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Travels of Sir William Brereton in Ireland, 1635 (Author: William Brereton)

Travels of Sir William Brereton in Ireland, 1635

This account of Ireland in 1635 is extracted from the Travels in Holland, the United Provinces, England, Scotland and Ireland, 1634–1635, of Sir Brereton, Bart., the well-known Parliamentary general.1 Brereton's journal of his travels, after remaining for two centuries in manuscript, was printed in 1844 from the original in the possession of Sir Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton, and forms the first volume of the publications of the Chetham Society. The manuscript had previously undergone some curious vicissitudes, and a high testimony to the interest and value of Brereton's narrative of his adventures at home and abroad is supplied in Sir Walter Scott's warm approbation. Scott strongly urged its publication, actually ‘tendering his own services as editor, and offering to supply all the necessary explanatory notes.’ Most people will share the regret of Mr. Hawkins, the editor of the Chetham Society's volume, ‘that this most valuable offer should have been declined.’

Although the existence of the manuscript was known to writers on Irish antiquities for many years prior to its being printed, Brereton's narrative has been little noticed by writers on Ireland. Monck Mason was shown it by Sir William Betham, and in a note at p. 7 of his History of St. Patrick's Cathedral, published in 1820, he printed Brereton's description of the appearance of that edifice in 1635. Dubourdieu in his Statistical Survey of the County of Down, published in 1802, printed the paragraphs of the journal which relate to that county, and the same writer also refers to the narrative in his Survey of the County of Antrim (1812). Dubourdieu mentions, on the authority of Bishop Percy, with whose ownership the Chetham Society's pedigree of the manuscript begins, that the journal belonged to the well-known antiquary, General Vallancey, who had bought it at an auction in 1791. It was doubtless on Vallancey's death in 1812 that Bishop


Percy acquired the manuscript.2 Portions of the Irish narrative were also printed by the Rev. Sir Francis Lynch Blosse in the Church of Ireland Magazine for 1826, but without any attempt at annotation, and in D'Alton's History of Drogheda part of Brereton's account of that city is given, as the description of ‘an anonymous traveller.’ The fact that the Irish journal occupies barely a fifth of the Chetham Society's publication has caused it to be overlooked even by writers interested in the historical topography of Ireland, as well as by the historians. It is not mentioned in Andersen's Book of British Topography, and the writer of the notice of Brereton in the Dictionary of National Biography, though he states that Brereton's travels extended to Ireland, mentions the diary only as affording information regarding the social condition of England and Scotland. Neither Froude nor Lecky in their rapid surveys of seventeenth century history, nor Gardiner in the admirable Irish chapters of his chief work, makes any mention of Brereton's narrative. Although the Chetham Society's edition of the Travels is now out of copyright, the Irish Section has not been printed here without the courteous concurrence of the present secretary. Those notes to the Chetham edition which have been utilised in this volume bear the initials of Mr. Hawkins. For the remainder the present editor is responsible.