James Macpherson


Life
1736-1796 [err. MacPherson]; b. Kingussie [var. Invertromie, in Badenoch, nr. Ruthven Barracks], ed. King’s College and Marischal College, Aberdeen [Aberdeen University] under Thomas Blackwell and William Duncan; also attended Edinburgh University; studied for ministry but became village schoolmaster at Ruthven; issued “The Highlander” (1758), a heroic poem in 6 cantos; supported by Hugh Blair and encouraged by the Scottish poet John Home, 1759; produced first Ossianic frag. ‘The Death of Oscar’, for John Home, whom he met at Moffat in 1759;
 
appt. lecturer on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres at Edinburgh University from 1759, proceeded with Ossian, Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and translated from the Galic or Erse Language (1760), incorp. Blair’s editorial and profuse material claiming authorship of originals by 3rd. c. title-personage - though no Gaelic manuscript ante-dates 10th c.; commissioned by Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh, to search out material relating to wars of Fingal throughout Scotland;
 
issued Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem, in Six Books (1762), purporting to be a faithful translation of an epic by Ossian, son of Finn [or “Fingal”], though actually derived from Gaelic some 15 lays which he gathered in the Highlands and represented as authentic remnants of 3rd century epic; believed to have secured Book of the Dean of Lismore, which may have owed its preservation to him; followed his with Temora, an Epic in Eight Books (1763), published at suspicious speed; appt. surveyor-gen. to the Florida, 1763; defended against sceptics by Blair in 1765; returned to London, 1766; served govt. as political writer;
 
David Hume, once a supporter, expresses his concerns about the authenticity of Ossian in 1775-76; Dr. Johnson objected that the originals were not in a written language and therefore doubtful of existence; issued Original Papers, containing the Secret History of Great Britain (1775), which incorporates the memoirs of James II, obtained at Scots College, Paris, and augmented by Brunswick Papers collected by Thomas Carte; appt. minister in London to Mohammed Ali, deputy-gen. of Arcot, whom he defended against the East India Company, bringing personal wealth; elected MP for Camelford, 1780, in service of his patron; issued An Introduction to the History of Great Britain and Ireland (1771) [query];
 
called ‘the Homer of Scotland’ by Voltaire; Goethe trans. ‘Songs of Selma’ at Herder’s instigation and quoted Ossian extensively in Sorrows of Young Werther amid the hero’s ‘Sturm und Drang’ romance; having composed in 1773 his essay “Ossian and the Songs of Ancient Peoples” - though later remarking, ‘You must observe how I made my hero quote Ossian when he was mad, but Homer when he wa in his right mind’; the poet Gray, on seeing two fragments of manuscript poetry wrote enthusiastically to Macpherson and was disaffected by his ‘ill-wrote, ill-reasoned’ replies, leading to suspicion of counterfeit;
 
Dr. Johnson’s adverse remarks appeared in Journey to the Western Islands (1775), including the assertion sparked by Macpherson’s refusal to print the originals that ‘stubborn audacity is the last refuge of guilt’, a remark that caused Macpherson to ask Johnson to insert a slip of retraction in the book; 1781 William Shaw had maintained that Adam Ferguson, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh had deliberately deceived Percy by producing a Gaelic student who could read recite Ossian; Ferguson categorically denied the charge; even after exposure by the committee appointed to investigate (viz., Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, 1805);
 
the epigraph of his poem, ‘They went forth to war but they always fell’ [Ossian’s Cath-loda, duan ii), quoted as an epigraph by Matthew Arnold for his ‘Lectures on Celtic Literature’, and widely accepted as a summary of Irish belligerency and fated revolutionary failure; Matthew Arnold spoke of the ‘vein of piercing regret and sadness’ of his epics, remarking ‘what an apparition of newness and power such a strain must have been to the 18th century’; a dg. of his married Sir Charles Brewster, the optical scientist and inventor of kaleidoscopes; David Hume’s critique of Macpherson, based on external evidence, appeared in 1843 as “Essay on the Authenticity of Ossian’s Poems”. ODNB OCEL FDA OCIL

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Works
Contemporary Editions
  • Ossian: Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and translated from the Galic or Erse Language by James Macpherson (Edinburgh: G. Hamilton & J. Balfour 1760);
  • Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem, in Six Books; together with several other Poems, composed by Ossian, the son of Fingal; translated from the Galic language by James MacPherson (London: T. Becket & P. A. De Hondt 1762), and Do. [2nd edn.], as Fingal, An Ancient Epic Poem, in Six Books: Ossian the Son of Fingal; Translated from the Galic Language, By James Macpherson. The Second Edition (London: Printed for T. Becket & P. A. De Hondt, in the Strand. M DCC LXII [1762]) [epigraph:‘Fortia facta patrum’ - Vergil.];
  • Tempora: An Ancient Epic Poem, in Eight Books; together with several other Poems, composed by Ossian, the son of Fingal; translated from the Galic language by James MacPherson (London: T. Becket & P. A. De Hondt 1763).
Collected Editions
  • The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, in Two Volumes’ translated from the Galic language by James McPherson, to which is subjoined “Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian” by Hugh Blair, DD (London 1765) [“Fragments of Ancient Poetry”; “Fingal”, “Temora”];
  • The Poems of Ossian, the son of Fingal, Translated by James Macpherson (Edinburgh: J. Robertson 1792) [first Scottish edn. of ‘Works’];
  • The Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, carefully corrected and greatly improved (Philadelphia: Thomas Lang 1790) [based on London edition of same year];
  • The Poems of Ossian […] with notes […] by Malcolm Laing, Vol. I [of 2] (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne 1805)
  • Poems of Ossian in the Original Gaelic, Vol. I [of 3 vols] (London: W. Bulmer & Co. 1807);
  • Critical Dissertations on the Antient Caledonians (q.d.) [published posthumously by his son John MacPherson].
Modern Editions
  • William Sharp, intro. Poems of Ossian (Edinburgh: John Grant 1926) [with notes];
  • Howard Gaskill, ed., The Poems of Ossian and Related Works, introduced by Fiona Stafford (Edinburgh UP 1996), xxvi, 573pp. [Based on the 1765 [2nd] Edn.; includes major variant readings along with Macpherson’s notes and those of the present editor, as well as Macpherson’s Prefaces, Advertisements, and Dissertations; also Hugh Blair’s Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, which threw the weight of the Scottish enlightenment behind Macpherson’s fraud.]

