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One more effort was made in 1826, when Brougham again made a good third. He was not easily daunted, and he would probably have tried again had he not been chosen in 1830, partly in consequence of his nearness to success in Westmoreland, to contest the county of York as the colleague of Lord Morpeth. The attempt would be vain,' he wrote in his address to the electors of Yorkshire, 'to conceal the exultation which fills my mind upon the prospect of this extraordinary event. It was indeed an extraordinary event that a barrister who had no personal connection with the county, not even possessing, before his candidature was decided on, the necessary freehoid qualification, should have been selected to contest the representation of the largest and most important constituency in the kingdom. Still more extraordinary was his return, along with Lord Morpeth, by a large majority over the Tory candidates. It may help to confirm those who are in doubt about candidates for county elections at the present time, and who are disposed to think local connection indispensable, to mention that before Brougham was selected the same misgivings made themselves heard. The madness of putting forward a man who had no qualification except his public eminence was loudly insisted on, and certain failure was predicted. Brougham's amazing exertions in the course of the contest, which may be paralleled with Mr. Gladstone's campaign in Scotland, had much to do with his success, and that success powerfully influenced the county elections which followed.
The necessity of winning the counties in 1830 was emphatically recognised. While Brougham stood for York, Joseph Hume was put forward for Middlesex. In this case also, it was only after much hesitation that a candidate of such a type was selected. Mr. Hume's candidature was at first looked upon as a rash experiment. But eventually he was returned without a contest. All over the country results were achieved which fully justified the wisdom of making a determined attack upon the Tory strongholds. When losses and gains were counted at the close of the election, it appeared that of the 82 members returned by the 40 counties of England, only 28 were steady adherents of the Ministry, 47 were avowed adherents of the Opposition, and 7 of the neutral cast did not lean much to the Government.
It is no part of the purpose of the present paper to analyse the differences between the circumstances of 1830 and 1880. But the two situations have this in common, that a mischievous national policy cannot be thoroughly and securely reversed without the help of the counties, and that this help may be the reward of vigorous effort now no less than in 1830. The effort is certainly as well worth making now as it was fifty years ago.
MACPHERSON, BURNS, AND SCOTT IN THE
TO THE MODERN REVOLUTION
When went there by an age since the great floor
SHAKESPEARE Julius Cæsar.
ACPHERSON, a man of nine-and-forty, had 1 en famous for
a quarter of a century, when Burns, at n ne-and-twenty, was a lion of the Edinburgh season of 1787, and Sc tt was a boy of sixteen. The two latter chanced to meet at a party at the Sheens, in the house of Dr. Adam Ferguson, author of the famous Essay on Civil Society' (1767), and History of the Ro aan Republic. Burns was introduced by Dugald Stewart, and Scott v 'as brought out by the Doctor's son, the future Sir Adam Ferguson. Black, to whom the first great step in the Chemistry of Gases is due; Hutton, the author of the geological theory of Igneous Causation (which was in this country opposed to the theory of the German Werner); and Home, the reverend author of the tragedy of Douglas,' and MacPherson's first literary friend, appear also to have been all at this party. I wonder that the meeting bas never been commemorated by one of our historical painters. But should it ever be so, I trust that our painter will add MacPherson to the group. He and his two great predecessors never, indeed, met. But it will be quite in accordance with historical probability to represent them as having met at the house of this common friend of all three. And the picture will only gain the higher truth and unity of the idea by the introduction of a person not present in reality. For both the younger had been, in fact, already powerfully influenced by the era-making, though youthful, work of the elder poet, who had now been for long an historical and political writer, agent for the Nabob of Arcot, and M.P. for Camilford. My favourite authors, Burns had written some years before (1783), "are of the sentimental kind, such as Shenstone, particularly his “ Elegies ; ”
Sterne, especially his “Sentimental Journey;" MacPherson's “Ossian,” &c. Nor is anything more certain than that, all through his early life .... the “ Voice of Cona," the music of Ossian, full of the melancholy wail of the Western waves, was often in his ears.' 3 And Ossian and Spenser,' says Scott, in a letter to Miss Seward, were two books which the old bard [Dr. Blacklock] put into my hands, and which I
A street so called in the outskirts of Edinburgh, from its proximity to the remains of an ancient monastery dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena.
