Geoffrey Keating

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

« Lord John Keane | Index | John Keegan »

Keating, Geoffrey, D.D., a distinguished Irish historian, was born about 1570, at Burges or Tubbrid, near Clogheen, in the County of Tipperary, where, we are told, his family lived in affluent circumstances. He went to school at an early age, and at sixteen was sent to a foreign college (in all possibility Salamanca) to complete his studies and qualify himself for the priesthood. He returned to Ireland in 1610, after twenty-four years' residence abroad, and was appointed curate to the Rev. Eugene Duhy in his native parish. His fame as a preacher soon extended; and the building of a new church at Tubbrid engaged his care. About this period he produced some religious works, and conceived the idea of collecting materials and writing an Irish history. In one of the seasons of Catholic persecution which then occasionally swept over Ireland, when laws, always in force, were attempted to be carried out, he was obliged to secrete himself for many years in the fastnesses of the Glen of Aherlow, and thus found leisure for the completion of his great work. According to one account, the Uniformity Act was put in force specially against him, for having dared to protest against outrages perpetrated upon some of his flock by a neighbouring magnate.

O'Curry, speaking of Keating's History of Ireland, which was written in Irish, says: "This book is written in the modified Gaedhlic of Keating's own time; and although he has used but little discretion in his selections from old records, and has almost entirely neglected any critical examination of his authorities, still his book is a valuable one, and not at all in my opinion the despicable production that it is often ignorantly said to be... It would be more becoming those who have drawn largely, and often exclusively, on the writings of these two eminent men [Colgan and Keating], and who will continue to draw on them, to endeavour to imitate their devoted industry and scholarship, than to attempt to elevate themselves to a higher position of literary fame by a display of critical pedantry and what they suppose to be independence of opinion, in scoffing at the presumed credulity of those whose labours have laid in modern times the very groundwork of Irish history."

Keating's History extends from the earliest times to the Anglo-Norman invasion. It is specially valuable as containing numerous references to MSS. no longer in existence. Of Dr. Keating's later life or death no record remains, except an inscription on the ruins of the old church at Tubbrid: "Orate pro animabus Rev. Paetris Eugenii Duhuy, Vicarii de Tubrid, et D. Doctoris Keating, hujuscesac elli fundatorum nec non et pro omnibus aliis, tam sacerdotibus quam laicis, cujus corpora in eodem jacent. A.D. 1644." His Foras Feasa ar Eirinn was first translated into English and printed in 1723. References to some of the numerous translations will be found in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, and the following remarks on the different editions of the work were made by Dr. Todd, in his Wars of the Gaedhil with the Gaell: "The new translation of Keating's History of Ireland, lately published at New York (Haverty, 1857) by Mr John O'Mahony, ... largely indebted to O'Donovan's notes upon the Four Masters,... is a great improvement upon the ignorant and dishonest one published by Mr. Dermid O'Connor more than a century ago (Westminster, 1726, fol.) which has so unjustly lowered, in public estimation, the character of Keating as a historian; but O'Mahony's translation has been taken from a very imperfect text, and has evidently been executed, as he himself confesses, in great haste; it has, therefore, by no means superseded a new and scholarlike translation of Keating, which is greatly wanted. Keating's authorities are still almost all accessible to us, and should be collated for the correction of his text. Two excellent MS. copies of the original Irish, by John Torna O'Mulconry, a contemporary of Keating, are now in the library of Trinity College, Dublin."

Sources

171. Ireland, History of, from the earliest period to the English Invasion: Rev. Geoffrey Keating: Translated from the Irish, and Noted by John O'Mahony. New York, 1857.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

260. O'Curry, Eugene: Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History. Dublin, 1861.

« Lord John Keane | Index | John Keegan »