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Kenny’s Books offers James MacPherson [sic], Introduction to the History of Great Britain and Ireland [1st edn.] (1771), hb., full contemp. sprinkled calf with gilt spine, raised bands and brown morocco title label; speckled edges, 4°, offered at €1,939.66.

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Criticism
Contemporary papers (sel.)
  • Ferdinando Warner, Remarks on the history of Fingal, and other poems of Ossian: translated by Mr. Macpherson. In a letter to the Right Honourable the Lord L-. / By Ferdo. Warner ... (London: Printed for H. Payne and W. Cropley ... and J. Walter ... 1762), 32pp., 20cm./8°.
  • [...; incl. Samuel Johnson, Edmund Malone, Charles O’Conor, Sylvester O’Halloran, &c.]
Monographs
  • Derek S. Thomson, The Gaelic Sources of Macpherson’s Ossian (London: Oliver and Boyd 1952);
  • Howard Gaskill, ed., Ossian Revisited (Edinburgh UP 1991), viii, 250pp. [details];
  • Nick Groom, The Forger’s Shadow: How Forgery Changed the Course of Literature (Picador 2002), 351pp.;
  • Howard Gaskill, ed., The Reception of Ossian in Europe [Athlone Critical Traditions, 5] (London: Thoemmes Continuum 2004), lxviii, 452pp. [details];
  • Thomas M. Curley, Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud, and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland (Cambridge UP 2009), 348pp. [contents].
See also Roy Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (London: Allen Lane 1993), Bibl. p.307; Terence Brown, ed., Celticism (Amsterdam/Atlanta GA: Rodopi 1996) [details];
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Articles
  • Herbert V. Fackler, ‘Nineteenth-Century Sources for the Deirdre Legend’, in Éire-Ireland, 4, 4 (Winter 1969), pp.56-63, 60ff.;
  • Norman Vance, ‘Celts, Carthaginians, and Constitutions, Anglo-Irish Literary Relations 1780-1820’, in Irish Historical Studies, 22, 87 (1981), esp. 220ff.;
  • Clare O’Halloran, ‘Irish Re-Creations of the Gaelic Past: The Challenge of Macpherson’s Ossian’, in Past and Present, 124 (August 1989), pp.69-95;
  • Michael Mac Craith, ‘The Saga of James MacPherson’s Ossian’, in Linen Hall Review (Sept 1991), pp.5-9.
  • Clare O’Halloran, ‘Golden Ages and Barbarous Nations’ (PhD Thesis; Cambridge 1991);
  • Kristine Louise Haugen, ‘Ossian and the Invention of Textual History’, in Journal of the History of Ideas, 59, 2 (April 1998), pp. 309-27;
  • Mel Kersey, ‘Addison’s Indian, Blackwell’s Bard and the Voice of Ossian’, in History of European Ideas, 31, 2 (2005), pp.265-75 [extract].
See also Pádraig Ó Maidín, ‘Pages from an Irishman’s Diary: This Period Then’, in Éire-Ireland, 6, 4 (Winter 1971), pp.23-28, espec. p.23f. [a discussion of The Book of Lismore]

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Bibliographical details

Terence Brown, ed., Celticism (Amsterdam/Atlanta GA: Rodopi 1996), x, 200pp.; papers from multi-disciplinary workshop under auspices of European Science Foundation, principle focus Macpherson’s Ossian; Contrib. Brown, Joep Leersson, Daniel Droixhe, Timothy Champion, Fiona Stafford, Patrick Sims-Williams, Micheal Mac Craith, Donald E Meek, Anne Rigney, Annie Jourdan, George Watson, Christopher Harvie, Howard Gaskill, Luke Gibbons.

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Howard Gaskill, ed., Ossian Revisited (Edinburgh UP 1991), viii, 250pp. CONTENTS: Donald Meek, ‘The Gaelic ballads of Scotland - creativity and adaptation’; Fiona Stafford, ‘dangerous success - Ossian, Wordsworth and Romantic literature’; Uwe Boker, ‘the marketing of Macpherson - the international book trade and the first phase of German Ossian reception’; Paul Degategno, ‘the source of daily and exalted pleasure - Jefferson reads the poems of Ossian’; John Price, ‘Ossian and the canon in the Scottish Enlightenment’; Steve Rizza, ‘a bulky and foolish treatise? - Hugh Blair’s “Critical Dissertation” reconsidered’; David Raynor, ‘Ossian and Hume’; John Dwyer, ‘the melancholy savage - text and context in the poems of Ossian’; Richard Sher, ‘Percy, Shaw and the Ferguson “cheat” - national prejudice in the Ossian wars’.

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Howard Gaskill, ‘ed., ‘The Reception of Ossian in Europe [Athlone Critical Traditions, 5] (London: Thoemmes Continuum 2004), lxviii, 452pp. CONTENTS: Gaskill, Primary Ossianic Texts/Abbreviations’; Timeline of Ossian’s European Reception’; Gaskill, ‘“Genuine poetry ... like gold”’ [Introduction]’; Dafydd Moore, ‘The Reception of the Poems of Ossian in England and Scotland’; Donald Meek, ‘The Sublime Gael: The Impact of Macpherson’s Ossian on Literary Creativity and Cultural Perception in Gaelic Scotland’; Mary-Ann Constantine, ‘Ossian in Wales and Brittany’; Micheal Mac Craith, ‘“We know all these poems”: the Irish Response to Ossian’; Joep Leerssen, ‘Ossian and the Rise of Literary Historicism’; Colin Smethurst, ‘Chateaubriand’s Ossian’; Sandro Jung, ‘The Reception and Reworking of Ossian in Klopstock’s “Hermanns Schlacht”’; Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh, ‘Goethe’s Translation from the Gaelic Ossian’; Wolf Gerhard Schmidt, ‘’Menschlichschon’ and ‘kolossalisch’: The Discursive Function of Ossian in Schiller’s Poetry and Aesthetics’; Peter Graves, ‘Ossian in Sweden and Swedish-speaking Finland’; James Porter, ‘Literary, ‘Artistic and Political Resonances of Ossian in the Czech’; National Revival’; Gabriella Hartvig, ‘Ossian in Hungary’; Nina Taylor-Terlecka, ‘Ossian in Poland’; Peter France, ‘Fingal in Russia’; Enrico Mattioda, ‘Ossian in Italy: From Cesarotti to the Theatre’; Francesca Broggi-Wuthrich, ‘From Smith’s Antiquities to Leoni’s Nuovi Canti: The Making of the Ossianic Tradition Revisited’; Andrew Ginger, ‘The Suggestiveness of Ossian in Romantic Spain: The Case of Espronceda and Garcia Gutierrez’; Gerald Bar, ‘Ossian in Portugal’; Christopher Smith, ‘Ossian in Music’; Murdo MacDonald, ‘Ossian and Art: Scotland into Europe via Rome’; Bibliography’; Index.

