subtle lines, so closely wrought so finely curved, so intricately woven and so beautifully adorned with colours that are still so fresh, that you will acknowledge that all this is the work of an angelic rather than a human hand.’ Further: ‘However often and however closely I scrutinize it, I am always astounded afresh, and always find more and more to admire in it.’ (Cited in De Burca Catalogue, 44; 1997, p.6.) [For Giraldus’s comments on St. Patrick, see under Saint Patrick, q.v..]

Irish music: ‘It is only in the case of musical instruments that I find any commendable diligence in the people. They seem to me to be incomparably more skilled in these than any other people that I have seen. / The movement is not, as in the British instrument to which we are accustomed, slow and easy, but rather quick and lively, while at the same time the melody is sweet and pleasant. It is remarkable how, in spite of the great speed of the fingers, the musical proportion is maintained. The melody is kept perfect and full with unimpaired art through everything – through quivering measures and the involved use of several instruments – with a rapidity that charms, a rhythmic patter that is varied, and a concord achieved through elements discordant. They harmonise at intervals of the octave and the fifth, but they always begin with B flat and with B flat end, so that everything may be rounded with the sweetness of charming sonority. They glide so subtly from one mode to another, and the grace notes so freely sport with such abandon and bewitching charm around the steady tone of the heavier sound, that the perfection of their art seems to lie in their concealing it, as if “it were the better for being hidden”. An art revealed brings shame.’ (History and Topography, John O’Meara trans, 1982, pp.102-03; quoted in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture’, in Michael Kenneally, ed., Irish Literature and Culture, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1992, p.9-10.)

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Dictionary of National Biography, called Sylvester by his enemies; b. in castle of Maenor Pyr, or Manorbeer, Pembrokeshire; youngest son of William de Barri [sic], by Nesta, his second wife, and grand-dg. of Rhys ap Theodor prince of South Wales; ... In 1184 he was made one of the chaplains of Henry II and sent by him to Ireland with his son Prince John; preached to council in Dublin reviewing severely the character of the clergy and the low state of the people (De rebus a se gestis, p.17); offered bishoprics of Wexford and Leighlin, and also Ossory, and archbishopric of Cashel, but refused (ibid. p.65); Topographia Hibernia was dedicated to Henry II, and Expugnatio dedicated to Richard; the latter scarcely considered ‘sober, truthful history’ (Dimock, Opp. pref. p.lxxix); remained in Ireland till 1186, entertaining his hearers at Oxford on three successive days with his account of Ireland (De rebus, p.72); Bibl., edited in Rolls Series, as 7 vols, by J. S. Brewer and J. F. Dimock, 1861-72, all works being included except De Instructione Principium which was edited by G. F. Warner in an eight vol; his Topographia Hibernia appeared in Camden’s Anglica, Hibernica, Normannica, Cambrica a veteribus scripta (Frankfurt 1602); his Expugnatio also in Camden; his Itinerarium, and at ecclesiastical works in other places.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: selects Topographia Hiberniae [sic] [238-40], and cross-references at 241-5, 251, 255, 257, 266-68, 270-71, and 1061n.; ‘The nature, customs and characteristics of the people’ from Topgraphia Hiberniae, as being the most offensive portion, excepting the remarks on music [‘although they are fully endowed with natural gifts, [in] their external characteristics of beard and dress, and internal cultivation of the mind, they are so barbarous that they cannot be said to have any culture’; ‘they are a wild and inhospitable people ... they live on beasts only, and live like beasts; [t]hey have not progressed at all from the primitive habits of pastoral living’; ‘they use fields generally as pasture ... the wealth of the soil is lost, not through the fault of the soil, but because there are no farmers to cultivate even the best land’; ‘the different types of minerals ... are not mined’; ‘For given only to leisure, and devoted to laziness, they think that the greatest pleasure is not to work, and the greatest wealth to enjoy liberty’; ‘This people is, then a barbarous people, literally barbarous’; ‘their natural qualites are excellent; [b]ut almost everything acquired is deplorable’.] Bibl. Historical Works of Giraldus Cambriensis (1905); H. E. Butler, ed. and trans. The Autobiography of Giraldus Cambrensis (1937) [see var. supra]; R. Bartlett, Gerald of Wales (1982). ALSO Descriptio Kambriae, c.1194; ed. S. J. Brewer, G. F. Warnock, J. F. Dinock, et al., Opera (1861-91) [chk BML]. (See bibliographical note, infra.)

