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Writing the past in early-modern Ireland: Anglesey, Borlase and the craft of history

  • Eamon Darcy (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

The draft notes for a proposed history of Ireland compiled by Arthur Annesley, the first earl of Anglesey, and letters to Edmund Borlase, author of The history of the execrable Irish rebellion (London, 1680), which describe the reception of his work in England and Ireland, offer a convenient keyhole through which historians can investigate the craft of history writing in the early-modern period. While there has been much discussion of these authors and their contribution to wider political (and highly partisan) debates concerning the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Crisis, less has been said about the historical methods they employed to understand the past. While this article does not deny that both authors attempted to defend their own political factions and views, it argues that a focus on the partisan nature of their contributions neglects the historiographical context to what they produced. Both Anglesey’s and Borlase’s research and writing occurred at a time of profound change in history writing as readers were becoming increasingly critical of works they read and authors engaged in sustained attempts to understand deep-lying causes of the various crises that engulfed the three kingdoms. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to illustrate how both Anglesey and Borlase’s ‘histories’ reflected this historiographical turn in the late-seventeenth century.

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*Department of History, Maynooth University, Eamon.Darcy@nuim.ie
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1 Gibney John, Ireland and the Popish Plot (Dublin, 2009); Ohlmeyer Jane and Zwicker Steven, ‘John Dryden, the house of Ormond, and the politics of Anglo-Irish patronage’ in Hist. Jn., xlix, no. 3 (Sept. 2006), pp 677706 ; Perceval-Maxwell Michael, ‘The Anglesey-Ormond-Castlehaven dispute, 1680–1682: taking sides about Ireland in England’ in Vincent P. Carey and Ute Lotz-Heumann (eds), Taking sides? Colonial and confessional mentalités in early-modern Ireland: essays in honour of Karl S. Bottigheimer (Dublin, 2003), pp 213230 ; idem, ‘Sir Robert Southwell and the duke of Ormond’s reflections on the 1640s’ in Micheál Ó Siochrú (ed.), Kingdoms in crisis: Ireland in the 1640s (Dublin, 2001), pp 229–47.

2 Michael Perceval-Maxwell, ‘Butler, James, 12th earl, 1st duke of Ormond, Viscount Thurles’, in Dictionary of Irish Biography; Toby Barnard, ‘Annesley, Arthur, 1st earl of Anglesey’, in D.I.B.; Micheál Ó Siochrú, ‘Tuchet, James, Lord Audley, 3rd earl of Castlehaven’, in D.I.B.

3 Cunningham Bernadette, ‘Historical writing, 1660–1750’ in Raymond Gillespie and Andrew Hadfield (eds), The Oxford history of the Irish book, volume III: the Irish book in English, 1550–1800 (Oxford, 2006), p. 271 ; Paulina Kewes, ‘History and its uses’ in eadem (ed.), The uses of history in early-modern England (San Marino, 2006), p. 14.

4 Perceval-Maxwell, ‘The Anglesey-Ormond-Castlehaven dispute’, p. 221.

5 Ford Alan, ‘Past but still present: Edmund Borlase, Richard Parr and the reshaping of Irish history for English audiences in the 1680s’ in Brian MacCuarta (ed.), Reshaping Ireland 1550–1700: colonization and its consequences (Dublin, 2011), p. 299 .

6 Barnard Toby, ‘1641: a bibliographical essay’ in Brian Mac Cuarta (ed.), Ulster 1641: aspects of the rising (Belfast, 1993), p. 174 .

7 L’Estrange Roger, An account of the growth of knavery under the pretended fears of arbitrary government and popery with a parallel betwixt the reformers of 1677 and those of 1641 in their methods and designs (London, 1678).

8 Dryden John, Absalom and Achitophel (London, 1681), ‘To the Reader’, Sig A2.

9 Kewes, ‘History and Its Uses’, pp 18–19, quotation at p. 22; Mark Knights, ‘The Tory interpretation of history in the rage of parties’ in Kewes (ed.), Uses of history, pp 363–6; Daniel Woolf, ‘From histories to the historical: five transitions in thinking about the past, 1500–1700’ in Kewes (ed.), Uses of history, pp 41–52.

10 Woolf, ‘From histories to the historical’, pp 36, 41–52.

11 Borlase Edmund, The history of the execrable Irish rebellion (London, 1680).

12 Temple John, The Irish rebellion: or, an history of the beginnings and first progress of the general rebellion raised within the kingdom of Ireland: upon the three and twentieth day of October, in the year, 1641 (London, 1679).

13 Perceval-Maxwell, ‘The Anglesey-Ormond-Castlehaven dispute’, p. 216.

14 It is possible that Ormond was satisfied with the strident defence of his actions that appeared in the 1670s from the pen of the earl of Clarendon. See, ‘A short view of the state and condition of the kingdom of Ireland from the yeare 1640 to this tyme’ in Bodl., MS 121, ff 34–80v.

