BLTC Press Titles

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Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

An enquiry into the authenticity of the poems ascribed to Ossian

by William Shaw


In this fituation the matter has been left by the Editor, to be controverted between the Scotch and Englifh. Unfortunately, however, for the caufe of the advocates for the authenticity, the mofl fenfible, difinterefted, and confiderable part of the Scotch, have declared their doubts. The filence of the tranflator, if he had any thing to fay, was abfurd and ungrateful, both to his country and thofe gentlemen who fupported and fuggefled to him the original plan. Dr. Blair, of all men, has the greateft reafon to be difpleafed, who has been impofed on, and led to write in defence of a forgery.

But although the author would produce no fort of evidence, individuals C 2 made

made it a national caufe; and leveral books have been publifhed, to eftablifh as genuine, what they themfelves fecretly difbelieved, never faw, and of which they know nothing, excepting fome of the names which are current in the fables of the country.

I could wifh to be able to reduce this little treatife to method, and to advert to all the authors who have attempted to fupport the authenticity feverally; but as they ufe the fame arguments, only differing in degree, thefe I will difprove in order as they occur.

As Dr. Blair's DifTertation was the firft publication on the fubjedl:, and the only one that has offered fadts, I fliall begin with it. I have nothing to fay of the merit or demerit of the criticifm, becaufe that will be the fame, whether genuine or falfe; but I will briefly advert to whatever he has faid, to prove the poems the compofition of Ofiian.

To prove them by internal evidence, the Doctor fays, " In their battles, it

C< jg

"is evident that drums, trumpets, and "bagpipes were not known nor ufed." I believe, as well as the Doctor, that drums are modern, and that bagpipes are not very ancient; and Mr. Macpherfon would take care to introduce none of thefe. But trumpets were both known and ufed -, and the author, knowing a trumpet to be the moft ancient, makes ufe of it, and commonly calls it the War-horn of Fingal. In this particular the Doctor's argument either falls, or militates againft itfelf.—" Even a mountain, the fea, or a lake, when Offian has occafion to mention them," fays the Doctor, " though only in a fimile, are for the mod part particularized; it is the hill of Cromla, the ftorm of the fea of Malmor, or the reeds of the lake of Lego." The author furely would not be fo uncircumfpedt as to ufe the name of Parnaffus, Scylla, and Charybdis, or the reeds of the Red Sea. This is no more than what every poet, and in every C 3 country,

country, has done; and this internal evidence proves nothing.

'' To fuppofe that two or three hundred years ago, when we well know the Highlands to have been in a Jiate of grofs ignorance and barbarity, there fhould have arifen in that country a poet of fuch exquifite genius, and of fuch deep knowledge of mankind, and of hiftory, as to divert himfelf of the ideas and manners of his own age, and to give us a juft and natural picture of a ftate of fociety ancienter by a thoufand years; one who could fupport this counterfeited antiquity through fuch a large collection of poems, without the leaft inconfifrency; and who, poflefled of all this genius.and art, had at the fame time the felf-denial of concealing himfelf, and of afcribing his own works to an antiquated bard, without the impofture being detected, is a fuppofition that tranfcends all bounds of credibility."

In this fentence I think the Doftor has


juft reafon to apprehend the virulent refentment of Mr. Macnicol, and his embellifher, for a compliment more grofs than any that came from Dr. Johnfon. "Highlands well known to have been in a ftate of grofs ignorance and barbarity!" Mr. Macnicol will not allow that the Highlands was ever in a ftate either of " ignorance or barbarity;" nor indeed do I fee any reafon the Doclor has favoured us with, why we (hould conclude the Highlands was in greater barbarity in the 15th than in the ad century, or why there fhould not be as good an Offian in one age as in another. As for the felf-denial of the author, it was only for a year or two, in order to fell as many editions as poffible; for he well knew that they would lofe a great part of their merit, fo foon as it was known they were modern.—But now that the palate of the public is fated, that he has got the copy fold, and the money in his pocket, ho allows the zeal of his country to atC 4 tempt

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