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Distinguished Wrishmen


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Prefatory Remarks This period one of transition-Outline of events, constitu

tional change in England -General party changes-Religion--Literature, arts, and general civilization.

Prefatory Remarks.—Before we enter upon the most interesting and important division of those memoirs which yet remain to be written, it becomes necessary to call the attention of our readers to several considerations, connected with the changes which must now affect the execution of our work. Through a long succession of obscure, but yet violent changes, for the most part too irregular in their operation, and too much attributable to the working of external and accidental forces for the orderly and progressive course of regular history-we have at length arrived at that point at which, for the most part, regular history stops. If this has any truth, with relation to the history of other great countries, in which a settled and unbroken progress of constitutional causes has advanced from early times to the present, how much more must it be felt in the anomalous records of Ireland. Here the steps of civil and social progress have moved fitfully, with long pauses and sudden starts. Nor has it often been allowed to occur, that the advance, which is ever the unforced and inevitable result of national tranquillity, has been suffered to put forth its blossoms and mature its fruits, uninterrupted by the storm and flood of commotion and terror. A sense of insecurity has become indigenous. Our civil atmosphere has been surcharged with a menace and a gloom which few have been willing to abide, whose means could afford, or whose interests demanded, a more still and salubrious clime. The civilizing influence of refined luxury, and the enriching powers of commerce, have been repelled by causes which it would be great injustice to charge as imputations to the discredit of the Irish people. But we cannot avoid saying,"—as it is a consideration by which our remaining task must be materially affected,—that it is so replete with the materials of reproach to individuals and to bodies of men-so full also of painful depreciation, even where praise is to be allowed—and so beset at every step with necessary dissent from opinions formed in the heat of party contention, and unfit to bear the touchstone of historical indifference, that it will be hard to pass clear from censures which, we frankly confess, we would, if possible, avoid, through this unsafe and uncertain period. In a former introduction it was our endeavour to show, that the incidents with which we had mainly to deal, were free from any essential conuexion with the party quarrels to which they have been forcibly annexed by the mendacity of faction. Even for the effort, we have not escaped from censure. Other countries look to the present and the future; but Irish politicians will, in despite of truth and discretion, lash their country to the remote past, and contend on insults and grievances, which, in the course of nature, are buried, and, in prudence, ought to be forgotten.'

But such a resource no longer remains.Our history is now become the living and raging torrent of the present generation. Not, indeed, we must say, that it should be thus; for within these few years changes have taken place, which might suggest the prudence of trying for a while the effects of tranquil encouragement to the arts of peace. But so it is—nor can we,-to take one example,-approach that bygone fact, the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland, without an unpleasant sense of constraint, arising from the consideration, that in Ireland it remains a debatable question, to excite angry, though unreasonable feelings. In the whole history of that most stirring and momentous interval of Ireland's most eminent men, it is the same-every name the password of faction, every step over passions, prejudices, and animosities:

... per ignes Suppositos cineri doloso.

Flood, Grattan, Charlemont, and the long list of honoured names which come to the memory when their names are mentioned, bring associations difficult to be avoided by those who are most likely to think of them with interest. We recollect, it is true, the well-merited compliments which have been paid to some of the biographers of the same period, for the discretion with which they have threaded their way through this class of difficulties. We perfectly concur in the praise so earned; but our task is, to some extent, different. Our undertaking is qualified by a condition which does not, in all cases, permit us to turn aside at will from that which is delicate or embarrassing. We may, it is true, and are in duty bound to avoid touching on the tender points of family pride or sensibility. We are not, and cannot, be bound to rake up the cinders of forgotten scandal for the public. But still we have undertaken to write history; and there are truths to be written, and acts of justice to be done, which, so far as his private feelings are concerned, the biographer might well desire to avoid. Such is the description of one very important circumstance attendant upon our entrance into the period now remaining. With respect to more recent events which have occurred within our own generation, they are excluded from any very prominent place in these pages, by the happy circumstance, that their principal actors are still alive.

There is another very essential circumstance, which, though it has hitherto much interfered with the uniformity of our narrative, must now become one of its peculiar conditions. Not a few of our greatest men, in every department, have found their sphere of action in the

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