National Library of Ireland holds Topographia Hibernica and Expugnatio Hibernica as MS 700. Inside Front Board: Topographia Hibernica; Expugnatio Hibernica; manuscript on vellum, written in red and black in gothic letter, 99ll., 2 columns, 36 lines, full-page map of Europe and over fifty spirited marginal drawings, all coloured, nine large initials in red, blue and green, other initials in red or blue, panelled calf [6914] folio 277mm. by 185 mm) England XIII Century. The Topographia ends on fol. 47 and is followed by the map; it is preceded by the “Prefatio prima” which occupies seven columns, after which comes a list of chapters. The Expugnatio ends on fol. 95. verso and is followed by an Epilogue which begins “Quam in prioribus libris Merlini vaticinia tam celidonii quam ambrosii locis competentibus prout res exigebat inserui” struck through in red ink and followed by a “Proemium secundae editionis et correctoriae Regi Anglorum Johanni factae” in a slightly later hand. Handscripted note: “This book was fortunately preserved from the riots at Bristol in 1831, by its having been sent up to London with some others to [Thorpes] by Mr Strong a few days before the Riots took place. F. (See graphic copy in “Irish Script on Screen”, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies/DIAS [online].)

British Library holds [listed Giraldus, de Barry Stanihurst, De rebus in ibernia gestis libri quator; accessit ... Hibernicarum rerum Appendix, ex. S. Giraldo Cambrensi ... collecta (1584), 4o; Opera, Vol. 1-4, ed. JS Brewer; Vol. 5-7, ed. JF Dimock, pref. Vol. 7 compiled by E. A. Freeman; Vol. 8, ed. G. F. Warner, 1861-91; Topographia Hiberniae sive de Mirabilis Hiberniae, Expugnatio Hiberniae, Itinerarium Cambriae seu Baldvin Cantvar. Archiespiscopi Walliam legationis descriptio cum annotationibus D. Poveli [Powell], see Camden, Anglica, Hibernica, Normannica, Cambrica, a veteribus scripta etc. (1602); also Topographia Hiberniae, Expugnatio Hiberniae, see Camden, &c. (1603) fol.; Historical Works, containing [Top. Hib., Exp. Hib., Itin. Camb., descriptio. Cambr.] trans Sir RC Hoare, rev and ed. with additional notes by T[homas] Wright (Bohn: Antiquarian Library 1847); English Conquest of Ireland, mainly from Expugnatio Hibernica of Giraldus Cambrensis, ed. FJ Furnivall (1896), et al.; Itinerarium ... Balduini Cantuariensis Arch.episcopi ... William leg. accurata descriptio auctore S. Giraldo Cambrense (Vita Giraldus Cambrensis ex ejus scriptis Lelando et Baleo collecta [ed. Sir R. C. Hoare, Bart.] (London: G. Miller 1804); Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hiberniae, text of the 1st recension [i.e. Mm 5.30 in Cambridge Univ. Library] ed., John J. O’Meara Proceedings of the RIA, vol. 52 Sect. C No.4 (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1949); Tractatus de quibusdem Hibernia Miraculis auctore Giraldo Cambrensi in Topographia Hiberniae see Messingham, in Florilegium Insula Sanctorum Hiberniae (1624); 1st version of topography of Ireland, trans. John J O’Meara, plates, map (Dundalgan 1951), 121pp.; Second Booke of the Histories of Ireland [trans. J. Hooker], see Holinshed, The First Volume of the Chronicles of England, vol. I (1577), fol.; also The Irish Historie ... trans.... by J. Hooker, see Holinshed, Chronicles etc. ol. 6 (1807); Frere Phillipe, Les Meilleures de l’Irlande [trans. from part of Topographia Hiberniae] (Leipzig 1892); Lucius Gratianus, Eversus Cambrensis; also Vitus [Stephen White], Apologia pro Hibernia adversus Cambri calumnias fabulorum et famosorum libellarum S G Cambrensis sub vocalis topographia sive de mirabilis Hibernia et historiae vaticinalis sive expugnationis ejusdem insulae refutatio (1849); Selections from Giraldus Cambrensis, texts for Students, see C. A. J Skeal, No. 3 (1918); The Autobiography of Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of St David’s [a narrative compiled from the works] ed. and trans. H. E. Butler with intro. chap. by C. H. Williams [plates] (Jonathan Cape 1937) 368pp; Giraldus Cambrensis pseud., The Disestablishment of the Irish Church (Carnavon: H. Humphrey 1868), 11pp., 12o. Also, Thomas Jones, Gerallt Gymro [in Welsh] (National Univ. of Wales 1947). [Complete Irish titles.]

