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At that period too, such of the MSS. ot Iona, or Icolmkill, as had escaped destruction, were in part carried to Douay and Rome ; at least the chartularies, and those others, which, by the monks, were esteemed the most valuable. Of what was carried to Douay, we apprehend that they perished in the French Revolution; but with respect to those carried to Rome, it is still possible that some discovery may be made.* of Angus, about 1470. After having studied at Dundee and Aberdeen, he was sent to the University of Paris, where, having particularly applied himself to philosophy, he became the professor. Through the patronage of Elphinston, Bishop of Aberdeen, he was afterwards appointed a Principal of the University of Aberdeen.

* The late celebrated Dr. O’Leary had it in contemplation to write AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’s POEMS. 393 It is moreover said in the Statistical Account of Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen, parishes belonging to Mull, and the Island of Iona forms part of the latter parish, that some of the MSS. alluded to were carried to Inverary; and that one of the Dukes of Montague found fragments of them in the shops of that town used as snuff-paper: and, to complete the catastrophe, the whole of the then records of Scotland, deposited in the Castle of Stirling, fell ■ (anno 1651) into the hands of General Alonk, and were by him transmitted to England. Why must we add, to the disgrace of the age in which it happened, that, to avoid trouble and expense, by much the greater part of those records having been shipped for Leith, soon after the Restoration, were lost at sea ! Of what still might have remained with private individuals, much must have been lost, and materially injured from the feuds, civil wars, and rebellions in Scotland.

These are the causes why so few Gaelic MSS.

and historical works, in that language, are now extant. The records of the other Celtic nations {have not been more fortunate; and a melancholy reflection must thence irresistibly obtrude itself on every enlightened mind, when it finds beyond its an Ancient History of Ireland, and was often heard to say, that to do it effectually, it would be necessary for him to make researches on the continent, and to remain at Rome two or three years, for the purpose of examining the ancient Irish manuscripts carried thither from Ireland, as the best documents for such a history. There too, it may be presumed, the most valuable Gaelic manuscripts and best documents for an Ancient History of Scotland are to be found.


reach nearly all the original monuments of a people, who, as hath been observed, once reigned over Europe. * Turgot Bishop of St. Andrews, who was preceptor to the children of King Malcolm Kenmore, f mentions, that in the beginning of the eleventh century, the Gaelic was the general language spoken in Scotland; that it was even the prevailing language at court, and that the clergy of those days could speak no other language. It was about the middle, or near the end of the eleventh century, when, by the introduction of the Saxon dialect into Scotland, we may date the decline of the Gaelic, more especially in that part of Scotland known by the name of the Lowlands, in contradistinction to the Highlands. As a proof, however, that the Gaelic tongue was prevalent on public and solemn occasions in Scotland, subsequent to the period just alluded to, it may be proper to mention, that in the year 1249, when Alexander III. then but eight years of age, succeeded his father, there appeared at his coronation, as we are * La Martiniere in his Geog. and Hist. Dictionary, under the article Celts, says, that “ Ortelius a fait une carte de 1’Europe ancienne avec ce litre, Europam sire Celticam veterem sic describere conabar Abrahamus Ortelius.

He was of opinion, that the name of Celts had been general to all the people of Europe. Cluvier had nearly the same idea, but more limited, for according to him (Germ. Antiq. L. I. c. 2.) “ la Celtique comprenoit I’lllyrie, la Germanic, la Gaule, 1’Espagne, et les Isles Britanniques.” f Turgot’s Life of Malcolm III. of Scotland and St. Margaret, written about the close of the eleventh century.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’s POEMS. 395 told by Skinner* an old Highlander, with venerable gray hairs, genteely dressed in a scarlet cloak, who, falling on his knees, addressed the young king with

the following salutation in the Gaelic language :