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Thomas M. Curley, Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud, and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland (Cambridge UP 2009), 348pp. [Contents - An introductory survey of scholarship on Ossian: why literary truth matters; 2. James Macpherson’s violation of literary truth; 3. Johnson on truth, frauds, and folklore: in the company of Thomas Percy; 4. Searching for truth in the Highlands: Macpherson throws down the gauntlet; 5. Charles O’Conor and the Celtic Revival in Ireland; 6. Johnson and the Irish: more opposition to Ossian; 7. Johnson’s last word on Ossian with William Shaw: a finale to controversy; Appendix: A Reply to Mr Clark (1782) by William Shaw in Association with Samuel Johnson; Bibliography; Index.

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Commentary

Sydney Owenson [afterwards Lady Morgan] -  The Wild Irish Girl (1803)
 

[ When Glorvina arrives in the midst of a conversation between the Englishman Mortimer and her Father John, the confessor of her father, Prince of Innismore, she offers an estimate of Macpherson’s Ossian which accommodates both of their positions respecting the Irish origins of the materials and the talent of the translator: ]

 

 ‘We have been battling about the country of Ossian,’ said the priest, ‘with as much vehemence as the claimants on the birth-place of Homer.’
 ‘O! I know of old,’ cried Glorvina, ‘that you and my father are natural allies on that point of contention; and I must confess, it was ungenerous in both, to oppose your united strength against Mr Mortimer’s single force.’
 ‘What, then,’ said the Prince, good humouredly, ‘I supposed you would have deserted your national standard, and have joined Mr Mortimer, merely from motives of compassion.’
 ‘Not so, my dear Sir,’ said Glorvina, faintly blushing, ‘but I should have endeavoured to have compromised between you. To you I would have accorded that Ossian was an Irishman, of which I am as well convinced as of any other self-evident truth whatever, and to Mr Mortimer I would have acknowledged the superior merits of Mr Macpherson’s poems, as compositions, over those wild effusions of our Irish bards whence he compiled them.
[...]
 ‘For my own part, when my heart is coldly void, when my spirits are sunk and drooping, I fly to my English Ossian, and then my sufferings are soothed, and every desponding spirit into a sweet melancholy, more delicious than joy itself; while I experience in its perusal a similar sensation as when, in the stillness of an autumnal evening, I expose my harp to the influence of the passing breeze, which faintly breathing on the chords, seems to call forth its own requiem as it expires.’

 
The Wild Irish Girl (1803), Letter XII [for longer extracts, including a more ample remarks on Ossian and its author, see under Sydney Owenson, q.v.].
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Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP [1943] 1959), p.97: ‘The feeling towards Macpherson in Ireland was mostly one of irritation, for it was felt that he had dressed Cuchulin and Finn in the kilt and plaid besides winding the strands of the two great sagas into a Gordian knot [… &c.]’

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P. W. Joyce, Old Celtic Romances (1920 Edn.), p.vi-vi: ‘There is [vi] none of this silly and odious vulgarity in the originals of these fine old tales, which are high and dignified in tone and feeling - quite as much so as the old romantic tales of Greece and Rome.’ [note - as follows]: ‘Macpherson never sinned in this way. He caught the true keynote; and his Poems of Ossian, however perverted in other respects, are always dignified in thought and expression. Among other examples of the true interpretation of the spirit of these old romances, prose and poetry, I may mention Miss Brooke’s Reliques of Irish Poetry, published in the end of the last century; the Rev. Dr. Drummond’s Ancient Irish Minstrelsy, published in 1852; Lady Ferguson’s graceful and interesting book, The Story of the Irish before the Conquest (1868); and Mr. Standish O’Grady’s ably written volume, the History of Ireland " (Vol. I, The Heroic Period[,] 1878).’

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Frank O’Connor, The Backward Look (London: Macmillan 1967): ‘The truth of the Macpherson mystery is probably what Skene suggested a hundred years ago - Macpherson did have Gaelic originals, but they were [129] contemporary poems written by a namesake of his in imitation of the English poetry of the time. / Naturally the Irish did not wish to be left behind. In 1789 Charlotte Brooke of County Cavan published her Reliques of Ancient Irish Poetry, and lest anyone might accuse her of forgery she published her originals as well. […]’ (p.130.)

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Celtica (National Library of Scotland 1967), contains an account of the Macphersonite Controversy: ‘In 1784 Macpherson agreed to publish the Gaelic “originals”. At his death in 1796 the uncompleted work passed into the hands of John Mackenzie, Secretary to the Highland Society of London, who had already collaborated with Macpherson in the preparation of the texts. At the proof stage Mackenzie himself died iand the Society finally engaged a Dr. Thomas Ross to complete the work. For a time the publication of the originals put an end to the authenticity controversy but at the end of the 19th century their fraudulence was revealed. It was shown that the words only are Gaelic - idiom, grammar, and metre being quite alien.’ (See Catalogue of Gaelic material in National Library of Scotland, with pref. by Kenneth Jackson; note to item 57, p.16.)