15 The polititians cathechisme, for his instruction in divine faith, and morall honesty (Antwerp, 1658); A brief narrative how things were carried at the beginning of the troubles in the year 1641 in Ireland (n.p., 1660); A continuation of the brief narrative, and of the sufferings of the Irish under Cromwell (n.p., 1660) all claimed colonial armies used excessive force first in the opening stages of the 1641 rebellion.

16 R.S., A collection of some of the murthers and massacres committed on the Irish in Ireland since the 23d of October 1641 with some observations and falsification on a late printed abstract of murthers said to be committed by the Irish. Now published by R.S. (London, 1662), pp 6, 8–10. This was a response to Jones Henry, An abstract of some few of those barbarous, cruell massacres and murthers of the Protestants and English in some parts of Ireland, committed since the 23 of Octob., 1641 together with the rise of the rebellion: collected out of the examinations taken upon oath by persons of trust, in the beginning of the rebellion (London, 1662).

17 MacGillivray Royce, ‘Edmund Borlase, historian of the Irish rebellion’ in Studia Hib., ix (1969), p. 86 . Anglesey’s notes for his history of Ireland have also been explored by Rankin Deana, Between Spenser and Swift: English writing in seventeenth-century Ireland (Cambridge, 2005), pp 244255 .

18 Micheal Perceval-Maxwell, ‘Annesley, Arthur, first earl of Anglesey (1614–1686)’, in Oxford D.N.B.; Philipps Thomas, Bibliotheca Angleseiana (London, 1686).

19 Perceval-Maxwell, ‘The Anglesey-Ormond-Castlehaven dispute’, p. 216.

20 Anglesey even admitted to having to borrow money on the value of his silver plate in order to entertain the bishop; Annesley Arthur, A letter from a person of honour in the country written to the earl of Castlehaven being observations and reflections upon his lordships memoires concerning the wars of Ireland (London, 1680), p. 31 .

21 Rankin, Between Spenser and Swift, pp 244, 252–3; Toby Barnard, ‘Annesley, Arthur’ suggests that the onset of the Popish Plot provided the impetus for Anglesey to write his history.

22 The diary of the earl of Anglesey, 1667–74 (B.L., Add. MS 40,860, ff 36v, 40, entries for 1 Oct., 21 Nov. 1672).

23 The diary of the earl of Anglesey 1675–84 (B.L., Add. MS 18,730, ff 66, 84, 86v, 87, 96v). There is no correlation, sadly, between the dates Anglesey claimed to work on his history of Ireland in his diary and the days dated in his notes for his history.

24 Ibid., f. 18.

25 Ibid., f. 65v, entry for 22 Jan. 1680.

26 Robert Clavel to Edmund Borlase, 30 Dec. 1679 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 239).

27 The diary of the earl of Anglesey 1675–84 (B.L., Add. MS 18,730, ff 36v, 62v).

28 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 5v).

29 Anglesey to the countess of Orrery, 10 Feb. 1680 (Petworth House, Orrery papers, folder 22/4).

30 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 31). See Psalm 90:10, ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

31 Toby Barnard, ‘Parlour entertainment in an evening? Histories of the 1640s’ in Ó Siochrú (ed.), Kingdoms in crisis, p. 29.

32 Woolf, ‘From histories to the historical’, pp 44–5.

33 Cunningham Bernadette, The world of Geoffrey Keating: history, myth and religion in seventeenth-century Ireland (Dublin, 2004), pp 105140 .

34 Walsh Peter, A prospect of the state of Ireland from the year of the world 1756 to the year of Christ 1652 (London, 1682), ‘Preface to the reader’, p. 22, ‘A prospect of the state of Ireland’, pp 1–15, 242–3; Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 39).

35 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, ff 5, 32, 32v, 33).

36 Ibid., ff 32, 39v.

37 Ibid., f. 30v.

38 Temple, Irish rebellion, ‘Preface to the reader’.

39 Raymond Gillespie, ‘The social thought of Richard Bellings’ in Ó Siochrú (ed.), Kingdoms in crisis, pp 214–15.

40 Rankin, Between Spenser and Swift, pp 233–4; Annesley, Letter from a person of honour, pp 31, 36.

41 Anglesey only mentioned his own role once in his draft notes for his history of Ireland: ‘Take notice how I ingaged for 600l for the comttees of parliament with Ld Gormanston my kindsman &c so little did I suspect of their foule intentions.’ Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 37v).

42 Woolf, ‘From histories to the historical’, p. 44.

43 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 32v).

