Art and Letters

Justin McCarthy
Chapter II | Start of Chapter

It is enough for my purpose to say that the Round Towers were certainly built before authentic history had to do with Ireland, and that they testify to the existence, from dim unknown days, of a remarkable degree of artistic development. There are many indications of a love for art and skill in artistic ornament among the people of Ireland even in prehistoric times. Abundant specimens of their skilful workmanship in gold can now be seen by anyone in Irish and other museums, and a dispute has quite lately been going on as to whether the ownership of certain treasures of early Irish art ought to be vested in the British Museum, as the treasure-house of the Empire, or in the Dublin institution which represents exclusively the preservation of Ireland's historic relics. The Irish Chieftains and law-makers and Druids appear to have cultivated from days far beyond the reach of history the art of writing, and to have invented an alphabet of their own, innumerable specimens of which are still preserved and made the subjects of much learned discussion.