2 Chambers, Life and Works of Burns, vol. ii. pp. 55-8.
3 Jack, 'Burns's Unpublished Commonplace Book, Macmillan's Magazine, April * Lockhart, Life of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford edition, p. 128.
devoured rather than perused. Their tales were for a long time so much my delight, that I could repeat without remorse whole cantos of the one and duans of the other.' 4
A print of Bunbury's on the wall of the room would be the motive giving unity to the composition I would suggest to an bistorical painter. It represented a soldier lying dead on the snow, his dog sitting in misery on one side, and on the other his widow with a child in her arms. It arrested the attention of Burns, and be read aloud the lines inscribed under the print :
Cold on Canadian hills or Minden's plain,
Before getting to the end of these lines Burns's voice faltered, aud not seeing, for tears, that the name of the author was printed, though in a small character, at the bottom of the lines, he asked if anyone could tell him by whom they were written. Scott modestly whispered to a friend, They're written by one Langhorne.' This being mentioned to Burns, he turned his strong and robust figure and massive countenance, and fixing on the pale lame boy the glowing eye of which Scott afterwards said that he never saw such another eye in a human head,' said, You'll be a man yet, sir.'
And let this picture within the picture be supposed to represent a battle-field either on Canadian hills or Minden's plain, it will be equally significant of the time that gave birth to our three poets. In the years from that both of the battle of Minden and of the conquest of Canada (1759) to the year of their meeting (1787), and onward to the climax of the fame of the youngest of them, Great Britain, with armies on every continent and fleets on every sea, was engaged in the most tremendous struggles of her whole history. And, sons as they were of that revolutionary epoch, our three poetsstanding there together, the eldest in his mature, the younger in his youthful, manhood, and the third in his boyhood—were also fathers and initiators of a new epoch no less revolutionary. Only, therefore, in the relation of each to the epoch of which he was the offspring, and to that of which he was the initiator, only, in a word, in relation to the Modern Revolution can MacPherson, or Burns, or Scott be rightly understood, or justly judged, either considered separately or as a group. Hence, to indicate the respective relations of these three Scottish poets to the general movement of the Revolution will be the aim of this essay. From this their relations to one another will be evident. Certain general affinities of thought will be seen to unite them, and to point clearly, if not always consciously, towards the New Epoch.
* The Country Justice, a poem in three parts, written at the request of Mr. Burns,
I. MacPHERSON. Before pointing out those general historical relations of each of our three great poets which we, looking back, may now see-though they, looking around, could not-it will be both interesting and instructive to note, in each case, the account they give of themselves and their objects in introducing their chief works to the world.
"Several gentlemen of the Highlands and Isles,' says MacPherson in his preface to ‘Fingal,' 'generously gave me all the assistance in their power, and it was by their means I was enabled to complete the Epic Poem. How far it comes up to the rules of the Epopæia is the province of criticism to examine. It is only my business to lay it before the reader as I bave found it. . . . A man diffident of his abilities might ascribe his own compositions to a person whose remote antiquity and whose situation when alive might well answer for faults which would be inexcusable in a writer of this age. . . . But of this I am persuaded . . . . that some will think, notwithstanding the disadvantages with which the works ascribed to Ossian appear, it would be a very uncommon instance of self-denial in me to disown them, were they really of my composition.' Thus, as still a translator rather than an original poet, and with no suspicion of the immense European significance of his work, Mac Pherson followed up his . Fragments of Ancient Poetry'(1759) with the complete Epic and other Poems, thus modestly prefaced (1760).