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Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘The mid-eighteenth century was eager for “noble savages,” and few could be nobler than these Biblical vestiges, brave and fair-haired. One of them, Thomas Gray’s Welsh hero in The Bard, threw himself from the crags to avoid capture. More popular was the melancholy Ossian, whose poems were translated and created by one of the most successful of literary forgers, James Macpherson. In 1760 the young Scottish schoolmaster issued a small volume, Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands. Success was immediate, and there was more poetry where that had come from. The author had forged in his smithy an irresistible blend of Gaelic, Homeric, Miltonic, and Biblical echoes. His settings were equally appealing. The tired blood of rationalism could relax in the funereal gloom of misty glens. Oscar Wilde must have been right in saying that nature follows art as well as it can. If so, the Hebrides were invented by Macpherson: / “Dost thou not behold, Malvina, a rock with its head of heath? Three aged pines bend from its face; green is the narrow plain at its feet; there the flower of the mountain grows, and shakes its white head in the breeze.” / Grand enough, to be sure, but scarcely superseding Homer, as Goethe once thought. And scarcely Celtic either. Yet what did authenticity matter? Here was Celtic gloom and a heroic home for lost causes. “They came forth to battle, but they always fell,” was the famous line, later adopted by Matthew Arnold as an epigraph for his Study of Celtic Literature (1867). No better example of circular logic [42] can be found than Arnold’s argument: the tone of Ossian showed that the Celt was melancholy; the melancholy of Ossian showed that the poem was Celtic.’ (p.42.) Note that Kain later quotes the famous refrain (“They came forth to battle, but they always fell”) in connection with the history of Irish defeats by the English, and remarks that it ‘might seem an epigraph [sic] for the Irish race’ - ibid., p.111.

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, Vol 1 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980): Rafroidi conducts and comparison between Macpherson’s Fingal and a translation of MacNicoll’s Gaelic ballad ‘ninghin Iunsa’ (original in Leabhar na Feinne, J. F. Campbell, London 1872), by Derick S. Thompson [151-154]. He concludes his examination of Ossianism in general: ‘[It] is not the sole form of timeless Celtism, but rather the particular form embraced by the literature of the Celtic countries at one moment in its history, in the pre-romantic and Romantic periods. [156]; Irish Ossianids [156-58] Including Lady Sophia Burrell’s Comala, performed in the Hanover Square Rooms in 1792 (see Poems, 1793, pp.47-87; sub-titled ‘a dramatic poem in 3 acts taken from a poem of “Ossian”‘, and bearing the composition date of 1784.) [[158] Rafroidi identifies Barn de Harold’s Poems of Ossian lately discovered (1787) as pseudo-literature presented as translation of originals but consisting almost entirely of variations on Macpherson’s texts in a closely related style; the latest example was James Martin’s Translations from ancient Irish manuscripts (1811). Ends wtih remarks to the effect that Macpherson for all his forgeries has ‘the right to the title of father of the Celtic Renaissance, even the Irish Renaissance. The fact that he was an unworthy father is quite irrelevant.’ [160] Other Macphersonites discussed incl. John Anster with are Baron de Harold, Lady Burrell.

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Hugh Kenner, A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1983), discussing the revival of Irish myth, specifically the Deirdre tale: ‘There had been an early concentration on Ossian son of Finn, by 1889 the hero, “Oisin”, of Yeats’s first major poem. This was because when the Scotsman James Macpherson published his “Ossianic” fustian in 1763 and started a craze, he had been at pains to deny any Irish connection, having worked, he said, from epic poems written in Scotland in the third century. [see ftn.] So when the first wave of Celtic enthusiasm swept across Europe (and Napoleon took his Ossian with him to St. Helena) Ireland was excluded from the glory. / No Irishman with learning or without it proposed to take such an insult lying down, and by mid-century enough philological expertise was available, much of it German, to sustain the activities and the publications of learned bodies in Dublin, which sponsored many pages of dogged translating. The Irish Archaeological Society (founded 1841), the Celtic Society (founded 1847), the Ossianic Society (1854-1861), and their roster of scholars - O’Donovan, O’Curry, O’Daly, Walsh, Conellan, O’Looney, Standish Hayes O’Grady - had their work cut out for them. For if it was not true that, as one Englishman had asserted, the mythology [92] of the Celts resemled that of the Hottentos, or that the Irish in particular had no tincture of cilivsation till the Normans did them the favour of subduing them, then Irishmen needed this knowledge as much as the world at large.’ (pp.98-99.) Ftn.: Though Macpherson and his books have faded away, Boswell’s Johnson denouncing a scoundrel stays vivid, and it’s arcane knowledge now that Macpherson’s folly went up on a scrabbly foundation of real Gaelic ballads. (His Dar-thula and Nathos are Deirdre and Naisi.) We may connect his need to fake a Celtic Homer with the exactions of a public that would not have known how to get interested in fragments.’ (p.98.)

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986), writes: Faced with the fact that Gaelic Irish historians had established that the traditions of Finn could not have antedated the arrival of the Irish Celts in before the third century when Ossian was supposed to have lived - with the assent of English and Scottish historians such as Stillingfleet and Lloyd, and most recently endorsed by Thomas Innes in A critical essay on the ancient inhabitants of the northern parts of Britain or Scotland (1729); Macpherson counter-attacked in an introduction to Fingal (1726) entitled “A dissertation concerning the poems of Ossian”, speaking of ‘the improbably and self-condemned tales of Keating and O’Flaherty’ as ‘credulous and puerile to the last degree.’ [393]. He claimed that ‘internal proofs’ showed that ‘the poems published under the name of Ossian, are not of Irish composition. That favourite chimaera, that Ireland is the mother-country of the Scots, is totally subverted and ruined’ (p.263). He strengthened his position with spurious theories of migration westward in his Introduction to the history of Great Britain and Ireland (1771). [Cont.]

