V Into the nineteenth century

Dictionaries of Scottish Gaelic in the century of Ossian

A collector of words from the mouths of informants might always collect information about those informants’ culture as well. This was true to some extent of the very first wordlists of Rotwelsch, which were accompanied by descriptions of some of the kinds of people who used the cryptolect, and a more scholarly joint interest in lexical and cultural information can be seen in the work of Edward Lhuyd in the British Isles, Johann Philipp von Strahlenberg in Inner Eurasia, Knud Leem in Finnmark, and Christoph Hartknoch in Prussia. As well as single words and items of cultural information, informants might also share longer passages which were part of their spoken repertoire. As we have seen, one of the observers of the Cuman language whose work is preserved in the second part of the Codex Cumanicus noted down some riddles, and a sixteenth-century German collector added some riddles and proverbs to a Russian wordlist. The first person to write down Scottish Gaelic riddles was Lhuyd, in one of the working manuscripts for his Glossography.1 Proverbs were included in most if not all dictionaries with a phraseological element, and snatches of popular verse were also widespread, as in the case of the couplet on the cultivation of catnip taken over from Ray’s Catalogue into the English dictionary tradition, or the jocular prayer before eating recorded by J. S. V Popowitsch in a manuscript collection of regionalisms from Upper Austria:

Father, may your blessing keep Flies and midges from our soup Nor let the goldfinch swim Therein.2

Lexicographers collected less jocular folk poetry and song as well. As we have seen, Bartol Durdevic recorded a Turkish folksong in the same book as his Turkish wordlist; Ogier de Busbecq’s collection of Crimean Gothic vocabulary ended with an enigmatic snatch of song; Richard James collected Russian vocabulary and songs; Christian

  • 1 Campbell, ‘Contribution of Edward Lhuyd’ 79.
  • 2 Popowitsch, ‘Dialectus Welsensis, Cremifanensis, et sup[erioris] Austr[iae]’ in Gugitz, ‘Popowitsch und seine Beitrage’ 100-6 at 103, ‘Gsegn uns Gott die Supn | Vor Fliegn und vor Muckn | Und vor Stigeliz | Dafi uns keiner in d’Supn sitzt’

Small Dictionaries and Curiosity. First edition. John Considine.

© John Considine 2017. First published 2017 by Oxford University Press.

Hennig added a Polabian folksong to his dictionary; George Low recorded a Norn ballad together with his wordlist of the language; at least one of the eighteenth-century explorers of Siberia collected songs as well as making wordlists. Other early examples could be added: for instance, in seventeenth-century Denmark, the Lutheran minister Peder Syv was a collector of traditional songs and also undertook a dictionary project.[1]

As the collection of folk poetry and song became an increasingly important part of European intellectual life, it also became more closely bound up with lexicography.[2] This chapter will sketch the association of lexicography and traditional poetry in the eighteenth-century dictionaries of Scottish Gaelic, with particular attention to the major literary controversy of eighteenth-century Scotland: the debate over the authenticity of James Macpherson’s Ossianic poetry, which was published as a series of translations from Gaelic originals. The next will show how similar associations between lexicography and song-collecting played out in the study of three other European languages, namely Faroese, Serbian, and Breton. A third chapter on a similar theme, the penultimate in this book, will then look a little more closely at the language in which the association between collecting words and collecting popular song was most vital, namely Finnish.

The lexicography of Scottish Gaelic and the collecting of traditional poetry in the language were already associated near the beginning of the eighteenth century, in the work of the historian, traveller, and polyglot James Fraser, minister of Wardlaw, a Highland parish where both Gaelic and Scots were spoken. A surviving catalogue of his manuscripts, drawn up not long before his death in 1709, gives a sense of the impressive range of his mind: he collected local plants, which he preserved in a bound volume called ‘Wiridarium Wardlaenese Herbal’; he made ‘A Dyary of Weather Contingencies’; he collected information about all the people of his parish, and in particular a ‘Bill of Mortality, 4°, containing all yt died Natives and Strangers in 46 years’; he made a book of Scottish place-names; he collected ‘Hibernilogia a volum of Irish verse, 4°’, Irish meaning ‘Gaelic’; and he compiled ‘An Irish Dictionary, in 4°’.[3] Although ‘Hibernilogia’ has been identified as a collection of original compositions by Fraser, this is unlikely, because titles in -logia were given to works of learning rather than to books of original verse.[4] The collection of Scottish traditional poetry by learned persons was just beginning in the last decades of Fraser’s life.[5]

On the one hand, Fraser’s interest in botany echoed that of John Ray and his interests in the observable natural world and the statistics of human life echoed those of Ray’s friends in the Royal Society (Fraser himself published a paper on Loch Ness in the society’s Philosophical Transactions); on the other, his interest in place-names belonged to the antiquarian tradition which had produced some important scholarly lexicography in England from the 1540s onwards.[6] More remarkable than either, his collection both of Gaelic poetry and of Gaelic words looked forward to something new.