–  –  –

In this blessing, or salutation, we are told by Skinner, that the venerable Highlander traced back the genealogy of the kings of Scotland up to Fergus, son of Fearchard, and throughout to the supposed founder of the first Milesian colony from Spain. It may be worthy of notice, that this happened thirty-five years prior to the destruction of the ancient records bv Edward the First. But we cannot discover that *j this ancient custom was continued at any subsequent coronation of the kings of Scotland, and have incidentally adduced this historical fact to prove, although the Gaelic language had in a great measure ceased to be the fashionable language spoken at the court of Scotland since the days of Malcolm Kenmore, *■ Skinner Eccles. Hist, of Scotland, Vol. I. p. 301, referring to ScotiChron. Lib. X. c. 20 Jo. Major, Lib. IV. c. 11.


in the beginning of the eleventh century, that on such public occasions as a coronation, the ancient custom of a salutation in Gaelic, by the royal genealogist, was not disused so late as the middle of the thirteenth century.

It is remarkable, that in England, about the same period, a considerable change was effected in the Anglo-Saxon language by the Norman conquest.

William had entertained the difficult project of totally abolishing the English language, and for that purpose he ordered that in all schools throughout the kingdom, the youth should be instructed in the French tongue. By the same authority, the pleadings in the supreme courts of judicature were in French. The deeds were written in the same language ; the laws were composed in that idiom no other tongue was spoken at court; it became the language of all fashionable company; and the Engglish themselves, ashamed of their own country, affected to excel in that foreign dialect.

At the time William suppressed an insurrection of his Norman barons in England, anno 1074, many of the fugitive Normans are supposed to have fled into Scotland, where they were protected as well as the fugitive English by Malcolm ; and thence we may account for many Norman and English families in that country,')' and the many French and English words j: introduced into the language of the Lowlands of Scotland.

* French was used in pleadings and public deeds until the reign of Edward III. when, in 1377 it was abolished.

•j- Hume, Vol. I. p. 259. t Ibid. Vol. I. p. 266.

authenticity of ossian’s poems. 397 We learn from Rymer, Vol. II. p. 543, that in the reign of Edward I. anno 1291, the English chancellor, in his conference with the Scottish parliament, spoke in French; which was the language commonly made use of by all parties on that occasion. Some of the Scotch, and almost all the English barons, were of French origin ; they valued themselves upon it, and affected to despise the manners and language of the island. The French language, as then spoken and written, would scarcely be understood by Frenchmen of this day.

There are not wanting authorities from modern writers to prove, that the Gaelic was a written language in Scotland and Ireland at a very remote period. Bishop Nicolson, in his Historical Scottish Library, also Lines, and Sir Robert Sibbald, hear ample testimony to this fact.

At the period of the Reformation, the Gaelic being confined to a small portion of Scotland, and for many centuries before having ceased to be the language at court, it did not participate in the advantages which the other languages of Europe derived from the invention of printing. Ireland and Scotland had anciently such constant communication and intercourse with each other, that the language of both countries was nearly or altogether the same; and even at the present day they do not radically differ in their principles, although some innovations in the orthography have been introduced. In Ireland, the people enjoyed their own laws and customs, until the reigns of Elizabeth and James I ; and it was not till that late period, that the Gaelic (or Irish, as the


natives term it) ceased to be generally spoken by the Irish nobility and gentry, which may be said to have been at least six hundred years after it had ceased to be spoken at the court of Scotland. The Irish, therefore, had more Gaelic hooks printed than the Scots, and, it is believed, that there are many more ancient MSS. extant in that country than in Scotland. The ingenious Edward Lhuyd, in his Archteologia Britannica, published in 1707, gives an ample list of Irish MSS. existing in Trinity College, Dublin.* About the middle of the fifteenth century, the art of printing was discovered on the Continent, and was first introduced into England in 1468, just before the commencement of the civil wars, which for some years retarded its progress. The first book, known to have been printed in England, is in the public library at Cambridge ; it is a small volume, of forty-one leaves quarto, with this title, Expositis Sancti leronimi in simboluni Apostolorum ad Papem Laurent inm ; and, at the end, Explicit Expositis, &c. Impressa Oxonie et finita Anno Domini m.cccc.lxviii.

xvii die Decembris. In 1488, twenty years after this book had been printed at Oxford, Homer’s works were first printed, in folio, at Florence.