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael (1986) - cont.: [David] Hume became a forceful enemy of Macpherson’s pretensions, pointing out the ‘insipid correctnes [sic]’ of the verses, which revealed their contemporary origin, in comparison with the original genius of Homer and Shakespeare. Boswell records that he said ‘if fifty bare[arse]d highlanders should say that Fingal was an original poem, he would not believe them.’ Hume himself wrote in favour of the real Irish tradition, with its greater freedom from 18th c. decorum, ‘the songs and traditions of the Senachies, the genuine poetry of the Irish, carry in their rudeness and absurdity the inseparable attendants of barbarism, a very different aspect from the correctness of Ossian, where the incidents, if you will pardon the antithesis, are the most unnatural, merely because they are natural.’ (Philosophical Works, rep. 1964) [399] Further: ‘The introduction to John O’Brien’s dictionary [Focalóir Gaoidhilge/Sax-Bhéarla, Paris 1768] contains an attack on the embezzling of Irish tradition by Macpherson. In 1764, he had published anonymously an essay in Journal des scavans pointing out Oisin’s Irish origin [400]. Further: In Ireland, while Fingal was in the press (appearing Dec. 1761, with the imprint 1762), The Dublin Journal for 1 Dec 1761 carried an advertisement, “speedily will be published, by a gentleman of this kingdom, who hath been, for some time past, employed in translating and writing historical notes to FINGAL, A POEM, Originally wrote in the Irish or Erse language. In the preface to which, the translator, who is a perfect master of the Irish tongue, will give an account of the manners and customs of the antient Irish or Scotch; and, therefore, most humbly intreats the public, to wait for his edition, which will appear in a short time, as he will set forth all the blunders and absurdities in the edition now printing in London, and shew the ignoranmce of the English translator, in his knoweldge of Irish grammar, not understanding any part of that accidence” [quoted in Macpherson, The poems of Ossian, 4th ed., 2 vols, Lon. 1773; vol. 2., 268n.]’ [400-01; cont.].

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael (1986) - cont.: ‘Thomas Leland joined in the general attack on Macpherson in his An examination of the arguments contained in a late Introduction to the history of the antient Irish and Scots (Dublin 1772); while Sylvester O’Halloran contributed a letter to the Dublin magazine, signed ‘Miso-Dolos’, in Jan 1763 (p.21-22), headed “The poems of Ossine, the son of Fionne Mac Comhal, re-claimed” [401], and further attacked his calumnies in his Introduction to the study of the history and antiquities of Ireland (1722, p.337ff)’ [406f.]. [Page refs to Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986 Edn.; and note Leerssen, Bibl., Edward Snyder, The Celtic revival in English Literature 1760-1800 (Harvard UP 1923); Paul van Tieghan, Ossian en France, 2 vols. (Paris 1917).

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E. G. Quin in Myles Dillon, ed., Irish Sagas (Mercier 1968), discusses MacPherson’s ‘compositions’ quoting Dr. Johnson’s remark: ‘Sir, a man might write such stuff for ever if he would abandon his mind to it.’ Quin calls his ‘fascinating, unreadable,’ and adds, ‘by his very impostures he focussed attention on Gaelic manuscripts, and so ensured the continued existence of many which might otherwise have been destroyed.’ ( p.64.)

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Carl Dawson & John Pfordrester, eds., Matthew Arnold, The Prose Writings, The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1979: ‘The Macphersonite controversy was rekindled in the course of Matthew Arnold’s Oxford lectures on “The Study of Celtic Literature”, when he was accused of mistaking the spirit of the plagiary for the original by Lord Strangford, “We conclude by hoping that Mr Arnold will not be long in perceiving that the one man who has done more irretrievable harm to the proper appreciation of the imaginative literature of the Gael than ten thousand Pinkertons is James Macpherson, the fabricator of one of the greatest delusions upon earth, and the incarnation of literary injustice to Ireland.” (Pall Mall Gazette, 19 March. 1866; quoted in Carl Dawson & John Pfordrester, op. cit., pp.153-59; cited in Christopher Corr, ‘English Literary Culture and Irish Literary Revival’, PhD Thesis, UUC 1995, p.61].

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Michael Mac Craith, ‘The Saga of James MacPherson’s Ossian’, in Linen Hall Review (Sept 1991), pp.5-9: ‘The full title of that first collection, Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and translated from the Galic and Erse language (Edinburgh, June 1760). It includes fifteen short pieces, on of them “The Death of Oscar”. Oscar and Dermid, friends, and both in love with the daughter of Dargo. Dermid recognises that her heart belongs to Oscar, and asks Dermid to slay him. They fight by the “streams of Branno” and Dermid falls. Oscur [sic] is so saddened that he loses his skill with the bow. Dargo’s daughter asks to try piercing his target, the shield of a vanquished enemy, Gormur the brave; her arrow pierces his breast; “lay me in the earth, my fair one, lay me by the side of Dermid” … she pierced her white bosom with steel’ … By the brook of the hill their graves are laid.” Hugh Blair, new appointed to the chair of Belles Lettres and Rhetoric, Univ. of Edinburgh, shared in Douglas Hume’s initial enthusiasm. In London, MacPherson became a celebrity, “hating John Bull, but loving his daughters”. One of the manuscripts used by MacPherson was the Book of the Dean of Lismore, which is rich in the elegiac tone that his poetry emulates. Further, quotes Lady Wilde: ‘He is to be called Oscar Fingal Wilde. Is not that grand, misty and Ossianic?’ Among names, the most popular from Ossian in the nineteenth century were Ossian, Oscar, Malvina, Selma, Temora, and Fiona, all MacPherson’s inventions. [Note poss. confusions between John Home, Douglas Hume and the philosopher David Hume.]

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Malcolm Chapman, The Celts: The Construction of a Myth, NY: St. Martin’s Press 1992): ‘[T]he intellectual world of the larger society became interested in the primitive at a time when the Highlander was peculiarly suited for the role, in a way that neither, say, the Lothian peasantry, who were too close, nor the South Sea islander, who was too far away, could approach. The conceptual boundaries of civilization were expanding fast, following on the great exploratory periods of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the strange and exotic were becoming elusive enough to merit lament for their absence.’ (p.127.) Further, on the use of a ‘loosely structured blank verse style, [where] emotionally laden, atmospheric and apparently casually organised images succeeded one another effortlessly’: ‘This was in complete contrast to the formal, tightly structured intellectual verse of his contemporaries, and was a major feature in his success. He broke all the rules, and this was perceived. as at rare moments it is, not as mere confusion, perversity and violence, but as a bid for a larger freedom - a freedom that in this case was not only poetical, but moral.’ (Ibid., p.121; both the foregoing quoted in Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity, Cork UP 2000, p.20.)