44 Wood Herbert (ed.), A chronicle of Ireland, 1584–1608 (Dublin, 1933), p. 3 ; Gillespie, ‘Social thought of Richard Bellings’, pp 213–14. Bulstrode Whitlocke never intended for his history of the English Civil Wars to be published either; it was to remain for his ‘memory and private use’, but his publisher deemed it worthy of public consumption. Bulstrode Whitlocke, Memorials of the English affairs, or, an historical account of what passed from the beginning of the reign of King Charles the first, to King Charles the second his happy restauration containing the publick transactions, civil and military: together with the private consultations and secrets of the cabinet (London, 1682), ‘The Publisher to the Reader’.

45 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 31); Ware claimed that his publication of Spenser was a matter of ‘history’ and ‘policy’, see Ware James (ed.), The historie of Ireland, collected by three learned authors viz. Meredith Hanmer Doctor in Divinitie: Edmund Campion sometime fellow of St Iohns Colledge in Oxford: and Edmund Spenser esq (Dublin, 1633), Sig A2v.

46 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 32).

47 Ibid., f. 32v.

48 For an opposing view see Rankin, Between Spenser and Swift, pp 252–5.

49 Annesley, Letter from a person of honour, p. 31.

50 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 29v).

51 Temple, Irish Rebellion, ‘Preface to the reader’.

52 Woolf, ‘From histories to the historical’, pp 40–1.

53 Knights, ‘Tory interpretation of history’, p. 348.

54 A small part of Anglesey’s archive is still extant and has been edited for publication. See, James Hogan (ed.), Letters and papers relating to the Irish rebellion between 1642–46 (I.M.C., Dublin, 1936). These amounted to letters transcribed from the originals held at Dublin Castle in 1664 that were destroyed in 1711 (ibid., p. v).

55 Patterson Annabel and Dzelzainis Martin, ‘Marvell and the earl of Anglesey: a chapter in the history of reading’ in Hist. Jn., xliv, no. 3 (Sept. 2001), pp 712713 .

56 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 7v); Ware (ed.), The historie of Ireland; Marie Flanagan, ‘Clare, Richard fitz Gilbert de, second earl of Pembroke (c.1130–1176)’, in Oxford D.N.B.

57 Gillespie Raymond, ‘Temple’s fate: reading The Irish rebellion in late seventeenth-century Ireland’ in Ciaran Brady and Jane Ohlmeyer (eds), British interventions in early modern Ireland (Cambridge, 2005), pp 315333 .

58 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816 ff 19–19v).

59 Ibid., ff 25, 26.

60 Gillespie, ‘Temple’s fate’, pp 315–33.

61 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 31).

62 Woolf, ‘From histories to the historical’, pp 37–41.

63 Arthur Annesley (Anglesey) to [Henry Jones], bishop of Meath, c.1680 (N.L.I., MS 2481, ff 13–14).

64 In 1676 Jones published, A sermon of Antichrist preached at Christ Church (Dublin, 1676), prompting others to take up the themes he discussed as evidenced by Anglesey’s feedback here. Anglesey directed him to the sermons of the former bishop of Lincoln, Robert Sanderson. See also, Ford, ‘Past but still present’, pp 287–8; Gibney, Ireland and the Popish Plot, pp 88, 96.

65 Arthur Annesley (Anglesey) to [Henry Jones], bishop of Meath, c.1680, (N.L.I., MS 2481, ff 13–14).

66 Anglesey to the countess of Orrery, 10 Feb. 1680 (Petworth House, Orrery papers, folder 22/4).

67 The diary of the earl of Anglesey, 1675–84 (B.L. Add. MS 18,730, ff 63, 67v, 69, 89v, 100v).

68 Ibid., ff 36v, 62v; Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 18).

69 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, ff 7–14).

70 Ibid., f. 19v, see also ff 19–21.

71 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland, dated 1 Sept. 1681, and reviewed 21 Apr. 1682 (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 18).

72 Ibid., f. 38.

73 Ibid., f. 17. For an opposing view see: Rankin, Between Spenser and Swift, p. 253.

74 Ibid., f. 30.

75 Ibid., f. 18.

76 The diary of the earl of Anglesey 1675–84, 14 June 1684 (B.L., Add. MS 18,730, f. 111).

77 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, ff 19–19v).

78 Ibid., ff 4v, 37v.

79 Hackel Heidi Brayman, Reading material in early-modern England (Cambridge, 2005), pp 4749 , 91, 132.

80 Knights, ‘Tory interpretation of history’, pp 351–2.

81 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS 4,816, f. 35v).

82 Ibid., f. 22.

83 Ibid., ff 33, 37.

84 Ibid., f. 30.

85 ibid., f. 22.

