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to total oblivion. Now the testimonies may, in my opinion, be of two kinds. Macpherson pretends there is an ancient manuscript of part of Fingal in the family, I think, of Clanronald. Get that fact ascertained by more than one person of credit; let these persons be acquainted with the Gaelic ; let them compare the origin. al and the translation; and let them testify the fidelity of the latter.
• But the chief point in which it will be necessary for you to exert yourself, will be, to get positive testimony from many different hands that such poems are vulgarly recited in the Highlands, and have there long been the entertainment of the people. This testimony must be as particular as it is positive. It will not be sufficient that a Highland gentle. man or clergyman say or write to vou that he has heard such poems; nobody questions that there are traditional poems of that part of the country, where the names of Ossian and Fin gal, and Oscar and Gaul, are mentioned in every stanza.
The only doubt is, whether these poems have any farther resemblance to the poems published by Macpherson. I was told by Bourke, * a very ingenious Irish gentleman, the author of a tract on the Sublime and Beautiful, that on the first publication of Macpherson's book, all the Irish cried out, "We know all those poems.
We have always heard them from our infancy.' But when he asked more particular questions, he could never learn that any one ever heard or could repeat the original of any one paragraph of the pretended translation. This generality, then, must be carefully guarded against, as being of no authority.
• So in MS.
"Your connexions among your brethren of the clergy may be of great use to you.
You may easily learn the names of all ministers of that country who understand the language of
You may write to them, expressing the doubts that have arisen, and desiring them to send for such of the bards as remain, and make them rehearse their ancient poems. Let the clergymen then have the translation in their bands, and let them write back to you, and inform you, that they heard such a one (naming him,) living in such a place, rehearse the original of such a passage, from such a page to such a page of the English translation, which appeared exact and faithful. If you give to the public a sufficient number of such testimonials, you may prevail. But I venture to foretel to you, that nothing less will serve the purpose; nothing less will so much as command the attention of the public.
Becket tells me, that he is to give us a new edition of your Dissertation, accompanied with some remarks on Temora. Here is a favour. able opportunity for you to execute this purpose. You have a just and laudable zeal for the credit of these poems. They are, if genuine, one of the greatest curiosities in all respects that ever was discovered in the com. monwealth of letters; and the child is, in a manner, become yours by adoption, as Macpherson has totally abandoned all care of it. These motives call upon you to exert yourself: and I think it were suitable to your candour, and most satisfactory also to the reader, to publish all the answers to all the letters you write, even though some of those letters should make somewhat against your own opinion in this affair. We shall always be the more assured, that no arguments are strained beyond
force, and no contrary arguments suppressed, where such an entire communication is made to us. Becket joins me heartily in that application ; and he owns to me, that the believers in the authenticity of the poems diminish every day among the men of sense and reflection. Nothing less than what I propose can throw the balance on the other side.' Lisle Street, Leicester Fields,
19th Sept. 1763.
The second letter contains less matter of importance; but what there is that is relevant deserves not to be omitted.
• I am very glad,' he writes on the 6th of October, 1763, you have undertaken the task, which I used the freedom to recommend to you. Nothing less than what you propose will serve the purpose.
You must expect no assistance from Macpherson, who flew into a passion when I told him of the letter I had wrote to you. But you must not mind so strange and heteroclite a mortal, than whom I have scarce ever known a man more perverse and unamiable. He will probably depart for Florida with Governor Johnstone, and I would advise him to travel among the Chickisaws or Cherokees, in order to tame and civilize him.
• Since writing the above, I have been in company with Mrs. Montague, a lady of great distinction in this place, and a zealous partisan of Ossian. I told her of
your intention, and even used the freedom to read your letter to her. She was extremely pleased with your project ; and the rather, as the Duc de Nivernois, she said, had talked to her much on
that subject last winter ; and desired, if possible, to get collected some proofs of the authenticity of these poems, which he proposed to lay before the Academie de Belles Lettres at Paris. You see, then, that you are upon a great stage in this inquiry, and that many people have their eyes upon you. This is a new motive for rendering your proofs as complete as possible. I cannot conceive any objection which a man even of the gravest cha racter could have to your publication of his letters, which will only attest a plain fact known to him. Such scruples, if they occur, you must endeavour to remove, for on this trial of yours will the judgment of the public final. ly depend.':
Without being acquainted with Hume's adh vice to Dr, Blair, the Committee, composed of chosen persons, and assisted by the besi Celtic scholars, adopted, as it will be seen, a very similar manner of acting.
It conceived the purpose of its nomination to be, to employ the influence of the society, and the extensive communication which it
possesses with every part of the Highlands, in collecting what materials or information it was still practicable to collect, regarding the authenticity and nature of the poems ascribed to Ossian, and particularly of that celebrated collection published by Mr. James Macpherson.
For the purpose above-mentioned, the Com. mittee, soon after its appointment, circulated the following set of queries, through such parts of the Highlands and Islands, and among such persons resident there, as seemed most likely to afford the information required:
1. Have you ever heard repeated, or sung any of the poems ascribed to Ossian, translated and published by Mr. Macpherson? By whom have you heard them so repeated, and at what time or times? Did you ever commit any of them to writing ? or can you remember them 80 well as now to set them down? In either of these cases, be so good to send the Gaelic original to the Committee.
2. The same answer is requested concerning any other ancient poems of the same kind, and relating to the same traditionary persons or stories with those in Mr. Macpherson's collection.
3. Are any of the persons from whom you heard
poems now alive? or are there, in your part of the country, any persons who remember and can repeat or recite such poems ? If there are, be so good as to examine them as to the manner of their getting or learning such compositions: and set down, as accurately as possible, such as they can now repeat or recite, and transmit such their account, and such compositions as they repeat, to the Committee.
4. If there are, in your neighbourhood, any persons from whom Mr. Macpherson received any poems, inquire particularly what the poems were which he so received, the manner in which he received them, and how he wrote them down; show those persons, if you have an opportunity, his translation of such poems, and desire them to say, if the translation is exact and literal ; or, if it differs, in what it differs from the poems, as they repeated them to Mr. Macpherson, and can now recollect them.
5. Be so good to procure every informa