Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst’s De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis
Hiram Morgan and John Barry
Great Deeds in Ireland is the first full translation of the controversial Latin history of Ireland by the famous Dublin intellectual, Richard Stanihurst. Written after he fled Elizabethan London for the Netherlands, De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis was published in 1584 by Christopher Plantin, the greatest printer of the age.
In facing Latin and English texts, Great Deeds in Ireland provides a contemporary account of Ireland’s geography and people and what the author considered to be the greatest event in Irish history – the Anglo-Norman conquest. Relying on the work of Giraldus Cambrensis, Stanihurst celebrated the origins of the English colony in Ireland whilst simultaneously allegorizing the dilemma facing his own community from a new wave of Protestant English conquerors.
The Anglo-Irishman’s attempt to introduce Ireland to Europe’s Renaissance elite in a literary tour-de-force went awry after many Gaelic Irish, also exiled on the continent, objected to the book’s satirical portrayal of Ireland’s clergy and its representation of the country’s customs, history and learned classes. The book was burned on the orders of the Inquisition in Portugal, marked prohibido in libraries in Spain and provoked a number of angry responses from readers and other writers over the following eighty years. Because of its centrality to debates about Ireland, Stanihurst’s De Rebus was the first book translation undertaken by the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies established at University College Cork for the study of this hitherto neglected corpus of Irish literature.
This book review appeared in Stylus: Trade, Academic, and Professional Books - Fall 2014, book catalogue. For more information about, and to place an order of "Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst’s De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis," please check Stylus/Cork University Press website.