Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst's De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis

By O'Dwyer, Riana | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2014 | Go to article overview

Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst's De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis


O'Dwyer, Riana, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst's De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis

by John Barry & Hiram Morgan (eds.)

Cork: Cork University Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-190900-572-3

Hardback 39 [euro]. 544pp in Latin and English

This handsome volume is a new edition of a 16th century account of the Normans' arrival in Ireland, written originally in Latin by Richard Stanihurst, and published in Leiden in 1584. The Latin text is fully reprinted, accompanied on facing pages by a new English translation of the complete work. This is the first text chosen for publication by the Neo-Latin Seminar at University College Cork, following three years of weekly interdisciplinary seminars in which many leading academics participated. Its editors are John Barry of the Classics Department and Hiram Morgan of the History Department at UCC, who have distilled the discussions of the Seminar and the contributions of many other scholars in libraries in Ireland and across Europe. The resulting book is truly worthy of the Renaissance intellectual atmosphere that it celebrates, as European and Irish scholars wrestled with the aftermath of the Reformation and the political struggles that ensued.

This new edition includes a comprehensive Introduction by the editors; the original Latin text and its translation into English; Stanihurst's Appendix on Topographia Hibernica by Giraldus Cambrensis (1187); Stanihurst's own Subject Index to his 'books on Irish affairs'; an early list of Errata; the texts of two 'Privileges' (an early form of copyright protection); followed by the scholarly apparatus of this edition: editorial notes to the translation, a bibliography and index.

To understand the significance of the original text and this translation, it is helpful to consider the career of Richard Stanihurst, and to place him in the context of his time. Born in 1547, he was the son of James Stanihurst, Recorder of Dublin, who was Speaker of the Irish Parliament in 1558, 1560 and 1569. He was, in today's terms, a higher civil servant, working for the English administration in Dublin. In fact, members of the Stanihurst family had occupied similar roles since 1395 (Lennon 13-24). The Reformation, however, posed a challenge for families such as this and for their patrons, the Norman nobles, who were the leading landowners in Ireland.

Richard Stanihurst was educated at Kilkenny Grammar School, at Oxford University and, for a time, at the Inns of Court in London. His father, it appears, was preparing him to become part of the Dublin administration like himself. In Oxford, however, Richard was the pupil of Edmund Campion, the future Jesuit martyr (canonised in 1970). Campion had been ordained deacon in the Anglican Church in 1564, but was already turning back to Catholicism when Stanihurst knew him. Campion came to Dublin in 1570 and stayed for several months with the Stanihurst family, attending a session of the Irish Parliament while James Stanihurst was Speaker. However, he was already under suspicion of political intrigue, and went into hiding near Dublin with the Barnewall family (whose daughter Janet later married Richard Stanihurst). In 1571 Campion left Ireland secretly and went to Douai on the continent. However, while in seclusion, he had written 'Two Bokes of the Histories of Ireland', based on the volumes available in the Barnewall and Stanihurst libraries, which became one of the source texts (along with Expugnatio Hibernica by Giraldus Cambrensis) for Richard's later writings on Irish history.

After the death of his father in 1573, Richard Stanihurst became tutor to the children of Gerald FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare. In 1575, together with his wife, Janet Barnewall, he accompanied the young heir, Garret FitzGerald, Lord Offaly, to London, where he spent the next few years. While in London, Raphael Holinshed asked Stanihurst to complete the Irish portion of his Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Irelande, which had already been written up to 1509. …

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