James Ware (1594 – 1666)

This is a very wordy and lengthy biography by John Burke ESQ, from the “Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol IV.”  It was published in London, England by Henry Colburn Publications in 1838.

I have chosen to copy it verbatum from the on-line copy of the book for two reasons.  First, because of it’s language structure, hoping that the reader would get a better sense of the time frame in which Sir James lived.  And second, to condense it would omit details the more studious historian would appreciate.

The first son of Christopher was John and it was his son Peter, most researchers agree, migrated to our shores.  Hence the lineage of Wares continued from him.

“James Ware, the grandson Christoper Ware,” … was born at his father’s  house in Castle Street, Dublin, on the 26th November, 1594.” (His father, James was the younger of Christoper’s two sons.)  ” At the age of sixteen he entered the university of Dublin as fellow-comer.  Upon leaving college the peculiar bent of his mind, which was directed to the elucidation of Irish antiquities, recommended him to the notice and friendship of the illustrious Usher, then Bishop of Meath, who was gratified to find in the young student as active and enthusiastic mind, intent upon the pursuits congenial with his own.

Stimulated by so distinguished an encouragement , our young antiquary began to collect with the greatest zeal early Irish manuscripts, as well as to make historical and genealogical complications from the registries and cartularies of cathedrals and monasteries.  He also visited London, where, through the medium of his friend Dr. Usher, then promoted to the Archbishopric of  Armagh, he was introduced to Sir Robert Cotton, whose rich store of ancient manuscripts incited him to still further exertions in his patriotic attempts to rescue from oblivion the historical relics of the sister-island.

The first fruits of these exertions made their appearance in the form of three consecutive memoirs, which treated of the Archbishops of Cashel and Tuam, of the Bishops of Dublin, and of the Cistercian monasteries of Ireland.  After publication of these works he revisited England, and, while he renewed his acquaintance with Sir Robert Cotton, whose library he made some valuable archaeological presents, he had also the satisfation of forming a useful friendship with the learned Selden. The contributions which James Ware was thus rendering the ancient ecclesiastical history of Ireland made a forcible appeal to the gratitude of the country.

In 1629 he received the honor of knighthood, even while his father, who possessed a similar title, the reward of past service, was living.

The younger Sir James Ware soon began to relax from the severity of his literary studies.  The consideration of an increasing family brought him by his marriage with Miss Newman, the daughter of an influential citizen in Dublin, suggested to his attention the lucrative nature of state occupation; and when, in the year of 163, by the death of Sir James Ware the elder, he succeeded to the office of auditor-general, so assiduously were its arduous duties performed by him, that upon the arrival in Ireland of the Lord Deputy Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Stafford, he was called to a seat in the Privy Council.

But, besides these distinctions for services rendered to the state, Sir James Ware appeared before his countrymen as a mild, prudent and affectionate son of the reformed church; which disposition was not lost upon the hierarchy of the establishment, who were also deeply impressed with the profound knowledge exhibited in his writings of the ecclesiastical affairs of Ireland; and hence their successful recommendations to the king that he should be appointed on of the commissioners for the settlement of certain impropriations in the possession of the crown on the resident clergy.

Although Sir James was thus variously occupied , his public functions did not so entirely engross his time as to leave him without any leisure for the prosecution of his beloved literary pursuits.  He printed, from a manuscript which fell into his possession, Spencer’s View of the State of Ireland, a most valuable work, which he followed up by editing Meredith Hanmer’s Chronicle, and Campion’s History of Ireland.  He also published, in 1639, his  important bibliographical memoir, in tow parts, De scriptoribus Hibernise.  These several labours were considered of such national importance, that the learned body most capable of appreciating it, returned him member of the House of Commons for the University of Dublin.

The great troubles of Ireland were now fast approaching.  In 1640 the Earl of Strafford hurried to England to consult with his royal master, and, in the mean time, the Catholic party took advantage of his absence to impeach not only him, but like wise certain eminent individuals in the possession of the Lord Deputy’s  confidence.  If the earnest pleadings of the friends of the unfortunate nobleman eventually proved unsuccessful, a different result awaited the powerful and eloquent appeal made by Sir James Ware against the impeachment of Sir George Radcliffe and others, which caused the charge to fall to the ground.

Soon after this event, in the year 1641, the great rebellion broke out, when the cool advice of Sir James Ware is acknowledged to have greatly aided the numerous cabinet councils which were consequently held.

