Cabinet 9

In 1760, James Macpherson published Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and Translated from the Gaelic or Erse language.

The Poems of Ossian. Vol. I.

This led to his ‘finding’ Fingal, an epic poem written by Ossian, narrator of a cycle of poems translated from ancient sources in the Scots Gaelic. Macpherson then produced a collected Works of Ossian in 1765.

Initially, excitement abounded, with Thomas Jefferson, Walter Scott, and Goethe impressed by the work. Questions of authenticity, however, set in, with Dr Johnson leading the charge, calling Macpherson ‘a mountebank, a liar, and a fraud, and that the poems were forgeries.’ Controversy continued.

Lines 10-11 (p. 238) run: ‘The streams of Cona answer to the voice of Ossian.’ Cona is the river Coe, of Glencoe, supposedly Ossian’s birthplace.

James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian. Vol. I. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1784-85.

The Poems of Ossian. Vol. I.