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A. (P. 53.)
THE Highlanders denominate the nearest relative of the heir apparent Tànister. This name seems to imply, that the usages of Tanistry were originally common both to the Highlanders and Irish : they 'were afterwards modified by the different circumstances in which these nations have been placed.
The Tanister of a chieftain was always a person of considerable distinction with the clan. This was the case also among the Irish.
“ By the Irish custom of Tanistry,” says Dayies, 5 the chieftains of every country, and the chief of o every sept, had no longer estate than for life in “ their chieferies; and when their chieftains were “ dead, their sons, or next heirs, did not succeed “ them, but their tanists, who were elective, and « purchased their elections by strong hand.”
“ The Irish hold their lands by tanistry, which is “ no more than a personal estate for his life time
that is tanist, by reason that he is admitted thereto
“ by election.” The manner in which the tanist was appointed is thus described. “ Presently after “ the death of any of their captains, they assemble “themselves to chuse another in his stead, and nomi. “nate the next brother; and then next to him do “they chuse next of the blood to the tanist, who shall “next succeed him in the said captaincy."-Spencer's View of Ireland.
The custom of Gavelkind has doubtless been derive ed from the same origin. “ The partible quality “ also of lands, by the custom of Gavelkind, which “ still obtains in many parts of England, and did “ universally over Wales till the reign of Henry VIII. “ is undoubtedly of British original. So likewise is " the ancient division of the goods of an intestate “ between his widow and children, or next of kin; “ which has since been revived by the statute of “ distributions,”-Blackstone's Commentaries, Vol. iv. p. 408.
“I have heard that the beginning and cause of this “ ordinance among the Irish,was especially for the der “ fence and maintenance of their lands in their poste“rity, and for excluding all innovation or alienation “ thereof unto strangers, and especially to the English. “For when their captain dieth, if the Signiorie should “ descend to his child, and he perhaps an infant, an“other peradventure step in between, or thrust him out “by strong band, being then unable to defend his right, “ or to withstand the force of a foreigner, and therefore " they do appoint the eldest of the kinne to have the 5* Signiorie, for that he commonly is a man of strong "sears, and better experience to maintain the inheri
“ tance, and to defend the country, either against the
next bordering lords which use commonly to encroach “one on another,as each one is stronger, or against the “ English, which they think lie still in wait to wipe them “out of their lands and territories. And to this end the “Tanist is always ready known, if it should happen “the captain suddenly to die, or to be slain in battle, or * to be out of the country, to defend and keep it from “all such doubts and dangers. For which cause the .“ Tanist has also a share of the country allotted unto 16" him, and certain cuttings and spendings upon all the “inhabitants under the lord." --Spencer's View of Ire. land.
It must certainly be allowed, that there are some beautiful pieces of Irish poetry still extant; but I have met with scarcely any thing comparable to the Gaelic poetry ascribed to Ossian. The Irish, indeed, have poems which they attribute to Ossian;, they are, however, as different from the Highland poems which bear the same name, as the productions of the first of poets are from those of the most insiguificant rhymer.
Let it not be thought that this opinion proceeds from nationality : for no one can be more willing to do the fullest justice to every subject which may be supposed in any way to affect the honour of the Irish nation than myself. But it is impossible for any one to read a page of that invaluable treasure of Gaelic poetry ascribed to Ossian, without feeling satisfied that its author possessed a genius of the first order, and that no poet of modern times was competent for such a production. This is the opinion of every one who has read these poems in Gaelic, however unbelieving formerly.
Let those who have doubted of the authenticity of these poems in consequence of the fallacious remarks of Mr. Laing, compare his critique with the Gaelic and not with the translation of Macpherson. They will find, that those phrases from which Mr.
Laing thinks he discovers plagiarism do not belong to Ossian, but to his spirited translator; and that, consequently, the laboured critique of this gentleman comes to nothing. It only proves that Macpherson, instead of expressing the ideas of his poet in language altogether his own, accepted, in some instances, of those which were formed ready for his use, and which he, no doubt, conceived, nearly conveyed the meaning of the Celtic Bard.