Narcissus Marsh (1638-1696) was an English clergyman who spent his later life in Ireland, initially as provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and ultimately as Archbishop of Armagh. Despised by Jonathan Swift for his pietism and timidity, his achievements as churchman and scholar were impressive. Marsh's recollections, begun in 1690 and continued in diary form up to 1696, are by means the pious platitudes of a conventional 17th-century clergyman. With sometimes startling candour, he recounts dreams and anecdotes revealing his struggle against worldly temptations, his resolute rejection of prospective wives and his preoccupation with science, music and the defence of learning in the anarchic context of Williamite revolution. The religious and political contexts are authoritatively reconstructed in the editor's introduction. Transcribed from an early manuscript copy, and supplemented by correspondence and contemporary assessments, Marsh's recollections illuminate a lost spiritual world. Their publication marks the tercentenary of the famous Dublin library which bears his name.
Raymond Gillespie teaches history at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland. His books include Colonial Ulster: The Settlement of East Ulster, 1600-1641 (Cork University Press, 1985)