Dermod O’Connor


Life
fl.1720 [sometimes Dermot]; son of Tadhg Roe O’Connor of Limerick; worked in Limerick, Dublin, and London; involved with Irish scholar circle gathered round Seán and Tahdg Ó Neachtain; he wrote the first-published English translation of [Jeoffry for Geoffrey] Keating’s ‘Foras Feasa ar Eirinn’ as The General History of Ireland (London 1723), a first edn. appearing in London in January and a second in Dublin during April, prefatorily describes Céitinn’s ‘History’ as ‘the choicest collection of ancient records that possibly can be recover’d from the ruins of Time’, and as being very far [from] ‘“an old inspir’d legend of fables”, as some have said it to be’;
 
also gave thanks to Antony Raymond, his erstwhile employer whose translation he was supposed to be assisting; attacked prior to publication by Thomas O’Sullevane, an Irish scholar living in London, in his preface to The Memoirs of the Right Honorable the Marquis of Clanricarde (1722), charging him with taking tutelage from John Toland and with possessing a school-boy’s knowledge of Irish and ‘only a small acquaintance with the modern Characters of that Language’;
 
reviled by Raymond in a notice inserted in Dublin Mercury (13 July 1723), an open letter, and a pamphlet entitled An Account of Dr. keting’s [sic] History of Ireland, and the Translation of it by Dermod O Connor (Dublin 1723); castigated by Charles O’Conor for ‘the grossest Imposition that has ever yet obtruded on a learned age’; called a liar and thief by the keeper of the Bodleian who described him as a ‘Horrid villain’; further folio editions of his History printed in 1726, and 1738 for the bookseller Creake, who complained in an appendix that the author had absconded with £300 of subscribers’ money intended for the him; further reprints in 1809, 1841, and 1857.

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Works
The General History of Ireland: Collected by the learned Jeoffry Keating D.D. faithfully Translated from the original Irish Language by Dermod O’Connor (Dublin: James Carson 1723) [2nd edn.]; The General History of Ireland: Collected by the learned Jeoffry Keating. faithfully Translated form the original Irish langauge by Dermod O’Connor [2nd edn.] (London: Creake 1726).

Reprint: Keating’s General History of Ireland, translated from the original Irish, with many curious amendments, taken from the Psalters of Tara and Cashel, &c., by Dermod O’Connor, Esq. (Dublin 1854), 556pp., with index, and Do. (Dublin: J. Duffy 1861), xxxvi, [49]-556pp. [front. Brian Boru of Munster; OCLC 28603628; Note: Includes dedicatory letter; pedigree of the Right Hon. William O’Bryen [back to Milesius]; The Life of the Rev. Jeoffry Keating, D.D.; [ix-x]; The Translator’s Preface [xi-xiv]; Dr. Keating’s Preface, subscribed “Jeoffry Keating” [xv-xxxvi]; A General History [...] [p.49ff. Chapter titles such as ‘Original of the Milesians’ [p.94]; The Second Book commences p.327. Available in the Internet Archive [copy from Boston College, Mass.], online; accessed 01.09.2010; see also under Keating, q.v.].

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Criticism

  • Henry R. Plomer, ‘Dermod O’Connor and Keating’s history’, in Irish Book Lover, 3, 8 (March 1912), pp.125-27; see also [Vol.] 15;
  • Brian Ó Cuiv, ‘An Eighteen-Century Account of Keating and his Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, in Éigse, 9 (1958-61), pp.263-69;
  • Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Penn UP 1959), esp. pp.83-94;
  • Herbert V. Fackler, ‘Nineteenth-Century Sources for the Deirdre Legend’ in, Éire-Ireland, 4, 4 (Winter 1969), pp.56-63;
  • Diarmaid Ó Catháin, ‘Dermot O’Connor, translator of Keating’, in Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 2 (1987), pp.67-68;
  • Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986), p.369-70;
  • Muriel McCarthy, ed., Hibernia Resurgens: Catalogue of Marsh’s Library [Exhibition Catalogue] (Marsh’s Library 1994), p.20;
  • Michael Cronin, ‘Digging Up the Past’, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), pp.95-97.

