Sir James Ware

BORN A.D. 1594.----DIED A D. 1666.

From The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography

AMONG those to whom Ireland is indebted for the collection and preservation of the most authentic materials for her history, no name can be placed above that of Ware. And we have to express regret that we are not more fully informed in the history of his life.

He was born 26th November, 1594, in Castle Street, in the city of Dublin. His father was auditor-general, with reversion to his son. At the age of sixteen he entered as a fellow-commoner in the university of Dublin: and took bachelor's and master's degrees at the usual times. The distinction which he maintained among his fellow-students, and, above all, the taste he early began to show for the study of antiquities, attracted the notice, and gained the friendship, of Usher, who was at the time professor of divinity in the university. Ware had early commenced his collections, and Usher's collection and library were open to him; as also that of Daniel Molyneux, Ulster king-at-arms.

In 1626, he went to London, and was introduced, by Usher, to Sir Robert Cotton, who opened to him his valuable and extensive collections and library. He also made laborious researches in the Tower and other state-paper offices and repositories, from all of which he obtained large treasures of original and important records--from which he made copious extracts and copies.

On his return home, he commenced those valuable labours, by which he is now best known; and published the first parts of the History of the Irish Bishops.

His second visit to London was in 1628, when his acquaintance with Seldon, and other eminent antiquarians, enabled him to enlarge his collections very considerably. In 1629, on his return to Ireland, he was knighted by the lords justices. In 1632, his father died, and he succeeded him as auditor-general. From the lord lieutenant, Wentworth, he obtained a seat in the privy council.

Though attentive to his public duties, Sir James Ware was not remiss in the pursuit of his favourite studies. He soon after published "Spenser's View of the State of Ireland." He was at this time engaged in collecting accounts of the "Writers of Ireland." His well-known work under that title, came out in 1639.

In the troubled period which commenced in 1641, his conduct was, in the highest degree, praiseworthy. The following is the valuable testimony of the marquess of Ormonde. "Even when his majesty's affairs were most neglected, and when it was not safe for any man to show himself for them, he then appeared most zealously and stoutly for them."

In 1644, he was sent over to Oxford, as the fittest person to give the king an account of the state of Ireland, and to receive his commands on the negotiation then in progress. He availed himself of the occasion for his favourite pursuit. He was honoured by the university with a degree of doctor of laws. When returning, with despatches from the king, the packet in which he sailed was taken by a parliament ship. He was sent prisoner to London, and there committed to the Tower, where he remained for ten months--after which he was exchanged. He continued, in Dublin, to take a prominent part in the king's affairs, and was high in the confidence of the marquess of Ormonde. At the surrender of Dublin to the parliamentary commanders, in 1647, he was demanded as one of the hostages, and, as such, taken to London. On his return to Dublin his office was, of course, at an end, and he lived as a private person, until governor Jones banished him, by an order, to any place beyond seas except England. Sir James went over to France, where he resided successively at Caen and in Paris, still occupied with his antiquarian studies.

In 1651, his private affairs required his presence in England, whither he came, by parliamentary license; and, after a couple of years, went over to Ireland, to visit his estate.

During the whole of this interval, he was busy in the publication of his works, which were printed in England. The "Antiquities" came out in 1654; and four years after he published a second and improved edition.

On the Restoration, he was, at once, reinstated in his office of auditor-general, by Charles, to whom he had given a large sum of money in his necessity. At the election of parliament, he was chosen member for the university. He was, soon after, appointed one of the four commissioners for appeal in excise cases; and a commissioner for the settlement under the king's declaration.

He refused the king's offer of a title; but, according to Harris, obtained baronetcies for two of his friends.

His "Annals" were published next; and in 1665, the "History of the Irish Bishops" came out entire. But death cut short his projects of literature. He died on the 3d December, 1666, and was buried in his family vault in St Werburgh's church.

Several miscellaneous statements are given by Harris and others, of his uprightness, benevolence, and justice. He always refused his official fees from widows, the clergy, and their sons. He lived in a season of great distress, and exerted himself to the utmost for its relief. His house and table were a known refuge for the victims of reverse and spoliation; and when he was given possession of some houses and tenements, forfeited for rebellion, he instantly sent for the widow and children of the forfeitee, and made a legal conveyance of the premises in their favour.

His works are known. They have a distinguished place in every library which has its shelf for the History of Ireland. They are valuable for their brief accuracy and comprehensive extent--supplying the place of a guide and faithful sign-post to the student in a vast chaos of undigested literature. There are few of any real importance on the subject, of which the main outline will not be found among Ware's writings, with a happy freedom from theories, for which he had too little genius, yet too much common sense.