University of Ulster Library holds, Giraldus Cambrensis, 1146-1223, English Conquest of Ireland, 1166-85, ed. F. J. Furnivall (Greenwood 1969, rep. of 1896 Early English Texts, series no. 107, 1896); Expugnatio Hibernica (in Middle English), The English conquest ... founded on the ‘Expugnacio Hibernica’ of Giraldus Cambrensis (NY Haskell House, 1969; orig. 1896 ed FJ Furnivall); Topographia Hiberniae, trans. with intro John J. O’Meara (Penguin 1982), 136pp., 2 maps; ill; pbk, prev. ed. Dundalgan 1951, trans. of Topographia Hiberniae [Magee DA930]; The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis, containing Topography of Ireland, The History of the Conquest of Ireland, and The Itinerary through Wales and the Description of Wales, rev. and edited by Thomas Wright (Bohn 1863), 534pp. Titles held in the Morris Collection of the University of Ulster are: Itinerary Through Wales (Dent [1908]); A. B. Scott and F. X. Martin, eds., Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica, The Conquest of Ireland (RIA Dublin 1978). Also, Thomas Jones, lect. in Welsh], Gerallt Gymro (Caerdydd: Univ. of Wales Press 1947). MORRIS COLLECTION holds The Itinerary through Wales and the Description of Wales (Dent, c. 1908); The First Version of the Topography of Ireland (Dundalgan Press, 1951); The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis, containing the Topography of Ireland, and the History of the Conquest of Ireland, and the Itinerary through Wales (Bohn, 1862), 524p.

Hyland Catalogue (No. 214) lists Henry Owen, Gerald the Welshman (Cambrensis), new & enl. edn. (1904).

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His influence: English antiquarians influenced by Giraldus include Edmund Campion, Two Bokes of the Histories of Ireland (1571); Richard Stanyhurst, ‘Description of Ireland’ in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577); John Hooker, ‘Chronicle of Ireland’ (1586); Robert Payne, Brief Description of Ireland (1589); Barnaby Rich, A New Description of Ireland (1610); John Davies, A Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland was Never Entirely Subdued (1612); Fynes Morrison [Moryson], An Itinerary (1617); Luke Gernon, A Discourse of Ireland (1620). Giraldus is also quoted extensively in P. W. Joyce, The Wonders of Ireland (1911), A. P. Graves, Irish Literary and Musical Studies (1913, p.169ff.), and other classic sources.

