Walter Harris

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Harris, Walter, LL.D., one of the most distinguished of Irish antiquarian writers, the editor of Sir James Ware's works, was born at Mountmellick late in the 17th century. Although expelled from Trinity College in early life for participation in a riot, the degree of LL.D. was afterwards conferred upon him for his services to Irish historical research and archaeology. He married a great-granddaughter of Sir James Ware, and thereby inherited his MSS., and possessed of competence, he devoted his life to literary pursuits. His principal works were: History of the Life and Reign of King William III., Dublin, 1745; Hibernica, a collection of eleven interesting and important tracts relating to Ireland, Dublin 1747.

The great work by which he has earned the grateful remembrance of all students of Irish history, is his translation and expansion of the principal works of Sir James Ware, published in two volumes folio in Dublin, between 1739 and 1746. Abbe MacGeoghegan truly says of him: "The nation is under great obligations to that learned writer for the trouble he has taken and the curious researches he has made in order to complete Sir James Ware's work; a work which he has so considerably enlarged, and enriched with such a number of articles that have escaped his prototype's notice, that he should be rather esteemed its author than the editor, which is the title he has so modestly assumed."[349] Ware's Lives of the Bishops, which in the English translation of 1705 occupies about 200 pages, Harris has expanded to 660; the Antiquities of Ireland he has expanded from 154 to 286 pages; and the meagre notices of Irish Writers, from 42 to 363 pages. Of Ware's Annals of Ireland he doubtless intended to make a third volume — all the early editions of Harris's Ware are noted on title pages as three volumes. Harris died 4th July 1761.

His History and Antiquities of the City of Dublin, which he left in manuscript, appeared in 1766. Some of his MSS. are preserved in Armagh Library, whilst the majority were purchased from his widow by the Irish Parliament for £500. They may now be consulted in the Library of the Royal Dublin Society. They occupy twenty volumes closely written, almost entirely in Harris's hand — in themselves a monument of his indefatigable industry and research. He was a most laborious copyist, and much of these materials are copied even from printed books. Particulars of the contents of these MSS. will be found in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, while of his printed works ample notices are given under the title "Ware" by Allibone and Lowndes.

Sources

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

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

339a. Ware, Sir James, Works. Dublin, 1705.

349. Worthies of Ireland, Biographical Dictionary of the: Richard Ryan. 2 vols. London, 1821. Wyse, Thomas, see No. 73.

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