Charles O'Conor, D.D.

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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O'Conor, Charles, D.D., a learned antiquary, grandson of the preceding, was born 15th March 1764. He was educated for the Church, and passed his early years in Italy. In 1796 he published the first and only volume of his Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the late Charles O'Conor of Belanagare, now a very scarce work. An interesting note regarding it will be found in Notes and Queries, 3rd Series, vol. xi.

Introduced to the Marquis of Buckingham as a proper person to arrange and translate the MSS. purchased by the Marquis from Charles O'Conor of Belanagare, he became chaplain to the Marchioness, and after her death in 1813 continued at Stowe as librarian. There he edited those works (printed and published at the expense of the Marquis) which will ever connect his name with the study of Irish antiquities and literature.

Of his Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, published in four volumes between 1814 and 1826, only 200 copies were printed, at a cost of about £3,000. Dr. John O'Donovan says, regarding Dr. O'Conor's edition of the First Part of the Annals of the Four Masters, which fills the third volume of the above work: "His text is full of errors; it is printed in the italic character; and the contractions of the MS., which in many places Dr. O'Conor evidently misunderstood, are allowed to remain, although without any attempt to represent them by a peculiar type. There are also many serious errors and defects in his Latin translation, arising partly from the cause just alluded to, but chiefly from ignorance of Irish topography and geography."

His letters, Columbanus ad Hibernos, given to the world between 1810 and 1816, supported the Veto, and were declared unorthodox, and he was formally suspended by Archbishop Troy in 1812. Mr. Fitzpatrick says: "Dr. O'Conor was a man of mild and almost timid disposition, liked by every one who knew him, and possessing the most extensive historical and bookish information... His manners were a curious compound of Italian and Irish. He was fond of good living and his bottle of port, but never entered into excess... He was extremely tolerant on all religious questions. .. In person Dr. O'Conor was short and slight, of sallow complexion and prominent features, but of a venerable appearance, and possessing much the air characteristic of his real profession — that of the superior class of Catholic priests."

Towards the latter part of his life he lost his reason, and was confined in Dr. Harty's asylum at Finglas, with his old class-mate and fellow-labourer in the field of Irish archaeological research, Dr. Lanigan. He died at his brother's seat at Belanagare, 29th July 1828, aged 64. His brother Owen, upon the death of a kinsman in 1820, became the O'Conor Don, and was grandfather of the present O'Conor Don.

Sources

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

208. Lanigan, Dr., and Irish Wits and Worthies: William J. FitzPatrick, LL.D. Dublin, 1873.
Lanigan, Rev. John, see No. 119.

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