Poetry and lexicography also came together in the life of the maker of the first printed wordlist of Scottish Gaelic, the subject-ordered Leabhar a theagasc ainminnin (‘A Book to Teach Names [of things]’) or A nuadh fhocloir Gaoidheilg & Beurla/A Galick and English Vocabulary of 1741. It ran to about 3750 Scottish Gaelic-English entries in its main sequence, but many of these offered multiple Gaelic equivalents for a single English word, so it registered more like six thousand Gaelic words in all. It was the work of the schoolmaster Alexander MacDonald (Alistair Mac Domhnuill on the Gaelic title page of the dictionary, also known as Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Alexander, son of the Reverend Alexander’). It has been called ‘the first printed secular book in the [Scottish Gaelic] language, but the word secular needs to be qualified: it was, as the English title-page stated, ‘For the Use of the Charity-Schools, founded and endued in the Highlands of Scotland[,] by The Honourable, the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge’.[7]

Like Maunoir’s study of Breton, and like the early study of Polabian, the study of Gaelic in Scotland was closely connected with the control of perceived superstition and ignorance, the end for which the Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) had been founded in 1709. In 1716, the year after the penultimate Jacobite rising, the society expressed its language policy: its schools were to use English as their language of instruction, with the aim of ‘rooting out their Irish language’ from the pupils.[8] A report to the society six years later proposed that teaching English to Gaelic-speaking pupils required bilingual textbooks, notably ‘an English and Irish vocables, in other words a simple Gaelic-English dictionary; we saw in the previous chapter that this point had already been made in discussions of education in the Highlands before the society had been formed.[9] In 1725, it was decided that a dictionary should be based on the latest edition of a Latin-English work ‘Entituled the new vocabularie for the use of Schools’.[10] The first edition of this textbook had been published in 1702, as A New Vocabulary English and Latine, for the Use of Young Scholars; it was a classed English-Latin wordlist based on John Ray’s Dictionariolum trilingue. The Scottish dictionary was, to be sure, somewhat rearranged from Ray’s—for instance, its first section, ‘Of God, corresponds to Ray’s nineteenth, and is much shorter than Ray’s—and included Scottish content absent from the Dictionariolum, so that Ray’s ‘A Lake Lacus becomes ‘A Lake, or Loch Lams’; Ray’s distinction between A Rivulet Rivus’ and A Brook Torrens’ is made into the finer, and Scotticized, three-way distinction between ‘a Brook or Bourn Rivus’ then ‘a Rill or Stripe Rivulus’ and then ‘a Land- flood or Speat Torrens’; and a word for a feature uncommon in Ray’s flat Essex but ubiquitous in the Highlands, ‘a Cataract or Linn Cataracta’ is added.[11] Perhaps a Scottish taste for genealogy leads the New Vocabulary to present not only the heraldic authority Lord Lyon King of Arms but also ‘The Grandson’s Grandson’s Grandson Trinepos’ when Ray goes no further than ‘a great Grandchild Pronepos’.[12] But the New Vocabulary’s lists of names for trees and fishes, for instance, are clearly adapted from Ray.[13] So, the Dictionariolum was used directly in Lhuyd’s lexicography of Gaelic and indirectly in MacDonald’s.

Alexander MacDonald’s procedure in adapting the New Vocabulary to produce Leabhar a theagasc ainminnin was simple: he stripped out the Latin words and replaced them with Scottish Gaelic translations of the English, working in the first instance from his own personal knowledge of the Gaelic language, and then asking ‘Reverend Ministers of the Presbyteries of Mull and Lorn’ in the western Highlands ‘as well as many others’ to verify his translations.[14] As far as this was the case, he can be seen as a bilingual lexicographer rather like his older Polabian-speaking contemporary Johann Parum Schultze, making a pioneering dictionary of his native language with the help of his knowledge of the written tradition of a more widely spoken language. But unlike Schultze, MacDonald also used printed sources. These underlay his alphabetized appendix of nearly six hundred ‘Words and Terms that most frequently occur in Divinity’ which were not to be found in the New Vocabulary; they were ‘the Irish Confession of Faith, Catechism, Book of Common-Prayer in Irish, and what other Helps I could meet with, in other words the Scottish Gaelic translations, published in 1725, of the Westminster Confession and the catechisms, and the Irish translation of the Book of Common Prayer first published in 1608 and reprinted in 1712 (there would be no Scottish Gaelic translation until 1794).[15]

