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From Two Bokes of the Histories of Ireland

FromTwo Bokes of the Histories of Ireland


Edmund Campion

Edmund Campion, executed as a Jesuit in 1581, was English-born, but a guest of leading Old English families in Dublin in 1570–1571. His "Histories of Ireland," not published until 1633, glorified the Old English (as against the Gaelic Irish), and in manuscript form influenced Richard Stanihurst (who contributed the Irish portions ofHolinshead's famous chronicles), and others among his contemporaries.

SEE ALSO English Writing on Ireland before 1800

The people are thus enclyned: religious, francke, amorous, irefull, sufferable of paynes infinite, veary glorious, many sorserers, excellent horsemen, delighted with warres, great almesgevers, passing in hospitalitie. The lewder sorte, bothe clerkes and laye, are sensuall and loose to leacherye above measure. The same being vertuously brede up or refourmed, are suche myrrors of holynes and austeritie that other nations retaine but a shadoe of devotion in comparison of them. As for abstinence and fastynge, which theis daies make so dangerous, this is to them a familiare kinde of chastisment. In which vertue and diverse other how farr the best excell, so farr in glotonie and other hatefull crymes the vitious theie are worse than to bad. Theie folowe the deade course to grave with howling and barbarous owtcries, pitiful in apparance, whereof grewe as I suppose the proverbe to weepe Irishe. The unplandishe are lightly abused to beleeve and avouche idle miracles and revelations vaine and childishe. Greedie of praise theie be, and fearfull of dishonour. And to this ende they esteeme theire poetes, who wright Irishe learnedly, and penne therein sonettes heroicall, for the which they are bountefully rewarded: yf not, they sende owt lybells in dispraise, whereof the gentlemen, specially the meere Irishe, stand in greate awe. They love tenderly theire foster children and bequeathe to them a childes portyon, whereby they nourishe sure frendship, so beneficiall every waie that commonly five hundred kyne and better are geven in reward to wynne an noblemans childe to forster. They are sharpe witted, lovers of learning, capable of any studie whereunto they bende themselves, constant in travaile, aventurous, intractable, kynde hearted, secreate in displeasure.

Hitherto the Irishe of bothe sortes, meere and Englishe, are affected mutche indifferently, save that in theis by good order and breaking the same vertues are farr more pregnant, in those other by licencious and evill custome the same faultes are more extreame and odious. I saie by lycentiousnes and evil custome, for that there is daily triall of good natures among them; howe sone they be reclaymed and to what rare giftes of grace and wisdome they doe and have aspired, againe the veary Englishe of birthe conversant with the brutishe sorte of that people become degenerate in short space, and are quite altered into worst ranke of Irish rooges. Such a force hathe education to make or marre.

Reprinted in Strangers to That Land: British Perceptions of Ireland from the Reformation to the Famine, edited by Andrew Hadfield and John McVeagh (1994), pp. 38–39.

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