Preface to the Second Edition

Margaret Anne Cusack
Preface to the Second Edition


Letter A

DEMAND for a Second Edition of the “Illustrated History of Ireland,” within three months from the date of the publication of the First, consisting of 2,000 copies, is a matter of no little gratification to the writer, both personally and relatively. It is a triumphant proof that Irishmen are not indifferent to Irish history—a fault of which they have been too frequently accused; and as many of the clergy have been most earnest and generous in their efforts to promote the circulation of the work, it is gratifying to be able to adduce this fact also in reply to the imputations, even lately cast upon the ecclesiastics of Ireland, of deficiency in cultivated tastes, and of utter neglect of literature.

Nor, as a Catholic and a religious, can I fail to express my respectful gratitude and thankfulness for the warm approbation which the work has received from so many distinguished prelates. A few of these approbations will be found at the commencement of the volume—it was impossible to find space for all. It may be, however, well to observe, that several of the English Catholic bishops have not been less kind and earnest in their commendations, though I have not asked their permission to publish their communications. Some extracts are given from the reviews, which also are necessarily condensed and limited; and, as the Most Rev. Dr. Derry has observed, the press has been most favorable in its criticisms. Even those who differed from the present writer toto coelo, both in religion and politics, have not been less commendatory, and, in some instances, have shown the writer more than ordinary courtesy.

Nor should I omit to acknowledge the encouragement which so many gentlemen, both English and Irish, have given to the work, and the assistance they have afforded in promoting its circulation. In a circular, quite recently published in London, and addressed to the members of a society for the republication of English mediaeval literature, gentlemen are called on by the secretary, even at the risk, as he himself admits, of “boring them, by asking them to canvass for orders, like a bookseller's traveller,” to assist in obtaining additional subscribers to the series, and he requests every subscriber “to get another at once.” I am happy to say that, without such solicitation on our part, many Irish gentlemen have done us this kindness, and have obtained not one, but many orders from their friends.

I confidently hope that many more will exert themselves in a similar manner, for the still wider dissemination of the Second Edition. It is a time, beyond all others, when Irish history should be thoroughly known and carefully studied. It is a disgrace to Irishmen not to know their history perfectly, and this with no mere outline view, but completely and in detail. It is very much to be regretted that Irish history is not made a distinct study in. schools and colleges, both in England and Ireland. What should be thought of a school where English history was not taught? and is Irish history of less importance? I have had very serious letters complaining of this deficiency from the heads of several colleges, where our history has been introduced as a class-book.[1]


[1] The Rev. U. Burke, of St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, has a note on this subject, in a work which he is at this moment passing through the press, and which he kindly permits me to publish. He says: “This book [the “Illustrated History of Ireland”] ought to be in the hands of every young student and of every young Irish maiden attending the convent schools. Oh, for ten thousand Irish ladies knowing the history of Ireland! How few know anything of it! The present volume, by Sister Francis Clare, is an atoning sacrifice for this sin of neglect.”

I am aware that the price of the “Illustrated History of Ireland,” even in its present form, although it is offered at a sacrifice which no bookseller would make, is an obstacle to its extensive use as a school history. We purpose, however, before long, to publish a history for the use of schools, at a very low-price, and yet of a size to admit of sufficient expansion for the purpose. Our countrymen must, however, remember that only a very large number of orders can enable the work to be published as cheaply as it should be. It would save immense trouble and expense, if priests, managers of schools, and the heads of colleges, would send orders for a certain number of copies at once. If every priest, convent, and college, ordered twelve copies for their schools, the work could be put in hands immediately.