Was he, indeed, but a translator, as he professed, or an original poet? This was the question debated in the Ossianic controversy, though it was usually stated in less complimentary terms. Was he an honest man, or a forger and impostor? We can, I think, now pretty confidently answer this question. MacPherson was both a translator and an original poet, and he was not a forger and impostor. Let me briefly state those results of more than a century of Ossianic controversy, or rather those results of the last decade or two of scientifically conducted research bearing on this controversy, which form the grounds of this conclusion.
By these researches three great facts have been incontrovertibly established. The first is that, from 1872 back to 1512, transcriptions have been made by various collectors from recitations of Gaelic ballads, immemorially ascribed to Ossian, and of which the subjects are, speaking generally, identical with those of the poems published by MacPherson. But, secondly, if ancient unquestionably is the substance, as unquestionably modern would appear to be the form, of those so-called poems of Ossian published by MacPherson. Though the people still recite, as they have for centuries recited, Ossianic poems, no uneducated Highlander,' says Mr. Campbell, bas ever recited to me MacPherson's Gaelic.' And to this I have but to add that the first known Scottish collector of Gaelic folk-lore the Dean of Lismore, nearly four hundred years ago-would, judging from the heroic ballads found in his collection, have declared that such also had been his own experience. Utterly different, then, is the MacPhersonic form from anything found in genuine popular tradition. Conversant as this is with Fion and the Feinne, it knows nothing of a * Fingal, King of Morven.' But a third fact has been brought to light namely, that the eighteenth century was a period of remarkable poetical activity in the Highlands, and that, if not certain, it is at least very highly probable that already before MacPherson epical poems had been constructed out of the old popular ballads. It was such epical poems that MacPherson probably used. Granted, then, that no such ancient epic as Fingal ever existed, MacPherson may still have truly represented bimself as a translator. Nor is MacPherson's honesty thus saved at the expense of his genius. For it will still remain true that, as Mr. Skene says, lo · MacPherson really showed wonderful tact and originality in producing his English version;' and that, as Mr. Burton does not hesitate to pronounce," he brought to his work the true power of a great poet.'
6 First and foremost among these researches stand those of Skene and MacLauchlin, Book of the Dean of Lismore; Campbell, Leabhar na Feinne, or Hermio Gaelic Ballads, collected from 1512 to 1872, the most complete and decisive book of all ; the same author's Popular Tales of the West Highlands ; Clark, Poems of Ossian, Gaelic and English, with a Dissertation on their Authenticity; Blackie, Language and
To pass now to the more special subject of our inquiry—the rela-tion of MacPherson's 'Ossian' to the general movement of the Revolution. How is this movement, in its intellectual and moral aspect, to be most distinctively characterised? As a return to Nature. Thus, at least sufficiently for our present purpose, the intellectual and moral character of the revolutionary movement in the eighteenth century may be generally indicated. England, in her Republic, Restoration, and Revolution, had led the van of political progress in the seventeenth century. Now she had the still greater glory of leading the van of an intellectual, which was to prepare a new political, progress. In Shakespeare, Art, and in Newton, Philosophy, returned to the truth of Nature; and it was now that the influence of these great Englishmen became European. Shakespeare was introduced into Germany and translated by Wieland (1762-66), as afterwards, more adequately, by Tieck and A. W. Schlegel; and, as the result of the visit to England of Voltaire (1728–30), Newton, Hobbes, and Locke were popularised in France. At the same time Wolf's · Prolegomena’ to Homer was a fountain, in Germany, of new historical, religious, and mythological criticism ; and “Rousseau's exaltation of the Greek and Roman types in all their concentration and intensity
evoked that virile and patriotic energy which presently saved France from partition, and
? Leabhar na Feinne.
9 Among the more important evidences of this are the testimonies with respect to the contents of the Douay MSS. See Clark's Poems of Ossian, Dissertation.
10 Book of the Dean of Lismore, preface.