Unlike Schultze as well, MacDonald was guided by a specific printed dictionary as he made his wordlist. Sometimes the guidance was too close, and a feature which had been appropriate in the English-Latin New Vocabulary was less so in Gaelic-English form. This was even true of the Gaelic subtitle, A nuadhfhocloir, which means ‘a new dictionary’: there had been English-Latin vocabularies before, so it was reasonable to point out that the textbook published in 1702 was a new one, but MacDonald’s dictionary was the first of its kind, not a new member of a tradition. Likewise, to return to an example at which we have just glanced, ‘The Grandson’s Grandson’s Grandson’ translated a single Latin word, but MacDonald had to translate the clumsy English literally into Gaelic as ‘Ferogha fhirogha an fhiroga’; and likewise again, English lexical items such as journeyman might have tolerably neat Latin equivalents but might call for several lines of explanation in Gaelic.[16] The next maker of a Gaelic dictionary would complain that ‘most things are expressed by circumlocution’ in the Galick and English vocabulary, and although this is too severe, it does touch on a weakness.[17] Had MacDonald been at work throughout the sixteen years between 1725, when the SSPCK decided on the making of a Gaelic dictionary, and 1741, when the Galick and English vocabulary appeared, he might have produced a richer and more sophisticated word- list. In fact, he began work towards the end of this period—as late as November 1737, the society seems to have had an Edinburgh minister called David McColm in mind as its lexicographer—and had finished by 1739, although the dictionary was only published in 1741.[18]

The SSPCK’s dictionary project had, as we have seen, originally been conceived as a means of ‘rooting out their Irish language’ from young speakers of Gaelic, and in the dedication to the Galick and English Vocabulary, addressed to the Marquess of Lothian, MacDonald accepted that the book would further the spreading of English, and would thus make the children who learned from it better qualified to become servants, or join the navy or the army.[19] With hindsight, it seems strange that he should have written in these terms, for he was not only a native speaker of Gaelic but became one of the great Gaelic poets of the eighteenth century. He even wrote a poem in praise of the Gaelic language, which claimed, humorously, that Adam and Eve had spoken it in Paradise.[20] In 1745, he joined the Jacobite rising—one of its heroes, Flora MacDonald, was his first cousin—and he and the son of his dedicatee Lord Lothian fought on opposite sides at Culloden.[21] He survived both the rising and the publication in 1751 of a collection of his poems, Ais-eiridh na sean chanoin Albannaich (‘Resurrection of the ancient Scottish tongue’), some of which were fervently and dangerously Jacobite, though the poetry of his earlier years had been less political.[22] MacDonald’s famous long poem ‘Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill’ (‘Clanranald’s galley’) is about a voyage from the Hebrides to Antrim, and is also about the survival of ‘the Clanranald ship of state, a microcosm of the Gael and of Scotland’: he was descended in the male line from the chiefs of the clan MacDonald of Clanranald. This poem is ‘consciously made from existing oral elements’, a point to which we shall return in a moment.[23] Before his death around the year 1770, MacDonald had started to collect orally transmitted narratives in Gaelic, and had acquired some early poetic manuscripts.[24]

MacDonald was by no means the only investigator of traditional Gaelic poetry in eighteenth-century Scotland. As we have seen, James Fraser’s lost ‘Hibernilogia a volum of Irish verse’ is likely to have been a collection of traditional verse. Another clergyman, Alexander Pope, minister of Reay in Caithness, collected Gaelic poetry from oral informants around 1739; the philosopher and historian Adam Ferguson claimed to have written down a piece of heroic poetry recited to him by a tailor in 1740; there were subsequently a number of other collectors, notably James MacLagan, minister at two locations in Perthshire, who collected more than nine thousand lines of traditional heroic ballads, and Donald MacNicol, minister at Lismore in the Inner Hebrides.[25] The most famous of them all was James Macpherson, who in 1760 published Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland, following this volume up with two short epics, Fingal and Temora. All three were composed in English and marketed as translations from Gaelic poems more than a few centuries old, some of them being supposedly the work of a third-century bard called Ossian. Macpherson certainly used material from the Gaelic poetry on which MacDonald drew, and his fieldwork, which was genuine and extensive, led him not only to oral tradition but to manuscripts.[26] Indeed, Macpherson and MacDonald both obtained manuscripts from one important source, the collections of the Mac Mhuirich family, bards in a continuous succession from the thirteenth century to the eighteenth, who ‘were deprived of their lands’ and had ‘lost their alacrity and zeal’ by the time MacDonald and Macpherson came to them in search of manuscripts, like the owners of Irish manuscripts who sold them to Edward Lhuyd.[27] Nor did Macpherson ever deny that the arrangement of his materials was partly his own work.[28] In this respect, he may well have been indebted to the theory of his former teacher Thomas Blackwell that the Homeric epics were worked up by subsequent editors from shorter poems by Homer, themselves with roots in popular tradition.[29] It has been suggested that he was also aware of and inspired by the ways in which Alexander MacDonald had brought traditional materials together in the ‘Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill’, which ‘may thus be seen as the middle link of the chain that connects Homer, Blackwell, James Macpherson and Elias Lonnrot, the last-named being a Finnish compiler of a national epic and a dictionary of Finnish, to whom we shall return below.[30] But although Macpherson drew on Gaelic originals in the Fragments and Fingal (and to a much lesser extent in Temora), his claim to have been primarily a translator and arranger was a deliberate falsehood.