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Robert Crawford, ‘The computer and the painted Pict’, in Times Literary Supplement (15 Aug. 1997), pp.4-5, an essay on Macpherson’s Ossian in relation to the academic Blair who promoted it in Edinburgh, writes:‘The development of the modern poet as primitive-sophisticate, a process bound up with with development of the university teaching of English literary texts, hasn’t stopped. It is apparent in Les Murray’s designation of himself as a “peasant mandarin”; it is what makes Seamus Heaney at once Bog-Bard and Harvard professor; it gives us Ted Hughes, the Cambridge University graduate and shaman. I[f] Ossian is its clearest point of origin, then the spread of the university teaching of English from Scotland to America encouraged modern poets to flourish there too.’ (p.5.)

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Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity (Cork UP 2000): ‘In 1760 the Scotsman James Macpherson (1736-1796) anonymously published Fragments of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands of Scotland and translated from the Gaelic or Erse language. The "fragments" consisted of the poetry of an ancient Scottish poet, Ossian, and won immediate success with the reading public. In 1762, Macpherson, emboldened to give his own name as the editor and translator, published Fingal, an ancient poem in six books along with the beginning of Temora, which was to appear separately in its entirety in 1763. The poems excited controversy from the beginning, not least in Ireland, over the question of Macpherson’s sources and scandal when it was shown that the poems were Macpherson’s own composition. In fact they were very loosely based on the Fianna tradition of Gaelic Scotland, which was shared with Ireland and had been equally popular in the oral and literary tradition from medieval times, surviving in oral tradition to the present (the “Fionn”, or “Fenian”, or “Ossianic Cycle”; fiannaíocht in Modern Irish). Fingal and Ossian were none other than the Fionn Mac Cumhaill and {19} Oisin of Irish tradition. Fionn was the chief of a band of warriors, the Fianna, whose exploits were conventionally set in the third century, and Oisin was his son who supposedly survived into Christian times, meeting St. Patrick and engaging in dispute with him, a popular literary theme from the twelfth century. An important part of the controversy was the old Irish-Scottish rivalry: Macpherson’s own contention on the Scottishness of Ossian and on the priority of the Scottish Gaelic tradition over the Irish (thus going against the received wisdom) was greeted with outrage by Irish scholars. (pp.19-20.) [Cont.]

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Diarmuid Ó Giolláin (Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity, 2000) - cont.: ‘The Ossianic poems had an enormous influence in contemporary Europe; were translated into several languages, and were greatly admired by Herder, Goethe, Napoleon and others. One reason for their success was that [here quotes Malcolm Chapman, The Celts: The Construction of a Myth, 1992, as supra.] / Ossian can be placed in the spirit of this time, an age of enlightened investigation, that wished “to clarify the problems inherent to the origin of ideas, poetry society, religions, customs”. Ossian, the “Homer of the North” in Madame de Staël’s phrase, became “the minstrel of a patrimony which has poetic but above all national value”, and through Ossian the Middle Ages were confirmed as an heroic epoch. Cesarotti, the Italian translator of Ossian (1801), encapsulated his contradictory significance: “Ossian is the genius of wild nature: his poems resemble the sacred groves of his ancient Celts: they inspire horror but here is felt at every step the divinity that inhabits them”. Ossian’s importance hardly rests on its poetic value, but also on what it mediated from contemporary poetry feeding “not only the taste for a new poetry but also the taste for popular poetry.” (Cocchiara, Storia del folklore in Europa, Torino: Boringhieri 1971, p.158.) Much of the reason for Ossian’s success was, according to Malcolm Chapman, Macpherson’s “loosely structured blank verse style, [where] emotionally laden, atmospheric and apparently casually organised images succeeded one another effortlessly”’ [here quotes Chapman further, as supra.]

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Mel Kersey, ‘Addison’s Indian, Blackwell’s Bard and the Voice of Ossian’, in History of European Ideas, 31, 2 (2005): ‘[...] As David Hume writes to James Boswell, Blair’s Critical Dissertation “is a fine piece of criticism; but it were wished that he had kept [Fingal] a little lower than Homer. For it might be a very excellent Poem and yet fall short of the Iliad.” However, the reservation expressed here by Hume betrays his own complicity in the initial promotion of Macpherson’s career. But given Addison’s association of Chevy-Chase with the epics of Homer and Virgil in Spectator 74, the general premise of Blair’s comparison of Highland poetry and ancient epic had already been authorised by the arbiter of British politeness: the Spectator. / [...] Macpherson’s epic Fingal “may not be a direct translation of Gaelic poems that had survived intact since the third century”, writes Fiona Stafford, “but neither is it a ‘fake’ or ‘forgery”, because of his peculiar situation at the confluence of different cultures”. This post-Union “confluence” may be interpreted as the sociolinguistic identity of Britishness. Macpherson’s Ossianic poetry contains volatile mixture derived from Addison and Blackwell’s Whig lingua franca: politeness and authenticity. Macpherson became a Whig myth-maker of the highest order. Of course, Ossian has a vexed claim to the title of a national bard, not to mention the laurels of Homer. The reception of his Ossianic poetry as authentic has always been complicated by Macpherson’s own admission that his translations were produced for polite consumers of sensibility. In his words, they were “calculated to please persons of exquisite feelings of heart” and are written “in a mode, which presented freedom and dignity of expression, instead of fetters”. But without excusing the great liberties that Macpherson took with Highland Gaelic mythology, it is fair to question whether the terms “authenticity” and “myth” have ever been compatible. Cultural and national identities are largely defined and sustained by creativity, innovation and myth-making. Whether English, Scottish, or British, a culture that pretends to befounded essentially on authentic and pure origins has succumbed to yet another variety of myth. Like the Iroquois king in Addison’s invented manuscript, or Martin’s reconstructed native of St. Kilda, the persona of Ossian was derived from both actual and imagined sources. And as Addison had done with Sa Ga Yean Qua Rash Tow, Macpherson reconstructed the sociolinguistic identity of Ossian according to contemporary concepts of politeness, and in doing so helped to reinvent the lingua franca of British literature.’ Notes cite Private Papers of James Boswell from Malahide Castle, 18 vols., ed. Geoffrey Scott & Frederick Pottle (NY: W. E. Rudge, 1928–34), Vol. 1, pp.127–28; James G. Basker, ‘Scotticisms and the Problem of Cultural Identity in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, in Sociability and Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, ed. John Dwyer & Richard B. Sher (Edinburgh: Mercat Press 1993) pp.81–95; Ernest Campbell Mossner, The Forgotten Hume: Le bon David (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943; David Hume, ‘Of the Authenticity of Ossian’s Poems’, in Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. T. H. Green & T. H. Grose, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green and Co. 1898) Vol. II, 415–24); Fiona Stafford, ‘Introduction: The Ossianic Poems of James Macpherson’ in The Poems of Ossian and Related Works, ed. Howard Gaskill (Edinburgh UP 1996); Colin Kidd, Subverting Scotlands Past: Scottish Whig Historians and the Creation of an Anglo-British Identity, 1689–c.1830 (Cambridge UP 1993; Mel Kersey, ‘The Pre-Ossianic Politics of James Macpherson’, in British Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies, 27. 1 (Spring 2004), pp.61–75.