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Commentary
Russell K. Alspach
, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Penn UP 1959), esp. pp.83-94; cites conflict with bookseller of third edn., Creake; also quotes notice by William Nicholson in Irish Historical Library (1724) [see under Nicholson]; cites Charles O’Conor’s censures in Dissertations on the History of Ireland (1753): ‘it is but justice ... to inform the Reader, that his [Keating’s pertended Translator has hardly rendered him justice, in a single Period, through the whole Work. The History given in English, under Keating’s name, is the grossest Impostion that has ever been yet obtruded on a learned age.’ (Diss., Pref., p.x; Alspach, p.84); Alspach earlier notices an extended reference in Harris’s edn. of The Works of Sir James Ware, mentioning a ‘Manuscript Copy of a Translation of this work [Foras Feasa], done by another Hand; but much inferior to Mr. O’Connor’s; yet it appears from it, that Mr. O’Connor had taken an unjustifiable Liberty in abridging his author’s work in some particulars, or this other Translator, on the contrary hath been too bold in enlarging it.’ (Harris, Ware, 1809 edn., III, 2, p.106; Alspach, p.82-83). Note: Alspach quotes extensively from O’Connor’s translation as a guide to the narrative in Keating, having cited Charles O’Conor’s asservations [see Life, supra], but also commends O’Connor for choosing to render the verse in Keating in ‘blank verse’ and literal translations rather than poeticised usage (Alspach, p.92.) Alspach later remarks that O’Connor ‘did fairly well’ in these translations (p.104).

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Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986), author of the first English translation of Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eirinn, published in London in 1723, dedicated to the O’Brien earl of Inchiquin, and strenuously denounced, but reprinted sumptuously a few years after; O’Connor was writing in defence of Ireland against ‘the censure of illiterate and unjust Men, who insolently attempt to vilify and traduce the lineal Descendants of the great Milesians (a Martial, a Learned, and a Generous Race) as a nation of ignorant, meanspirited, and superstitious’ (p.[iii]f.; here 369-70. He also contributed Irish airs to a vol. of Aria di Camera, being a choice collection of Scotch, Irish and Welsh airs (London 1727) [ftn. 377].

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Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature (1989), An early translator of Keating was Dermod O’Connor, whose first folio ed. appeared in 1723, ‘The Institutes of Bryen Boroimhe/so wholesome for the support of Virtue,/Were kept with so much Reverence and Regard,/That a young lady of consummate Beauty,/Adorn’d with Jewels and a Ring of gold;/Travelled alone on Foot from North to South/and no attempt was made upon her Honour,/Or to divest her of the Cloaths she wore’ (Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry from the Invasion to 1798, 1959, p.93; Todd, p.100.]

Norman Vance, Irish Literature, A Social History (Basil Blackwell 1990), p.22, An English translation [of Keating’s history] was published in 1923, ostensibly by Dermot O’Connor though there are grounds for ascribing the project to the notorious Donegal deist and learned adventurer, John Toland. [See further under Geoffrey Keating.]

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Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Tranlsations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), Aside from questions of professional jealousy (both [Anthony] Raymond and [Thomas] O’Sullevane were working on histories of Ireland), the O’Connor translation controversy highlights trends in translation practice that will continue to grow in importance throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Firstly, the direction of the O’Connor translation was Irish-English. Secondly, translation was implicitly political. Much of the controversy centred on whether Keating’s historical writings had a valid historical basis. If they did, then the English conquest of the seventeenth century would be viewed as a negative development. If they did not, and were presented as hopelessly contaminated by fable and romance, it was possible to offer more sympathetic accounts of English involvement in Irish affairs. Thirdly, philological competence came to be seen as the yardstick of translation success or failure.’ (p.97; END Chap.).