The authenticity of the Ossianic poems was the subject of a famous controversy in Great Britain, which hinged on the double question of manuscript and oral authorities: the claim that the poems were authentic was tied to the claim that they were extant in manuscript and known to many people to whom they had been transmitted in a long oral tradition, and the counterargument was tied to the claim that neither manuscripts corresponding to Macpherson’s poems nor the singers of tales corresponding to those poems could be produced when they were called for. Further afield, the Ossianic poems were greatly admired. For instance, the American statesman and polymath Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1773 to the poet’s kinsman Charles McPherson, with whom he was acquainted, to ask for the originals—in a printed edition if one existed, and otherwise in a legible transcript of the manuscripts—together with a grammar and dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.[31] The reply that ‘the Gaelic manuscript, of these poems, cannot be procured’ and, further, that ‘A few religious Books excepted, we have no publication in the Gaelic Language, no dictionary, no grammar’ was accompanied by a copy of the next best thing to a dictionary, a copy of MacDonald’s Galick and English Vocabulary.[32]

A year or two before Jefferson made his request, a student at the University of Glasgow called William Shaw had the idea of making a grammar of Scottish Gaelic. Shaw had been born ‘in one of the humblest cottages in the Highlands’, a black-house so low that it could only be entered by crawling through the doorway.[33] It was in the parish of Kilmory on the Isle of Arran, which had, forty years before his birth, been a predominantly but not exclusively Gaelic-speaking area, and was by the time of his adulthood described (by an enemy of Shaw’s) as a place where bad Gaelic was spoken.[34] He once claimed that ‘the Erse was his first language, but immediately afterwards that

‘he was at great pains to acquire a proper knowledge of it’; on another occasion he described himself as ‘[c]onceiving an early taste for Galic, on account of its peculiar beauties’, which implies that English was his first language; in any case, he must have had good opportunities for access to Gaelic as a living language.[35]

Shaw was aware of the existence of printed grammars of Irish, regarding the antiquarian Charles Vallancey’s of 1773 as ‘the most satisfactory, and was aware too that no grammar of Scottish Gaelic had been attempted (the ‘Rules for reading the Galic language’ at the end of a translation of the New Testament published in 1767 is a guide to pronunciation).[36] So, having completed his grammar, and knowing it to be a pioneering work, he presented a copy to the Earl of Eglinton, whose seat at Eglinton Castle was just across the Firth of Clyde from Arran. In April 1776, Eglinton showed it to James Boswell, who showed it to Samuel Johnson, who showed it to his former amanuensis Alexander Macbean, who appears to have known some Gaelic.[37] Macbean thought well of the grammar, and when Shaw, who was at the time living in London and had made Johnson’s acquaintance, next called on him, ‘Johnson immediately instigated him to publish it, and wrote an eloquent recommendation of the work for the sheet of proposals which Shaw used to attract subscribers.[38] ‘To the advice and encouragement of Dr. Johnson, wrote Shaw proudly in the published grammar, ‘the Public is indebted for these sheets’.[39] He dedicated the grammar to Eglinton, and presented Johnson with a copy when it was published in July 1778; Boswell was a subscriber.[40]

Shaw imagined the death of Scottish Gaelic in his introduction: it was ‘ready to perish without any memorial’ and he hoped that his grammar had ‘prevented its dying without even a sigh’.[41] But he also alluded to its ongoing life in the form of Ossianic poetry, calling it the language ‘by which Fingal inspired his warriors’ and which ‘boasts of the finished character of Fingal’, and remarking that a certain Scottish gentleman who had learned Gaelic could read ‘fragments of poetry in Fingal’s own language’.[42] Shaw’s section on prosody included verses under the title of ‘Malvina’s dream’, these being supposedly the original of one of Macpherson’s Ossianic poems, which had been circulating in manuscript, though they were in fact a translation into Gaelic from

