Edward Ledwich

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Ledwich, Edward, Rev., a distinguished antiquary and topographer, son of John Ledwich, merchant, was born in Dublin in 1738, and was educated at Trinity College — entering on the 22nd November 1755, and taking B.A. in 1760; LL.B. in 1763. [In his obituary notice in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1823, ii., 278, he is also styled "LL.D., F.S.A. of London and Scotland, and member of most of the distinguished literary societies of Europe; secretary to the Committee of Antiquaries of the Royal Irish Academy, and formerly a resident at Old Glas Durrow." LL.D. is also appended to his name on the title of the second edition of his Antiquities.]

He was instituted to the vicarage of Aghaboe in 1772, a benefice he must have resigned in 1797, as his successor was then appointed. His article on the "History and Antiquities of Irishtown and Kilkenny quot; forms No. ix. of Vallancey's Collectanea, published in 1781. The same article is appended to the second edition of his Antiquities of Ireland, 1804. Gough, in his edition of Camden's Britannia, 1789, acknowledges his obligations to "Mr. Ledwich and other curious gentlemen of Ireland, for an excellent comprehensive view of the government of that kingdom from the earliest times to the latest revolution in it."[146] In 1790 he published his Antiquities of Ireland, in 1 vol. 4to. 473 pp., illustrated with numerous engravings, a work of great repute in its day, but now of no authority. Following the lead of Dr. Ryves, he all but denied the existence of St. Patrick, and advanced the theory, effectually set aside by Petrie and later writers, that a large proportion of Irish remains were to be attributed to the Northmen.

In the index to Lanigan's Ecclesiastical History there are no fewer than ninety-five references under the head, "Ledwich, Dr., proofs of, and animadversions on, the ignorance, errors, and malevolence of." In 1791 Mr. Ledwich completed a work of considerable labour, the editing and publication of his friend Captain Grose's Antiquities of Ireland, in 2 vols. 4to. His Statistical Account of the Parish of Aghaboe was published in 1796. The dissolution of a society of antiquaries, of which the Right Hon. W. B. Conyngham was head, has been attributed to "the free pleasantry with which Mr. Ledwich treated certain reveries circulated among them." He died at his house in York-street, Dublin, 8th August 1823, aged 83 according to the notice in the Gentleman's Magazine, 84 or 85 according to the Entrance Book of Trinity College, Dublin. The mistakes into which Dr. Ledwich was led, through the imperfect information regarding Irish history current in his day, must not be allowed to nullify our sense of obligation to him as an original investigator in the field of Irish archaeology. [This author is not to be confounded with Edward Ledwich, LL.D., Dean of Kildare, who died in 1782, and who was a theologian rather than an antiquary.]

Sources

119. Ecclesiastical History of Ireland: Rev. John Lanigan. 4 vols. Dublin, 1822.

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

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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