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Quotations
Ossian: ‘Morna, thou fairest of women, daughter of Cormac-Carbre? [sic] why in the circle of stones, in the cave of the rock, alone? The stream murmureth hoarsely. The blast groaneth in the aged tree. The lake is troubled before thee.... But thou art like snow on the heath. Thy hair like a thin cloud of gold on the top of Cromleach.... Thy arms, as two white pillars in the hall of Fingal.’ (Quoted in Kristine Louise Haugen, ‘Ossian and the Invention of Textual History’, in Journal of the History of Ideas, April 1998, p.309.)

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A Dissertation Concerning the Antiquity, &c., of the Poems of Ossian the Son of Fingal”, prefixed to The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal by James Macpherson (London 1765): ‘To say, that a nation is void of all religion, is the same thing as to say, that it does not consist of people endued with reason. The traditions of their fathers, and their own observations on the works of nature, together with that superstition which is inherent in the human frame, have, in all ages, raised in the minds of men some idea of a superior being. Hence it is, that in the darkest times, and amongst the most barbarous nations, the very populace themselves had some faint notion, at least, of a divinity. It would be doing injustice to Ossian, who, upon no occasion, shews a narrow mind, to think, that he had not opened his conceptions to that primitive and greatest of all truths. But let Ossian’s religion be what it will, it is certain he had no knowledge of Christianity, as there is not the least allusion to it, or any of its rites, in his poems; which absolutely fixes him to an æra prior to the introduction of that religion. The persecution begun by Dioclesian, in the year 303, is the most probable time in which the first dawning of Christianity in the north of Britain can be fixed. […]’ (Digital text edited by Jack Lynch at Rutgers University [link].)

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Fingal (1761): ‘Often have I fought, and often won in battles of the spear. But blind, and tearful, and forlorn I now walk with little men. O Fingal, with thy race of battle I now behold thee not. The wild rose feed upon the green tomb of the mighty king of Morven. - Blest be thy soul, thou king of swords, thou most renowned on the hills of Cona!’

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Temora (‘Dissertation’): ‘The first circumstance that induced me to disregard the vulgarly received opinion of the Hibernian extraction of the Scottish nation, was my observations on their antient language. That dialect of the Celtic tongue, spoken in the north of Scotland, is much more pure, more agreeable to its mother language, and more abounding with primitives, than that now spoken, or even that which was been write for some centuries back, amongst the most unmixed part of the Irish nation. A Scotchman, tolerably conversant with his own language, understands an Irish composition, from that derivative analogy which it has to the Galic of North Britain. An Irishman, on the other hand, without the aid of study, can never understand a composition in the Galic tongue. - This affords a proof, that the Scotch Galic is the most original, and, consequently, the language of a more antient and unmixed people … [W]hen we look to the language, it is so different from the Irish dialect, that it would be as ridiculous to think, that Milton’s Paradise Lost could be wrote by a Scottish peasant, as to suppose, that the poems ascribed to Ossian were writ in Ireland.’ (Howard Gaskell, ed., The Poems of Ossian and Related Works, Edinburgh UP 1996 [q.p.]; cited in Patrick Crotty, review of same, Times Literary Supplement, 19 March 1996, p.25.)

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Poems (Philadelphia Edn. 1790), Preface: ‘The eagerness with which these Poems have been received abroad are a recompense for the coldness with which a few have affected to treat them at home. All the polite nations of Europe have transferred them into their respective languages.’ (Cited in Celtica, 1967, National Library of Scotland.)

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References
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1949 Edn.) comments on the questionable morality of his ‘translations’ but calls him a great writer none the less.