Macpherson’s English.[43] He had visited Macpherson in the hope of obtaining access to the manuscript originals of his poems, but had of course been put off.[44]

Despite this, and despite his friendship with Samuel Johnson, who notoriously regarded Macpherson as an impostor, Shaw set off to the Highlands before his grammar was published, in order to collect words ‘from songs, old sayings, the voice of the people, and manuscripts, if there should be any, and to obtain originals of the poems of Ossian.[45] The collection of words was intended for a dictionary of Scottish Gaelic; Johnson had said to him that ‘if you give the world a Vocabulary of that language, while the island of Great-Britain stands in the Atlantic Ocean, your name will be mentioned’.[46] Shaw claimed in his ‘Proposals’ for the dictionary that

no pains [will be] spared to make the book as complete as possible, and to contain every word worthy of being recorded. The book, when digested, will be a complete Galic Library, having every article illustrated, and the different acceptations and uses of words explained by a variety of examples from what books there are in the language, in prose and verse, fables,

songs, and old sayings____There will also be subjoined, a Glossary of Proper Names of men

and things . . .[47]

As for the collection of Ossianic poems, the ‘Proposals’ show that it would have provided material for the dictionary. But it would have done more: Shaw remembered ruefully that ‘it was my intention to have superseded Mr. Macpherson’ by publishing the originals from which he had translated, not to mention ‘converting the disbelieving Dr. Johnson’—and creating a splendid market for his grammar and dictionary.[48] Shaw sought support for his fieldwork from the Highland Society of London, was refused, and travelled at his own expense, claiming that his journey was a matter of three thousand miles.[49] He described his lexicographical and song-collecting fieldwork vividly:

Many mountains I traversed, many vallies I explored, and into many humble cottages I crept on all four, to interrogate their inhabitants. I wandered from island to island, wet, fatigued, and uncomfortable.[50]

In order to elicit traditional poetry, he also had to ply his informants with tobacco and whisky.[51] He sought after manuscripts, but found no early copies of the Ossianic poems either in Scotland or in Trinity College, Dublin, though he did find one or two manuscript wordlists of Scottish Gaelic, which he transcribed, and he must also have found Irish lexicographical manuscripts.[52] So, although Shaw remarked pointedly in a post-publication controversy with James Macpherson’s kinsman John Clark, a land agent and surveyor whose Works of the Caledonian Bards was a pseudo-translation along the lines of Macpherson’s, that his dictionary was ‘collected not from MSS of Fingal or the Caledonian Bards, but from the rude conversation of cottagers and shepherds, the ideal of purely fieldwork-based lexicography which he expressed here (though not in his ‘Proposals’) was not fully realized.[53]

Shaw’s dictionary was published in 1780 as A Galic and English Dictionary, Containing all the Words in the Scotch and Irish Dialects of the Celtic, that could be Collected from the Voice, and Old Books and MSS. Johnson and Boswell were both subscribers, as was the ballad anthologist Thomas Percy—and as were John Clark and James Macpherson.[54] The mingling of Scottish Gaelic with Irish in the dictionary was attacked by Clark, who complained that there were so many Irish words and words of Shaw’s own invention in the dictionary that ‘there are whole pages . . . which do not contain three words anywise similar to the Scotch Gaelic’ and by Donald MacNicol, who called it ‘a pitiful, unmeaning rap of an Irish vocabulary, savouring rankly of the Arran dialect deeply Hibernized’.[55] The examples which Shaw had promised never materialized; nor did his onomasticon. A number of the subscribers, including two of the MacPhersons, refused to pay, and had to be pursued in the courts for years.[56]

It would indeed have been helpful to have some indication of whether a given word was current Scottish Gaelic or Old Irish, and it was a pity that Shaw could not deliver as ample a dictionary as he had promised. Even so, Shaw’s dictionary had achieved a significant advance on MacDonald’s, registering about 15,000 headwords, alphabetically arranged, in its Gaelic-English volume and about 12,000 in its English-Gaelic volume.[57] No longer could it be said that there was no dictionary of Scottish Gaelic. A group of ministers in the Highlands were working on the compilation of a dictionary of Scottish Gaelic even as Shaw compiled his.[58] Theirs might have been better than his if they had finished it, but Shaw’s had the advantage of actually being finished and published.

