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anic controversy, may consult Dr Blair's Dissertation,—the Report of the Highland Society, London : 1805,-Dr Graham's Essay, Edinburgh: 1807,—and the 2d chapter of Dr Brown's · History of the Highlands and Highland Clans, vol. i. Glasgow: 1834,—for the arguments on behalf of the authenticity of these poems; and on the counter-side, Laing's edition of the poems of Ossian, Edinburgh : 1805,—Johnson's Tour,—and a very able and impartial critique in the 6th volume of the Edinburgh Review, from which we make the following extract.
" It is remarkable that the arguments produced for the poems of Ossian, have all reference to Macpherson's first publication, in which, doubtless, he thought it necessary to preserve a certain degree of caution, and to give as much authenticity to his poems as he could, consistently with his plan of kneading them into a cake of the right leaven for the sentimental and refined critics, whom it was his object to fascinate. Every tradition or morsel of ancient poetry which he could pick up, seems to have been carefully inserted in what seemed to be an advantageous and even prominent place ; so that each piece was sure to recal to the Highlander some traditionary fact or legendary story with which he was well-acquainted, and which, perhaps, few were displeased to recognise in a garb so different from its native and rude dress, as to interest the admirers of poetry through all Europe. The weaving a web in which truth and falsehood should be warped and blended together in inseparable union, was too material an object for Macpherson to neglect any means to accomplish it. We should, therefore, even without the very respectable testimonies which have been brought forward by the Highland Society, have been most willing to believe that he made every exertion in his power to collect the remnants of legendary tales relating to the Fions, simply because it was his obvious interest to do so, if he meant to carry on his intended imposture with the least prospect of success. We also have no doubt that he was able to recover manuscripts perhaps of some antiquity, containing copies of the ballads, which he afterwards wrought up into epic poems. Nay, we are willing to go a good deal further, and to allow that Macpherson may have collected and used many original poems now lost. Indeed, as is well-stated by Mr Mackenzie, much difficulty must have arisen in the course of the Committee's investigation, 'from the change of manners in the Highlands, where the habits of industry have now superseded the amusement of listening to the legendary narrative, or heroic ballad ; where, consequently, the faculty of remembering, and the exercise of repeating such tales and songs, are altogether in disuse, or only retained by a very few persons of extremely advanced age, or feeble health.' But still the great question remains to be solved,- Did Macpherson's translation of these poems, however numerous, correspond to the tone and spirit of the original; or were the expressions, the sentiment, the description in the greater part of them, his own; the story and the names alone adopted from the Gaelic ?
On this point, we cannot help thinking that Mr Laing ought to have printed with the Ossian of Macpherson, the ballads on which it is in part founded, and which are also referred to, both by individuals in the Highlands, and by the Committee themselves, as forming some of his originals. We have endeavoured to supply this deficiency, by giving
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extracts from them in the course of our investigation; and, considering that much allowance ought to be made for the debased state of poetry preserved by oral tradition, we have endeavoured to select the most poetical passages. Still, however, the reader must have observed a prodigious and irreconcileable difference betwixt the Ossian of Macpherson and such of those ballads as come forward altogether unsophisticated. The latter agree in every respect with the idea we have always entertained of the poetry of a rude people. Their style is unequal ; sometimes tame and flat; sometimes turgid and highly periphrastic ; sometimes they rise into savage energy, and sometimes melt into natural tenderness. The subject of most is the battle or the chase : Love, when introduced, is the love of a savage state.
Ossian comes to the dwelling of Branno of silver cups, and demands his daughter in marriage : she is betrothed, without being consulted, and gives her hand to Ossian, whom she had then seen for the first time. In manners, the heroes are as rough as the ladies are frank and condescending. The wrangling which pervades their counsels, the jealousies betwixt Fingal and Gaul, are peculiar to a savage tribe; since the latter (we grieve to speak it) did not hesitate to knock the tuneful Carril upon the head for disputing with him the property of a beef steak dressed with onion sauce ; (Appendix to the Report, No. XXII.) It is surely unnecessary to contrast these barbarous chiefs with the followers of Macpherson's Fingal : there, all is elegance, refinement, and sensibility ; they never take arms, but to protect the feeble, or to relieve beauty in distress ; they never injure their prisoners, nor insult the fallen : and as to Fingal himself, he has all the strength and bravery of Achilles, with the courtesy, sentiment, and high-breeding of Sir Charles Grandison. But this difference is neither the most striking nor the most indelible mark of Macpherson's manufacture. He has not only refined and polished the inanners of his heroes, but he has added to the tales a system of mythology, and a train of picturesque description and sentimental effusion, of which there is not the least trace in any Gaelic originals, saving those of Smith and Kennedy. The ghosts, which are the eternally recurring subject of simile and of description, we cannot trace in any Gaelic ballads. Macpherson was probably puzzled about his mythology, which the critics of that time thought essential to an epic poem. Christianity was out of the question, since it must have brought his heroes to a later period than was convenient; and it being a matter
of great risk to imitate George Psalmanazzaar, by inventing for the : Fenii a new system of supernatural belief, he was forced to confine him
self to the vulgar superstition concerning the spirits of the departed, common to the Highlanders with the ignorant in all nations, and which, if it promised nothing very new or striking, had the advantage of not exposing him to detection. The translator of Fingal seems indeed to have resolved, with the steward in Gay’s • What-d'ye-call-it,' that the reader should not only have ghosts, but a plurality of them; and, though attended with great effect on some particular occasions, the frequent and useless appearance of these impotent phantoms, impresses us rather with contempt, than with fear and reverence. The situation of Ossian himself is another circumstance which Mr Macpherson has heightened and improved, so as to produce much poetical effect. In the genuine poems, indeed, he often alludes to his age; but the frequent and pathetic reflections—those effusions of sentiment, sometimes beautiful, and sometimes bombastic, are only to be found in Macpherson's version. In the original, the Wooing of Evirallin is addressed to a young woman who had refused Ossian a drink, unless on certain conditions, which the aged bard was incapable of accepting. She then applied to him the contemptuous epithet of old dog. • He is a dog, answered the bard, who is not compliant; I tell you, wanton girl, I was once valiant in battle, though I am now worn out with years. When we went to the lovely Evir of the shining hair,' &c. This is, by Macpherson, thus happily altered and applied to Malvina, the widow of Oscar ; "a fictitious personage,' says Mr Laing, ' for whom there is no foundation even in tradition.' • Daughter of the hand of snow, I was not so mournful and blind, I was not so dark and forlorn, when Evirallin loved me; Evirallin with the dark brown hair, the whitebosomed daughter of Branno.'