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Celtica (1967) [National Library of Scotland], lists under Ossian [Ossianic materials]: Bruidhean Chaortuinn, ‘The Rowan Mansion’, Gaelic MS XXXIV, late 16th c., containing two wellknown prose tales of Finn and his son Ossian; Pope’s Collection of Ossianic Poetry, Gaelic MS CXVIII, made by Rev. Alexander Pope, minister of Reay, c.1739; Fletcher’s Collection of Ossianic Poetry, Gaelic MS CXIX, made by Archibald Fletcher of Achalader, c.1750; Donald MacNicol’s MSS collection, as Ms. Acc. 2152, c.1755; The Highlander (Edinburgrh: Wal. Ruddiman Jun. & Co. 1758), anon. First publication of James Macpherson; The Gentleman’s Magazine, June 1760, containing Two Fragments of Antient Poetry collected in the Highlands of Scotland; [sundry actual works of Macpherson]; William Herbert, Ossiani Darthula, Graece reddita (London: S. Hamilton 1801), by Dean of Manchester [regarding Ossian as inferior only to Homer]; Phingaleis, sive Hibernia Liberata. Epicum Ossianis Poema … E celtica sermone conversum … ab Alexandro Macdonald (Edinburgh: John Moir 1820) [answers attacks of Shaw and Laing but ignores Johnson, likened to ‘a mountain boar with gnashing teeth charging against the Scots and all things Scottish’]. Further works, under ‘Influence of Ossian Abroad, incl. Poesie di Ossian, Figlio di Fingal, trans. Abbé Melchior Cesarotti [2 vols.] (Padua: Guiseppe Comino 1763); Ossian, fils de Fingal, trad. M. Le Tourneur [2 vols.] (Paris: Musier fils. 1777) [1st French trans.; preface concluding that the poems were an amalgam of original sources and Macpherson’s arrangement and expansion]; Ossians Digte, trans. by S. S. Blicher [2 vols’ (Copenhagen: Andreas Seidelin 1807); Finn Magnusen, Forsög til Forklaring over nogle steder af Ossians Digte (Copenhagen: Andreas Seidelin 1814); Paulo Priolo, Illustrations from Ossian’s Poems; the arguyemtns colalted by John Murdoch (Inverness: Highland Publ. Compnay 1873) [by ed. of The Highlander newspaper, ill. by artist best known for etchings of Pilgrim’s Progress]; Voltaire, Questions sur l’Encyclopédie, in Oeuvres Complètes, Vol. 21 [of 30 vols’ (Geneva 1768-77) [unimpressed by Ossia]; Francois-Rene de Cateaubriand, Génie du christianisme, ou Beautés de la religion chrétienne [5 vols.] (Lyon: Ballance père et fils 1809) [qutoes and translates famous passage from macpherson’s Death of Cuchulain, ‘The music was like the memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul’]; Alphonse de Lamartine, Memoirs of my Youth (London: Simms & McIntyre 1849) [trans. of Confidences, 1848; gives account of first moving impression]; Die Gedichte Ossians: Aus dem Enlischen übersetzt von M. Denis [3 vols.] (Vienna: Johann Thomas Edle v. Trattnern 1768) [first German trans. in full]; Poems of Ossian lately discover’d by Edmund, Baron de Harold (Düsseldorf: John Cretien Daenzer 1787) [how the search conducted not revealed]; Geothe, Die Leiden des jungen Werther (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1954 [sic]); Václav hanka, Kradodworsky Rukopic … Königinhofer Handschrift (Prague: J. G. Calve 1829) [spurious czech poetry]; vincenzo Monti, Prose e Poesie (Florence: Felice le Monier 1847) [rewarded by Napoleon with chair of Poetry at Pavia]; Byron, Hours of Idleness (Newark: S & J. Ridge 1807) [19 year old poet employs touches of Ossianic sentiment]; William Stukeley, A Letter from Dr Stukeley to Mr Macpherson (London: Richard Hett 1763) [‘the world is highly oblig’d to you for preserving so noble, so interesting, a monument of high antiquity, belonging to Britain’]; Charles O’Conor, A Dissertation on the First Migrations and Final Settlement of the Scots of North-Britain. With occasional observations on the Poems of Fingal and Temore (Dublin: George Faulkner 1766); Edward Davies, The claims of Ossian Examined an Appreciated (London: Longmans & co. 1825) [remarks Macpherson’s contemptuous treatment of the Welsh bardic tradition]; Hugh Blair, A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the son of Fingal (London: T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt 1763) [believed without reserve that the poem was a genuine national epic of the 3rd century]; William Shaw, An Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian (London: J. Murray 1781) [incl. Johnson’s letter in reply to Macpherson’s demand for satisfaction]; Letter from Thomas Percy, Bishop of Dromore to Dr. Robert Anderson of Edinburgh. MSS 599 [responding to Shaw’s charge that Ferguson had gulled him with a Gaelic student who could recite Ossian]; Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland (London: Constable & Co. 1805); Walter Scott, review of Report of the Highland Society of Scotland and Laing’s edition of Ossian, in Edinburgh Review (July 1805) [suggests that a new collection be made on the plan of Charlotte Brooke’s Reliques]; Oithóna, a dramatic poem taken from the porse translation of the celebrated Ossian, as performed at the Theatre Royal in the Hay Market; set to Musick by Mr. [François Hyppolyte] Barthélomon (London: T. Becket and P. and A. [sic] De Hondt 1768); Oscar and Malvina, or the Hall of Fingal. As performed at the Theatre-Royal, Covent Garden (London: W. Woodfall for T. Cadell 1791); [William Ross] A Description of the Paintings in the Hall of Ossian at Penicuik near Edinburgh (Edinburgh: Kincaid and W. Creech 1773) [pamphlet recording details of work of Runciman, now lost].

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Robert Ward & Catherine Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (1988), give the bio-dates 1736-65, contrary to Dictionary of National Biography and Margaret Drabble, ed., The Oxford Companion to English Literature (OUP 1986), while also ascribing Critical Dissertations on the Antient Caledonians (1769) to Macpherson as a posthumous publication of his son John. Note that there are extensive comments on MacPherson in the correspondence of Charles O;’Conor [Rx], noticed also by Joseph th. Leerssen (op. cit., 1986).

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, supplies notes at 962, 978; FDA2 do., at 957n.; FDA3 244, 564, 606n.

University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds The Poems of Ossian in the Original Gaelic with a literal translation and a dissertation on the authenticity of the poems by Archibald ?Clerk, together with English trans. by MacPherson, 2 vol. (Blackwood 1870); also The Poems of Ossian, translated by James McPherson, to which are prefixed dissertations on the aera [sic] and poems of Ossian, 2 vols. (1807).

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Notes
Thomas Percy [Bishop of Dromore]: An account of a letter from Thomas Percy to Dr. Robert Anderson of Edinburgh (MSS 599) is given in Celtica (1967), a catalogue of Gaelic materials in Scottish National Library. See remarks therein on William Shaw’s Enquiry (1781) and Percy’s letter: ‘Laing in his attack Macpherson [in his edition of 1805] laid great emphasis on the fact that the latter was said to have told his intimates friends that all the poems published by him as translations Ossian were entirely his own composition. Bishop Percy agreed, although he took the charitable view that at first Macpherson had intended no deception and that only ‘the urgent importunities’ of friends had led hinn to clainn a major literary discovery.’ (Celtica, p.22.)

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Ossianic authors incl. Archibald Clark, The Poems of Ossian in the Original Gaelic, with a literal translation into English … Together wth the English Translations of Macpherson, 2 vols. (1870), xlvi, 503pp., 579pp.

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939): ‘And the three shouters of glory. Yelling halfviewed their harps. Surly Tuhal smiled upon drear Darhoola: and Roscranna’s boglaboyo begirlified the daughter of Cormac.’ (FW 329.15ff.)

Another Ossianist: Robert MacFarlane (1734-1804), misc. writer; MA Edinburgh, ed. Morning Chronicle and London Packet; accidentally run over and killed; author of Latin translation of first book of Ossian’s Temora (1769), and Vols. I and IV of a History of George III (1770 and 1796). See Dictionary of National Biography.

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