The last eighteenth-century dictionary of the language was a counterpart to Shaw’s, the Gaelic-English Nuadhfhoclair Gaidhlig agus Bearla/New Alphabetical Vocabulary, Gallic and English of Robert Macfarlan (Raibeard Mac Pharlain), published in 1795. Macfarlan was a Scottish j ournalist and miscellaneous writer, who was fluent in Gaelic. He kept a succession of small private schools near London, which explains why he made no claims to have undertaken fieldwork of any sort as he prepared his dictionary.[59] In fact, its wordlist has so much in common with Shaw’s as to suggest that the New Alphabetical Vocabulary is basically a revision of the Galic and English Dictionary, though apparently the Irish forms were removed, and many spellings and definitions were tweaked.[60] The dictionary has just under ten thousand Gaelic headwords.[61] As well as Shaw’s dictionary, Macfarlan’s had two other identifiable sources: it began with a section of ‘Rules for reading the Gailic language’ which was an unacknowledged reworking of James Stuart’s ‘Rules for reading the Galic language’ of 1767, and ended with two of the Irish liminary poems from Lhuyd’s Glossography to fill up the last two leaves of a gathering.[62]

Macfarlan’s dictionary was neither published because it presented new information nor simply because there was a clear demand for a Scottish Gaelic dictionary uncontaminated with Irish. William Shaw had, by the mid-1780s, made his sceptical position in the controversy over Ossian clear, both in a polemical exchange of pamphlets with John Clark from 1781 onwards and in his Memoirs of Samuel Johnson.[63] Macfarlan, on the other hand, had published a specimen of a translation of Macpherson’s Temora into Latin as early as 1769, and continued to work on a complete translation of Ossian into Latin for the rest of his life, with the assistance of Macpherson himself.[64] His dictionary could not claim to be a guide for readers of the Gaelic originals of the Ossianic poems, since it was only after his death, in 1807, that a significant body of Gaelic poems supposedly by Ossian was published.[65] But at least, and for all its limitations, it was not associated with a notorious sceptic such as Shaw. It was dedicated to the Highland Society of Scotland, ‘whose Patriotism extends to every thing connected with the honour as well as the improvement of their Country, and claimed to have been made from ‘honest patriotic’ motives.[66] Patriotism in everything concerned with the honour of the Highlands surely meant at least a willingness to entertain the authenticity of the Ossianic corpus. The Highland Society of London, which had refused to sponsor William Shaw’s fieldwork expedition, and which took an active part in the publication of the 1807 Gaelic Ossian, paid for fifty copies of Macfarlan’s dictionary.[67]

By the end of the eighteenth century, then, every published lexicographer of Scottish Gaelic had a strong connection with the collecting and reworking of traditional song. Alexander MacDonald was a collector of manuscripts and a Gaelic poet well aware of his creative relationship with poetic tradition; William Shaw’s dictionary was the result of a fieldwork expedition in which he sought for Ossianic poetry; Robert Macfarlan was a translator of Ossian. The Ossianic poems provided a hugely influential model for the use of traditional song, and it is not surprising that in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, fieldwork-based lexicography in a number of places should have developed a relationship with song-collecting.

