James Henthorn Todd

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Todd, James Henthorn, D.D., a distinguished author and antiquary, was born in Dublin, 23rd April 1805. [His father, Dr. Robert Todd, of Kildare-street, Dublin, was cut off early in life.] He graduated Bachelor of Arts in Trinity College, Dublin, in 1825, obtained a fellowship in 1831, was elected Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University in 1849, and Librarian in 1852. He was elected Treasurer of St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1837. He became a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1833, was elected on the Council in 1837, was Secretary from 1847 to 1855, and for five years from 1856 filled the office of President. The life of this eminent scholar was uneventful.

He contributed largely to the literature of his country, and took part in various movements for its advancement in arts and literature: he was, in fact, as Archdeacon Cotton designated him in 1850, "the sine quo non of every literary enterprise in Dublin." He devoted himself with zeal to the study of Irish history and archeology, and was one of the foremost workers in that great movement for the restoration and reform of Celtic studies, which marked the second generation of the present century in Ireland.

Dr. Todd exerted himself particularly in procuring transcripts or accurate accounts of Irish manuscripts existing in foreign libraries — "endeavouring," in the words of Professor O'Curry, "to recover for his native country" as large a portion as possible "of her long lost and widely dispersed ancient literary remains." He edited for the Archaeological Society the Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius, with a translation and notes, and the Liber Hymnorum. He was the author of elaborate introductions to the works of other contributors to the publications of the same society. A list of Dr. Todd's published sermons and minor works will be found in Cotton's Fasti, ii., 126. He edited the Wars of the Gaedhill and the Gaill for the Master of the Rolls' series. One of his most important and exhaustive volumes was a Life of St. Patrick (1864), and another valuable one was his Catalogue of Graduates who have proceeded to Degrees in the University of Dublin (1866). He was a frequent contributor to Notes and Queries. Dr. Todd collected a valuable library of books and manuscripts.

He died at Rathfarnham, 28th June 1869, aged 64, and was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral churchyard, where a Celtic cross marks his resting-place. "At the sale of the library of the late Rev. Dr. Todd," says Notes and Queries, "the books fetched prices far higher than were ever known in Dublin. His Irish manuscripts realized £780, and his interleaved copy of Ware, richly annotated by Dr. Todd, produced no less than £450; it was bought for the University Library [Cambridge]. O'Conor's Scriptores Hiberniae fetched £36; Fleming's Collectanea Sacra, £70; the Ritual of St. Patrick's Cathedral, dated 1352, sold for £73 10s.; the Book of Lismore, £43 10s.; and the Book of Clonmacnoise, £31 10s. Many of the manuscripts were copied for Dr. Todd [by O'Curry] from unique manuscripts in the public libraries of England, Ireland, and Belgium." Some of the particulars in this notice have been taken from the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, vol. i., 1870-74. A movement has been set on foot to found a Celtic scholarship in connexion with the Academy, to perpetuate Dr. Todd's memory.

Sources

16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-'72.

118. Ecclesiae Hiberniae Fasti: Rev. Henry Cotton: Indices by John R. Garstin, M.A. 5 vols. Dublin, 1851-'60.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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