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Quotations
Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723): ‘[Emain Macha got its name from] from a Woman so called, who . . . was obliged . . . to run a Race with the Horses of Connor, King of Ulster, and . . . she out-ran them, and came first to the Goal; she was with Child at this Time, and near her Delivery; and when she fell in Labour, she was delivered of Twins, a Son and a Daughter. The Barbarity of this Action, and the Pains she suffered in Travail, so incensed the unfortunate Woman, that she left a Curse upon the Men of Ulster, and Heaven heard her; for the Men of that Province were constantly afflicted with the Pains of Child-bearing for many years, from the Time of Connor, who then reigned in Ulster ...’ (pp.156-57.)

Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723) - on the “Sons of Uisneach”, being in the narrative of Deirdre and Naoise: ‘It happened upon a time as Deirdre and her Governess were looking out of a Window, they spied one of the Slaughtermen of the Garrison killing a Calf for the use of her Table upon a snowy day, and some of the blood they observed fell upon the Snow, and a Raven came and fed upon it. This sight occasioned a strange Passion in the young Lady; for notwithstanding her Confinement she was of a very amorous Disposition; and turning to Leabharcham, Oh, says she, that I could be so happy as to be in the arms of a Man who was of the three Colours I now see, I mean, who had a skin as white as the driven Snow, Hair as shining black as the feathers of a Raven, and a blooming Red in his Cheeks as deep as the Calf’s Blood.’ (p.175.)

Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723) - The warriors ask Connor for permission to return to Scotland: ‘His request was so favorably received, that the principal nobility of the Province interceded with King Connor that they should be relieved, and have liberty to return to their own Country; for they said that it would be a barbarous to suffer the three sons of Uisneach [Naoise, Ainle, and Ardan] to be destroyed on account of a lewd Woman.’ (pp.175-81; quoted in Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798, Pennsylvania UP, 1959 [new edn.], p.89.) Futher, on Fergus MacRoigh’s destruction of Connor’s palace at Emain Macha: ‘not sparing the Ladies of the Seraglio, whom the King kept for his own Pleasure.’ (O’Connor, 1723, p.179; q. source.)

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Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723)- on the Fianna: ‘a standing well disciplined Army under the Monarchs of Ireland (in whose Hands the Militia ever was) that were kept in regular and constant Pay. Their business was to defend the Country against foreign or domestick Enemies, to support the right and succession of their Kings, and to be ready at the shortest Notice upon any Surprise or Emergencies of the State.’ (pp.196-98; quoted in Alspach, p.90; note also rules and regulations of the Fianna, O’Connor, op. cit., pp.273-75; mentioned but not quoted in Russell Alspach, op. cit., p.91).

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Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723) - verse: ‘This pious Saint, as a religious Penance, / Lay on the cold Ground, and thro’ his Garments / His bones looked sharp and meagre; his poor Cell / Was open to the Inclemency of the Winds, / Which blew thro’ the unplaistered Walls.’ (p.268; quoted in Alspach, op. cit., pp.92.)

Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723) - verse: ‘The Institutes of Bryen Boiroimhe / So wholesome for the support of Virtue, / Were kept with so much Reverence and Regard, / That a young lady of consummate Beauty, / Adorn’d with Jewels and a Ring of Gold; / Travell’d alone on Foot from North to South / And no Attempt was made upon her Honour, / Or to divest her of the Cloaths she wore.’ (O’Connor, 1723, p.500; quoted in Alspach, op. cit., pp.92-93 [on Brian Boru].)

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Keating’s History of Ireland, trans. (1723) - verse: ‘[...] near the mournful Shade / These weeping Marbles cast, are also laid / The great Remains of Conn, who sway’d with Fame / Hibernia’s royal Scepter ... / Nor could thy Beauty, lovely once, secure / Thee, Clothro, or from Death’s subduing Arm / Guard thy all-conquering Eyes, whose Lance destroy’d. / Thy Sisters Meidbh and Murasg; here entombed / They rest in Silence, near three royal Queens / (Forgetful now in death they ever reign’d) / Eire, Fodhla, Banbha, from the scepter’d Line.’ (p.285; quoted in Alspach, op. cit., pp.93/)

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Notes
Subscribers to the 1723 Dublin edn. included Dr. Patrick Delany, with six copies, though many are believed to have been so listed without permission. (Cited in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. Seamus Deane, Derry: Field Day 1991).

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