  • [1] See Considine, Academy Dictionaries 80-2.
  • [2] For the collection of folk poetry and folksong, see Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe3-22.
  • [3] ‘A catollogue of manuscripts’ in Fraser, Chronicles xliv-xlv; all now lost, apart from the ‘Bill ofMortality’ (see ibid. ix).
  • [4] The identification is in M. MacGregor, ‘Genealogical histories’ 200; books printed in English between1700 and 1709 with titles ending -logia include J. Doleman, Campanalogia improved (1702), J. Drake,Anthropologia nova (1709), N. Grew, Cosmologia sacra (1701), T. Heskith, Laphyrologia, or a discourseconcerning plunder (1703), Lhuyd, Archaeologia Britannica (1707), R. Neve, Baroscopologia (1708), J. Potter,Archaeologia Graeca ed. 2 (1706), and so on.
  • [5] D. Thomson, Gaelic Sources of Macphersons Ossian 6.
  • [6] See Considine, Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe 162-4.
  • [7] For ‘first printed secular book’ see Gillies and Pike, ‘From medieval beginnings’ 203.
  • [8] Withers, Gaelic in Scotland 120-6; quotation at 122.
  • [9] Quoted Gillies and Pike, ‘From medieval beginnings’ 203; the Scots word vocables ‘dictionary’ is firstattested in the early eighteenth century with specific reference to David Wedderburn’s textbook Vocabula,and is doubtless a calque on the Latin word vocabula.
  • [10] Quoted Gillies and Pike, ‘From medieval beginnings’ 204; see also Withers, Gaelic in Scotland 126.
  • [11] For the sections ‘Of God, see New Vocabulary 1 (10 entries) and Ray, Dictionariolum 54-6 (53 entries);for the words for moving water, see New Vocabulary 5-6 and Ray, Dictionariolum 3-4; see also NewVocabulary sig. J2v for a note on the use of Scots.
  • [12] New Vocabulary 44, 10; Ray, Dictionariolum 65.
  • [13] New Vocabulary 67-9 and 75-6 are from Ray, Dictionariolum 15-19 and 29-32 respectively.
  • [14] MacDonald, Galick and English Vocabulary vi.
  • [15] MacDonald, Galick and English Vocabulary 162.
  • [16] MacDonald, Galick and English Vocabulary 10, 55; cf. New Vocabulary 56 ‘A Journee-man MercenariusopifeX, where the Latin is terse, and just as good as Johnson’s English definition ‘A hired workman’(Dictionary, s.v.), although neither captures the point that a journeyman has completed an apprenticeship.
  • [17] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xv.
  • [18] For the dates, see Withers, Gaelic in Scotland 126 and 283 n 75.
  • [19] MacDonald, Galick and English Vocabulary v.
  • [20] Quoted in translation, and rightly identified as humorous, by D. Thomson, Introduction to GaelicPoetry 158; see also R. Black, ‘Alasdair mac Mhaighstir’ esp. 110-11, and Crawford, Scotland’s Books 300.
  • [21] For Alexander and Flora MacDonald’s cousinship, see Macdonald and Macdonald, ‘Biographicalintroduction’ xxiii; for his part in the rising, ibid. xxxi-xxxiv.
  • [22] Macdonald and Macdonald, ‘Biographical introduction’ xxxiv-xxxv; D. Thomson, Introduction toGaelic Poetry 158.
  • [23] For the poem, see R. Black, ‘Alasdair mac Mhaighstir’ 119-22 (quotations at 121 and 122); D. Thomson,Introduction to Gaelic Poetry 172-80; and the appreciation at Crawford, Scotland’s Books 302-3.
  • [24] For orally transmitted narratives, see R. Black, ‘Alasdair mac Mhaighstir’ 120; for manuscripts,Mackenzie, Report of the Committee of the Highland Society 278-9.
  • [25] Overviews at D. Thomson, Gaelic Sources of Macphersons Ossian 6-9 and D. Thomson, ‘JamesMacpherson: The Gaelic dimension’ 17-18, 25.
  • [26] For Macpherson as collector, see McKean, ‘Fieldwork legacy of James Macpherson, esp. 453-5; for hisuse of his materials, see D. Thomson, ‘James Macpherson: The Gaelic dimension’ 20-3.
  • [27] Mackenzie, Report of the Committee of the Highland Society 278-9 (quotations at 278).
  • [28] D. Thomson, Gaelic Sources of Macphersons Ossian 83.
  • [29] D. Thomson, ‘James Macpherson: The Gaelic dimension’ 18.
  • [30] R. Black, ‘Alasdair mac Mhaighstir’ 122.
  • [31] Jefferson, letter of 25 February 1773 to Charles McPherson, in his Papers 1: 96-7.
  • [32] Charles McPherson, letter of 12 August 1773 to Jefferson, in the latter’s Papers 1: 101-2 (quotation at 101).
  • [33] Clark, Answer to Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 74-5: an unfriendly account, but Shaw did not deny it (see his‘Reply to Mr Clark’ 57).
  • [34] For Kilmory as Shaw’s birthplace, see MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 1; for Gaelic there in 1712, seeWithers, Gaelic in Scotland 177; for Gaelic on Arran in the 1780s, see Clark, Answer to Mr Shaw’s Inquiry13 (and cf. Shaw, ‘Reply to Mr Clark’ 56).
  • [35] First two quotations from a document of 1779 or 1780 in MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 12; thirdfrom Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xviii.
  • [36] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xviii-xx (quotation at xix); the only grammatical information inStuart, ‘Rules’ is part of the note on changes to initial consonants at 9.