“ We would not wish the Gaël to misunderstand us. We do not affirm that their ancestors were incapable of generous or kindly feelings ; nor do we insist that their poetry, to be authentic, should be devoid of occasional sublimity, or even elegance. We only say, that the character of all rude poetry, whether in diction or sentiment, is inequality ; that bursts of generosity, flowing from the feeling of the moment, and not from the fixed principles acquired in a civilized society, will always be attended by an equally capricious and irregular exertion of the angry passions. We believe it
We believe it is Byron who mentions, that an Indian, who had just saved his life, was going, an hour after, to murder him for throwing away a mussel shell. The passions and feelings of men in a savage state, are as desultory as their habits of life ; and a model of perfect generosity and virtue, would be as great a wonder amongst them, as a fine gentleman in a birth-day suit. Neither is it a sufficient answer, that Ossian may have exaggerated the virtues of his countrymen, as is ingeniously urged in the Report, p. 150. Ossian, however gentle or generous his natural disposition, can hardly be supposed to have formed for his countrymen an ideal standard of perfection, depending on a refinement drawn from the internal resources of his own mind, and inconsistent with all he witnessed around him. We might also have expected to have met with some peculiarities respecting the manners of the ancient Celts, in genuine poems of the length of Macpherson's. But, alas, what hints of this kind occurred in the original ballads or legends, were rejected by the fastidious delicacy of their translator ; and what is substituted in their place is obviously drawn from sacred or classical poetry. Thus, the daughters of Morven mourned for Lorma one day in the year, as the daughters of Israel mourned yearly four days for the victim of Jephthah's vow; and, we fear, no better authority than the fables concerning the passage of the Styx will be found for the ghosts hovering on the Lake of Lego, until the song of the bards had dismissed them to the winds. · The honour of the spear' is also mentioned and explained as a tournament, when the natives of Argyleshire were strangers to the use of horses, except for draught, as the rest of Europe were to the tourney, which certainly was not introduced before the 10th century.”
This architect was descended of the ancient Scottish family of Chalmers, barons of Tartas in France. His grandfather, a Scottish merchant, suffered considerably in his fortune by supplying Charles XII. of Sweden with military stores and money, which that monarch repaid in the adulterated coin his necessities compelled him to issue. Sir William's father went over to Sweden to endeavour to recover a portion of the family property ; his family accompanied him, and the subject of this article was born at Stockholm, about the year 1726.
His father returned to England in 1728, and at a proper age sent him to school at Rippon, in Yorkshire, At the age of sixteen he was sent as a supercargo to Canton, in a ship belonging to the Swedish East India company.
These,” says Allan Cunningham, tainly tender years for situations of mercantile trust and adventure, and the fact implies the appearance of early talents and prudence. It seems too that the boy—for such we must at these years regard him-extended his views beyond merchandise : on reaching Canton he saw and admired the picturesque buildings and gardens of the Chinese, and having acquired some skill in drawing at school, made as many sketches as sufficed for a little publication on his return home. These engravings, though recommended by the skilful hands of Grignion and Rooker, were sharply censured by the critics, and the taste of Chambers was questioned and assailed ; there was more zeal than discretion in all this; for surely whoever widens the sphere of knowledge, and makes us acquainted with the taste or the scientific skill of a distant nation, is, more or less, our benefactor. At the age of eighteen, and after he had made one voyage to the east, says one of his biographers, he abandoned all commercial pursuits: another, with more probability, gives him the advantage of two visits to China, and continues his connection with the sea till his twenty-second year; but neither of them says any thing of his early architectural studies ; and we are left to imagine that he acquired his knowledge in his own way. It is curious to observe the blossoms of the tree transforming into fruit; and it is still more curious and instructive to watch the human mind rough-shaping its own purposes ; the stripling, who built houses of snow and fortifications of sand, rising into an architect, and working in more stable materials.”
Abandoning, however, commercial pursuits, he followed, says Hardwicke, “the natural bent of his genius, and travelled into Italy—for the purpose of studying the science of architecture, not only by measuring and drawing the invaluable remains of antiquity, but likewise those admirable productions of the revivors of the arts which distinguished the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He carefully examined and studied, with unwearied application, the works of Michael Angelo, Sangallo, Palladio, Scamozzi, Vignola, Peruzzi, Sanmichele, Bernini, and other Italian architects, whose designs were in general guided by the rules of the ancients, but whose extraordinary talents, exalting them above the character of mere imitators, produced an originality in their composi