Poems of Ossian by James MacPherson

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THE POEMS OF OSSIAN

by

JAMES MACPHERSON

A PRELIMINARY DISCOURSE.

As Swift has, with some reason, affirmed that all sublunary

happiness consists in being well deceived, it may possibly be the

creed of many, that it had been wise, if after Dr. Blair's ingenious

and elegant dissertation on "the venerable Ossian," all doubts

respecting what we have been taught to call his works had forever

ceased: since there appears cause to believe, that numbers who

listened with delight to "the voice of Cona," would have been happy,

if, seeing their own good, they had been content with these poems

accompanied by Dr. Blair's judgment, and sought to know no more.

There are men, however, whose ardent love of truth rises, on all

occasions, paramount to every other consideration; and though the

first step in search of it should dissolve the charm, and turn a

fruitful Eden into a barren wild, they would pursue it. For those,

and for the idly curious in literary problems, added to the wish of

making this new edition of "The Poems of Ossian" as well-informed as

the hour would allow, we have here thought it proper to insert some

account of a renewal of the controversy relating to the genuineness

of this rich treasure of poetical excellence.

Nearly half a century has elapsed since the Publication of the poems

ascribed by Mr. Macpherson to Ossian, which poems he then professed

to have collected in the original Gaelic, during a tour through the

Western Highlands and Isles; but a doubt of their authenticity

nevertheless obtained, and, from their first appearance to this day,

has continued in various degrees to agitate the literary world. In

the present year, "A Report," springing from an inquiry instituted

for the purpose of leaving, with regard to this matter, "no hinge or

loop to hang a doubt on," has been laid before the public. As the

committee, in this investigation, followed, in a great measure, that

line of conduct chalked out by David Hume to Dr. Blair, we shall,

previously to stating their precise mode of proceeding, make several

large and interesting extracts from the historian's two letters on

this subject.

"I live in a place," he writes, "where I have the pleasure of

frequently hearing justice done to your dissertation, but never heard

it mentioned in a company, where some one person or other did not

express his doubts with regard to the authenticity of the poems which

are its subject; and I often hear them totally rejected with disdain

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