86 Ibid., f. 4v.

87 Ibid., ff 5–5v.

88 Ibid., f. 33v.

89 Ibid., ff 33v, 39.

90 Ibid., f. 31.

91 Gillespie, ‘Social thought of Richard Bellings’, p. 216.

92 Ibid., pp 222–3.

93 Ibid., p. 228; Perceval-Maxwell, ‘The Anglesey-Ormond-Castlehaven dispute’, p. 230.

94 Anglesey’s notes for the History of Ireland (B.L., Add. MS, 4,816, f. 30); see also Ohlmeyer and Zwicker, ‘John Dryden, the house of Ormond, and the politics of Anglo-Irish patronage’, pp 680–5; Perceval-Maxwell, ‘The Anglesey-Ormond-Castlehaven dispute’, pp 213–30; Ormond to Anglesey, 12 Nov. 1681 (Bodl., Carte MS 39, ff 391–2); Anglesey to Ormond, 7 Dec. 1681 (Ibid., ff 393–4v); printed as A letter from the right honourable earl of Anglesey Lord Privy-Seal. In answer to his grace the duke of Ormond’s letter of November the 12 th 1681 (London, 1682).

95 Anglesey to Borlase, [Dec. 1681] (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, ff 327–8); Anglesey to Borlase, 8 Feb. 1681 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 293); Rankin, Between Spenser and Swift, p. 233.

96 Borlase, The reduction of Ireland; idem, The history of the execrable Irish rebellion.

97 Richard Parr to Borlase, 26 Aug. 1679 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 206); Parr to Borlase, 6 Dec. 1679 (Ibid., f. 237).

98 Roger L’Estrange to Edmund Borlase, 20 Feb. 1679 (B.L., Stowe MS 82, f. 1); Ohlmeyer and Zwicker, ‘John Dryden, the house of Ormond, and the politics of Anglo-Irish patronage’, p. 680.

99 Brome also facilitated the publication of Andrew Marvell’s invective against Samuel Parker, which could also provide evidence that Anglesey played some part in securing the publication of Borlase’s The history of the execrable Irish rebellion, see Patterson and Dzelzainis, ‘Marvell and the earl of Anglesey’, p. 708.

100 John Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae: volume 3, Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester dioceses, ed. Joyce M. Horn (London, 1974), p. 25; Robert Clavel to Borlase, 30 Dec. 1679 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 239).

101 Robert Clavel to Borlase, 30 Dec. 1679 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 239).

102 Ibid.

103 Robert Clavel to Borlase, [c. Dec. 1679] (Ibid., f. 240).

104 Borlase to Clavel, 3 Jan. 1680 (Ibid., f. 244).

105 Ibid.

106 Gibney, Ireland and the Popish Plot; Kenyon John, The Popish Plot (London, 2000).

107 Borlase to Clavel, 3 Jan. 1680 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 244).

108 Parr Richard, The life of the Most Reverend Father in God, James Usher (London, 1686). See also Ford, ‘Past but still present’, pp 289–90 on Parr’s correspondence with Borlase.

109 Richard Parr to Borlase, 1 Nov. 1679 (B.L., Sloane MS 1,008, f. 228).

110 Parr to Borlase, 4 Sept. 1679 (Ibid., f. 212).

111 Hunter to Borlase, 15 Sept. 1979 (Ibid., f. 216).

112 Archbishop Bramhall to Borlase, 15 Oct. 1679 (Ibid., f. 220); Dudley Loftus to Borlase, 25 Oct. 1679 (Ibid., f. 226).

113 Andrew Sall to Borlase, 27 July 1680 (Ibid., f. 275).

114 John Temple Jr to Borlase, 31 Jan. 1680 (Ibid., f. 253).

115 Ibid.

116 Ibid., f. 253v.

117 Parr to Borlase, 4 Sept. 1679 (Ibid., f. 212).

118 William Molyneux to Borlase, 22 Nov. 1679 (Ibid., f. 233).

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid., f. 233v.

121 William Molyneux to Borlase, 31 Jan. 1680 (Ibid., ff 252–252v).

122 Arthur Annesley (Anglesey) to [Henry Jones,] bishop of Meath, c.1680 (N.L.I. MS 2,481, ff 13–14)

123 Parr to Borlase, [1681?] (B.L., Sloane MS 1008, f. 311).

124 Borlase’s personal copy of The history of the execrable Irish rebellion (B.L., Stowe MS 82, f. 6).

125 Ibid., ff 9v, 12, 13 as examples.

126 Ibid., ff 96v, 307, 327–30v.

127 Ibid., ff 52, 62, 68; B.L., Stowe MS 82, f. 1v is a part of a letter from L’Estrange to Borlase that expressly warns the recipient to ‘clear the king of any outrages’ committed during the Irish rebellion. See also Gibney, Ireland and the Popish Plot, pp 120–1.

128 Phillips Thomas, Bibliotheca Angleseiana (London, 1686).

129 The author would like to thank both Robert Armstrong and Raymond Gillespie for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this piece.

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Irish Historical Studies
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