In 1643 he took a great share in the question entered into with the Irish insurgents toughing the expediency of a suspension of arms:and being appointed a member of the council of seventeen for arranging the terms of the armistice, the treaty being so disturbed with the numerous jarring prejudices and interests which it involved, that, eventually Sir James was appointed one of the three commissioners instructed to repair to the king at Oxford , and to confer with his majesty relative to a final peace with the confederated rebels.

It is to be presumed that Sir James Ware would now have at his command far less literary leisure than formerly: it is evident, however, that his favorite pursuits did not even then cease to hold an important influence over his mind and actions.

His detention at Oxford gave him full opportunity of conversing with many learned men, and he made numerous extracts connected with the early state of Ireland, from the manuscripts contained on the libraries of the university. The sense which Oxford entertained the national benefits of Sir James had conferred upon his country, were evidenced by the honorary degree with which he was complimented  of doctor of laws.

His return home was followed by a serious disaster. Being taken prisoner at sea by one of the ships in the service of the Parliament, he was sent a prisoner to the Tower of London, where,to beguile a tedious imprisonment, he wrote an imaginary voyage to an Utioian island,which, having never been published, is now regarded as lost.  At length, after a painful detention of ten months, an exchange of prisoners was agreed upon, which obtained the release of Sir James Ware, whose return to his native country was hailed with great satisfaction.

His excellent qualifications for public business were again called into requisition:–for although he lived at a period when party prejudices and feelings ran to a height unknown to Ireland even in her later times of trouble, his political conduct ever assumed a mild form, calculated, if not to completely resist, at least to soften down the asperities of the age.  The first proof of the trust reposed in him was his being conjoined with two distinguished noblemen in a committee of enquiry relative to the Earl of Glamorgan, who, it was imagined had exceeded his commission in  patching up a clandestine peace with the disaffected Irish.

In 1647 the Marquis of Ormond surrendered the metropolis of Ireland, in obedience to the King’s order, to the Parliament, when Sir James Ware, along with the Lord Richard Butler, afterwards Earl of Arran, the Earl of Roscommon and Colonel Arthur Chichester, became hostages or the faithful performance of the conditions of surrender.  The consequent detention of Sir James in London, which did not perhaps exceed the term of one year, again allowed him literary leisure, and the society of the English savans.

Upon his return to Dublin he found that the reins of power has passed into the hands of rancorous enemies, and that his long and unshaken adherence to the royal cause had rendered him obnoxious to the new governor of Dublin, Michael Jones.  He was  deprived of his office of auditor-general, while well-known intimacy with the Marquis of Ormond, who had then entered into an union with the army of the supreme council, led to his banishment.  He was ordered as an object of formidable mistrust, to transport himself beyond the seas to any countyr, save England, which suited his pleasure.  To ordinary minds all exile in a foreign and distant land ever present a revolting aspect.  But to Sir James Ware it was an exchange of troublesome functions for the still and soothing occupations of science, which ever afforded to his enquiring mind the most delightful of solaces.  Accompanied by his eldest son, he set sail in the spring of 1649 for France, where St. Maloes, Caen and Paris, became his successive places of residence.  In the French cities he cultivated an acquaintance with eminent literati, but more particularly at Caen, with a savant of kindred, archaeological pursuits, the ardent and indefatigable Bochart.

At the expiration of a four year exile, when the political horizon was considered more clear, Sir James had the liberty conceded to him, upon the urgent plea of his presence being indispensable to the well-being of his estates, to revisit Ireland.  He had kept a written journal of his foreign exile, under the title of Itinerarium Gallicum,which was never published.  It now holds a place in the shelves of the Cottonian Library.

The first care of Sir James upon his return, and after arranging his private affairs, was to add to his extensive collections of national and ancient manuscripts, for which he spared no cost; and, as he did no himself understand the speaking of the Irish language, though he could make a shift to read it, he constantly kept in his house an Irish amanuensis, of the name of Dudley Firbisse, to aid him in the translation of dubious passages.  At length he was enabled to prepare for the press his master-piece,which he published under the title ‘De Hibernia of Antiquitatibus ejus disquisitones.’  Its success even advanced his reputation, high as it already was, in the republic of learning.  Among other grateful effects, it recommended him to the intimacy of the English antiquary Sir William Dugdale.  A second impression of this celebrated work being demanded, it appeared, at the expiration of five years, with an addition of records relative to the affairs of Ireland during the reign of HENRY VII.  And, in 1656, he illustrated, with valuable notes, the ecclesiastical works usually ascribed to St. Patrick.

