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had mutilated them, or connected them together, in a way that appeared to him better than the originals, so as to give them an epic and regular form.* As to their authenticity, Clark confesses he never heard the poems of Fingal or Temora recited by any Highlander in the same arrangement in which Mr. Macpherson has published them; but he declares solemnly, that he frequently heard almost every passage in those two poems, recited by various persons with no more difference from the translation, than what the genius of the language required, and not near so much as there is between the different editions of those poems in the different parts of the Highlands.
All the facts quoted by Shaw are, in Clark's opinion, an accumulation of falsehood. He maintains, it is false, that the manuscripts, inspected by Shaw at Mackenzie's, were all Irish. He saw them many times, though always he only carelessly read a few words here and there; and on being asked by Mr. Mackenzie what he thought of them, he answered, that he believed they were the composition of the fifteenth century. It is false, continues Clark, that the manuscripts deposited at Becket's were Irish; still more false, that Macpherson refused to shew him the originals of Ossian. Shaw never asked him to shew them; for even if he had done it, Macpherson would not have been anxious to satisfy him, being well convinced of the ignorance and motives of the man.t He maintains also, that the collusion
• See Note M. at the end of the Dissertation.
between Ferguson and Blair to deceive Percy, as represented by Shaw, had no foundation in fact, as Ferguson complained highly of the calumny, and Shaw was compelled to retract it. And lastly, that the offer made to Professor Macleod, to pay on producing six original lines of Ossian at the rate of two shillings and sixpence for each word, was equally false. Macleod, in one of his letters to Clark, contradicts it flatly. In the same letter, he affirms that before Macpherson published his translation, he read to him and other friends the greatest part of those poems in Gaelic. * Clark, in the conclusion of his work, subdues his antagonist with his own weapons, by making comparisons between the sentiments contained in his first publication, called Analysis of the Gaelic Language, and those contained in his Inquiry into the Authenticity of Ossian. Clark calls this part of his answer “ Shaw against Shaw," and convicts him of a perpetual contradiction and incoherence.t The whole of Clark's work, though written with some bitterness, (excusable in a man accused of imposture by an impostor,) breathes an air of veracity and candour. But what gave validity to the cause of Ossian more than any other proof, was the publication, by John Smith, in 1787, of the Gaelic originals of those very poems, of which he had formerly published the translation in his Gaelic Antiquities. I “He preserves in his notes,” says the author of an English
* Seo Note O, at the end of the Dissertation. + See Note P, at the end of the Dissertation.
I See Note H, at the end of the Dissertation, also referred to page 312.
journal, “ the decency of his character, and scorns to meddle with those debates, that were so furiously agitated by his countrymen. He offers to the public the original poems, and allows them to speak for themselves.” He is right; no proof could have been more demonstrative than this. The cause of Sinith and Macpherson is perfectly identified. If the poems of the former are legitimate, there is no reason to brand those of the latter with suspicions of being spurious. Besides, Smith in his notes ex hibited several passages in the Gaelic original of the identical poems translated by Macpherson, quoting afterwards a passage from a poem written by John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, who wrote the life of King Robert Bruce in 1375. * He shews, that about four hundred years before Macpherson was born, the name of Fingal, and the poems of Ossian, were well known in Scotland. He proves also, that the same poems were familiar to Giraldus Cambrensis, who lived in the twelfth century. “We must allow,” remarks the same journalist, “ that Smith's conduct had a great appearance of candour, and that this was more apt to banish from our minds those doubts, which were excited by the mysterious behaviour of Macpherson, than all the arguments adduced by many other writers.” But, although Macpherson bad offered to present to the public the original poems of Ossian, he was, perhaps, provoked by the offensive observations and doubts of some critics, and thought, that the groundless charge of
* See Note Q, at the end of the Dissertation.
imposture, brought against a man of honour, deserved no answer but silent contempt:
La raison s'avilit en se justifant. Moreover, previously to the publication of Smith's edition of the Gaelic poems, an English writer had thrown a clear and distinct light on the question, by a production calculated to settle the dispute concerning the poems and their real author. In 1783, Thomas Hill, the English gentleman alluded to, published a small work containing several Gaelic songs and poems, which he had collected, during a tour through the Highlands of Scotland, in 1780, accompanied with various interesting reflections relating to the great Helen of British combats.* These poems are notindeed calculated to remove all doubts, being mostly of that class, which both Macpherson and Smith would have rejected as spurious. Two of them only belong to the subjects of Ossian; one is the death of Dermid, slain by a venomous boar, on which there is a poem in Smith's collection; and the other is on the death of Oscar, which forms the first part of the poem of Temora. Among other poems, one contains a dialogue between Ossian and Saint Patrick; another is a curious dispute betweeen the same parties respecting the evidence and excellence of Christianity, which dispute is also mentioned by Macpherson, and by him considered a fictitious production.
It may be interesting to lay before our readers the result of the editor's observations, because it is the
• See Note R, at the end of the Dissertation. VOL. III.
best calculated to reconcile the jarring opinions of parties, to fix the fluctuating ideas relative to the dispute, and to confine the argument to precise terms.
In this controversy, according to Mr. Hill's opinion, there is on both sides confusion and ambiguity. Macpherson and his supporters, either would not, or could not, produce the wished for manuscripts without equivocation : but his adversaries, who were so anxious in their demands, had not the least notion of the Caledonian poems; none of them understood the Gaelic language in which they were written, not even excepting the great Johnson.
The question is naturally divided into three parts : 1. Is Ossian quite an imaginary being of Macpherson's creation? or a traditional hero of the Caledonians ?
There can be no doubt, that Fingal and all his family were among the Caledonians and Irish, a race of ancient heroes, who were the rulers of those countries; and that the two nations look upon Ossian as the most famous of all their bards. The history of Fingal is recited in the Highlands with admiration and delight: and upon this the traditional novels and tales are chiefly founded. And here I beg leave to assert, that this medley of fables cannot be a stronger evidence against the reality of Ossian's heroes, than the romances of Turpin and Ariosto may be proofs whereon to deny the existence of Charlemagne and his barons.
2. Are the ancient songs and poems, ascribed to Ossian, respecting the history of his family, really existing among the Caledonians ? Did Macpherson