Preface - Story of Ireland

A. M. Sullivan
c. 1900

THIS little book is written for young people. It does not pretend to the serious character of a History of Ireland. It does not claim to be more than a compilation from the many admirable works which have been published by painstaking and faithful historians. It is an effort to interest the young in the subject of Irish history, and attract them to its study.

I say so much in deprecation of the stern judgment of learned critics. I say it furthermore and chiefly by way of owning my obligations to those authors the fruits of whose researches have been availed of so freely by me. To two of these in particular, Mr. M'Gee and Mr. Haverty, I am deeply indebted. In several instances, even where I have not expressly referred to my authority, I have followed almost literally the text supplied by them. If I succeed in my design of interesting my young fellow-countrymen in the subject of Irish history, I recommend them strongly to follow it up by reading the works of the two historians whom I have mentioned. They possess this immeasurable advantage over every other previously published history of Ireland that in them the authors were able to avail themselves of the rich stores of material brought to light by the lamented O'Curry and O'Donovan, by Todd, Greaves, Wilde, Meehan, Gilbert, and others. These revelations of authentic history, inaccessible or unknown to previous history writers, not only throw a flood of light upon many periods of our history, heretofore darkened and obscured, but may be said to have given to many of the most important events in our annals an aspect totally new, and in some instances the reverse of that commonly assigned to them. Mr. Haverty's book is Irish history clearly and faithfully traced, and carefully corrected by recent invaluable archaelogical discoveries; Mr. M'Gee's is the only work of the kind accessible to our people which is yet more than a painstaking and reliable record of events. It rises above mere chronicling, and presents to the reader the philosophy of history, assisting him to view great movements and changes in their comprehensive totality, and to understand the principles which underlay, promoted, guided, or controlled them.

In all these, however, the learned and gifted authors have aimed high. They have written for adult readers. Mine is an humble, but I trust it may prove to be a no less useful, aim. I desire to get hold of the young people, and not to offer them a learned and serious "history," which might perhaps be associated in their minds with school tasks and painful efforts to remember; but to have a pleasant talk with them about Ireland; to tell them its story, after the manner of simple storytellers; not confusing their minds with a mournful series of feuds, raids, and slaughters, merely for the sake of noting them; or with essays upon the state of agriculture or commerce, religion or science, at particular periods—all of which they will find instructive when they grow to an age to comprehend and be interested in more advanced works. I desire to do for our young people that which has been well done for the youth of England by numerous writers. I desire to interest them in their country; to convince them that its history is no wild, dreary, and uninviting monotony of internecine slaughter, but an entertaining and instructive narrative of stirring events, abounding in episodes, thrilling, glorious, and beautiful.

I do not take upon myself the credit of being the first to remember that "the Child is father of the Man." The Rev. John O'Hanlon's admirable "Catechism of Irish History" has already well appreciated that fact. I hope there will follow many beside myself to cater for the amusement and instruction of the young people. They deserve more attention than has hitherto been paid them by our Irish book-writers. In childhood or boyhood to-day, there rapidly approaches for them a to-morrow, bringing manhood, with its cares, duties, responsibilities. When we who have preceded them shall have passed away forever, they will be the men on whom Ireland must depend. They will make her future. They will guide her destinies. They will guard her honor. They will defend her life. To the service of this "Irish Nation of the future" I devote the following pages, confident my young friends will not fail to read aright the lesson taught by "The Story of Ireland."

DUBLIN, August 15, 1867.