The restoration of CHARLES II, and the recall of the Marquis of Ormond to the vice-royalty of Ireland, under the title of Duke of Ormond, interrupted for a time these literary labours.  Sir James, the tired and faithful adherent of the royal cause, and the confidential friend of the restored Lord Lieutenant, was invited to resume his former office as auditor-general.  To this confirmed sentiment of public approbation the  University of Dublin responded, by electing Sir James, for a second time, one of their representatives in Parliament.  And, lastly, when the government appointed a chosen council for the peaceful settlement of the affairs of the kingdom, and for the satisfaction of the several interests of adventures, Sir James was, by the king’s  special instructions, included in the quorum indispensible to the validity of every act of the royal commission. With this renovation,and even accession of political power entrusted to him, Sir James never allowed himself to be urges or betrayed to acts of harsh retaliation towards a fallen party.

An anecdote to this point is preserved: — a valuable dwelling house in Dublin, forfeited by an act of rebellion on the part of the deceased owner, had been gifted to him by the government.  But he found that the acceptance of the grant would inflict upon a bereaved family a more than common degree of suffering; sending therefore, for the widow and children under affliction, he instantly replaced them beneath the tutelar protection of their family roof.

While his conduct, however, towards old and bitter opponents could only be manifested by acts of self-denial, his kind feelings towards his old political associates less fortunate than himself, whom the crown had neglected, or had not the means to reward, was not of a contingent, but of a positive character: it was systematically displayed in acts of solid friendship, or in the hospitality of a plentiful table, to which the decayed cavalier was ever made welcome.  These generous acts could not fail to command the esteem of his fellow-citizens, whose frequent testimonials in his favour, were acknowledged by the corresponding solicitude which he evinced in promoting their municipal interests.  When for instance, the chief magistrate of Dublin was dignified with the title of Lord Mayor,the influence of Sir James WAre, with the Duke of Ormond, procured from the crown a grant to the city of five hundred pounds per annum, for the support of the new dignity.

Amidst these varied political duties and avocations it may easily be supposed, that Sir James would find the opportunities afforded him for indulging in his usual literary occupations much diminished.  He published, however, in 1662, the annals of Ireland,during the reign of HENRY VIII; to which, two years afterwards, he added those of the subsequent reigns of EDWARD VI and Mary.– As a reward for these immense labours political as well as literary, it was proposed to create Sir James a Viscount of the kingdom of Ireland; but, as he must have well known form experience,how incompatible is the formal splendour and the fatigue of rank, with the habits of the savant, it may be justly questioned, whether, under any conditions he would have been inclined to risk, from mere personal motives of ambition, the great object of all his worldly desires, which, to adopt his own expression, was ‘to enquire into the dark mazes of Irish antiquity, that the of them might spread, not only at home but abroad.’

Independently, however, of these considerations, there subsisted peculiar domestic circumstances affecting his prosperity, (to be explained hereafter), which alone furnished an irresistible argument for the refusal of the proffered dignity. Declining, therefore. the honor intended for him, yet anxious that his royal master should not misconstrue the motives of his refusal, he requested, in lieu of a Peerage,two blank patents of Baronetage, which he filled up with the names of two friends, whose posterity, Walter Harris assures us, have continued to his day to enjoy the hereditary distinctions.

The later contributions of Sir James Ware to the early history of Ireland, were confined to ecclesiastical affairs.  He edited two epistles of the venerable Bede, in illustration of the more ancient customs of the British churches, and preparatory to the last commentary published by him, when he was seventy years old, relative to the bishops of Ireland, from the dawn of the Christian faith, down to modern times.  And even when he was approaching still nearer to the very advanced term, beyond which human existence is rarely prolonged, he contemplated the publication of divers other researches connected with Ireland.  These were frustrated by his decease, which took place on the 1st of December, 1666 in the seventy-third year of his age.

When CHARLES II was informed of his death, he was heard to exclaim, with much apparent feeling, that he had lost a faithful servant.  But it is less for the political, than for the literary services which he has rendered to his country, that his name will be perpetuated among the worthies of the sister Kingdom. — He has been properly designated , The Camden of Ireland.

Sir James Ware, in hi will, had directed that his body should be deposited under the tombstone in St. Werberg’s church, Dublin, where his father, mother, wife, and some of his children lay buried.  This was done in the most unostentatious manner; neither stone nor monumental inscription marking the place where his remains were interred.  ‘But he had taken care,’ remarked his biographer, ‘to erect a monument for himself by his labours, more lasting than any mouldering materials.’ “


James Ware (1594 – 1666) — 1 Comment

  1. I find this extemely interesting. James was obviously well educated. His love of literary persuits appeared to have led him to highter ground in the form of decision making in the advancement of his country. A forefather we can all be extremely proud of. Thank you for presenting this documentation in it’s complete form.


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