The Sublime Savage: A Study of James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian

By Fiona J. Stafford | Go to book overview

taneous record of personal experience was completely at odds with Gerard's vision of the artist selecting and rearranging his material according to his specially refined taste. Indeed, any attempt to account for great art seemed doomed to failure. Whether the poet was seen as a passive mirror of his society, or whether his successes were attributed to the mechanical faculty of taste, there was something lacking. In the empirical approach to literature and in the efforts to prove its usefulness to society, any recognition of imaginative power was lost. The idea of Original Genius both obsessed and eluded the academics at Aberdeen in the mid-eighteenth century and when Macpherson came to tackle the ancient poetry of the Celts, the conflicting influences of his education were to come pouring out.


NOTES
1.
The Works of Thomas Reid, ed. W. Hamilton, ( Edinburgh 1846), 200-01.
2.
Quoted by J. Ramsay, Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, ed. A. Allardyce, 2 vols, ( Edinburgh 1888), I, 545; cf G. Gleig, "'James Macpherson'", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd edn., ( Edinburgh 1801), Supplement, vol ii, 109: 'he displayed more genius than learning entertaining the society of which he was a member, and even diverting the younger part of it from their studies, by his humorous and doggerel rhymes'.
3.
Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, ed. D. Brewster, 18 vols, ( Edinburgh 1830), xiii, 222.
4.
The words are John Home's, who met Macpherson in 1759, Report, App., 68.
5.
Ramsay, op. cit., I, 545-46. cf. Carruthers, The Highland Notebook, 309: 'The acrimonious controversy with Johnson irritated him extremely; and there are many coarse epigrams, lampoons, and parodies, among his unpublished papers, in which the great moralist is treated very unceremoniously'.
6.
Macpherson's name appears on the Matriculation List, P. J. Anderson , Roll of Alumni of the University and King's College, Aberdeen, 1596-1860, ( Aberdeen 1900), 78.
7.
A. Keith, A Thousand Years of Aberdeen, ( Aberdeen 1972), 300-30.
8.
Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands, 10.
9.
J. M. Bulloch, A History of the University of Aberdeen 1495-1895, ( London 1895), 148. Gerard was elected Regent at Marischal in 1750 at the age of 22.
10.
P. J. Anderson, Studies in the History of the University, ( Aberdeen 1906), 73-96; D. D. McElroy, 'The Literary Clubs and Societies of Eighteenth Century Scotland', (unpublished Ph.D dissertation, University of Edinburgh 1952), 127-37.
11.
The new curriculum was adopted in December 1752, according to the Scots Magazine, xiv, 1752, 606. Full details were later published,

-37-

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The Sublime Savage: A Study of James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations viii
  • Prologue 1
  • Notes 4
  • Chapter One - Macpherson's Childhood in the Scottish Highlands 6
  • Notes 20
  • Chapter Two - Macpherson at the University of Aberdeen 1752-1755 24
  • Notes 37
  • Chapter Three - Macpherson's Early Poetry 40
  • Notes 58
  • Charter Four the Highlander 61
  • Notes 75
  • Chapter Five - The Death of Oscur 77
  • Notes 94
  • Chapter Six - Fragments of Ancient Poetry 96
  • Notes 111
  • Chapter Seven - The Highland Tours 113
  • Notes 129
  • Chapter Eight - Fingal 133
  • Notes 149
  • Chapter Nine - Macpherson's Vision of Celtic Scotland 151
  • Notes 160
  • Chapter Ten the Response to Ossian 163
  • Notes 178
  • Epilogue 181
  • Surviving Gaelic Manuscripts collected by James Macpherson 184
  • Index 188
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