Laudibiliter - a Papal Bull of 1155 - being issued by Adrian IV and purportedly bestowing the care of Ireland on Henry II, commences: ‘Laudabiliter et satis fructuose de glorioso nomine tuo propagando in terries [Quite laudably and profitably, your majesty considers how to extend the glory of your name on earth ...]’ The page in Giraldus’s Expugnatio in which it is transcribed was made the subject of a column in “A History of Ireland in 100 Objects”, in which Fintan O’Toole writes by way of commentary: ‘Henry did not refer to Laudabiliter when he landed near Waterford in 1171. It does not appear in the English or Vatican archives. It is not referred to in subsequent papal correspondence with Henry. Giraldus, moreover, was not averse to a spot of forgery: his book also contains a letter from Adrian’s successor as pope, Alexander III, that no one believes to be genuine. [...] Laudabiliter is a dodgy dossier.’, in The Irish Times (31 Dec. 2011). - online.)

Rudolf Gottfried, Spenser’s Prose Works, Variorum Edn., Vol. 10, commentary on A View [...] &c., p.287, cites John Hooker’s translation of the Expugnatio Hiberniae of Giraldus Cambrensis (Holinshed, Vol. II, The Conquest of Ireland, p.1-59); and Stanyhurst’s Latin redaction of the Expugnatio (De Rebus, pp.59-218).

Bull of the herd: Geoffrey Keating called Giraldus ‘the bull of the herd of those who write the false history of Ireland, wherefor they have no choice of guide’ (History of Ireland, Irish Texts Society, I, p.153; quoted in Estyn Evans, Irish Folk Ways, 1957, p.4.)

Ancient Dublin: Topographia Hibernica (1787) states that ‘[t]he walls of the city [of Dublin in AD 1000] including those of the Castle, did not take up an Irish mile.’ (Cited in George Little, Dublin Before the Vikings, which also cites as authority for remark in the use of the Viking v for the Irish bh; bibl. cites edn. of Topographia in 1787.

Mullingar way: Giraldus Cambrensis records that the Stone of Divisions at Uisnech ‘is said to be the navel [omphalos] of Ireland’ (Topographia Hibernica, PRIA, LII, C, p.159.; cited in Rees and Rees, Celtic Heritage, 1961, rep. 1975; p.159 (sic).]

Name-game: Andrew Hadfield (op. cit. 1999, supra) supplies the names Expugnatio Hibernica (1189) and Topographia Hibernica [sic] (1188), also adopted by the ODNB and Oxford Companion to English Literature (ed. Drabble). FDA lists Topographia Hiberniae (c.1187); Expugnatio Hibernica (c.1188), and Descriptio Kambriae (c.1194) [section eds., Andrew Carpenter & Alan Harrison].

Werwolves: Bob Curran, author of Werewolves: A Field Guide to Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and Man-Beasts (2009), remarks: Paranormal: ‘The first written account [of werewolves] in Western Europe is to be found in the works of a medieval monk, Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), writing in 1185 in his book A History and Topography of Ireland. In it he records, as fact, an old legend that he may have heard at the courts of his Irish kinsmen, the Fitzgeralds, concerning the Werewolves of Ossory. In this story, a priest, travelling on ecclesiastical business along the borders of Meath in the diocese of Ossory, camps for the night in a forest. There he is approached by a talking wolf, who asks him a religious favour. He and his wife are members of Clan Altan, a clan which was cursed by an irascible holy man, St. Nechtan. Under the terms of the curse, two of the clan members are turned into the shape of wolves for a period of seven years. They then return from the forest and two others take their place. Whilst serving this penance, his wife, in wolf form, has been struck by a huntsman’s arrow and is near to death. He asks the priest if he will come and give her the Holy Offices of the Church so that she may die as a Christian. This the priest does, and the wolf guides him to the edge of the forest and directs him where he has to go. The monk promises to return once his business in Meath is complete, but here the story ends and we don’t know if he does. To the best of my knowledge, this is the oldest written werewolf tale, but the oral tradition goes back much further than this.’ (interview with Paranormal [website] - online; accessed 28.04.2010.)

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