Although an English translation of the Bible was first completed by Tyndal in 15£7, and an Irish version first printed in 1685 ; yet no Gaelic translation was published in Scotland till within these twentyfive years, in the execution of which, the Rev. Dr.

Stuart, Minister of Luss, had a considerable share.

* See Notices of Gaelic and Irish MSS. at the end.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN S POEMS. 399 This translation has great merit, and is considered the standard of the Gaelic language. The translation of the Bible by Tyndal has tended to preserve, more than any other circumstance, the purity of the English language; yet it has since undergone some trivial alterations in its orthography. Many books, formerly printed in the black letter, are scarcely intelligible to an Englishman of this day. Mr. Barrington,* however, thinks, that it was not the translation of the Bible that settled the English tongue, but rather the statutes, which he apprehends have spoken in a purer dialect than any other production.

The Count Algarotti has made a remark on this subject, which, though rather whimsical in the comparison, appears on the whole to be just; namely, that the translation of the Bible is the test and standard of the language in England, while the standard in Italy is the Decameron of the lively Boccacio.

What is now called the standard of the Gothic language, is also that venerable monument, the translation of the Gospels. The MS. which is still preserved, is called Codex Argenteus, or Codex Aureus, from being written in silver capital letters, with a mixture of gold, and it is now in the library at Upsal, in Sweden. | A specimen of the writing may be seen in a work published by Serenius, titled Dictionarium Anglo-Swethico-Latinum.J This translation is generally attributed to Ulftlas, otherwise * Barrington on the Statutes.

t Celsius, Bibl. Upsal Historia, p. 86, ll6.

t Printed at Hamburgh, 1734.


Ulphilas, Bishop of the Gothic Christians in Dacia, Thracia, and Moesia. He filled the episcopal see from the year 360 until about 380, and is said to have invented the Gothic letters, as well as to have translated all the Scriptures into that language. Mr.

Astle, however, remarks, * that the ancient Gothic alphabet is very similar to the Greek, and is attributed to Ulphilas, Bishop of the Goths, who lived in Moesia about the year 370 after Christ; and that, as he translated the Bible into the Gothic tono-ue.

that circumstance might have occasioned the tradition of his having invented those letters: but Mr.

Astle is of opinion, that those characters were in use long before his time, f There has been recently published in quarto, at Leipsic, a new translation of the Bible in the Gothic language, by Ulfilas; with a literal interlined Latin translation, accompanied by a grammar and glossary, by B. F. C. Fulda.

The history of Scotland, from the earliest period to the death of James the First, in seventeen books, by Hector Boethius, was originally written in Latin, and the first edition of it was printed in folio at Paris in 1526. The next edition, with the addition of the eighteenth book, and part of the nineteenth, was printed in folio at Sausan in 1574. Thus far the author himself continued it, but what follows was the work of J. Ferrerius, a native of Piedmont, who * Astle, Origin and Progress of Writing, 2d Edit. p. 58.

f There exists another MS. translation of the Bible in the Gothic language, called Codex Carolinus, discovered in 1756 in the library of Wolfenbuttle, and published in 1762. This appears to have been written in Italy towards the end of the fifth century.

AUTHENTICITY OF OSSIAN’s POEMS. 401 carried it down to the end of James the Third’s reign.

Boethius’ history was translated into the Scottish language by John Ballanden, Archdeacon of Murray, who died at Rome in 1.550. R. Holinshed published it in English, in his English Chronicles, Vol. I.

We have, in the Notices of Books at the end of these Observations, given a short account of the writings of Gawiu Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, John Lesly, Bishop of Ross, and Sir David Lyndsay, who flourished in the sixteenth century; in this place, therefore, it is unnecessary to dwell upon them.

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