  • [37] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xxii-xxiii; Boswell, journal entry for 17 April 1776 in PrivatePapers: The Ominous Years 340; Boswell, letter of 4 April 1777 to Samuel Johnson in his Life of Johnson(1934-1964) 3: 106-7 at 107; Johnson, letter of 11 March 1777 to Boswell in ibid. 3: 105-6 at 106.
  • [38] Shaw, Memoirs 150-1; for the proposals, with a text of Johnson’s recommendation, see Fleeman,Bibliography 2: 1290-1.
  • [39] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xxiii.
  • [40] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language sigs. [a]2r (dedication) and [a]3r (Boswell as subscriber); Shaw,Memoir 151 (presentation of Johnson’s copy).
  • [41] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xxii, xxiv.
  • [42] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language xxii, xxiii, xxiv.
  • [43] Shaw, Analysis of the Galic Language 119, 145-8; the first publication appears to have been in 1787(Smith, Sean dana 46-8, for which see D. Thomson, ‘James Macpherson: The Gaelic dimension’ 26). Seealso Shaw, ‘Reply to Mr Clark’ 60.
  • [44] Shaw, ‘Reply to Mr Clark’ 69; cf. Shaw, Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed toOssian 43.
  • [45] Shaw, Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian 53-4 (quotation at 53).
  • [46] Shaw, Memoirs 153-4. 5 Quoted MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 6.
  • [47] 50 Shaw, Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian 53-5 (quotations at 54 and 55
  • [48] respectively).
  • [49] Shaw, Memoirs 152-3 and Galic and English Dictionary sig. b1v; a different perspective on Shaw’sfunding is in a letter of1779 quoted at length by MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 7-9, supported by Clark,Answer to Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 15.
  • [50] Shaw, Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian 55; the rejoinder of Clark, Answerto Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 7 is countered by Shaw, ‘Reply to Mr Clark’ 57.
  • [51] Shaw, Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian 56-7; rejoinder in Clark, Answerto Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 75.
  • [52] Shaw, Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian 58-60 (search for manuscripts);Shaw, Galic and English Dictionary sigs. blv and b2r for one of the Scottish Gaelic wordlists (for which seealso Clark, Answer to Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 58) and for Irish manuscripts; the account of another ScottishGaelic wordlist in Clark, Answer to Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 55-6 is partially accepted by Shaw, ‘Reply to MrClark’ 77.
  • [53] Shaw, ‘Reply to Mr Clark’ 56; for Clark and Macpherson, see ibid. 70.
  • [54] Shaw, Galic and English Dictionary sigs. a1r-a2v: ‘James Boswell, Esq., Advocate . . . Samuel Johnson,L. L. D.’ and ‘Dr. Percy, Dean of Carlisle’ are easy to spot, ‘Mr. John Clerk, Land Surveyor, Edinburgh’ isidentifiable by his profession, and ‘James Macpherson, Esq., London’ keeps company with his relativesAndrew Macpherson of Benachar, Lachlan Macpherson of Ralia, and John Macpherson of Uvie; forBenachar, Ralia, and Uvie see Macpherson, ‘On the death of Marshall Keith’ 52 n 6.
  • [55] Clark, Answer to Mr Shaw’s Inquiry 15-16 and MacNicol, letter to Clark of 5 October 1781, ibid. 52-8at 56-7.
  • [56] MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 13-17.
  • [57] For entry count and discussion, see Gillies and Pike, ‘From medieval beginnings’ 206-7.
  • [58] MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 8-10.
  • [59] In 1769 he was at Old Ford, near Bow in Middlesex (Macpherson, Temorae liber primus, 26); thereafter at Walthamstow and then at Hammersmith (Gentlemans Magazine, August 1804, 791-2).
  • [60] For the removal of Irish, see Gillies and Pike, ‘From medieval beginnings’ 208.
  • [61] My entry-count: each column has 33 lines, with one entry per line, and there are 151 double-columnedpages (Macfarlan, New Alphabetical Vocabulary 21-171), giving a maximum of 9966 entries—but since afew entries take two lines, this figure is a little too high. Gillies and Pike, ‘From medieval beginnings’ 208give an entry count of ‘over 11,000 headwords’: this is the figure which would be reached by multiplying171 by 66 without noticing that the dictionary begins at 21 rather than 1.
  • [62] Macfarlan, New Alphabetical Vocabulary 9-20 (rules); 173-6, i.e. leaves Y3 and Y4 (poems fromGlossography).
  • [63] For a brief overview of the exchange, see Fleeman, Bibliography 2: 1537-9; for Ossian in the Memoirs,see Shaw, Memoirs 145-9 and 154-66. See also MacDonald, ‘Rev. William Shaw’ 13.
  • [64] Gentleman’s Magazine, August 1804, 792.
  • [65] For it, see D. Thomson, Gaelic Sources of Macphersons Ossian 85-90.
  • [66] Macfarlan, New Alphabetical Vocabulary vii.
  • [67] Sinclair, Account of the Highland Society of London 15 (Macfarlan), 16-20 (Ossian).
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