[ocr errors]

enough to lay my hands on a pretty complete poem and truly epic, concerning Fingal.” And in his letter to the Deputation of the Highland Society of London, he says, "I shall adhere to the promise I made several years ago to a deputation of the same kind; that is, to employ my first leisure time, and a considerable portion of time it must be to do it accurately, in arranging and printing the originals of the poems of Ossian, as they have come to my hands."

A particular account of the ancient poems of the Highlands, collected by Mr. Jerome Stone of Dunkeld, prior to Mr. Macpherson's poetical mission, and the translation of one of these poems which he published in the Scots Magazine so far back as January, 1756, will be found in the Report of the Highland Society.* It will be seen from the testimony of the Rev. Mr. Pope already given, p. 471, that about the year 1739, he had entered into a project, with another gentleman, for collecting Ossian's poems.

The various detached pieces ascribed to Ossian and the ancient bards, which have been published subsequent to Mr. Macpherson's translation, and collected by Miss Brooke, Mr. John Clark, Mr. Thomas Hill, Dr. John Smith, Mr. John Gillies, Baron de Harold, and others, are unnecessary to be dwelt upon, some having been occasionally noticed in the

* See Report, p. 23, and the original of Stone's translation of Bas Fraoich, or the Death of Fraoch, who was destroyed by the treache rous passion of his mother-in-law; this, together with the translation in verse as published in 1756, and a literal prose translation will be found in the Appendix to the Report, No. VII.

[ocr errors]

Report of the Highland Society, others in Sir John
Sinclair's Dissertation, or in the Notes and Observa-
tions annexed to Cesarotti's Dissertation.*

The identity of some of the poems published by
Mr. Macpherson, is fully proved by Gaelic manu-
scripts in the possession of the Committee of the
Highland Society of Edinburgh, collected by Mr.
Duncan Kennedy, Archibald Fletcher, and other
persons of which about fifteen hundred verses, with
a literal translation by Dr. Donald Smith, compared
with passages of the epic poem of Fingal, as published
by Mr. Macpherson, are given in the Appendix to
the Report of the Society.†

The collection of Ossian's poems made by the Rev. Mr. Farquharson at an early period of his life, prior to Mr. Macpherson's poetical mission to the Highlands, and the existence of the thick folio manuscript volume, containing these poems which he left at the college of Douay, at the commencement of the French Revolution, has been circumstantially detailed and proved by the concurrent testimony of two bishops and three respectable clergymen now living.

This new and interesting evidence having excited the attention of the Members of the Committee

* See Report, p. 47, 48, 49, et seq. Sir John Sinclair's Dissertation, p. 36, 76, and 77. Notes to Cesarotti's Dissertation B, F, G, H, and I.

+ See Report, Appendix, No. XV.

We are much indebted to Sir John Sinclair for the zeal and perseverance he has manifested, in bringing forward most unexceptionable evidence respecting the Douay manuscript, and which will be found amply detailed in his Dissertation, p. xi. and lviii. inclusive.



[ocr errors]

appointed to superintend this publication, they determined, collectively or individually, to spare no pains in endeavouring to ascertain, whether the said manuscript be still existing in France, as well as to obtain every authentic information respecting any other Celtic manuscripts in that country. With that view, and while the communication with France was open by the late negociation for peace, the following letter was written to the Principal of the Celtic Academy at Paris, accompanied with a French translation; both of which were transmitted through the Foreign Secretary of State's Office, to our Ambassador, the Earl of Lauderdale, as the best and most effectual channel of communication.

To the Principal of the Celtic Academy at Paris,


&c. &c. &c.

York Place, Portman Square, London, Sept. 20, 1806.

As a Member of the Committee appointed by the Highland Society, to superintend the publication of the poems of Ossian in the original Celtic, denominated Gaelic in the northern parts of Scotland, where it is still a living language, I take the liberty to acquaint you, that these originals will in the course of the present year be published, accompanied by a literal Latin translation, and a Dissertation containing such additional facts as have been recently acquired on the authenticity of the poems. The Committee having learnt, from public report, that a Celtic Academy has been lately instituted at

Paris, and being desirous of extending their inquiry to the collection of every fact which tends to illustrate the era of Ossian, and the antiquity of the work, have requested me to address you for information, on the following subjects.

1. It appears, from the testimony of Bishops Cameron and Chisholm, of the Catholic persuasion, formerly of France, but now residing at Edinburgh, that the late Mr. Farquharson, Principal of the College of Douay in Flanders, left at the beginning of the Revolution in that University, a thick manuscript folio volume, containing many of Ossian's poems in the original Celtic, collected by him at an early period of life, while a missionary in the Highlands of Scotland; and I am commissioned by the Highland Society to request, as a most particular favour, that you will take the trouble to inform me whether such manuscript book of Celtic poems be still in existence, and if so, that you will do the Society the further favour of transmitting transcripts of the titles of the several poems, and a note of the number of lines in each, with any information respecting other Celtic manuscripts, which may be now at Paris, Douay, or elsewhere, on the language, poetry, history, origin, and migration of the Celts.

2. Understanding that there is in the National Library at Paris, a manuscript purporting to be the speech in Celtic delivered by Clovis, the founder of the French monarchy, to his army, or to the citizens of Paris, on his taking the field, it would be extremely gratifying to the Highland Society, and to the admirers of Celtic literature in Great Britain, to receive I i


a transcript of this speech, and a fac-simile of a few lines of the original, to prove the age of the writing.

If the information can be procured in time, it is the intention of the Committee to insert it in the present edition of Ossian. Trusting, that in a cause so interesting to the honourable remains of Celtic literature, and promising, on the part of the Highland Society, any aid or information which they at any time may be able to afford to your learned Academy; you will pardon the liberty I have thus taken in addressing you.

I have the honour to be, with sentiments of the highest consideration and respect,


your most obedient, and
most humble servant,



The above letter was delivered early in the month of October, but from the shortness of Lord Lauderdale's stay in Paris, after it had been communicated, and the events which subsequently took place, we have been prevented from obtaining the information solicited. The following letter from Mr. Professor Stewart of Edinburgh, who accompanied Lord Lauderdale on the embassy, not only shews his attention to the inquiries of the Committee, but affords reasonable hopes that a communication from the Celtic Academy may be expected by the first favourable opportunity.

« VorigeDoorgaan »